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Cutwork purls over soft string icon
Cutwork purls over soft string

Cutwork purls is the stitching of lengths of metal purl at a 45º angle over a padded shape.  Metal purl is fine wire tightly wound into a delicate coil, it is available in a variety of colours.

For more background about purls generally, see pearl purl application.

Cutwork purls over soft string is generously sponsored by Masako Newton


Use a double, waxed sewing thread to secure purls.
Using a velvet board when cutting metal purls will help to protect then from being crushed or bouncing away.
The padding is often tapered, and therefore different length purls are required.  Keep a template piece the same size as the previous purl to measure against as this will help you to estimate the length required.

Cutwork purls over soft string method stage 1 photograph

Using a double waxed thread, bring the needle to the surface at one side of the padded shape, preferably half way down the length of the padding.

Cut a piece of purl to the estimated length required, thread the purl and hold it in position across the padding at 45º. Use the needle to dent it at the point where it touches the fabric on the other side - this marks where it needs to be cut.

Cutwork purls over soft string method stage 2 photograph

Remove the purl from the thread and ‘cut’ to the required length. You can use this piece as a guide to measure and cut more purls to the desired length.

Cutwork purls over soft string method stage 3 photograph

Re-thread the cut purl and gently manoeuvre it to the base of the thread. Ideally without touching it with your fingers to prevent tarnishing in the future.

Cutwork purls over soft string method stage 4 photograph

Stitch the purl over the padding at 45º.
Place the tip of a mellor under the gold to ease it around the padding and prevent it from cracking.

Cutwork purls over soft string method stage 5 photograph

Gently pull the purl in place so that it hugs the padding.

Cutwork purls over soft string method stage 6 photograph

Continue to secure more purls in the same way and cut purls to the length that suits the shape to be filled. If when you have threaded a cut purl and it is too long or short, repeat the unthreading process and re-cut the piece.  If it is too short, keep it as you should be able to use it for a narrower section.

When bringing the needle down into the fabric, an acute angle will help you get the purl close to the previous purl and maintain the 45º angle.

Cutwork purls over soft string method stage 7 photograph

You should also pay attention to the spacing between each purl to achieve a sweeping angle, i.e. tighter on the inside of the curve and more space on the outside of the curve.

Complete one half of the shape before returning to the centre to start the other half.

Cutwork purls over soft string

Structure of stitch

Embroidery Techniques


  • Various Authors, The Royal School of Needlework Book of Embroidery (2018) , p.237