Drawn thread work is a form of counted-thread embroidery based on removing threads from the warp and/or the weft of a piece of evenweave fabric. The remaining threads are grouped or bundled together into a variety of patterns. The more elaborate styles of drawn thread work use in fact a variety of other stitches and techniques, but the drawn thread parts are their most distinctive element. It is also grouped as Whitework embroidery because it was traditionally done in white thread on white fabric and is often combined with other whitework techniques.
The most basic kind of drawn thread work is hemstitching. Drawn thread work is often used to decorate the trimmings of clothes or dishwear, and the border between hemstiching gone fancy and more elaborate styles of drawn thread work isn't always clear.
Another relatively basic form of drawn thread work is created by weaving patterns into the barelaid warp or weft threads. This is often used for decorative boarders and combined with other styles of embroidery.
The most simple form of work where warp and weft are removed to form a mesh consists of wrapping the remaining threads with embroidery thread to secure them and then weaving patterns into that mesh with darning stiches. The result looks somewhat similar to netting.
Myreschka is a drawn tread work style from Ukraine. It looks very similar to works mentioned in the paragraph before, but is produced with a special technique that can be executed much faster. A special form of it was traditionally called Prutik but today both are called Myreschka.
Hardanger embroidery is the style of drawn thread work that is most popular today. It originally comes from Norway, and there from the landscape of Hardanger. The backbone of hardanger designs consists of flat stitches, in geometrical areas both warp and weft threads are removed and the remainig mesh is secured with simple waving or warping, or with a limited number of simple filling patterns. The designs tend to be geometric, if they include flowers or such they are very stylized due to the nature of the technique. Hardanger never includes Buttonhole stitches, except for securing the edges of a piece of fabric. It is usually executed using rather coarse fabric and thread.
Reticella lace is a form of embroidery in which typical techniques of needlelace are used to embellish drawn thread work. It was first used in 16th century Italy. Needlelace evolved from this when the lacemakers realized that they can do the same things without any supporting fabric. High quality reticella is done with thread almost as thin as sewing silk. Ruskin lace is in fact a near-modern form of it. Warp and weft threads are removed, and the remaining threads are overcast with buttonhole stitches, as in needlelace.
Another embroidery style that combines drawn thread work with needlelace techniques is Hedebo from Denmark, it originates from the area arround Copenhagen and Roskilde. It uses techniques that are clearly distinct from reticella and traditional Italian neddlelace on the one hand and Hardanger on the other. It does make extensive use of buttonhole stitches, but they are done slightly different than in Italian embroidery.
Today, the most popular style of drawn thread work is hardanger. It was known in all Europe at least since the early 20th century, but it was only one style among many others. After it was made popular in the 1980s by some enthusiasts it became a craze. It is easy enough that hobby embroiderers can learn it from written instructions only and produce intricate pieces in a reasonable amount of time. The patterns available today are of course adapted to meet every possible modern taste.
About 1995 Myreschka was popularized by fabric companies and magazines. It was well received by the public because it is a very fast and easy technique and produces beautiful results. It is still used much, but never became such a craze as hardanger because it is much less versatile.
At least in Germany traditional fancy hemstiching is becoming somewhat popular again, may be because there's a need for something new after everyone interested has explored hardanger and myreschka. Even (modernised) reticella patterns and how-tos make it into popular, cheap magazines, although they are really challenging for the occasional embroiderer.
Drawn tread work and needlelace are also used in creative freestyle embroidery. But there drawn thread work is often done in a seemingly haphazard way that hasn't much in common with traditional counted thread embroidery.
- Ther'se de Dillmont, Encyclopedia of Needlework