cutwork embroidery designsCutwork is  embroidery  done on a fabric with spaces cut out in between. Renaissance cutwork, Broderie anglaise, Richeheu work and Reticella cutwork are all different forms of this work and involves the same process with varying effect in the sizes of spaces, when the spaces are cut out and the stitches used in between.

Beautifully done cutwork can simulate the look of beautiful lace works. Infact Venitian cutwork looks just like lace.


What do you need to do cutwork embroidery

  • A somewhat stiff fabric ( or interfaced to simulate stiffness)which doesnot fray much at cut edges ; Usually linen is preferred.  
  • Embroidery thread and needle or sewing machine
  • Sharp thin bladed scissors and/or  thread snips.
  • A design with double lines. The designs usually incorporate thread bars connecting big designs to each other.I love to use stained glass designs for cutwork embridery designs . Checkout the post on design inspirations for embroidery

You can design big shapes as well as small , decide to cut the spaces inside the designs as well as outside or leave either the outside or inside space without cutting it out. It is your aesthetics which decides this. 

cutwork embroidery

General guidelines for cutwork embroidery

  • Always iron the fabric before hooping it on the embroidery hoop
  • Transfer the design using any of the embroidery transfer methods outlined in this post
  • If the inside of the designs are to be filled, this is done before the outline stitches are done.Usually french knots, bullion knots, lattice stitches, satin stitches are used as filling stitches
  • You can cut the spaces before working the designs or after the designs are done.
  • When the cutting is done before hand,  the work is called Broderie Anglaise. You can use Running stitches over the design lines to give definition to the design 

how to do cutwork

  • In traditional cutwork the cutting is done after the design is done; In this case the fabric has to be trimmed very close to the stitching lines, so that no thread hangs loose in between

cutwork embroidery

  • If you have large design elements or detached design elements they are conected to each other with thread bars, like in the picture above. This is made the same way that you make thread bars for hooks. You have to make 3 straight stitches across first and then work buttonhole stitch or other stitches over the threads

cutwork thread bar

You can also use overcast stitches over the thread bar Like it is done here in embroidering the paisley designs

pasiley motif

Different stitches used in Cutwork embroidery

1 Cutwork done with buttonhole stitches

This is the most commonly used method. You can work the buttonhole stitches closely over the design lines and thread bars. 

cutwork embroidery

2. Cutwork done with  double buttonhole stitches

Double buttonhole stitch involves buttonhole stitches worked on either side of the design lines. 

3. Cut work done with back stitches by hand or straight stitches by sewing machine

This is a simple cutwork done on fabric which donot fray or on fabric which you will not be washing. It involves making running stitches over the outline of the design and cutting the spaces outside. This work is mostly done on home accessories.

When using machine you can follow the design lines with a long stitch as done in the picture below

cutwork embroidery tutorial

4. Cutwork done  with zig zag stitches with sewing machine

You can use an embroidery machine or do close zig zag stitches on your regular sewing machine on the design outlines and cut out the spaces in between.

You will have to keep the fabric in an embroidery hoop when working this stitch. The fabric should be stiff enough – apply a fusible interfacing to the back of the fabric before hooping.

A trick is to do the zig zag /satin stitches in two parts. Do the basic satin stitch first, cut away the fabric inside (without cutting the interfacing) then do another round of the satin stitches again. This will ensure that the cut edges and the loose threads are all tucked neatly .

how to sew cutwork embroidery

5. Cut work done  with hand overcast stitches

Simple Overcast stitches are worked over the design lines with a hand sewing needle and 6 strands of embroidery floss. This is done for the thread loops and when the spaces are already cut out.

6. Cutwork done with buttonholes and picot stitches .

In this type of work buttonhole stitches are worked over the design lines and then picot stitches are made over this . This gives a beautiful lace like look to the cutwork. Checkout the tutorial to do picot stitches for details.

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