Pulled Thread Embroidery
 The White Sampler
  Pulled Thread Stitches

  © Lorelei Halley 2009 

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Pulled Thread Sampler         See stitch family photos.      See book abbreviations.

pulled thread sampler pulled thread sampler sampler with labels I started this sampler in the mid-1970s, and just finished it in the June of 2009.  It is 42 inches long and 15 inches wide.  The fabric is 25 count linen.  (I don't remember the manufacturer.)  I worked only the basic stitches, no composite ones, commonly used in pulled thread work.  I just tried different spacings and stitching directions.  I never intended it as a hang-on-the-wall type of sampler, but as a record of how each stitch looks, for my own use in planning future projects.  And it works perfectly for that.  I used various threads, some linen, some cotton.  I found that a 30/2 lace linen was the best (Fresia).  It was a good size and the hairiness of the linen helped keep the pulling taut.  I tried cotton, but the thread was too slick and slippery.  When I let the tension go slack just a little the thread would slide and undo the pulling.  I started out using a 20/2 linen, but this was too thick and filled up the holes, undoing all my efforts at pulling.

I divided it into 5 columns and 22 rows, which makes 110 cells.  My original intention was that each row would be dedicated to one family of stitches, and large stitch families would have multiple rows.  When I started on it I had Moyra McNeill and Fangle, Winckler.  (See below for details on books.)    And given the number of stitches in those books, that was a reasonable arrangement.  But then in spring 2009 I acquired 2 new books: Altherr and Fry.  They both show many additional spacing variants of the basic stitches, as well as lots of composite stitches.  I started adding these spacing variants and soon ran out of cells.  Some cells have two or more variants in them.  And my neat divisions were discarded.  In the end I just surrounded areas containing stitches all from the same family with some textured outlining stitch.  So an area surrounded by Palestrina knot will contain only variants of one stitch family, such as four sided stitch.  Some families had so many unexpected variants that I had to record them in clumps in several places on the sampler.  As I worked I made a map marking each cell with the stitch name and where I got the stitch diagram from.  I intend to photo or scan the whole thing and mark each cell with the book source and page number where I got the idea from.  A very small number are spacing variants I invented myself, although these are just obvious extensions of what one of the authors had shown.  Some photos of small sections were put up among my photos on  my stitchinfingers  page,    but these were made while the work was in process, and the cloth was wrinkled and rumpled.  I've since washed and ironed it, making it more presentable.  I intend to put all 110 cells up on this page eventually, in batches as I take time from other projects.  Just below are some group shots.  A thru E refer to columns.  One thru 22 refer to rows.  The first row are just photos of large sections.  The 2nd row are photos with books and pages written on them.

This row below shows the general layout of the sampler, top to bottom.  For any area surrounded by an outline stitch: all stitches inside that boundary will be variants of the same basic stitch family.

1-5 a-e
A-E         11-17

  14-22   A-E

Here are the cells grouped by stitch family:                                                                                            *
wave stitch family 4 sided stitch family satin stitch family back stitch family faggot stitch family
wave stitch variants four sided stitch variants satin stitch variants back stitch family faggot stitch family
Greek cross family
upright cross family double back stitch family 3 sided stitch family eyelets
Greek cross stitch variants upright cross stitch variants double back stitch family three sided stitch variants eyelets

The rows below show where I got the diagram for each cell.  Abbreviations explained
+o half A-D      1-6 1/2
pulled thread sampler
+m be 1-4
pulled thread sampler   
+t B-E 4-7
a ad 7-10 

+p   B-E      8-14 
+u B-E 8-11 

 pulled thread stitches  
+q  B-E         15-21
  pulled thread stitches
+s  17-22     b-e

Below are detailed photos of small groups of cells, more detail than above.  Try viewing them at 200% for best image.

  pulled thread stitches - a14 pulled thread stitches - be14
5 pulled thread stitches - ad57  
8 pulled thread stitches - ad811
10 pulled thread stitches -  e1013
12 pulled thread stitches - ad1215
14 pulled thread stitches - e1419
16 pulled thread stitches - ad16
17 pulled thread stitches - ad1720
20 pulled thread stitches -  e2022
21 pulled thread stitches - ad2122

* Books on pulled thread stitches that I used, or having many pulled thread stitches described.   I went through all of these and carefully crossed checked for variants.  I think I found them all, or nearly all.  Abbreviations as follows:

F Fangel, Winckler, Madsen DANISH PULLED THREAD EMBROIDERY  1959 

Moyra McNeil PULLED THREAD EMBROIDERY. Has over 70 stitches very well described, clear stitch photos. I prefer her book for how-to. Some photos of contemporary work, only 3 antique pieces which don't show detail. Has a chapter on various edge finishes.

Esther Fangel, Ida Winckler & Agnete Madsen DANISH PULLED THREAD EMBROIDERY. First part has about 45 stitches, all of which appear on an antique sampler shown in several photos at the beginning of the book. Many of the stitches are composite. Several which are not in McNeil. Has a section of modern table linen designs using the stitches from the antique sampler that are diagrammed in the book. Most are geometric, some are curvilinear (the outlined then filled in kind).

Altherr, Ilse; Mastering the Art of Pulled Thread; self published; NH; 1989. 132 pages

Fry, Mary; Pulled Thread Workbook; 1978; self published; Summit, N.J. 200 pages.

Barbara Snook SPINNERIN NEEDLEWORK STITCHES. There is a 16 page section which has pulled thread stitches. Most are the same as the two above, but some show different spacing. About 60 stitches arranged alphabetically, not by stitch family.


50 COUNTED THREAD EMBROIDERY STITCHES Coats Sewing Group. Has about 16 pulled thread stitches, has several edge finishes and different ways of making edge picots.

S. Lawergren BOTTENSOMSMOTIV is not a stitch source, but rather shows motifs she has invented which are made of several pulled stitches and then shows ways of scattering these motifs for a project: table linens, lamps, tea cozy. These are all geometric counted thread designs, but complex and therefore interesting.

SAMMENTRAEKSMONSTRE I & II publ by Clara Waever, Copenhagen. Again, not about stitches, but collections of motifs composed of several pulled thread stitches, and how to use them on linens. Borders, square motifs, diamond shaped motifs. Nearly all geometric and counted thread type.

Donna Kooler   ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NEEDLEWORK.  Her photos would have been more useful if she had shot the pulled thread against a colored background so the holes would show.  As it is, the hole patterns are almost impossible to see.


 I still think McNeill has the best presentation of the basic stitches. Having looked closely at Fry and Altherr, I would say that their major contribution is in diagrams of combined stitches, of borders and area fillings which are put together using 2 or 3 pulled stitches. The combinations which they have shown far surpass the number of combination stitches in McNeill. Also I think it worthwhile to mention that both of them show McNeil and Fangel Winckler in their bibliographies, which means that Fry and Altherr were both familiar with the older books and knew their contents.  However I have also found a few new spacing variants for common stitches, which don't appear in McNeil or Fangel. It is also interesting that these authors do not always put stitches into the same stitch families. Different minds organize information differently.


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