Thursday, February 10, 2011

Applique Cord- A Tutorial

Applique cord is an heirloom technique that results in the look of entredeux being inserted into the fabric. It can be done as a stand alone element or it can be combined with other embroidery techniques as a compliment to a design. It is achieved with a pin stitch or Point de Paris stitch. A pin stitch is a pulled thread stitch. No threads are withdrawn.

It is a magical technique that looks much more difficult than it is. It is great TV work. You don't have to count stitches and it is very rhythmic. If you need to, start on a scrap and get your groove going and then move onto your project.

Pictures tell the story. As always, you can click on the pictures to enlarge them. An no judgements on the "manicure," or lack of one.

The supplies needed:
  •  Fabric. This is often done on linen, but can also be achieved on other natural fiber fabrics. I used a scrap of what Jeannie Baumeister calls "Fairy Fabric," an unltrafine Swiss batiste, because it would be gauzier and easier to show you the "holes" that appear.
  • Fine sewing thread. Examples are Madeira Cotona 80 wt, Sarah Howard Stone's prewaxed thread, or a 50 wt thread such as DMC if that is what you have. (If doing this technique on a bold colored fabric you may need to use one strand of floss to match the cord you use, but wax the floss and keep your threads 18" or less. You can also use a 60 wt thread to couch with. Both the floss and the 60 wt thread will be a bit bolder heavier in look.)
  • A cord.  Tatting cord, cordonet, or perle cotton. If I were going to use perle cotton, I would use a size 12 or 16. NOTE: Usually your cord and sewing thread color match your fabric. There is no law saying that has to be so. If you feel adventurous mix the colors, just know that your stitches are going to show more against the cord if you use a contrasting thread. The charm of this stitch is the seeming magic with which appears on your fabric. 
  • Wax for your thread. This is very important since this is a pulled thread. It strengthens your thread and makes it last much longer. If using Sarah Howard Stone's prewaxed thread, you won't need this of course. 
  • A fine tapestry needle for working the applique cord and a chenille needle large enough to thread your cord through for sinking the cord to the back.
  • Blue marker or pencil for marking your design.
  • LIGHT and MAGNIFICATION. Stop pretending like you don't need magnification and just sucumb. You will be glad you did.

Mark your design. I have simply marked a curved line. Applique cord can make all kinds of curly q's. It doesn't have to be done only in a straight line.


You will be stitching ON your marked line and couching the cord above and below the marked line. I have used obnoxious purple in a larger than usual size so you can see. Lay your cord along your design line, leaving a generous tail.  You can knot it with an away waste knot if you would feel better having it secured out of the way. Thread your tapestry needle with your waxed thread. I have used a #26 Tapestry which is a small needle. Make an away waste knot with your waxed thread.

This stitch is worked in hand, over your finger. A finger shield is beneficial for you finger under the fabric. Hold the cord just above your design line taught using your middle finger and thumb as shown.

Bring your thread up, JUST above your cord. You are now ready to begin pin stitching. Go down into the fabric at "A" and back out at "B". Pull your thread through.

Go back down at "A" and now come out at "C" which again is JUST above your cord. (The distance between "B" and "C" is only a couple of threads behind the cord.) I have acutally overshot with my "C", ideally you want your "C" right above your "B". Pull your thread though and give it a snug tug.

This will pull your stitch together forming the holes on either side. Those holes are what you are aiming for. The ones above the cord will melt away as you stitch. Continue along your design line in the same way, Into "A" out at "B", back into "A" and out at "C". With each stitch, your OLD "B" will become your NEW "A".

When you get to the end of your design line, you now need to turn around and do the other side of the line to complete your entredeux look. I take three stitches at the end of the line to secure  and curve the cord as it wraps the corner. Turn your work and head back in the direction you came from.

The second side stitches much more quickly than the first. The last hole left from the previous stitching will be your "A", the second of course will become your "B"

and again you will stitch "C" just above the cord. Continue back to the beginning.

Voila! Your corded "holes" in the fabric.

To secure your cord, thread each tail into your chenille needle and sink to the back.

Sink your working thread to the back, fold your cord back onto the back, following the cord on top. Tack ends down with your working thread picking up the couching stitches or BARELY one or two fabric threads behind the appliqued cord. Tack for about a half inch and cut your cord. Repeat for second tail.

If your corded design is free standing begin and end on a side about an inch from either end. That way you get that curved finished end on either end. If it will be covered with embroidery at the end, you can begin and end at one end of the line and then secure your cords. If you end on the side, fold back each tail in opposite directions and secure.

I hope this takes some of the mystery out of applique cord. Try it and let me know what you think.


  1. I took a class in this from Margaret Pierce several years ago at a SAGA convention, but then lost the instructions. Thanks so much for posting this. I'm working on a silk heart, maybe I'll add this.

  2. Amazing! How did you ever know I was in need of this?! :)
    MWAH! Love you, love your tutorial!
    If I can get it to work, you can be sure I'll share a picture.

  3. YOU are a SAINT!!!!
    I took a class with Wendy Schoan alst year and she showed us how to do this by machine. Well, I am KNOWN for finishing my projects, but this one is still in the bag in my sewing closet!!
    I am now going to pull it out and FINISH it by hand!!!!
    THANKS so very much for you fabulous instructions!!!
    Can you do one on "double featherstitch"? This stitch is also holding me up on finishing the Circa 1920 gown by OFB. I would LOVE to have this finally completed as well!!
    Love YOU Dearly!!!

  4. Great instructions! It is one of those magic stitches that can create entredeux in the middle of most anyplace! Gorgeous!

  5. Thank you for this and your other tutorials. You demonstrate well and show the needed steps. It is appreciated. You have renewed my spark for hand work. I have miles to go but it's all about the journey. Thanks again. Robin from the Roost.

  6. Fabulous tute, Martha, Thanks!!!

  7. Thanks, Martha. This instruction was just what I needed. I've always wanted to do this stitch, but I could never find the right pics and instructions. You made this very easy to follow.

  8. Should add that it does not mix well with late nights, lack of sleep and dark rooms... :)

  9. Great tutorial. I think I need to try that, I have been going to take a class at Convention and always choose something else.

  10. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

    I hope to put this to practice in the very near future.

  11. Wow! That is amazing. You are a born teacher. Thanks for taking the time to share all your talent with us. I am anxious to try that out! Love it!

  12. This is AWESOME!!!! Thanks so much for sharing.

  13. Thank you so much !!! I will certainly try.

  14. fabulous tutorial that i'll be using in the next week or two when i start an Old Fashioned Baby project from Sew Beautiful #89, 2003. :) thanks for sharing.

  15. We come across beautiful projects and designs all the time. But rarely does one come across a truly brilliant technique. Bravo....

  16. Thank you so much for this fabulous tutorial. Can’t wait to try it!


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