Monday, June 19, 2023

Learning Whitework techniques

I'd like to share with you some lovely drawn thread work and pulled work embroidery techniques that I learned through's Stitch Club. I hope you're having a great week!

Whitework Embroidery

I've had an excellent session with Tracy A. Franklin this week on's Stitch Club. I've always admired the beauty of whitework but have always been too nervous to pursue it. In Tracy's workshop we learned drawn thread work and pulled work embroidery techniques. Very, very cool 😎

Whitework sampler completed

I started off by picking up some linen that seemed to have an open weave. When I asked, Tracy recommended that I not wash the fabric before working with it, to keep it crisp. That made lots of sense, even for a quilter 😊. However, when I started working on it, I quickly realised that it had a very fine weave - not as open as I thought! It took me a long time to get that first hem stitch done. 

First attempt at whitework on linen

The hem stitch is done once you've very carefully removed the threads from an area. Since the weave on the linen fabric was so fine, these first attempts were not very good. I'm happy to report that once I started working on a much looser weave, they started looking much better!

When I realised that I would never finish the sampler if I kept working on the linen, I looked in my stash for something with a looser weave. I found a roll of 4" plain weave jute in a pinkish-white, as well as 2½" rolls in green and tan. I used the 4" roll with beige sewing thread to oversew the edges of the fabric, then a #8 perle cotton for the other stitches.

Whitework sampler using a 4" jute

Here are the first stitches. At the bottom of the photo is a band of pulled thread, with hem stitched pairs of threads. As you can imagine, it's much easier to do when you can easily see how many threads you are hemming.

The top band is the same thing as the bottom one, except that alternate threads are hemmed or offset - so two threads from the bottom and then one thread from each pairs on the top. I love the zig-zag effect! 

Pulled thread bands with hem stitching

In this image, there are two bands inserted between the first two bands. The second band is a stem stitch. Since my perle cotton was fine (#8), it took 4 rows of stem stitch to fill in the pulled thread area. In her sampler, Tracy uses a thicker thread that fills in the area. She keeps one thread of fabric between rows of stem stitch.

The middle band is stem stich while the top band is a twisted bar.

The top band in the above photo starts off with a wider area of pulled threads. Once they have been secured with a hem stitch on both top and bottom, the thread pairs are twisted with a thread inserted in the twist. 

After the twisted bar, a couple of rows of weaving were added. You can hem stitch the pulled thread areas to give it a different effect, but in this section, I just inserted a piece of gift wrap ribbon at the top, woven with two threads under and over, while in the second row, I pulled one extra thread to get the satin ribbon to lay flat. 

Two rows of woven ribbon

Above the band with the hem stitch offset comes the various types of pulled thread techniques. In this case, you don't pull out thread, you just pull them together to form various patterns. After the offset hem stitched section, there are two plain weave threads. Above that there is a band of statin stitch pulled work. The first band is done with 4 threads, so is wider than the one above, done with 3 thread.

After that, I created satin stitch blocks. That's where you pull the thread for, lets say 4 threads, and then leave the next 4 alone and then go on to pull the next 4, etc. This technique really gives a nice effect, although it looks best if there are many rows of it.

Linen sampler so far

I'm still working on my linen sampler. It has gotten easier as I am now more comfortable making the hem stitch.

What I learned
  • I often watch the course videos for the Stitch Club on my phone, but this didn't work for this course - the images were just too small to see properly, especially at the beginning, when I didn't know what I was doing!
  • For my twisted bars, a thicker thread in the middle would have been more effective. 
  • The pulled thread techniques are usually done using a hoop but the section was too close to the top for that. I think that I managed the tension fairly well since this section seems less wonky than the rest 😊I liked the pulled thread techniques a lot and am looking forward to doing some on my linen sampler. I will be using a hoop to see if it helps, given the fine weave. 
  • For the plain hem stitching, as you may have notices, you are supposed to count each thread 😮. Easy when it's a very open weave but harder to do when it's finer. I did learn that if you have 3 or 4 thread doesn't really matter, as long as you grab the same amount when hem stitching the top. 
  • You can especially see from my linen sampler that the thread you use really does make a difference. So far I've used white perle cotton and a crochet cotton for the stem stitch. I am going to experiment with both heavier and finer threads to see the difference. I will also use beige thread since the white thread is whiter than the linen and stands out too much.
  • In the Further Development section Tracy suggested working with natural objects, such as grasses or even twigs. That sounds like a lot of fun!
  • I'm thinking of looking into some of my rug hooking supplies - they are very open weave fabrics to work with. Some might be appropriate for a fun, natural project!

Related links
  • Tracy A Franklin - website and Instagram (See the work she and her fellow stitches did for the coronation!)
  • Adding rug hooking to my artist's tool box, May 11, 2020
Linking parties
I'll be linking up to many fun linking parties. Why not see what's going on? Slow Sunday Stitching, 15 Minutes to Stitch 2023, Design Wall Monday, Sew & Tell, Patchwork & Quilts, Put your foot down

This is also posted on Sandra's DrEAMi! link up since I should be working on finishing my Neighbourhood Houses quilt!


  1. Oh bravo, c'est joli ! Pas facile de tirer ces tous petits fils, mais l'effet est très réussi !

    1. Merci beaucoup Frédérique. J'aurai aimé faire du pulled thread sur le tissu de lin mais il est trop fin. Peut-être lorsque j'aurai plus d'expérience. Ce sont des techniques qui m'intriguent bien - et j'ai des plans pour un quilt d'art :-)

  2. That looks very challenging... and so interesting! I admire your willingness to try new things!

    1. Thanks Kathy - it is challenging on the tighter weave but on a loose weave, it's very meditative and fun. I'm going to keep playing with this one (as if I didn't have enough to do! Oh well, it does keep life interesting!)


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