Burden Stitch – Part Two: a Tutorial

If you are using Burden Stitch as part of a design, you will have already decided on how you plan to complete the surrounding areas. On this sample, which is going nowhere except onto this blog, I had to decide on completion. The decision was a solid blue background around the area on the right and a section without blue fabric on the left.

Burden Stitch Finishing Stages
Burden Stitch Finishing Stages
Burden Stitch Sinking The Thread Ends
Burden Stitch Sinking The Thread Ends

The next step was to sink, or plunge, the ends of gold thread in the left area. Make yourself a lasso using a length of Perle thread or DMC, fold it in half and thread the two thicknesses into the eye of a Chenille or Tapestry needle. Make a hole with your awl in the spot you wish to take the gold thread through to the reverse side of your fabric. The lasso goes into that hole. Place the far end of the gold thread into the loop of the lasso. Gently ease the lasso and the gold thread through to the reverse side of your work. If you catch the gold thread too close to the stitching, it will not go through the fabric smoothly, The gold wrap will get stripped off its core and you will be unhappy with it and probably have to restitch that row.

Burden Stitch Threading the Lasso
Burden Stitch Threading the Lasso

Lassoing /plunging can be useful in other situations. It can be used for starting a thread or finishing cord that is too thick to go though any needle. If you have reached the end of some stitching and the last bit of thread is too short to finish off normally, then lasso it to the reverse side of your embroidery. It can also be useful in weaving threads into the reverse side of your work.

For the covered area on the right, I also lassoed the gold thread but placed the holes away from the edge of the circle where they will be covered by the blue fabric. Then, using a length of dressmaking thread, I whip stitched the ends of these threads to the the backing fabric. I do not always do this but felt that securing them was necessary in order to maintain the correct alignment of the gold thread on the front of the work.

Burden Stitch From The Bottom
Burden Stitch From The Bottom

Next step was to couch a single line of gold thread to the left side of the circle. I tried using one thread of gold with six threads of DMC along side but the DMC has a lower profile and slid under the gold. Unsuccessful and abandoned.

The blue fabric is a sample of drapery fabric from my stash backed with one layer of felt. I trimmed the inner edge of the fabric to about 1/4″ and nicked it so that it would lie flat. Then I pinned it and basted it into position.

Burden Stitch Finished
Burden Stitch Finished

Using one thread of blue, I catch stitched around the inner edge of the blue fabric.

To complete the sample and to secure the blue fabric and felt to the background, I couched two threads of gold as a pair a specified distance from the inner edge. Once again, I used the reverse side of the very helpful business card to help me maintain an even distance from the edge.

And that is that. Completed. I hope that this tutorial has been helpful by taking the mystery out of working with this stitch and by making it simpler and less prone to hazard and unwelcome surprises.

The Flying Horse is stitched in Burden Stitch which is used as a solid filling stitch. It is part of my Metal Thread Sampler from RSN. The photo is not as good as I would have wished because it was taken through glass. The framed sampler is too large and heavy to move easily so we used the available light in our hallway.

Flying Horse Burden Stitch
Flying Horse Burden Stitch

Wishing everyone Happy Stitching.

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  1. Reply

    Ann, thank you for this wonderful tutorial. You clearly explain the pitfalls and the best way to work this stitch.
    I’m not a robot – Ann from sf

  2. Reply

    I love your moon sampler–and I especially like that you showed us how you finished it. The fabric and felt is inspired.

    Your horse is breathtaking, but I have to ask–which is the gold thread–the filling stitch or the top stitches? It would seem a waste to use gold underneath and then cover it up. I don’t know much about goldwork though. It is a really stunning picture!


  3. Reply

    I never thought of the Burden Stitch Sample as a moon. I just got a drinking glass from the kitchen and drew round it. I did not want a square and did not feel it necessary to fuss with creating a design.
    In the horse, the Gold thread is under the stitching and forms those horizontal ridges. I agree that is a waste but a more solid effect was needed for the horse. It is also easier to stitch Burden Stitch as a solid filling. It is keeping all the spaces even which is the problem. The top stitching of the horse is DMC Floss I think but it is hard to tell because of the glass in front of it.
    Or Nue, which is another GoldWork technique, also covers up the gold thread, or most of it anyway. It is another pain to stitch.

    Wishing you happy stitching, Ann B.

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