White work embroidery : 15 hand embroidery techniques that come under this popular umbrella term

white work embroidery

The white work embroidery needs no introduction. The name itself is an indication of what this embroidery is all about. It is the fine delicate embroidery done with white thread on white cloth, as seen on table linen, delicate lingerie, christening gowns, wedding veils, wedding gowns, handkerchiefs etc.

It is the best of the best in elegance and aesthetic appeal. White thread embroidery stitches against White fabric is a beautifully refined sight. It represents everything delicate and fine in all embroidery work.

There are many techniques of embroidery that come under this umbrella of white work.

The thin muslin and cambric or linen are the commonly used base fabrics but you can do the white work on any fabric  like silk. The purity of white color when worked on white fabric creates works of art that possess a timelessness that is very appealing.

Embroidery techniques under White work

Ayrshire work

This is a Scottish embroidery work done in white thread and uses padded satin stitch, eyelets and needle lace fillings to fill the designs. Other hand embroidery stitches like back stitch, chain stitch, seeding stitch, stem stitch, buttonhole stitch are also used.

Broderie Anglaise

This embroidery technique uses eyelet embroidery – eyelets of different sizes are used  lot in this work. Other stitches used other than blanket stitches are overcast stitches

The work also has scalloped edges using blanket stitches. The scalloped edges are worked in buttonhole stitch. Know more about Broderie Anglaise here

Chikankari  embroidery

An embroidery  embroidery work which is done on thin cotton fabric. White thread on white fabric is the traditionally way of doing chikan work. But nowadays chikan work is being done in all colors. This work mostly uses shadow work techniques , that is embroidery done on the reverse side of the fabric creating a shadow on the surface of the fabric. Learn more about Chikankary here and the most popular motifs used in chikankary.

Candlewick embroidery

This is one of the most prominent white work. It uses colonial knots to completely cover the design. Only colonial knots are used through out.

Carrickmacross Embroidery 

This is a traditional white work embroidery done on netted ground  – it involves muslin applique and needle lace on netting as part of its designs 

Drawn thread work

In this work  stitches are made on the fabric by pulling  the warp and/or weft threads out of the fabric. Learn more about Drawn thread embroidery here.

Fine white work

In this work designs are made on two layers of fine linen with a layer of net in between. 

Hardanger Embroidery

This is a drawn thread  Norwegian technique. Geometric Kolster blocks are made throughout the design with satin stitches. Know more on Hardanger embroidery here.

Hedebo Embroidery

This is a type of embroidery that encompasses many types of white work techniques like drawn thread work and reticella cut work – It originated in the Hedebo  region of Zealand, Denmark


An Irish technique worked on firm cotton with mat threads of various thicknesses to produce a textured effect. Ideal for newcomers to white work.


In this technique beautiful lace like effect is obtained by working simple embroidery stitches like buttonhole and satin stitches.

Pulled thread work 

In this work some threads are pulled together or apart and then stitches are made around the holes/patterns that form.Know more on pulled thread work here.

Richelieu work 

This is a cut work technique using eyelets and ladders. The buttonhole edgings and bars are worked on thin white cotton fabric first and the spaces are cut afterwards. Learn more about cutwork here.

Reticella work 

This is another cut work technique using eyelets and ladders.

Shadow work

In this work  the stitches are made from the back of sheer fabric (usually herringbone or other filling stitches) so that a shadow effect is formed on the face of the fabric filling the design. Learn how to do shadow work here.

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
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