Adventures in Machine Embroidery: Cut Work

Ok all you adventurous machine embroidery ladies!  It’s time to take our hobby to the next level!!!

Yes!  We are doing some Cut Work!

What is cutwork?

Well, for some reason, looking at cut work reminds me of stained glass windows.  But that’s really not what it is at all.

Cut work is embroidery on fabric that is literally CUT OUT during the embroidery process.  So, your finished project has artistic and deliberate “holes” that are surrounded by beautiful embroidery stitches.

Here are some pictures of cut work designs by Anita Goodesign and also one by Dakota Collectibles.  You can get these and other designs from Humble Sewing Center or order them online.

Check out the pictures and then take a look at my step-by-step adventure in Cut Work on a shirt….


Dakota Collectibles File # FL1520

Cut Work Shirt Tutorial


  • one shirt
  • one cut work embroidery design
  • embroidery machine and embroidery thread
  • curved, fine tip embroidery scissors for precision cutting
  • No Show Fusible Stabilizer
  • Self-Adhesive Wash Away Stabilizer

Step One: Choose a shirt

Step Two: If you have embroidery software, print out a design template to help you with design placement on your shirt.

Don’t have software?  If you aren’t ready to invest in a full blown digitizing software, I like to recommend 2 smaller software packages, depending on what machine you own.

If you have a Janome Machine, I like Digitizer Jr.  (You can get this at Humble Sewing Center or your local dealer.)

If you have a Babylock or other brand of machine, I like to recommend: Embrilliance Essentials  (This is a smaller package that was created by the same man who created all of the Designer’s Gallery software. He’s amazing!)  He even let’s you download a free trial to see if you like it:  Free Trial    I don’t know if the trial lets you print or stitch anything, but at least you can click around and see if you like the way the software works…

Moving right along….

Step Three: Peel the paper backing off of the self-adhesive stabilizer and hoop it with the sticky side face up.

Step Four: Place your design template on your shirt and mark the cross hairs with a sticker or pins to help you with hooping.

Step Five:

Once you know where the design will be, you can fuse a piece of the No-Show fusible stabilizer to the wrong side of the shirt.  Make sure you are fusing this stabilizer in the area that the shirt will be embroidered.  This stabilizer helps keep your stretchy shirt fabric from becoming distorted during hooping and embroidering.

Step Six: Turn your shirt inside out and place it right side up on top of the hoop's sticky surface. I used the plastic grid that came with my hoop to help me align my shirt in the hoop. If my way is totally confusing you, see below to find out how Nancy Zieman does it.

(For the next two photos, I’m quoting the shirt hooping step from one of Nancy’s blog posts.  Here’s the link to the entire post:  Knit Shirt Makeovers)

“Place the embroidery hoop at the narrow end of an ironing board.  Next, position the T-shirt over the end of the ironing board. (See picture below.)  Match the neckline and center front to one of the Perfect-Placement Stitching lines and center front marking on the stabilizer. Gently finger press the shirt to the sticky stabilizer.”

Photo from Nancy Zieman Blog Post - Knit Shirt Makeovers

“Lift the back of the T-shirt to the top of the hoop, creating a nest shape. Reattach the hoop to the embroidery unit.”

Photo from Nancy Zieman Blog Post - Knit Shirt Makeovers

Ok, now we’re back to my instructions for the cut work shirt tutorial:

Step Seven: Once the shirt is hooped, make sure the needle is aligned with your target sticker or pins.

Step Eight: Stitch the first step of your cut work design and remove the hoop from the machine. Do not un-hoop the shirt!

Step Nine: Using your fine tipped embroidery scissors, cut out the fabric inside of the stitch outlines. Even cut through the stabilizers.

Step Ten: Turn the hoop over and use a piece of the self-adhesive stabilizer to patch the holes you cut. This is a very important step! Don't forget to patch those holes!!!

Step Eleven: Place the hoop onto the machine and finish stitching out the embroidery design.

Step Twelve:  Remove the hoop from the machine and un-hoop your shirt.  Trim away the excess stabilizers and use warm water to rinse away all of the wash away stabilizer.  Tumble dry your wet shirt.

Note:  If the embroidered area is stiff, you may need to rinse out the shirt again to remove the rest of the wash away stabilizer.  Once your shirt is dry, use a pressing cloth and press if necessary.

Look at my new shirt! By the way, this design is from Anita Goodesign Butterfly Cut Work Collection. I Love it!

My dog, Rilie, is very happy with the way my shirt turned out!

She's giving me her high five! What a sweet girl!

Thanks for reading!

I hope this helps you with your first try at Cut Work!

Let’s get sewing!

Jenny Gabriel – alter ego:  StitchinJenny

7 thoughts on “Adventures in Machine Embroidery: Cut Work

  1. Kathy(maw) pigg

    Forgot to tell you I got my Amazing Box just have to figure out how rto install it on my computer than I can get rolling. 🙂

  2. Bob

    Would love to see instructions on doing cutwork to totally remove the neckline trim (collar) while also incorporating a cutwork design on the front and back…

  3. ardene hanson

    Loved your beautiful cut work tutorial. Beautiful like you. So happy you can help those abused girls. It almost happened to me.

    Have you ever used the needles that cut the fabric in the hoop?


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