Mermaid's Purse knitwear design by Alice Starmore in pure wool Hebridean 3 Ply hand knitting yarn

The Mermaid's Purse

The pattern for my Mermaid's Purse design is available as a PDF, which you can download below. This page also contains instructions and inspiration for free-form embroidery.

Download the pattern for The Mermaid's Purse here.

The Mermaid's Purse by Alice Starmore from the book Glamourie
The Mermaid's Purse by Alice Starmore from the book Glamourie
The Mermaid's Purse by Alice Starmore from the book Glamourie

Embroidery Instructions

Simple embroidery stitches can be applied to knitting to create a wide variety of decorative effects. The free-form embroidery I applied to the Mermaid's Purse works best on knitting if the piece is felted beforehand. The felting process closes up the fabric so it becomes a solid surface.

Applying embroidery to knitting that is not felted is more limited as there are tiny gaps in the knitted mesh. If you want to try these stitches out on knitting that is not felted, it is important to ensure that when you draw the needle through the knitting, you do so through the yarn and not through a clear gap in the stitches. For example, a French Knot will disappear and become a knot in the embroidery yarn if you attempt to work it through a gap, whereas it will sit right on the surface if you ensure that you pass the needle through a strand of yarn in the knitting. If you have not attempted to embroider on knitting before, I recommend that you experiment with a swatch before working on a garment. I do this in any event as I always experiment with size of stitches and colours on the swatch.

For all embroidery stitches worked on knitted fabric, such as the shells on the body of the Sea Anemone costume and design, begin by lightly working the threaded needle through the knitted fabric for a couple of centimetres on the wrong side, to secure the yarn end. This should be done close to the point where the embroidery is to be worked, and make sure that the fastened end does not show through on the right side. Then take the needle through to the right side, through a strand of yarn, at the point where the stitch is to begin.


Stars are easy to work and versatile. Each star consists of three sets of cross stitches worked one on top of the other.

Work an upright cross of your chosen size as shown in diagram A.

Then work a diagonal cross as shown in diagram B.

Then finally work a small diagonal cross on top as shown in diagram C.

You can vary the overall size and also very the lengths and widths of the individual crosses.

I prefer to vary the stars so that they are not all exactly even and centred, as I think the effect is more organic.

Embroidery Instructions by Alice Starmore
Embroidery Instructions by Alice Starmore

French Knots

This is one of my favourite embroidery stitches as it is very simple and can be used to great effect either singly or massed to produce varying degrees of texture and colour.

To begin, bring the needle through the knitted yarn to the right side at the point where the knot will sit (A on the diagram). Twist the thread once around the needle as shown, and making sure it stays twisted insert the needle back into the knitting, through the knitted yarn, immediately next to point A, thus forming a knot.


This stitch is sometimes called Wheel, or Spider Web but I have always called it Shell as it reminds me of a barnacle, both for its circular ridged appearance and the fact that it sits highly raised on the fabric. It is simple to work but care needs to be taken to keep an even tension on the yarn as you stitch around the spokes of the wheel.

First work an upright cross; then a diagonal cross on top so that each point marks the diameter of a circle as shown in diagram A.

Then bring the needle through to the right side at the centre of the circle but clear of the embroidered stitches. From now on, all of the embroidery takes place clear of the knitted fabric thus: * take the needle back over and then insert under one spoke, and then forward under the next spoke of the circle as shown in diagram B and gently pull the yarn through to make a stitch, being careful to keep an even tension; then repeat from * so that the thread is wound around every spoke of the circle.

Ensure that the spokes are not pulled out of position as you work. Keep stitching around the spokes in this manner, working from the centre to the outside of the spokes, until they are all covered. The more you stitch around the circle the more raised the shell will become.

Embroidery Instructions by Alice Starmore

Rockpool Embroidery Inspiration

I have filmed some underwater video of the rockpools at the foot of my croft to provide colour and texture inspiration for your embroidery.

The Sea Anemone hand knitwear design by Alice Starmore from the book Glamourie