A Cutwork Technique for Close Quarters

Cutwork tip with SewInspiredByBonnie.com

Do you get frustrated and have trouble cutting small sections in cutwork designs? This tip uses a non-traditional tool for cutwork in tight spaces.

Picture of a buttonhole cutter used on machine embroidery

Sometimes, the right tool for the job isn’t always made for that job. Unless you make your own clothing, you might not even know how this tool is used. It’s a buttonhole cutter, otherwise known as a chisel with a razor-sharp edge.

Several years ago, I discovered just how handy a buttonhole cutter is while creating a project for Designs in Machine Embroidery magazine.

Since you're one of Bonnie’s fans, you must enjoy applique. If you enjoy stitching applique, you will likely love creating cutwork. Cutwork is essentially the same process but instead of adding fabric like you do in applique, you cut fabric away.

With applique, you cut fabric away outside of the tack-down stitches. Cutwork placement stitches show you where to cut fabric away inside the stitch line.

Depending upon the size of the design, areas that you need to cut out can be quite small. Often, you can carefully snip the center of the fabric to get a hole started for trimming, but with smaller tack-down areas, it’s difficult to separate the fabric you want to cut from the stabilizer. Using a buttonhole cutter is much easier.

Picture of machine embroidery cutwork with snips ready to trim

Cut a slice into the middle of each area you need to cut. Go the whole way through the stabilizer. My buttonhole cutter came with a miniature cutting mat. If yours doesn’t, or if you are using an X-Acto knife, make sure you place a piece of wood or a cutting mat behind whatever you are cutting.

Picture of machine embroidery cutwork backside with water soluble stabilizer patches

Since cutwork is stitched on a fabric-type water-soluble stabilizer (WSS), use a
couple pieces of an adhesive WSS or glue strips of fabric-type WSS)over the cut marks on the back of your hooped stabilizer.

Picture of small scissors used for trimming machine embroidery cutwork areas

Flip the hoop over and carefully trim away the layer or layers of fabric with small sharp scissors.

Picture of machine embroidery cutwork trimmed and ready for final satin stitches

The WSS “band aid” holds the stabilizer snug for stitching final satin stitches around the cut edges.

Picture of finished machine embroidery cutwork floral design

When embroidery is finished, rinse away all WSS, press, and you are done!

Debbie Henry
Sew Inspired by Bonnie

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  • Debbie Henry - June 18, 2023

    Thanks for reading, Karen!

  • Debbie Henry - June 13, 2023

    It works great in small areas, Karen!

  • Debbie Henry - June 13, 2023

    It works really great in tight spots, Karen!

  • Karen Stewart - June 12, 2023

    Nice lesson I never thought of using my button hole cutter.

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