ground cloth

Drawn thread work

Drawn thread work is a form of counted-thread embroidery based on removing threads from the warp and/or the weft of a piece of even-weave fabric. The remaining threads are grouped or bundled together into a variety of patterns. The more elaborate styles of drawn thread work use in fact a variety of other stitches and techniques, but the drawn thread parts are their most distinctive element. It is also grouped as whitework embroidery because it was traditionally done in white thread on white fabric and is often combined with other whitework techniques.


Basic Hemstitching

The most basic kind of drawn thread work is hemstitching. Drawn thread work is often used to decorate the trimmings of clothes or household linens. The border between hemstitching gone fancy and more elaborate styles of drawn thread work isn't always clear.


This relatively easy type of drawn thread work is created by weaving (or darning) the embroidering thread into the barelaid warp or weft threads to create patterns of light-colored threads and dark openings in the drawn-thread cloth. Needleweaving is most often used for decorative borders. It is nearly always used in combination with other types of embroidery stitches. Together they create a complete design and, historically, in ethnic embroidery, distinctive embroidery 'styles'. Also known as "needle-darning".

Poltava-style drawnwork

In Ukrainian and some other Slavic languages, merezhka is the general term for "drawn-thread" work. "Merezhka", pronounced roughly /mereʒka/, includes all types of drawn-thread work including those mentioned in the paragraphs above.

In recent years (199(?)-2005), the term "myreschka", a variant of "merezhka", began to be used in some circles for a specific Ukrainian drawn-thread technique that is traditionally used in the central lands of Ukraine, esp. in the regions of Poltava and Kyiv, and areas along the Dniepro (Dnieper) River, and some have come to call it "Poltava-style" merezhka. The technique has its own descriptive name in the Ukrainian language, which might be translated into English as "layerings".

The technique for doing Poltava-style 'layerings'-merezhka basically involves withdrawing sets of parallel threads of weft while leaving others in place, then using the antique hem-stitch (called "prutyk") and this special "layerings" technique to create both the openwork 'net' and the design of embroidering threads upon the "withdrawn" part of cloth. The designs which can be created in this way can be simple and narrow, or as complex and wide (high) as any one-colored embroidery design.

"Prutyk" (may also be spelled "prutik") is the bunch (switch or stick) that is created when you pull together each bunch of three threads together using hem-stitch. In Ukrainian, "prutyk" is simply another name for 'simple hemstitch' (i.e.: "merezhka-prutyk"), or it can mean each tiny 'bunch' in the hemstitching.

Other drawn-thread

A form of double-drawnwork, where both warp and weft are removed at regular intervals, consists of wrapping the remaining threads into "bundles", using embroidery thread to secure them, thus creating something similar to a net. Then embroidery threads are woven in patterns into that net using needle weaving or needle darning. The result is a pattern of the design in white (or colored, depending on ethnic region) embroidery on the "openwork" background of netted cloth.



Hardanger embroidery is a style of drawn thread work that is most popular today. It originally comes from Norway, and there from the traditional district of Hardanger. The backbone of Hardanger designs consists of satin stitches, in geometrical areas both warp and weft threads are removed and the remaining mesh is secured with simple weaving or warping, or with a limited number of simple filling patterns. The designs tend to be geometric, if they include flowers or such they are very stylized due to the nature of the technique. Hardanger never includes Buttonhole stitches, except for securing the edges of a piece of fabric. It is usually executed using rather coarse fabric and thread.

Ukrainian cutwork

Much like Hardanger, Ukrainian cutwork belongs to the category of 'cut-and-drawn' work, since, unlike 'merezhka' (drawn-work), threads of the ground cloth are cut both vertically and horizontally, and thus create specifically larger cut-work openings in the body of the fabric, when compared with drawn-work. The Ukrainian word for cutwork embroidery is vyrizuvannya (pronounced veree-zoo-van-nya - translates into "cutwork"). There are several styles of Ukrainian cutwork, one of which closely resembles Hardanger cutwork.

Needlelace and Drawn-thread work

Reticella lace is a form of embroidery in which typical techniques of needlelace are used to embellish drawn thread work. It was first used in 16th century Italy. Needlelace evolved from this when the lacemakers realized that they can do the same things without any supporting fabric. High quality reticella is done with thread almost as thin as sewing silk. Ruskin lace is in fact a near-modern form of it. Warp and weft threads are removed, and the remaining threads are overcast with buttonhole stitches, as in needlelace.

Another embroidery style that combines drawn thread work with needlelace techniques is Hedebo from Denmark, which originates from the area around Copenhagen and Roskilde. It uses techniques that are clearly distinct from reticella and traditional Italian neddlelace on the one hand and Hardanger on the other. It does make extensive use of buttonhole stitches, but they are done slightly differently than in Italian embroidery.

Modern use

Today, the most popular style of drawn thread (cutwork) is Hardanger. It was known in all Europe at least since the early 20th century, but it was only one style among many others. After it was made popular in the 1980s by some enthusiasts it became a craze. It is easy enough that hobby embroiderers can learn it from written instructions only and produce intricate pieces in a reasonable amount of time. The patterns available today are of course adapted to meet every possible modern taste.

About 1995, Ukrainian Poltava-style merezhka (cut-and-drawn work) was popularized by fabric companies and European stitching magazines who used the spelling "myreschka" (see discussion page). This was well received by the public because it was "new" and is a relatively quick and easy technique. Interest in learning "myreschka"(sic) continues in English-speaking parts of the world, but has not become as popular as Hardanger work.

At least in Germany, traditional fancy hemstiching is becoming somewhat popular again. Even (modernised) reticella patterns and how-tos make it into popular magazines, although they are really challenging for the occasional embroiderer.

Drawn thread work and needlelace are also used in creative freestyle embroidery. But creative drawn thread work is often done in a seemingly haphazard way that hasn't much in common with traditional counted thread embroidery.


  • Thérèse de Dillmont, Encyclopedia of Needlework
  • Tania Diakiw O'Neill, Ukrainian Embroidery Techniques 1984 USA
  • Nancy R. Ruryk, ed, Ukrainian Emboidery Designs and Stitches 1958 Canada
  • Yvette Stanton, "Ukrainian Drawn Thread Embroidery: Merezhka Poltavska" 2007 Australia

External links

  • Thérèse de Dillmont's
  • basic reticella how-to
  • basic hedebo how-to
  • history of ruskin lace
  • information on merezhka embroidery

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