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Broderie Anglaise is a whitework embroidery technique that can be used for all kinds of creative projects. It combines embroidery, cutwork and lace to create beautifully intricate designs in pieces of fabric.
This technique originated possibly as early as the 16th century, but really became quite popular during the Victorian Era in England.
It was often used for decorative collars, sleeves, trims, nightgowns, petticoats, undergarments and special occasion clothing, such as children’s christening gowns and even wedding gowns.
How is Broderie Anglaise Made?
Sometimes also called “eyelet lace”, the process of working Broderie Anglaise is done by poking holes or cutting sections out of a piece of fabric and then embroidering around these holes, typically with a button-hole stitch.
Smaller holes are usually left as empty space, but of course they are often also filled with various crochet and tatted lace techniques as well!
Broderie Anglaise is actually quite easy to master, although many people find it intimidating because the designs can be quite intricate!
Today most modern Broderie Anglaise is done by machine, and you can likely even do it with your regular sewing machine at home if your machine can do zig zag stitches – many machines today even include multiple stitch options for button holes and eyelets!
If you have an embroidery machine, it can be even faster and easier and a lot of times you can use built in designs for basic shapes such as circles, ovals and flowers.
Of course, creating it by machine is sometimes intimidating, and a lot of times doing it by hand is not necessarily all that much more difficult. If you already enjoy hand embroidery and slow stitching, Broderie Anglaise can be a nice technique to add to your arsenal of skills.
Materials Needed for Making Broderie Anglaise Eyelet Lace and Fabric
Like most sewing projects, you really don’t need a lot of complex supplies or materials to get started. Since this technique is often called white work embroidery, it is usually done in all white cloth and thread, whether you use a basic piece of muslin or plain white cotton.
Of course, you never have to stick with using only white, and you can actually do some pretty neat things with color too if you like!
You can use regular cotton or polyester thread if you are creating it by machine, if you are creating it by hand you’ll likely want to use crochet thread or embroidery floss.
In addition to your fabric and thread, you will also need a couple of tools to either pierce or cut the fabric as desired.
There are a number of various eyelet tools you can use for fabric – If you have worked with KAM snap tools before (and they are wonderful!) or already have an eyelet tool from other projects, you will find that will work great for piercing holes into your fabric, but you can also use a simple awl, such as the kind you might use for bookbinding, or even a very large oversized embroidery needle, such as the kinds used for doll making or ribbon silk.
A good pair of small and sharp serrated edge scissors can also help with larger areas where you may be cutting.
Should You Cut or Sew First?
Whether you want to pierce your fabric or cut it first before sewing, or sew the areas before cutting is usually a matter of personal preference.
Some people find it easier to pierce the areas first – others find it much easier to sew first, especially when on a machine, since you can simply trim around the edges once its sewn.
Starting with a very small basic beginner project will give you a good idea of which method you like best. Some pieces you might even want to do a little bit of both, choosing to sew some areas first and then cut, and other areas to cut first and then sew.
Of course, you can always do it the way I share here, which is to sew a backstitch around the areas you will be cutting first, and then after cutting/piercing the fabric, sewing around it with a buttonhole stitch.
The Basic Stitches for Broderie Anglaise
You really only need to know two types of embroidery stitches for creating the eyelets in this type of embroidery, and that is the back stitch and the buttonhole stitch, sometimes also called an overcast stitch. The buttonhole stitch is done exactly like a blanket stitch, but the stitches are spaced much, much closer together.
Other embroidery stitches you may want to be familiar with:
- Satin Stitch
- Stem Stitch
- Daisy Stitch
There’s often a bit of a name debate between whether an overcast stitch, buttonhole stitch and a blanket stitch are the same thing or different stitches. While they may all look somewhat different, they are all stitched in the exact same method – it’s just a difference of where and how far apart they sewn.
When I am making these types of projects, I will start by outlining the area I want to cut or pierce out with a back stitch. You of course could use a straight stitch/running stitch here, but I find the backstitch can help give it a little more stability.
Typically I will do all of my backstitched areas first before I do any of cutting. This makes it much easier to work with later (I think anyways lol) and it helps you make sure everything is evenly spaced apart without any holes in the fabric to skew you off course.
For larger areas and once you have a little more practice under your belt, you may wish to incorporate some various lace designs into your work as well. Lace can be made a number of different ways, so while we’ll touch on that briefly here, you’ll probably want to check out our tutorials and patterns for full details on making lace!
Step by Step Instructions for Broderie Anglaise Eyelet Lace
Okay, so now we have the basics of supplies and materials and the two stitches you need to know, let’s review the process of how to make borderie anglais eyelet lace step by step!
Step 1: Prepare Your Fabric + Pattern
There are many different patterns out there you can use, but if this is your first project, you may want to just practice with making some basic eyelet holes in a row to get a hang of the technique first.
Fabric prep is simple – iron the heck out of it! You don’t want any wrinkles, this is going to make for issues later down the road.
Step 2: Backstitch Around the Area You Want to Cut
Step 2: Backstitch Around the Area You Want to Cut
I start by doing a simple backstitch around each place I marked to pierce. This is especially a good idea if you are cutting larger areas. Some people don’t do this step though, so if you don’t want to do it, that’s okay too, I just think it makes it easier, so maybe you will too!
Step 3: Pierce or Cut the Fabric
After the backstitch is done, I then take my handy dandy awl + pierce a hole into the fabric in the center. You really don’t need to “cut” the holes, piercing it a few times is usually sufficient, and like holes in fabric tend to do, it will spread out a bit more as you start sewing into it.
If you are doing larger sections that are being cut out, you may want to cut the fabric rather than pierce it, and so you can typically do this with a very small pair of scissors. Start with a small slit and be careful not to cut too much. You really don’t need to go all the way up to the dangerous territory of the edge of where you backstitched – you’ll be covering that all up with stitches and the hole in the fabric is going to want to keep stretching anyways.
Step 4: Button Hole Stitch Around the Edge of the Hole
This is very simple to do with your embroidery thread and a needle, and basically we’re just going to do the same thing we would do as if we are doing a blanket stitch, just spacing those stitches super close together around the edge.
The important thing here is to try and make each stitch a consistent size around the edge. This is another reason I like backstitching the area before I start sewing it with the buttonhole stitch because it sure does make it easier to see where those stitches should start and stop!
Step 5: Add Lace or Details
This step you probably won’t really need to do in your first project, since you’ll want to start with just basic eyelet stitches – but once you have the hang of that technique, you are ready to explore adding all types of different lace to the empty areas of the fabric.
There are many different types of lace and ways to make it – but I typically just stick with various crochet lace since that’s what I’m most comfortable with.
Step 6: That’s It! Admire Your Work!
And yes, that really is all there is to this technique! It might look stunning and super complicated, but its actually a very, very easy technique to master! With some practice under your belt for some basic eyelet shapes and circles, you’re ready to move onto the more intricate patterns!
Now that you have the basics down, you’re ready to create all types of things using this technique! You can make your own eyelet lace as a trim for either clothes or even crazy quilting or you can even create beautiful intricate designs that are worthy for framing.
Broderie Anglaise is a lot of fun and while it may not be something you want to do all the time, it definitely is a great skill to try and a fun project to do together with others!
Have any questions about getting started with Broderie Anglaise? Any tips for beginners to share? Have a project you’ve worked on for us to check out? Share your thoughts in the comments below!