August 16, 2016

Tutorial: Double Brussels Needle Lace Stitch

Today's tutorial is a guest post by needleworker Catherine Thomas - enjoy!

  • 10 cm embroidery hoop
  • A piece of cotton fabric about 20 x 20 cm
  • A piece of interfacing ironed onto the cotton fabric for added support
  • Two colors of DMC 6 strand embroidery floss (two different colours will make it easier to distinguish each type of stitch while learning! I have used red 3801 and blue 798)
  • Size 9 sharp needle
  • Size 24 tapestry needle

Step One
Begin by drawing your circle onto your fabric. I have used a HB pencil, as you will cover the line with stitching. My circle is 5.5cm in diameter. Take your first DMC and cut a length of thread approximately 45cm. Then take one strand of thread from the six to begin your work. Only one strand of thread will be used throughout the tutorial. Thread this into your size 9 sharp needle.

You can begin with a waste knot to the side of your work. This is created by placing a knot at the end of your working thread and coming down from the top of your work to the bottom with your needle. The knot should sit to the outside of the shape with a tail (to the back of your work) that is long enough to be cut and wound into your work once your stitching line is complete.

Step Two
Next you will begin your outline around the circle. The outline is stitched with backstitch. To make a backstitch I come from the back of my fabric and go down into the top of my fabric on the line with my needle and thread. The next stitch is made by coming up approximately 5mm from the last stitch from the back of my work and then going back down again with my needle and thread sharing the hole with the end of my first stitch.

Step Three

Backstitch around your circle until it is complete. Take your needle and thread to the back of your work and wind your ends into the stitches on the back for about 1.5cm. Then cut off your thread as close to your stitching as possible.

It is at this point you can also cut your waste knot off and wind your thread end into the back of the backstitch outline.

Step Four
We are now going to bring in the thread that you will use to stitch the needlelace stitch. Cut your working thread to approximately 45cm in length. Come in from the back of your work and weave your new thread with your needle around the backstitch threads to begin (this is so you will not need a waste knot).

Step Five
Bring your needle and thread to the front of your work through the fabric onto the backstitch outline. You want the thread to be at the top of your circle. Once you have done this lay your needle across the circle top. Put a mark on the other side so you get an idea where you will need to travel to with your stitches. You will not always have to do this, it is just for teaching purposes so you can find where you will end up with your stitching line and help keep your lines of stitching straight.

This is the only time that you will move the working thread from the back to the front of your work (unless you are bringing in a new thread, which is explained latter in Step 12). You work your lace stitches on top not into the fabric. Use your size 24 tapestry needle which is blunt on the end and will not easily pierce through your fabric or the stitches you are about to create. You will use this needle to create your needlelace stitches.

Step Six
Let’s begin the really fun part, making our needlelace stiches. Begin by making a button hole stitch through your backstitch line. You want to go under this line to anchor your stitch. You will come out a little from the side of your backstitch line to create a small loop from the side. Don’t try and make the buttonhole close to the edge. Let the loop form.

Although this backstitch line is made up of little tiny stitches, I want you to forget about this and pretend that it is one solid line that you are stitching into. Use your eye as a guide to where your stitches should go, don’t try and follow the tiny stitches.

Step Seven
Once you have made your first buttonhole stitch I want you to make a buttonhole stitch very close to the next one. Once again you will need to make your stitch under the back stitch line to anchor it. As the diagram shows you have a loop with two buttonhole stitches close together.

Step Eight
Your next step is to leave another little loop, simply by leaving a small gap between the next pair of buttonhole stitches and so on. This pattern consists of a loop then two buttonhole stitches stitched closely together then another loop. It is called a Double Brussels stitch. You will continue the pattern until you reach the right hand side of your circle.

Step Nine
Once you have reached the end of your line of stitching you must now anchor your thread. You do this by taking your needle and thread under the backstitch line through to the outside of the shape.

Step Ten
The needle and thread must then come back inside of the shape to begin the next row of stitching. Bring the needle and thread back under the backstitch line about 3mm down the edge of the outline. Roughly the same width as the stitching line made above.

It is at this point that you do have to be a little mindful of the small backstitch stitches. If you have not made your back stitches small enough, and take the needle and thread in and out of the one stitch (red), you will not be able to anchor your working thread (blue).

Step Eleven
To make our next line of stitching, make the pair of buttonhole stitches into the loops that were formed in the previous row. By doing this we will create a large enough loop between the pairs of buttonhole stitch so that we can complete the pairs of buttonhole stitches in the following rows and so on.

Once you get to the left-hand side of the row we again bring your needle and thread under the backstitch line to the outside of the shape. You will then come back under the line with the needle and thread to the inside of the shape to complete the next row.

Step Twelve
Occasionally you may not be able to complete the entire pattern. You may only have room for part of a pattern as your shape increases or decreases in width. The trick then is to complete as much of the pattern as you possibly can. For example this may mean only one of the two buttonholes from the pattern can be stitched (as in the picture above). With needlelace it is often about the complete pattern created by your shape, not just an individual line, so get as much of the pattern in as you can in one row but don’t worry if you can’t get it all!

Also, you cannot begin a new thread in the middle of the line of stitching with needlelace, so it is important to make sure that at the beginning of each row you have enough thread to get across. If you are unsure, lay your threads across your work and if you have approximately enough thread to get across your shape three times you will have enough thread to complete a row.

If you do not have enough thread to finish a row, bring your working thread and needle to the back of your work by piercing the fabric and wind your end into the backstitch outline then cut thread close to fabric. To bring in a new thread repeat step 4 making sure that when you bring the working thread and needle to the front of your work you have left the right width (width of the rows above) to start the next stitching row. Remember to change your needle to the size 9 sharp to bring the working thread through your fabric, but return to the size 24 tapestry when lacing.

Step Thirteen
Now you have worked your Double Brussels stitch to the end of your shape and have a gap between the end of your shape and the stitching row that is approximately the width of the stitching rows above. You can now finish off your shape.

To finish, take the working needle and thread under the backstitch line to the outside of your shape and then bring the thread and needle back into the inside of the shape. This time you go over the top of the backstitch line not under the line as you have previously. As you do this you want to catch the bottom of the loop of the pattern and wind your thread over it so it pulls in down to the backstitch line. You are whipstitching the lacing stitches to the outline of your shape.

You then take the working needle and thread that is holding the loop back down under the backstitch line and out of the shape. Come back into the shape and catch the loop a second time so it is caught twice and repeat the process.

Why do you anchor your loops down twice? By catching that loop twice you are continuing to create the ‘look’ of the pattern even though you are finishing off. It helps the work to sit nicely.

Step Fourteen
Once you have caught each of the loops twice, run your working needle and thread to the outside of the shape and take the needle and thread to the back of your work.

Wind then the working needle and thread (blue) into the backstitch line (red) to finish off and then cut your working thread (blue) close to your work.

Congratulations you have just created a shape filled with needlelace!

So what can I do with this stitch you may ask. Well, how about working your circle shape onto paper and repeating the steps above to create some beautiful cards. You can create a card like mine below by painting the back ground of your card and using contrasting threads to work your needlelace (or different threads like metallics) to create interesting effects.

Why stop at a circle! Oval shapes make for beautiful flower petals, fairy wings or the wings of butterflies. Go on and see where this beautiful form of lace making can take you.

My work is often three-dimensional which means that I create an outline that can be removed from the background that I am working on and then wire is added creating a supporting frame for my stitches. This I will leave for another tutorial if you are interested!


Thank you, Catherine, for this wonderful guest tutorial on Needle Lace! To see more of Catherine's designs, please visit her at or follow Catherine on Instagram @catherinethomasneedlelace.

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