When I think of embroidery I think of something detailed like this:

enter image description here

I am wondering if there is a particular name for embroidery that is only a bare outline of the shape of something (color is irrelevant), like this:

enter image description here

Does this second type have a particular name or do I have to just describe it, such as "a bird shaped stitch outline"?

  • Not an answer, but another outline style of hand embroidery is known as candlewicking. This is traditionally whitework using thicker embroidery threads (originally literally picked-apart candle wick thread) and mainly colonial knot stitches. These days, you also see coloured designs still referred to as candlewicking.
    – Gwyn
    Mar 7, 2021 at 17:09

3 Answers 3


If you wanted to find more designs like the birds above, the Google Search term would be "Outline Embroidery"

While the red bird outline shown is given as an example of Redwork in sewguide.com, both Redwork & Blackwork usually refer to a more geometric patterned work, or for outlined work like that would usually be filled with patterned stitches. Wikipedia

  • The definition on Wikipedia might be applicable to historic examples, but modern redwork fits the question, while blackwork can go either way. What's important is what comes up for those styles now, not how they were defined centuries ago.
    – Allison C
    Mar 5, 2021 at 18:21
  • 2
    @AllisonC The question specifically asks about outline vs filled, rather than focusing on the fact that the birds picture is only red thread. As that picture comes from a page describing redwork (see my link) I assume that information was available to the OP and was therefore not the answer they were seeking.
    – Dragonel
    Mar 5, 2021 at 18:49
  • @Dragonel yes you are right it was the outline style specifically I was looking for not the color, thank you
    – FrontEnd
    Mar 7, 2021 at 10:50

Redwork Embroidery - also known as blackwork or Baltimore redwork/blackwork. Color relates to the thread. Simple backstitch outline work.

Back in the early 2000’s it re-emerged becoming a popular and fun craft. I met the folks from Sublime Stitching at the ArtStar Craft Festival and got the sexy librarian kit seen in the pic below. You can still buy iron-on pattern kits with lots of interesting outline patterns.

Here is a link to a website that explains the history with citations:


I do not have any direct association, I just knew to look up Baltimore Redwork from reading American Quilter magazine.personal example close up bookkit with personal sampler

  • I don't know if it's the same with hand-embroidery, but one of the sites where I buy machine patterns has Redwork for all-red, Blackwork for all black or black with bright accents, and Vintage for multicolored designs
    – Allison C
    Mar 5, 2021 at 14:27
  • 1
    Would you say this is more a specific style making use of outlines than the name of embroidery outlines as a whole?
    – Joachim
    Mar 5, 2021 at 15:32
  • Baltimore redwork has a long-standing history, thus the citation, i didn’t want to plagiarize. the simple answer here is that it’s a standard embroidery stitch that’s depicting an outline. specifically the example shown is redwork (red thread single stitch or backstitch embroidery) without a fill. Mar 6, 2021 at 15:50

These types of designs go by a number of names, rather than just one.

The specific example in the question is a sample of redwork, so named for the thread color; it's also often stitched in blue and called bluework as a result. These designs are typically quite simple, using only very basic stitches; Spruce Crafts offers more information and examples of redwork embroidery, as well as tips for executing this style of embroidery.

Change your thread to black, and now you have blackwork, which frequently incorporates geometric and "counted" designs, fill patterns, and even additional colors. Traditionally, it was largely focused on patterns, but modern blackwork will often be more figural, as your example shows. Spruce Crafts again offers more information, as well as historical patterns.

Switch to metallic thread, and you have goldwork, which tends to have more line weight variation and solid (textured) fills than the previous styles, while still also exhibiting designs that are more focused on just the outline. Royal School of Needlework's page has examples of both filled (textured) and open (linework) designs, as well as hybrids of the two.

If you work in a light color on a dark fabric, using a running stitch, you're likely looking at sashiko stitching; while, like blackwork, it typically involves repeating semi-geometric patterns and emphasizes traditionally Japanese design elements, modern designs incorporate more figural work. Spruce Crafts has examples of both traditional designs and those adding figural elements.

And if all this monochromatic stuff isn't your style, vintage embroidery changes up the line colors throughout the designs, instead of utilizing fills or textures. Spruce Crafts again has some examples and patterns for these styles.

Lastly, if you're looking beyond hand embroidery, machine embroidery companies tend to class designs like these as light stitching, as seen with the category search on Urban Threads (many of whose designs are also available for hand-stitching). While not exclusively outlined designs, many "light stitching" machine patterns have a similar look to your example.

Note: I have no affiliation with the site Spruce Crafts; they are simply the site that came up most often with good examples in a basic Google search.

  • 2
    I assume you are not connected to the Spruce Craft site you link to, but it will be good to mention it as it is very much 'there' in this answer, and might be seen as spamming it.
    – Willeke
    Mar 6, 2021 at 6:02

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