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Introduction Cutwork is a unique, historical technique. We will ramble a little about it before moving on to the actual instructions.


Cutwork was born ages ago in Italy and rapidly spread all over the world. It had a good reason to spread; it won the hearts because of its charming beauty.


In cutwork, as the name suggests, holes are cut out into a certain pattern of embroidered fabrics, creating an intriguing "see through" effect.

cutwork tehnique embroidery machines

In this tutorial we will cover the creation of machine embroidery cutwork using special designs digitized for "easy & clean hole cutting". We don't recommend using simplistic zigzag designs for cutwork, because you will definitely suffer along the way and eventually get poor results.


After reading the instruction, you will be able to create professional looking cutworks using your machine, all in minutes. They will be visually appealing, with smooth edges and without ugly fabric "fringe".

General Suggestions

Make sure you have the following items at your disposal:


1. Sharp appliqué scissors (with curved handles, for easy, close to the stitch edges cutting).


2. Small scissors with sharp, curved edges (see photos of both scissors here):

scissors for cutwork

3. Heavy duty water-soluble stabilizer.


4. Light to medium weight fabric and cutwork designs.



Materials & Colors:


Traditionally, cutwork is embroidered on natural linens and cottons, white on white. Now, the modern variations are much more diverse. You may embroider the letters on practically any light to medium weight fabric, in darker or lighter thread, or even using metallic thread. Of course, contrast thread color should be used with care.

Basic Steps (Short Summary):
  1. Hoop fabric & heavy-duty water-soluble stabilizer together.
  2. Embroider the first thread, and remove the fabric in the hoop (without unhooping).
  3. Using your very sharp appliqué scissors, cut out only the fabric holes (the stabilizer shouldn't be cut - it stays).
    Use tiny scissors with curved edges in order to "catch" the fabric layer at first, without damaging the water-soluble backing.
  4. Embroider the rest of design (it will cover all edges nicely).
  5. Wash away the water soluble in warm water. Cutwork ready!


Detailed Directions:

  1. Hooping the background fabric & water-soluble stabilizer:
    Make sure you've pre-shrinked the fabric. When hooping - be sure it is not overstretched nor puckering/bubbling. Large hoops sometimes don't hold the fabric well enough. If your hoop has such tendency, insert a piece of paper towel between rings of all 4-hoop sides when hooping your future cutwork. Don't forget to hoop the water-soluble backing - it should go under the fabric, as 2-nd fabric layer.
  2. Embroider the first thread. For the first thread, any light color will do, because it will be hidden under the main design later. Finished result should look like this:


    cutwork technique


    When machine stops (first color change), remove the hoop from the machine (do NOT unhoop).
  3. Using your sharp applique scissors cut out only the areas designed to be holes. The stabilizer shouldn't be cut - it stays. Use tiny scissors with curved edges in order to "catch" the fabric layer at first, without damaging the water-soluble backing. Then, continue cutting with applique scissors.


    The cutting should be done to the very edge of embroidered area. Cut to the point you can possibly cut, without damaging the stitches. Here is how the results of this step should look like:


    cutwork technique


  4. Embroider the rest of design (it will cover all edges nicely). See photo in process:


    cutwork technique


  5. Wash away the water soluble, following manufacturer instructions.
    Cutwork ready! Here's how lovely the finished butterfly looks:


    cutwork technique


    And here's a photo of a finished project - all constructed and photographed by Bobbie Berry. The photo shows food tray cover, a napkin and neck relaxation pillow, embroidered using cutwork butterflies. You may find these cutwork designs and many others in Cutwork Designs category of our web site.


    cutwork technique

    If you'd like to get cutwork designs, stabilizer or thread used in this project - please visit these links:

    Cutwork Designs
    Machine Embroidery Thread
    Water-soluble stabilizer

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