Sunday, May 26, 2019

Pulled Thread, No Frame

Pulled thread work should be done in a frame or embroidery hoop. That seems to be the generally accepted wisdom and that's the way I have been doing it.

Then I came across an old book which mentioned stitching pulled work in the hand. Really?! I wish I had kept the reference and not glossed over it and dismissed it because I realized later that although I was used to working with an embroidery frame, I had never really found it particularly comfortable.

About to start on a small pulled thread sampler, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out the idea of working in the hand without a frame. At first figuring out where to put my fingers and hold the linen was very awkward and I almost gave up. It was difficult to keep the fabric threads at right angles to each other so that I could count the threads and get the stitch pulling in the right direction.

But once I had figured out how to hold the fabric I found it most pleasurable. It's a more tactile experience having the cloth slide through your fingers as you move the linen and line it up for the next pass of the needle. And doesn't linen feel good? Also I seemed to have much better control of just how much tension to apply to each stitch. This may have been because it was an unfamiliar way of working and I was paying close attention to every stitch and each pull on the thread.

The more I worked the more I began to 'feel' the fabric in my fingers and the better I was able to control the tension and keep the fabric threads at right angles to each other.  I found it useful to be able to get my fingers right to the area where the needle is forming the stitch. The other advantage is that you can use a sewing motion of scooping up the fabric rather than the stab stitch method. This made it far quicker. The other plus for me was that I found working withour a frame easier on my fingers and shoulder.

Working on a large piece of linen may be a different story, but for now I am reasonably pleased with the result. I'm not throwing out my embroidery frames just yet, but stitching in the hand is a good exercise in concentration that makes you focus on the formation of each stitch and it's good practice for paying attention to the tension. That's been good for me as I tend to work too tightly.

I'd love to hear of your experience of doing pulled thread embroidery without a frame or a hoop.

Till next time, happy stitching.


  1. I did a little bit of pulled thread work as a young woman, in my first year of high school and then in my 20s, all held in my hand. I didn’t know about hoops. It worked well and I enjoyed it. I’m doing a bit more now as a member of my Guild, with the instruction of ‘always in a hoop’. I conform when I’m in a class, but left to my own devices I often revert to holding in my hand. I agree, it is tactile, aids concentration and more comfortable most of the time.

  2. It's interesting that you originally did pulled work without a frame and that you often choose to do so now. It was an enlightening experiment for me to try working in the hand because all the classes I have been to have recommended using a frame so that is what I am used to doing.

  3. Thank you for visiting and your kind comment.