Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Revisiting Richelieu: Beautiful Cutwork Embroidery


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There are not very many resources for Richelieu embroidery these days, but the technique is enjoying a revival of interest, which is a good thing!

Richelieu is a form of whitework, where portions of the design are cut away from the ground fabric, creating a lace-lake effect. “Brides” or “bars” created from the embroidery thread connect between the edges of the cutwork to add stability and are part of the design feature.

Richelieu - cutwork embroidery

Most Richelieu is worked on a linen ground fabric. The predominant stitch used in the embroidery is the buttonhole stitch, which provides a secure outline around the design and against which the cutting is done.

Sometimes, picots are added to the brides, providing a little more detail to the lace-like cut out areas. And sometimes, accent stitching is added to the solid areas to further enrich the overall design.

Richelieu - cutwork embroidery

There’s a certain sequence to Richelieu work. All the embroidery happens first, before any cutting-out is done.

The design usually consists of double lined outlines around the design area. First, an outline or padding is worked with running stitches within the embroidery area.

Richelieu - cutwork embroidery

Next, the buttonhole stitch is worked over this padding, in logical paths allowing the embroiderer to create the brides or bars that run over the areas that will be cut away. If the design calls for picots on the brides, these are worked as each bride is created.

Any decorative embroidery, like satin stitched fillings or French knot or bullion stitch accents, happens next.

And then, finally, with all the embroidery accomplished, the fabric is cut away as the design dictates.

Richelieu - cutwork embroidery

While Richelieu is often associated with table linens, it can be used in all kinds of decorative embroidery, from Christmas ornaments (like the one pictured above), to bags and pouches, clothing accents, and more.

Richelieu - cutwork embroidery

Today, one of the most prolific producers of Richelieu resources for embroiderers is Joanna Jackuszewska, who lives in Poland and has a lovely Etsy shop here.

All of the photos in this article come from Joanna’s incredibly collection of designs and and examples of cutwork that she has accomplished over the years.

In her shop, Joanna offers kits with pre-printed linen and instructions for the embroidery. She also offers back issues of her magazine, Haft Richelieu (no longer in print), which are abundant resources for beautiful patterns and projects.

Richelieu - cutwork embroidery

To me, the greatest appeal of beautifully worked Richelieu embroidery is the contrast between the crisp, white linen and the spaces left by the cutwork. This contrast makes Richelieu embroidery quite striking! To me, there’s nothing more beautiful on a table than a linen tablecloth featuring this kind of cutwork. I just love it! One of my “bucket list” projects is to create a narrow Richelieu table runner one of these days. I have just the place for it… and some day (some day!) perhaps I will finally get around to making it.

I don’t know if I can quite get my buttonhole stitching as pristine and perfect as Joanna’s, but it’s a goal!

If you’re keen on learning this type of cutwork, I highly recommend Joanna’s shop as a resource. The pre-printed linen designs are affordable and they are an excellent way to get started. Or if you’re already proficient and you’re looking for a challenging project, you’ll find some beautiful designs awaiting you, too!


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(4) Comments

  1. I’d love to make that snowflake, and then applique it on to a dark background as part of a quilt or textile art. I bet it would look fabulous!

  2. Mmmmmm – white on white is always SO gorgeous. Crisp. Clean. Cool. Classy.

    But I fear it would be like me wearing white shirts. Not. Good. I expect white-on-white needlework items that are not framed behind glass would have similar problem in my house. Bleach does a good job of cleaning up, sadly not much for preventing the dirt from getting on the items.

  3. Thank you so much for introducing me to this beautiful artform. I had never heard of Richelieu embroidery before and I find it absolutely beautiful. I will definitely go buy one of those lovely kits to try it out!

  4. I’ve been looking at her designs and sorely want to try one, but if any thread is provided at all it is stranded cotton, and it looks that she’s used something a bit thicker like coton a broder on the close ups. I’ve tried stranded cotton on a vintage stamped linen and it just doesn’t sit right or give the desired effect for me, which makes me reluctant to buy from this seller and getting coton a broder here in the UK is as rare as hen’s teeth (even for a #16!) without having to ship from overseas, which I’d prefer not to have to do, plus I’m on a very tight budget so ideally I’m looking for a small kit with coton a broder supplied. If anyone can recommend one I would be grateful.

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