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Flat cutwork (goldwork) icon
Flat cutwork (goldwork)

​​Cutwork is the cutting of hollow soft-spiral or spring-like metal threads into lengths and then stitching them down like a long bead.

N.B. Flat cutwork should not be confused with Cutwork which is a form of whitework.

Flat cutwork (goldwork) is generously sponsored by June King


When cutting the threads, use a gold board (a flat board covered in velvet) as this protects them from being crushed or bouncing around.

Avoid touching metal threads as much as possible as this causes them to tarnish.  Tweezers and a mellor are useful for this.

Cutwork can be worked flat on to the face of the base fabric or over a single layer of felt. Cut purls can be attached at either 90° or 45° to the felt, depending on the effect you wish to achieve. When working at 90°, start at at one end of your shape; when working at 45°, it is better to start in the middle of the shape and work first to one end and then to the other.


Cut your required shape from felt and attach it to the background fabric using tiny stab stitches worked 2–3mm apart. For further information on attaching felt to fabric, see Felt padding.


Using a double, waxed thread, bring the needle through to the front of the fabric from underneath, close to the edge of the felt shape.


Thread on an estimated length of the smooth purl and hold in position across the shape, use the needle to dent it at the point where it touches the fabric on the other side.


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.


Thread a purl onto the needle and gently manoeuvre it to the base of the thread.


Take your needle down, next to the felt padding to stitch the purl in place.


Continue to secure more purls in the same way, cutting purls to the length that suits the shape to be filled.

Structure of stitch

Embroidery Techniques

Identifying Flat cutwork (goldwork)

​Flat cutwork can be identified as lengths of cut pearl purl stitched either straight onto the base fabric or over one layer of felt. Either way it is able to be identified by its flat or slightly curved effect over the fabric. This differs from other cutwork such as Cutwork purls over soft string which is usually more raised to create a more dramatic effect.


  • Various Authors, The Royal School of Needlework Book of Embroidery (2018) , p.239