What better way to learn a new skill than to ask the blogger who inspired me to show you how to do what they do? Grace, who stitches up the most lovely things over at handmade gem, is here to tell us all a little bit about her experience with my new obsession: hand embroidery.
Hand embroidery is slow. No one on earth will deny this fact. Yet, like so many other crafts, it’s beautiful and opens up endless possibilities for embellishment and artistic expression. I love the slow process of hand stitching because I like the imperfections of the end product.
But mostly, I love the way I feel when I’m settled into the couch with a needle in my hand. Focusing on one stitch at a time is so calming. You just have to embrace the slow pace and human imperfections—not a bad life lesson, huh? When you enjoy the process, there’s really nothing better!
Learning embroidery can be somewhat daunting since there are countless types of stitches and so much history and traditions. My advice? Ignore it! J Just learn one or two ways to create a stitch, practice until you feel super comfortable, then go on and learn another. Once you get the hang of a few stitches, you’ll realize that you can create very complex, beautiful works with just a few simple techniques.
One of the best things about embroidery is that it’s so simple and inexpensive to begin! You only need some fabric, an embroidery hoop, small scissors, embroidery needles and embroidery thread or floss. I taught myself mainly through trial and error, but I suggest following a guide, such as Sarah’s Hand Embroidery tutorials
Here’s how to get started and embroider the backstitch—one of the most versatile stitches out there.
1. Get all your supplies together and prepare your thread. Some embroidery floss contains six strands—like Anchor brand—that need to be separated into two or three, depending on the thickness of your fabric. If you have a thin fabric (like my muslin), use thinner floss or two strands of regular floss.
2. Tighten your fabric into the hoop and outline the design with a fabric marker or chalk (if needed).
3. Create a small knot in the back of the fabric.
4. Next, bring the needle up through to the right side of the fabric about a quarter-inch away from the knot.
5. Then, insert the needle right next to the edge of the knot.
6. Pull the needle back up a quarter inch away from the stitch you just made.
7. Insert the needle right next to the previous stitch and pull through. Continue backstitching in this manner. That’s all there is to it!
The backstitch is a great first stitch to learn since it can be used to create outlines of anything or to fill in fabric. It’s fun!
One very easy project that’s great for beginners is simply filling in your favorite fabric print with thread. On a practical level, using printed fabric means you don’t have to trace or transfer a design—you can get stitching right away! It’s also a great way to elevate a precious piece of a favorite pattern. There are so many possibilities for this technique.
On this beautiful typewriter print, I outlined much of the typewriter with black and orange thread, and used that same stitch to fill in certain sections. For the heart at the top, I outlined it with a backstitch, then filled it in with the satin stitch.
With just a bit of thread, the print becomes more vibrant and lively. Once you’re finished, you can place the embroidery in a frame, sew it into a pillow or quilt, or display it in an inexpensive wooden hoop (my favorite!).
I hope this inspires you to give embroidery a try. It’s such a wonderful craft that’s relaxing and full of possibilities for showcasing your creativity. Best of luck!
Thank you, Grace, for such a great introduction to embroidery! To see more of Grace's superb stitching (and to drool over her wedding photos, cooking, knitting, and sewing), head on over to her blog. You can also check out the post she did for feeling stitchy, which covers her beautifully stitched wedding in detail!
PS--Isn't that typewriter the cutest? I'm imagining all sorts of wall hangings over my bed and embellishments on my dresses...I hope you're all as inspired as I am to get stitching!