Elizabeth Wardle was born in Staffordshire. Her father Hugh Wardle was described both as a yeoman from Bradnop and Cheddleton and a druggist or chemist. Her mother also named Elizabeth, was from an old Staffordshire family. Elizabeth’s brother George Young Wardle (died 1910) was the manager of William Morris’s company for twenty years.
Elizabeth was educated at boarding schools in Stone, Oulton and Codsall. Stone convent workshop produced fine needlework and it is possible that she learned embroidery skills there. Elizabeth married Thomas Wardle in 1857 at St Edward’s Parish Church, Leek and bore him 14 children although only nine survived infancy.
The first known embroideries by Elizabeth Wardle were made for her local church in Cheddleton in c.1864. They were followed by exquisite items of needlework for churches throughout the region. She worked on designs by Norman Shaw for his commission at Meerbrook in 1873 and also stitched a frontal designed by John D. Sedding for St Luke’s Church, Leek.
When with Thomas she founded the Leek School of Embroidery and the Embroidery Society 1879-80, she had already earned a reputation as a fine needlewoman.
Her artistic, needlework and organisational skills came together when she formed the Society. She was able to pass on her skills to local women through the School of Embroidery. She was noted for her ability to interpret architect’s designs for needlework and for her creative ability to devise subtle colour combinations; a feature of Leek embroideries. She was particularly skilled at stitching flesh work, a demanding aspect of figurative compositions. Under her direction the Society exhibited in major international events and was highly praised.
Amongst other things Elizabeth Wardle worked for local charities and in  produced a cookery book.