Cutwork generally is considered a Whitework embroidery that combines embroidery, cutwork, and needle lace, but there are many types that we are going to try differentiating.
Renaissance embroidery is associated France where the designs are worked entirely with the buttonhole stitch embellished with picots and then connected by buttonhole bars without picots. Richelieu embroidery dates back to 16th century Italy and the buttonhole bars are adorned with picots. Italian cutwork is often confused with Richelieu, but remember that Italian cutwork is very geometric and often includes raised embroidery. Broderie Anglaise is associated with England where it was very popular in the 19th century. This type is a little easier to identify as it is filled with round or oval eyelets done with an overcast edging. The earlier examples had embroidery with satin stitching being used later. Madeira work is a specialized form of broderie anglaise done by Madeira stitchers living in the Portuguese island off the African coast. A tag should be included on the item stating it is an authentic Madeira piece. Venetian embroidery designs incorporate scallops that have been heavily padded and the buttonhole bars may contain picots. The padding is very thick as instructions say to couch down 6 to 8 threads of #25 coton broder that are couched down.
How does this differ from Battenburg lace? Battenburg lace is an American style of tape lace. It is created by doing needleweaving between designs of prepared lace. There is no fabric at all in this design. Sometimes the Battenburg lace is done around the edges of the fabric and mislabeled.
Nordic Needle carries a wonderful magazine, Haft Richelieu. Each magazine has at least two dozen designs ranging from ornaments to table centers and runners. A word of caution, this magazine is written in Polish, but the majority of the magazine contains beautiful color photos of the projects with large pull-out, reusable patterns. There are two pages of instructions with the stitches illustrated as well. After you read this article, you will be able to confidently start your own cutwork creation.
The first butterfly shown here uses Wildflowers #080, Blue Lagoon. The second butterfly was done with Wildflowers #018, Peacock to create a more realistic butterfly; it will be finished with Sulky Petite #1130, Splendor #S1108, and Coton a broder Size 20 Ecru. With these types of threads, you will need a range of needle sizes; the Pony Colour Eye Chenille set works very nicely. Traditionally for a ground fabric you are supposed to use loose-woven cotton.
We have several color choices of Trigger cloth. Trigger is a 65% polyester/35% cotton fabric that is perfect for techniques like cutwork and punchneedle. It is a sturdy fabric with a really tight weave. It is machine washable and wrinkle resistant.
Transferring Your Design
Once your design is transferred to your fabric, you will want to place your project tightly into a hoop. The no-slip hoops are a great choice when you need bounce-tight tension for a project that will not loosen as you stitch.
Outlining and Buttonhole Bars
First, do a row of running stitches just inside each of the parallel lines. When you get to a section where there are bars, it is important to add the three or four threads. You actually create your bars at this time. Three threads are usually sufficient for a buttonhole bar. If you are needleweaving like in Hardanger embroidery, you will need four threads for your foundation. The bars are important because they connect the pieces of remaining fabric. It is very important that you stitch just around the supporting threads and not through the fabric. Otherwise you will not be able to cut the fabric out from under the bar.
Eyelets should be added before you finish your buttonhole stitching. Eyelets are done a little differently because you do a running stitch just outside the eyelet line. Then you CUT the fabric in the center so you can fold it under the eyelet line. Now you do a whip-stitch, not a buttonhole, all the way around.
The Buttonhole Stitch
ONLY when you have done all the running stitches and finished all the bars, can you move on. The key to remember here is that you want the knotted edge of the buttonhole stitch along the edge you plan to cut. A helpful tip is to make an “X” with your marking pencil on the fabric that will be cut away. This helps remind you which way to stitch. This may mean that sometimes your stitches aren’t pointing the same direction.
You can choose to do one buttonhole edging around the outside, or choose to do two, one on the outside and another on the other side.
Take your time and try to get your buttonhole edges even. Don’t stress too much because this is hand embroidery. If you are slightly concerned about evenness, you can always use a thread that is the same color as your fabric.
This butterfly features bridges, and the inner wings are done in two strands of Splendor silk. Using more strands will give a fuller effect. The outer wings are Wildflowers.
Cutting: The Final Step
With a very sharp pair of fine point embroidery scissors carefully trim away the unwanted fabric. You want to get as close as possible to the buttonhole edge, but do not cut your stitching. If you are concerned about mis-snipping, you can put a line of Fray Check along the buttonhole edging and let it dry before starting to cut. This gives the edge a little firmness and keeps the stitching together.
If by chance you cut the stitching, stop immediately. Carefully “unstitch” several inches in either direction and secure the ends of your threads. Start a new thread and restitch the edge.
You can hand wash your piece. If there were some nubs from cutting, they should shrink up just enough to disappear. You can use some commercial starch if you want it stiff or in this case to bend the wings a little for shape. Since this is cutwork, people will look at the reverse side of your stitching, so strive for neatness.
We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!
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