Brazilian embroidery in Crazy Quilting

Brazilian embroidery in Crazy Quilting

Before the break when I went on holidays I was working on a series of posts that related to crazy quilting. This morning I have finally got back in the swing of things. I thought I would speak about another styles of embroidery often found on contemporary crazy quilts. One of these styles is a form of dimensional embroidery which is known as Brazilian embroidery is enjoying a revival.

However, I hate to tell you this but Brazilian embroidery is not actually from Brazil. The History of Brazilian Embroidery reveals that it was popularised under the name of Brazilian Embroidery. Jo Gillen in Brazilian-Style Embroidery from Adaptation to Obsession states that it was developed in Brazil in 1960 by Mrs. Elisa Hirsch Maia who not only developed this style of hand work but also developed a new thread while experimenting with dyeing rayon. Another article on Brazilian Embroidery which develops this research into the history of the style comes from SRE Brad. Edmar, the thread company, has also published a brief article on the history of the style.

As I have said this form of embroidery is enjoying increased popularity. Today it is possibly more correct to call this form of embroidery dimensional embroidery as although rayon is heavily used contemporary embroiderers often work this style in other threads such as silk particularly when it is combined with silk ribbon embroidery.

No matter what you call it, Brazilian embroidery could be described as a three dimensional textured form of hand embroidery which uses very tricky rayon thread. Probably the best bet is to take a look at some. The Brazilian Dimensional Embroidery International Guild has an image on their front page and another illustrating an article on What Brazilian embroidery is.

As a technique dimensional or Brazilian embroidery attracts the eye firstly because it is dimensional and if rayon or silk is used the high sheen of the thread catches the light giving a project or section of a block extra zing. This style of needlework is often seen in contemporary crazy quilting in combination with silk ribbon embroidery.

Rayon is wonderful because it looks like silk, has a high sheen and lustrous finish. The reason rayon thread is so tricky is that it has a z-twist. Yarns have either a s-twist or a z-twist. How can you an s-twist from a z-twist. Hold the thread with one end in the left hand between your thumb and index finger and the other end of the thread in your right hand, twist the thread to the right. If it is an s-twist it will tighten if it becomes untwisted and loosens, it is a z-twist. When working complex stitches such as bullions and cast-ons work in a clockwise direction in order not to unwind the z-twist. Threads such as standard DMC and Anchor cottons have an s-twist and you wrap those counter clockwise.

No matter what rayon is a tricky thread to work with. The Edmar thread site provides Tips for Stitching with Rayon

It is quite common to use bullions of 30 –50 wraps in this type of needlework so choice of needle is important. Use a milliner’s or straw needle. These needles are used in dimensional work because the eye of the needle is not wider than the diameter of the shaft of the needle. This means that complex wrapped stitches are easier to manipulate. The other trick is to use a hoop as correct tension is important.

Unlike other needlework techniques Brazilian embroidery doesn’t limit itself to specific stitches on a specific foundation cloth. Stitches from all types of needlework are used, common stitches being, stem stitch, cast on stitch, double cast-onstitch, drizzle stitch, oyster stitch, French knots, and Bullion stitch. Also used in this style of needlework are feather stitch, Detached button hole, and coral stitch.

Motifs are usually floral sprays worked in a number of different formations. It is quite easy to build up your own motifs by working the key larger flowers first, then tucking buds around them. Next work in the leaves which will extend the spray and finally tuck in stems with small flowers and beadwork being stitched last to fill out the spray and add highlights. When creating a spray remember if the spray has a dominant line the eye will follow along that line. This line can either fold back into itself so that the eye returns or the spray or can be used to lead the eye to another area of the block.

Rissa Peace Root of Pretty Impressive Stuff has published a free design for a Brazilian embroidered heart

Although there are number of links in this post I am sure there are other resources online. Leave a comment if you know of any others that people would find useful.


  1. I have been doing BDE for the past six years and love it more every day. Just got back from attending my sixth BDE Seminar and in July 2007 I will be teaching two classes, Beginning BDE and Let’s Knot and Make Some Flowers at the Crazy Quilting Society’s Retreat. This needle art form works so well in embellishing our CQ Projects.

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