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Needlelace

Also known as Needlelace fillings

Needlelace is the method of working detached stitches – frequently buttonhole stitches - to fill an area with a repeating stitch.  The stitches are worked into the previous row of stitches and do not pierce the fabric.  Different effects are produced by combining different stitches, by skipping stitches to leave a void or by varying how closely the stitches are worked.

The design area is normally outlined with a foundation line of stitching (called a cordonnet) which provides a support for the needlelace stitches and means they can be worked separately as a slip and applied to the design, if desired. 

Needlelace originates as a needlepoint lace technique which spreads to Elizabethan embroidery and later stumpwork.  Historically, needlepoint lace is normally worked in very fine white linen thread, whereas when used in Elizabethan or stumpwork pieces, needlelace is normally worked in gimp, metallic or silk thread. 

N.B. Elizabethan embroidery rarely uses a cordonnet: instead the needlelace is worked into the fabric at the edges of the needlelace shape; the body of the needlelace remains detached as usual.

Some needlelace stitches are ‘corded’ – this means that a thread is laid across the design area and the stitches are worked over this thread as well as into the previous row of stitching.  This allows for a stitch to be worked in the same direction: the stitcher works a row of stitches from left to right and then takes the thread back across the design area ready for the next row.  This can also be referred to this as a ‘straight return’. 

When describing stitches, authors sometimes describe the loops of the stitch crossing in an S direction or a Z direction.  This likens the diagonal slant of the uppermost part of the stitch to the central part of the letters: either \ (S-slant) or / (Z-slant).

For all forms of lace made with a needle see the entry for Needlepoint lace.
Needlelace is normally found within either Stumpwork or selected Whitework techniques.

Needlelace Stitches