A detailed look at the metalwork technique of 'cutwork' on a sampler stitched by Catherine of Hillview Embroidery

SFSNAD CSP: Metalwork Level 1 – Cutwork

Cutwork - another technique that opens up opportunities!

As with the other techniques we learned and explored as part of the SFSNAD Metalwork sampler, the cutwork samples were no different. There is so much more than initially meets the eye!

I did struggle more with these samplers more than I thought I would, and ended up stitching a few variations of them as I wasn’t happy with the first attempts. However, as with a few samples completed, that isn’t all gloom and doom – it just opens up a new set of possibilties when creating and designing!

Cutwork over soft string padding

As part of our sampler, we needed to create a few different samples over soft string padding. One demonstrating a straight line (90 degrees to the padding), one at a 45 degree angle,one over an arch and finally, in an ‘s’ shape. We could use any combination of purl we chose, with the exception that one had to be completed in full in either dull or smooth purl (as this is where you really see your technique!). 

Cutwork - straight line

I quite enjoyed this sample, and had I completed a better outline of where I wanted the shape to begin and end, I think it would have been much more successful! One problem I need to get advice and feedback on is how to stop the last few ‘dropping off the earth’!

Cutwork - angled

Having completed my koala, I didn’t expect to struggle so much with this one! It is well discussed how keeping your angle is quite difficult, and I really did struggle with this! However after a few chats with fellow students and a look at Sarah Homfray’s YouTube video, by my third attempt I was reasonably happy that at a minimum I knew what I was doing wrong. It will again be interesting to get the feedback on this.

Cutwork - arch shape and 'S' shape

I have to confess, there was something about this particular sampler that I really had fun with! I’m not sure if it was my combination of threads or if I was just really  ‘in the groove’, but it was another ‘ah ha’ moment where I could see this technique come to life!

I do however really need to come to grips with this ‘falling off the earth’ thing I’ve got going. 

It should also be noted that whilst I used silver purls for some of these samples, I still used the yellow soft string padding. This is why you can see it come through. If I were to do it again, or on a piece, the colour of the string padding would need to be changed appropriately.

Burden Stitch using purls

Much like chain stitch which I mentioned in the ‘chipping‘ post, burden stitch was a real eye opener for just how you can start to think about using the variety of metal threads we have at our fingertips.

I chose to work my sampler with some pearl purl which I didn’t cover in full as part of the design element. But hard string padding could also be used if you wanted to create a more dense look for your design and cover the padding in full.

Long and Short Stitch

This was another area where I struggled a little! But I was also glad that I picked up a few different coloured purls as well before leaving San Fransisco. 

The requirement was to stitch a small petal shape using long and short stitch. I certainly would fail on any attempt to ‘blend colours’, but it was also interesting to play with the different colored purls and see them interact with each other.


I always thought from what others at the RSN had said that this was quite a ‘mysterious’ technique. So I was quite pleased to find out that as long as you have your trusty mellor in one hand, it is actually not particularly difficult to stitch in! Another stitch I probably had way too much fun with!

And time to play! An experiment using purl

What I love about this course is the challenge to create and experiment with new and interesting ways to use the materials. I still really struggle with this, but it is such a fun way to really get to know what you are working with!

At some point during the stitching of the sampler, I pulled a length of purl. For anyone who knows about using metalwork threads, this is most definately not how you treat them! Some would faint if they witnessed you doing this. But instead of fainting, I decided it was a great opportunity to use the material in a new and different way. So I twisted and threaded it. And I can actually see this being used in some future designs as it is finer than when doing something similar with pearl purl.

Sampling with Cutwork!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk through ways to use cutwork in your metalwork embroidery. There is so much more you can do other than using it over soft string padding – though that in itself requires practice!

A look at how purl can be used in a traditional and non-traditional way in metalwork hand embroidery. As explored by Catherine of Hillview Embroidery

13 thoughts on “SFSNAD CSP: Metalwork Level 1 – Cutwork”

    1. Having never stitched a true sampler before it was a great experience and one I think I need to repeat! The next level piece will see most of these techniques used. I just need to decide if I go ahead and start or wait till I can mail this off for feedback!

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