• Open Spaces or Eyelets have varied sizes and shapes.
  • Eyelets are oversewn with buttonhole stitch and overcasting.
  • Beading - a very narrow ladder made using a stiletto for the holes.
  • Cutwork - ladder work, rectangular or crescent shape. .
  • Designs - simple, floral motifs and scrolls.
  • Edges - wavy or scalloped in buttonhole stitch.
  • Stitches - running, overcasting stitch, buttonhole, padded and satin stitch.
  • Threads - tightly twisted thread.


Its origins are uncertain. According to Weldon, Broderie Anglaise originated from Czechoslovakian peasant embroidery and was brought to England in the 19th C. Mary Thomas says it is also known as Artier, English, Eyelet, Madeira or Swiss work Pamela Clabburn states it is “a type of cutwork embroidery which evolved in Britain about 1850 from the earlier Ayrshire embroidery”. Certainly it became very popular at this time.

The work consists of open worked spaces, varying in size and shape. The design is traced onto closely woven fabric. Running stitch is first worked around the round or oval holes (eyelets). Each hole is made as work progresses, either cut or pierced with a stiletto, a sharp-pointed tool. The edges are then stitched with overcast stitch or buttonhole stitch.In time, the holes became bigger, which meant they had to be cut out. This was done by snipping with sharp pointed scissors, from side to side and top to bottom of the shape without cutting the outline thread. The fabric flaps were turned under, then the edges over-sewn.
‘Beading’ was a fine ladder effect, made by withdrawing a thread and making tiny eyelets along the line. In the 20th century, the holes became larger and ‘laddering ‘which were rectangular or crescent shaped developed. At this time, the stems of the flowers were surface stitched which was much less work. Still later padded satin stitch trailings, padded dots, and needle-lace fillings in the larger holes, were commonly used, which created lighter designs.

Later strips of fabric with the holes cut were available. However, these became loose and the standard of work declined. Finally, multiple machines could reproduce eyeleting and raised satin stitches remarkably well.

The embroidery was time consuming, and worked by women in their homes as poorly paid out-workers. The technique was used for Victorian underwear, nightwear, trimmings, and for babies’ clothes and linen.

The 1950s saw resurgence in popularity, and was used as a trimming on dresses and underwear. Brigitte Bardot wore a wedding dress of gingham with Broderie Anglaise trim when she married Jacques Charier in 1959.

Madeira embroidery was based on Broderie Anglaise, and made for the tourist trade. In Czechoslovakia, the eyelets are worked in different colours on the sleeves of national costumes


Batsford Encyclopedia of Embroidery Techniques, Batsford, London, 1984
Clabburn, Pamela The Needleworkers' Dictionary, Macmillan, London, 1976
Gardner,Sue A-Z Of Whitework Book 1 Surface Embroidery, Inspirations.Bks Ed
Swain, Margaret Ayrshire and other Whitework, Shire Publications, No 88, 1982
Thomas, Mary, Embroidery Book, Hodder &Stoughton, London 1952
Toomer, H, The Baby Wore White: Robes for Special Occasions, published .by H. Toomer, Antique Lace

© Valerie Cavill 2012