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Whitework is an overarching term used to describe white embroidery on white fabric.  There are many different forms of whitework from across the world, but the absence of colour means that texture takes precedence in all of them.

Texture in whitework is achieved through a wide variety of methods: by raising stitches through padding or the use of needlelace; by creating holes in the fabric by the use of eyelets, cutwork, or drawn thread work; by manipulating the ground fabric through pulled thread work; by stitching into net; or by the use of thread with a contrasting finish to the fabric.

Some whitework techniques use just one or two of these methods: e.g. Mountmellick uses a matt thread on a glazed fabric and also pads some stitches; other techniques use several methods, e.g. Ayrshire uses padded stitches, needlelace, cutwork, drawn work and pulled work.

Early forms of whitework are worked on linen as it can withstand bleaching and is strong enough to have threads removed or manipulated.  Its strength also means it is sufficiently robust for functional items such as clothing and household items which require laundering.  Over time cotton and silk have become popular for some techniques, but linen’s strength means it is still widely used.

Whitework Stitches

Algerian eye stitch Back-stitched chain stitch Barred buttonhole wheel Braid stitch filling Bullion picot Buttonhole bars (cutwork) Buttonhole corner (drawn thread) Buttonhole couronne Buttonhole edging Buttonhole edging (variation) Buttonhole scallops Buttonhole stitch Chain stitch (drawn thread) Chessboard filling (pulled thread) Cobbler filling stitch Coil filling stitch Counted satin stitch Diagonal chevron stitch Diagonal cross filling Diagonal drawn filling Diagonal hem stitch Diamond eyelet (pulled thread) Diamond Eyelet (single) Dot stitch Double faggot filling stitch Double running stitch Double twist stitch Drawn buttonhole stitch Drawn square stitch Drawn thread preparation Drawn thread preparation with buttonhole edges Eyelet stitch Festoon filling stitch Finishing stitch Fishbone stitch Four-sided stitch Framed cross filling French knot Greek cross filling stitch Hem stitch (Drawn Thread) Holding stitch Hollie stitch Honeycomb darning Honeycomb filling Knotted border Knotted pearl stitch Ladder hem stitch Ladder stitch (pulled thread) Large eyelet Long and short stitch Loop picot Mountmellick stitch Open basket filling stitch Outline stitch Overcast edging Overcast hem stitch Overcast stitch Padded satin stitch (laid work padding) Padded satin stitch (split stitch padding) Picot Ring picot Ringed back stitch filling Round eyelet (pulled thread) Running stitch Satin stitch Seeding stitch Single faggot stitch Slanted satin stitch Small eyelet Small round eyelet (pulled thread) Split stitch Square eyelet (pulled thread) Stem stitch Tapered trailing Three-sided stitch Trailing Turned satin stitch Wave stitch filling (pulled thread) Woven wheel corner Wrapped bars (drawn thread)