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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!