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Pulled or Drawn Thread Tutorial

Written and Designed by Janet M. Davies 

It is not until you really start looking around the different styles of embroidery that you see how many embroidery styles use the techniques of "Pulled Thread". Every 6th page of the "Batsford Encyclopaedia of Embroidery Techniques" has a different style of embroidery containing pulled threads. Pulled Thread techniques have been used in nearly every continent for the last few centuries, from Germany, Italy and England, just to mention a couple. I’m not going to try and name all the different embroidery styles that Pulled Thread is used in, just explain the principals of what makes Pulled Thread.

Many discussions have been had on the difference of "Pulled Thread" and "Drawn Thread". After hours of reading dozens of history books, this is the definition I have come up with and description that has been used 99% of the time.
Pulled Thread: When embroidery threads
are stitched with tension to produce an open patterned lacy effect to the fabric. No fabric threads have been removed from the fabric.
Drawn Thread: When fabric threads are removed from the fabric and then embroidery stitches are placed around the fabric thread grid to form an open lacy look. Tension is used 90% of the time.

An "even weave" fabric has to be used to produce an even look to the pulled stitches. Even weave meaning that when the weft and warped fabric threads are counted in the same measurement, there are the same amount of threads. Traditionally a very fine weave of fabric was used. But today a #25 Linen/Cotton to a #20 Hessian can be used. Fabric used depends on the final look the embroiderer wishes for. #25, means there are 25 fabric threads in an inch measurement. Also referred to as "25 count" fabric. The main thing being that the fabric weave is open enough, that when tension is placed on the embroidery stitches, an open look to the fabric is produced and the fabric does not pucker.

As a rule, the embroidery thread used should be the same thickness of the fabric threads themselves. But if working on a contemporary design, then go with what suits the look you are after. The main consideration of what thread to use is, it can take the tension used while stitching and not break easily. For threads: Cottons, Silks, Metallic can be used if strong enough. A Crewel needle (sharp point) is used for stitching the design lines around the area to be pulled. For the actual pulled thread stitching, a Tapestry needle (blunt point) is best, as this helps not to catch the wrong fabric thread when stitching. www.jmddesigns.co.nz

Traditionally white on white colours were used for Pulled Thread in Europe. I think that keeping with monotone colours for stitching the pulled fillings suits this embroidery style best. For if the pathway of the pulled stitching is highlighted to much against the colour of the fabric, the lacy overall look of the stitched pattern can be lost. Outline stitches around the pulled area of stitching can be coloured with great effect, but the pulled area stitched the same as the fabric colour works best. This of course being my personal opinion and I’m sure there are some beautiful examples produced where many colours have been used for the pulled area. Just be aware when designing, that the patterned look of the actual pulled area can be lost with too many colours.

In past centuries in Europe, flowers were the most popular elements used in designs. An abstract flower bordering on a Jacobean look was used. The large petals and leaves gave way to areas for pulled fillings. Today any object can be given to a design. "The world is your oyster." Do not be afraid to look "outside the square" for inspiration.

The Naversom style from Sweden is a Drawn and Pulled Needlework.
I have a full tutorial page for it. click here

All photos below have been designed and stitched by Janet M. Davies

Filet Lace Sampler
Below is a sampler (centre of design) of some of the stitches used in Filet Lace. For the sampler the rectangle outline is stitched to reinforce the area. Then a grid of fabric threads are removed to make and open grid. Then Ground stitch is then stitched diagonally across the grid to bring the thread grid into square formations. Then woven/darned filling stitching are stitched to make the inner design.  Around the outside of the sampler are bees and leaves stitched in the Blackwork style. The whole design area is 12 x 14 cms ( 5 x 5 1/4 inches)
Click on the photos to see them larger

Above Left: the bee's wings are woven Linen stitch. The centre body of the bee and legs are Darning stitch.

Above Right: A woven flower motif.

Left: Ground stitch


Loop stitch. It looks like Doves Eyes stitched in Hardanger needlework but the process of stitching is slightly different.

Pulled Thread Christmas Elf

The above Elf was stitched on linen fabric with 20 threads per inch. I used pearl 8 thread to stitch with. I highlighted the inside of his belt and bell on his had with metallic thread. The whole design area is 30 x 18 cms ( 12 x 7 inches). Below are some close up photos of fillings used.

Above are some close up photos of fillings used in the legs and hair.

Pulled Thread Holly Wreath

The above holly wreath was stitched on linen fabric with 19 threads per inch. I used pearl 8 thread to stitch with. The whole design area is 28 x 23 cms ( 11 x 9 inches). Below are some close up photos of it.

Pulled Thread picture of Kowhai flowers.

Pulled Thread picture of Iris flowers. Below are close up photos of the filling stitches used.



This mat has 3 different pulled fillings in it. The edges have been double sided Buttonhole stitched so the mat can be cut to shape on the outline of the design. #20 Linen fabric. Stitched with Cotton a Broder thread. Design size 23cm (9 inches) round.

This teddy bear has 7 different fillings. Chain stitched outlines. Stitched on 25 count fabric. Design size, 14 x 12cm (5 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches)

 Each section of the fan has a different pulled thread filling. The circles are pulled Buttonhole rings stitched with rayon thread. Rows of whipped Chain stitch and beads decorate the edges. The flower and leaves are wired Stumpwork. Design measure 18 x 13cm (7x5 inches)

Needle Case design.

9 different pulled fillings have been used for these "Sea Babies". Pulled Buttonhole circles have been stitched to create air bubbles. Variegated Cotton floss has been used for creature outlines. Same coloured thread for fillings as fabric colour. Design size: 36 x 12 cm (14 x 5 inches).

Suggested further reading:
"Pulled Thread Embroidery" by Moyra McNeil. ISBN 0-486 27857-3. This book has a large stitch glossary of different pulled fillings. No actual projects to stitch but lots of valuable stitching, design and history information.

"The Open Canvas" by Carolyn Ambuter. ISBN 0-14-046-651-7. Do not be mislead by the name of this book. All of the embroidery is stitched on fabric not canvas. This book not only contains Pulled Thread techniques but also, Hardanger, Needle weaving, Hemstitching, Filet, Reticello & Hedebo. Excellent diagrams and information.

All design photos have been
designed and stitched by Janet M. Davies

This page is not to be copied or cut and pasted into other websites.
Links to this website are more than welcome. Thanks



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