12 Little Needle Cases

The Last Needle Case: Open Work

Last year when I finished my needle cases I finished with 10 out of my intended 12. As the project progressed, I found that some of the needle cases were more time consuming than others so I combined a few categories to finish the project in my time frame. The first combo was Free embroidery and goldwork. The second was combining open work and needle lace.

While I am still content with the free embroidery/goldwork combination, not having an “openwork” needle case has pulled on me (haar haar). So I have decided to work on an openwork project.

Whitework in Medieval Times

In my German brick stitch needle case blog and in John Mashall’s Apron blog, I wrote about white work, especially the kind that was popular in fourteenth century Germany. In my mind, these types of white work can be divided into two types, the first (like the apron) involves raised designs in linen and creates a three dimensional texture, the second is a flat work that involves pulling the threads to create texture one with the fabric.

This altarpiece in the Met from Altenburg is one such pieces.

Altarcloth, second half of fourteenth century, Altenberg, Germany, Metropolitan Museum of Art

This close up of an altar cloth from the Met shows tight even stitches pulling apart the weave of the fabric in various designs.

If you have the time, zoom in closely to the different pictures on the Met’s website. You will be astounded by the sheer variety of patterns.

The Design

In order to complete this needle case in a timely manner (and avoid dragging this project into next year), I chose to do a single leaf motif from the above altarpiece.

The piece will be stitched using a pulled thread technique. The stitches will be stitched like brick stitches, but instead will be pulled taught so that the stitches slightly warp the fabric, creating an openwork design. The Met has posted pictures of the reverse of this altarpiece which shows the tight stitches and thread paths used to create the design:

“Wrong side” of leaf pictured above

The Pattern

Here is the pattern I used for the leaf. It is ultra whimsical.

Pulled Thread Pattern

This leaf will be stitched on a loose linen fabric using a silk sewing weight thread (because I do not have a high quality linen sewing thread of the right weight). The stitches used will be simple up and down tight pull pulled thread patterns used to make the diamonds depicted in the original. Simple up and down tight pull pulled thread stitches will also be used on the stem to delineate it from the pattern around it.

I am unsure how embroiderers would have drawn their pattern on in period given this is a white on white piece and any markings would have shown through in the final iteration, I will use a water soluble marker to mark my pattern.

Happy Stitching!


Opus Teutonicum Textile Research Center

Opus Teutonicum Historic Needlework Resources

Ilse Altherr, Mastering the Art of Pulled Thread Embroidery

Royal School of Needlework, Essential Stitch Guide, White Work

Willow Fabric’s Pulled Thread Embroidery Diagrams


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