“Play Date” Topic – Pulled Thread

Welcome to our Pulled Thread “play date” topic.

First, let us discuss the technique itself. Let us first start by discussing exactly what Pulled Thread is. Therefore, I have collected some definitions from some of my favorite reference books – they are as follows:
• From the new Anchor book of Pulled Thread – “the technique involves pulling the embroidery thread so tight that it distorts the threads of the fabric, drawing them into a decorative pattern of holes.”
• From Moyra McNeill’s Pulled Thread Embroidery – “Pulled work and drawn fabric are synonymous, but as drawn fabric can so easily be confused with drawn thread work, pulled thread seems the clearer title. In pulled thread work the threads of the ground material are compressed by pulling stitches tightly, thus forming patterns of holes, and in drawn thread work threads are actually removed from the ground material, usually before any stitching is begun; so although the finished effects of the two methods are vaguely similar the methods are quite different in execution.”
• From Jo Ippolito Christensen’s The Needlepoint Book – “Pulled Thread is worked by pulling the threads of the canvas together to form holes or open spaces. The resulting geometric patterns give a lacy look to the canvas.”

Pulled thread is a technique that can be done on any ground material (evenweave, linen, congress cloth and canvas). You just want to make sure you have threads that can be pulled to create the “pattern”. The reason that I love Pulled Thread is that I can get a lacy look similar to what Hardanger and Drawn Thread provide but I DON”T have to cut the material to get that look!!!! (I am always petrified of cutting material – so afraid that I will cut wrong and destroy my piece!)

Next, let’s discuss some things to consider when choosing your fabric and thread when creating something using this technique. Everything I have read says the main thing to consider when choosing your fabric is to ensure it is an evenweave – you don’t want a fabric that is too tightly woven. The primary fabrics I have seen used are evenweaves (such as Lugana or Jobelan), Congress Cloth, and Canvas – I personally would not recommend using anything smaller than an 18 ct fabric. My experience has been that any type of thread can be used for pulled thread. I have experimented with various types of metallics. I primarily use perle cotton or metallic for the pulled thread that I have done.  My favorite metallics to use for it are Kreinik braids.

There are a multitude of internet resources that discuss the technique of Pulled Thread, have wonderful patterns (to include free ones on-line) and show a large variety of stitches and filling patterns. My favorite internet resources (and the ones I use most often) are:
• Pulled Thread from Nordic Needle’s “Save the Stitches” – this includes:
o What they call “work basket”
o Threads
o Needles
o Frames
o Stitches
o Resources
• These websites have some great tutorials and list of resources to find stitch instructions and patterns:
o http://www.lynxlace.com/pulledthreadwork.html
o http://www.jmddesigns.co.nz/tutorials/pulled_thread_tutorial.htm
o http://www.needlework-tips-and-techniques.com/pulled-thread-embroidery.html (Introduction)
o http://www.needlework-tips-and-techniques.com/pulled-work.html (Lesson)
• These websites have great articles that explain the difference between pulled thread and drawn thread embroidery:
o http://embroidery.about.com/b/2011/06/10/drawn-thread-versus-pulled-thread-embroidery.htm
o http://www.nordicneedle.net/guides/stitchology/pulled-vs-drawn-thread/
• These websites have great information about a technique called Schwalm. This technique combines pulled thread and drawn thread.
o http://www.nordicneedle.net/guides/stitching-techniques/schwalm/
o http://www.needlenthread.com/types-of-hand-embroidery/schwalm-embroidery
• These websites have some great free patterns:
o Pulled Thread Heart from NAN http://www.needleart.org/Charts/Hearts/pulled/
o Ornament with Eyelets from NAN http://www.needleart.org/Charts/01-Dec/Turquoise.php
o Bookmarks and small beginner pieces (coaster size) – http://www.lynxlace.com/pulledthreadtutorial2.html
o Pulled Thread Sampler http://www.lynxlace.com/pulledthreadtutorial.html

My favorite book resources (and the ones I use most often) are:
• The New Anchor Book of Pulled Thread Embroidery Stitches
• Pulled Thread Embroidery by Moyra McNeill
• The Embroidery Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden
• The Needlepoint Book by Jo Ippolito Christensen
• Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches by Jan Eaton


Now let’s explore stitches are that are used in Pulled Thread. One of the things I enjoy about Pulled Thread as a technique is that “Almost any stitch can be converted to a Pulled Thread stitch.” (Jo Ippolito Christensen in The Needlepoint Book). Moyra McNeill groups stitches in her book in the following way:
1) Stitches based on Satin Stitch
2) Fillings based on Satin Stitch
3) Eyelets
4) Stitches based on Back Stitch
5) Stitches based on Wave Stitch
6) Stitches based on the Diagonal
7) Stitches based on the Double Back Stitch
6) Fillings based on Greek Cross Stitch
9) Miscellaneous Stitches – includes Four-sided Stitch and Three-sided Stitch

Martha was kind enough to share a photo and explanation of the piece that she described as “coming out wavy”.  Here is her photo:

Martha Hill's Pulled Thread Piece

Martha shared the following information about this piece – it was called “Your Personal Spring Sampler” taught by Barbara Rees in 2004. This sampler was a continuing project that included pulled thread patterns and various other stitches.  The fabric for this sampler was linen 26 to 32 count of any color choice and used #12 Pearl Cotton to match the fabric color and DMC floss that included 3 shades of two contrasting colors.  The main stitches are: Diamond eyelets, Coil pulled thread stitch(a tightly pulled satin stitch), Chessboard pattern(pulled satin stitch), Step stitch(pulled satin stitch), Cobbler, Open basket, Square, Ringed back stitch, Upright cross stitch, Greek cross, Faggot stitch, Reverse faggot stitch, and Four sided stitch.

Thanks again to Martha for sharing her experience and photo of this lovely sampler.

Please share any experiences you’ve had with this technique.  Please share photos of anything you have done with this technique.

3 thoughts on ““Play Date” Topic – Pulled Thread

  1. What is your favorite pulled thread stitch? My favorite stitch for pulled thread are eyelets. One of the petite projects is a scissors case with eyelets and other fun patterns. I am currently working on several projects with eyelets – they can be created in lots of sizes and shapes.

    Back to our discussion on tension – it is critical to pull eyelets as you are starting the next leg on the upward portion of the stitch instead of on the downward portion for the leg being stitched.
    Karen Anthony

  2. It is true that you need to keep the tension as even as you can every time you work on your piece.
    I have apiece that we did in my chapter and depending on the day I had is how the tension came out. The piece is very wavy.

  3. Pulled thread is one of my favorite techniques. I always tell students that we each pull with a different tension so don’t judge your work based upon someone else’s pulled tension. The goal is to have the same tension throughout your piece. Also, you can pull with a different tension from one time to another. So if you leave a piece, work on using the same tension when you pick it back up again. I used to pull very tight when I had teenage boys in the house. I would pull so tight that my thread would break…that’s too tight!

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