Three Rabbits – or are they Hares?

Three Rabbits Bag

Three Rabbits (or Hares) Bag

Rummaging around as I try to reorganise the house, I’ve rediscovered a bag I made some time ago.

The Three Rabbits (or Hares) design is an ancient one, found all along the Silk Route and in many different cultures. I’ve seen it in textiles and ceramics, carved as mere outlines, polychrome with a wealth of fabulous detail. I’ve also seen variants with animals other than hares, and even variants with more animals in the circuit.

Close up of the rather travel weary hares on David's bag

Close up of the rather travel weary hares on David’s bag

I think I first encountered it when I first met David Singmaster, the mathematician and metagrobologist – it’s one of his many interests, and he has a drawstring bag decorated with the design that he takes everywhere, stocked with mathematical puzzles and games to entertain anyone who comes near. I saw it recently when David and his wife were at a conference my husband and I attended, and his wife remembered that her mother had had to remind her of how to do the French Knots for the eyes. I took delight in noting the puzzled brows that ensued whenever David took anything out of the bag!

My version is one of the simplest, I suspect. I designed a very simple circuit of hares (or rabbits!), and embroidered it using chain stitch on a russet coloured furnishing fabric. The bag is padded with wadding and lined with the same fabric.

Bunny Buckle

Bunny Buckle

Finally I designed a small buckle-type ornament made of a strip of fabric embroidered with a very definite bunny  embroidered in stem stitch, and put one on each end of the strap.

I’m intending to do a much more complicated version one of these days, maybe with a mille-fleurs background like the tapestries in the Musée de Cluny.

Watch this space, as they say!


  1. A wonderful motif with endless possibilities Rachel; I look forward to seeing more interpretations of the theme.

  2. Mam says:

    Your bunny is a hare! Long ears make a hare, and his ears are long, don;t you think?

  3. Penny Baugh says:

    I love this simple design. I’ll definitely stay tuned for more.

  4. Dima says:

    I love the three hare motif. Is there a design available somewhere?

  5. Sue Jones says:

    A very cheerful bag. I love this old design – never used it myself, but maybe one day….

  6. I love this design – I may be moving on to hares from owls! I have asked Malcolm to draw a pattern for me – it will keep him occupied while he has no gardening to do, or garage to potter in with bits of wood! I had to look up metagrobologist, so that’s a new word I have learned!

  7. Catherine says:

    It’s always great to ‘find’ things’ when you do a bit of clean up! This bag is not only very cute, but I love the story! My hubby is a mathematician, and I can just imagine him carrying around a bag with all sorts of things to stump ‘normal’ people. It would make a change from all this maths I have to do in my head at dinner time i suppose!

  8. Carolyn Foley says:

    This is a lovely design with some many variations possible.

  9. Lin says:

    Interesting Rachel, about the three rabbits/hares. I like your bag. xx

  10. Wendy says:

    I love it! Of course! Usually it’s hares, i think yours are more bunny like

  11. Carol S. says:

    Hi Rachel–

    Your bag is so cute! Love it!

    Are you aware there’s a book examining the history of the Three Hares motif? It’s called “The Three Hares: A Curiosity Worth Regarding.” A lovely book, with great pictures and wonderful academic text.

    Any chance you might be willing to sell the pattern? I have a hare counted cross stitch sewing box pattern that I would like to put this motif on, but I haven’t been able to find a pattern for it that has the ears right. Yours is the first I’ve seen, and if you would be willing to sell the pattern, I’d be happy to pay for it! Please let me know!

  12. Lady Fi says:

    So cheery!

  13. Deborah says:

    Your bag turned out lovely and the other bag is interesting too. I love the 3 Hares/Rabbits motif, it is such a simple design yet holds so much detail when you look closely.

  14. I love the rabbits.. I have been planning to stitch one in Long and short stitch for a long long time….and also a tiger, and a squirrel…. But I just don’t have the courage to start one..sigh!!! Since you too are planning something complicated, maybe you should try long and short stitching them 😉

  15. Terrie says:

    Clear and fine. Seems there’re two in the strap loop.

  16. Karen says:

    love how you have applied this design in different ways to different pieces Rachel….

  17. Jillayne says:

    I’ve never seen anything like this but you have me very intrigued – I’ll be searching this out online for sure. your design is quite delightful!

  18. Susan says:

    Beautiful, and you’re right about origins. That could have come right off an Anasazi or other ancient American culture! I’ve seen such things on platters of pottery and other indian artifacts.