Brazilian Embroidery


Bullion StitchThis stitch is best worked with a milliners needle.

1.Come up at A and pull the thread through.  Insert needle at B and back out at A but do not pull the needle through the fabric.  Hold the needle and fabric in your left hand and pick up the thread at A with the right hand. 

2. Wrap the point of the needle with the thread in a clockwise direction if you are using Brazilian Z twist thread, or counterclockwise if using perle cotton S twist thread.  The wraps around the needle need to be at least equal to the space between A and B.  For a loop that stands above the fabric, the wrapped area of the needle needs to be MORE than the distance between A and B on the fabric. 

3. When you have enough wraps on the needle, gently hold the wraps with one hand and pull the needle through with the other.  Pull the thread in an upward motion until the bullion wraps are nearly down to the fabric. Straighten out the wraps with the point of your needle, rubbing them under the core thread. You might also roll the wraps back and forth between your thumb and index finger to smooth them.  Now pull the thread down toward B. If you hold the wraps at the thread end under your thumbnail as you pull the thread down it will help keep them tidy.  Finally, complete the stitch by taking the needle down and out at B.

Cast-On Stitch: A milliners needle is also the best choice for working this stitch.

1. Come up and out at A.  Go in at B and back up at A but leave the needle there in the fabric just like doing a bullion stitch. 

2. Grasp the thread a few inches out from A with your right hand.  Put your left index finger on top of the thread and give it a twist down and around the thread picking up a twisted loop.  Drop the loop over the end of the needle and snug it to the bottom.  Continue twisting loops and dropping them on the needle until you have the desired number. 

3. Wrap the end of the thread behind the needle once in a clockwise direction.  Hold the loops and pull the needle through the fabric and loops.  Pull until the thread and loops are snug.  Take the needle down and out at B. 

Variations on the cast-on Stitch

Loose Cast-on: 

If you want the cast-on loop to be fluffy or looser, insert 1 or 2 extra large darners next to the working needle as it is planted in the fabric for the cast-ons.  Cast on over all the needles.  Pull out the extra needles before pulling the thread through with the main needle.

Up-Down Cast-on Stitch: 

For the basic cast-on, you are dropping half hitches onto the needle.  For this one you are making both the halves of a tatted double stitch rather than making all the stitches just the first half. Some designers call this the double stitch. After making the first cast-on loop, put your finger under the thread next time, bend the index finger to grab the thread and twist down and out to make the loop.  Drop it on the needle.  Alternating between the two stitches will create an up-down cast-on buttonhole stitch, which is identical to tatting.  When you have completed the number of cast-ons, pull the needle through and finish the stitch in the same way as the plain cast-on buttonhole stitch.

Double Cast-on Stitch:

 For the variation you will need two working threads.  Either knot both ends of a strand, or thread two strands of floss in your milliners needle.  Come up at A.  Go down at B and bring the point of the needle back up at A but do not pull through.  Arrange your threads so one lies on the left and one on the right. 

Pick up the left thread with the right hand.  Make a twist around the left index finger and drop the loop on the point of the needle.  Snug it down.  Now pick up the right thread with the left hand.  Make a twist around the index finger of the right hand and drop the loop on the needle. Alternate between threads until you have enough loops cast onto the needle. 

Hold the loops with the left hand and pull the needle through.  Take the needle and threads down at B.


A Couching stitch is often used in Brazilian embroidery to create fine lines of green growth.  We call it "fine growth".  Using one of the finer-weight threads, come up at 1 and down at 2.

Come up at 3, down at 4, up at 5, down at 6 and so on.  Continue until the thread is securely couched down along the pattern line. 

Hint: When doing the couching make short angled stitches that follow the line of the thread twist and your couching will blend in better. Areas that are curved need to be couched more closely than straighter sections.

If there are side branches off the stem, work them on your way down the stem as shown  in 9-14.

Detached Buttonhole Stitch  After the bar is made, a tapestry needle is best for the stitch.

This is the primary stitch used in needle lace, but in Brazilian embroidery we use it a bit differently.  Here rows of detached buttonhole stitch are worked over a single straight stitch, or added to the outer edge of other stitches.  The final petal or design element is worked generally stays loose from the fabric except at the beginning join point.  

Begin with a straight stitch as a foundation.  A tapestry needle which has a blunt point will be easier to use for this stitch.  Come up at one end of the straight stitch.  If you are only working one row, work clockwise.  If making more than one row, some have found it best if the final row is worked clockwise, but alternating rows in between will be worked counter-clockwise.  On the example, the first row is being worked counter-clockwise and the second row clockwise. 

Each stitch is worked by forming a loop in the direction of the work and taking the needle behind the foundation or stitch in the previous row and over the loop of thread.  When you reach the end of the row, making the desired number of stitches, reverse the direction of the thread loop and work back in the loops between stitches.  Keep the stitches somewhat loose but not sloppy. 

When extra stitches are required in a row, you may increase by making two stitches into one loop, or by making stitches both into the loops between stitches and the little e that is formed by the stitch.  Some suggest that making stitches in the e's creates a sturdier petal. 

Finally, after all rows have been made, overcast back down the final side to the fabric and take the needle down to the back.  The petal may also be finished by taking the needle down at the tip of the petal, thereby holding it in place, rather than leave the petal free of the fabric. 

Drizzle Stitch    Use a milliners needle or darner for easier threading.

This is a version of the cast-on buttonhole stitch.  The difference is that it is only attached at one end. 

Come up through the fabric with your needle and thread. 

Unthread the needle.  Place your fabric over a pincushion and insert the needle near the thread and into the pincushion.  The needle eye will be up at the top. 

Make the desired number of cast-on loops over the eye of the needle.  These can be plain, up-down, loose or any variation of the cast-on stitch you would like to use. The plain cast-on will create a spiraling drizzle. The up-down cast-on will make a firm drizzle that does not spiral. 

Thread the needle and take the tail of the thread back through the loops and fabric.  Pull only as tight as you want it; then knot the thread. 

Leaf Stitch

This variation of the satin stitch is a basic for creating leaves in Brazilian embroidery.  Anchor the knot within the leaf and come up at A, at the tip of the leaf.  Go down at B, about 1/3 in from the tip.  Work alternating from the left and right of the tip and always go back down at the vein, but move the stitches down the vein as well as down the edges.  Like any directional satin stitch, keeping the angle pleasing is something that requires practice. 

Pistil Stitch or Long-Tailed French Knot

A Pistil stitch is simply a straight stitch with an attached French knot.

Come up at A.  Holding the thread, wrap the needle 2-3 times clockwise. The Colonial knot could also be used if desired.  Bring the needle down at B. Keep the thread taut while bringing the needle down at B. 

Note: Various flower instructions will specify the number of wraps needed for that particular flower. 

Stem Stitch

With Z twisted Brazilian embroidery threads the stem stitch will have the thread carried above the line rather than below.  If you hold the thread below the stitching line, the look will be a smooth line like an outline stitch.  The stem stitch gives more of a twisted rope like look.  The length of each stitch will depend on the thread weight and look you desire.  Generally it will be less than " and more than 1/8".

After a short compensating stitch, each stitch will move 2 spaces right and 1 space back. 

These stitch instructions have been provided by Peggy Crawford and Loretta Holzberger The diagrams and written instructions are copyrighted. They are for your personal use. 

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