Friday, November 19, 2010

*Guest Post* - Hand-embroidery lesson

We are so lucky to have my friend Melissa here today.  She does some gorgeous hand-embroidery, something at which I am a novice.  That's why I'm so excited to have her here to give us a basic embroidery lesson!  Use these skills to make a project for the giveaway!  Remember, you are automatically entered just by uploading any project (recipe or sewing) to the Flickr Pool.  The drawing for the winner will be random - so don't worry about making a perfect project.  Good luck and take it away Melissa!

Hi there!  Hope everyone is having a fabulous fall!  This tutorial is to introduce you to hand embroidery.  The great thing about hand embroidery is that you can make a simple project very personalized in just a matter of minutes.  If you are the type of person who likes to have patterns for things, there are a number of different places to find them:  your local fabric store and websites.  Here are some great sites to get patterns from (some are free and some you have to purchase):

Here are the items that you will need for this project: 
2 skeins of embroidery floss (I used two different colors; the number you will need will depend on the size of your project), embroidery (or small) scissors, embroidery needles, something to embroider on (hand towel, dress, cardigan, etc.), a pattern (purchased, free, or hand made), a washable fabric marker, an embroidery hoop (wooden or plastic), a measuring tape
Some optional items include:
Thimble (leather or another kind of flexible thimble), needle threader, needle puller, fusible interfacing, tape, straight pins
The stitches I will be using in this tutorial include:
the back stitch ( and the chain stitch (
Both of the stitches are staples in hand embroidery.  Feel free to watch the videos for some live action on how to perform the stitches.  Neither of the stitches is really difficult, but each creates a unique effect.  What I really love about embroidery is that you can make anything look unique, by applying different stitches.  Each stitch creates it’s own texture.  The chain stitch is founded in the “Lazy Daisy” stitch (  
When I was growing up, my grandmother referred to this stitch as the “Petal” stitch.  The chain stitch is a great fill stitch, but also looks really cool as outline.
The embroidery floss can be used as one complete unit (all 6 strands), or separated into smaller groups of thread (2, 3, 4, or 5) depending on the stitch you are doing and the effect you want.  For the backstitch, I tend to use all 6 strands, as it makes for a fuller effect.  For the chain stitch, I use 3 strands.  Play around with these, and see which you prefer. 
First, measure the center of your fabric in width, and then measure how far down on the item you want the design to be. 
My project is a reversible toddler dress.  

Next, make some marks where the center of your design should be. Then, put your pattern on the front of your fabric, and ensure that you are happy with the placement.  
The next step is optional.  I find that it is particularly useful when I choose to fill-in an embroidery project, instead of just doing an outline.  Should you so choose, fusible interfacing (iron-on) can be placed on the wrong side of the fabric in line with the pattern on the right side of the fabric.  What is important here is to make sure that you use enough interfacing to cover the entire area of where the design will eventually be.  I find that on stretchy fabrics, the interfacing really helps.  Some people do not use it, as it is an extra layer to embroider through.  If you are just starting out, I would recommend using it. 

Turn your fabric right-side out again, and trace on your pattern.  I tend to use hand drawn patterns, as I always find myself tweaking the purchased ones to fit my needs.  I used some tape to help stabilize my pattern while tracing.  If it is a fabric with less pattern than shown here, you can trace through the fabric and place the pattern below, without having to trace around a cut-out.  I often use a window to help “light” the fabric and the pattern.  Tape the pattern to the window, then tape the fabric over the pattern, and trace with a washable fabric marker. 
Now that you have traced on your pattern, you are ready to get started with the embroidery.  Place your hoop around the design (or around the area of the design you are working on).  I use a wooden hoop, as I feel that for me it helps to keep the fabric from shifting.  After threading your embroidery needle with the 6 strands of floss, make a knot in the floss.  If you are not sure how to do this, there are some great videos on the sites listed below.  Start with the backstitch, and outline your pattern.  You could do this in a contrasting color to make it really pop. 
The key with the backstitch is to make it as even as you can.  Some irregularities give it some charm and a really nice home-made feel. 
Now that your outline is complete, you are ready to fill in the design (also optional).  For the fill on this pattern, I chose the chain stitch.  Split your floss into three strands of thread.
Once you are finished filling in the design, you can add some extra touches in contrasting threads, as shown here.  Filling in a design can take a lot of time.  It depends on the look that you are going for.  If it is your first project, you may consider just doing an outline and then filling in on a later project.  

For the extra touches, I used the chain stitch in a contrasting color to make it look more like a maple leaf. 
Be creative and come up with your own ideas/patterns!  One of the best tips my grandmother ever gave me regarding embroidery by hand is to take breaks.  If you work for too long, you can stress the muscles in your hands, wrists, and arms.  I use an embroidery brace now, because it helps to stabilize my hand. 
Embroidery is great, because you can do monograms, collegiate logos/mascots (if you’re an SEC freak like I am), and just about anything you could imagine.  It’s also a relatively inexpensive way to spice up some of your projects with a personal touch.  Feel free to check out my Flickr to see some ideas for some other projects: or on my blog: The Hall Happenings (currently under construction by my fabulous husband, to be returned to working order shortly!).
Here are some great sites for tips on embroidery if you are interested:

Thanks for having me on Sew Homegrown, Jessica!

Thanks for all of your great tips Melissa!  Now everyone get busy so you can win that ADORABLE Bridget and Lucy Ruffle Joy Kit!  Have a great weekend.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful..............Its Great in every way....I like its color tone and the way you embroidered it......
    Thanks for sharing with us....


Thanks so much for commenting! If you have a question, make sure your email is in your profile or leave it in a comment so I can answer you. Otherwise email me at jessica(at)sewhomegrown(dot)com - Have a lovely day!

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