If you’ve been tempted to try your hand at hand embroidery before, but never really known what you’d need, or where to get started, then you’re in the right place! Embroidery extraordinaire, Charlotte Newland, is here to share her love of embroidery, inspire you with a beautiful starter project that’s perfect for beginners, and show you a few basic skills, including how to embroider letters, mastering the slip stitch, and creating the French knot (a must for full stops and any other kind of dot!)
I’m so excited to be sharing my love of embroidery with you! Throughout this series of hand embroidery hoop tutorials, you’ll learn lots of different stitches by making your very own embroidered designs. For our first lesson we’re starting simple, mastering the split stitch — perfect for outlines and writing — and the French knot, used everywhere you need a dot.
One of the best things about embroidery is that you need very few materials to create something spectacular. First of all, you’ll need embroidery threads, or ‘floss’. I used Create and Craft’s bumper value pack of Embroidery Floss Skeins, giving me 100 skeins in a great range of colours. That’ll be more than enough to cover all of these tutorials and beyond!
Top Tip #1: Use good quality, colour-fast embroidery threads.
Top Tip #2: Your thread should be no longer than the length of your forearm — this will minimise tangling.
Next, you’ll need embroidery needles; this pack of Hemline Embroidery Crewel Needles contains 16 needles in sizes 3/9, so you have plenty of options. Test out stitching with different needle sizes until you find the right fit for you.
Top Tip #3: Use embroidery needles (as opposed to sewing or dressmaking needles) -– they have a larger eye to make threading multiple strands easier.
Then, of course, you’ll need a wooden embroidery hoop and fabric to stitch on to. Six inches in diameter is a great size for beginners to figure out embroidery art. I recommend a 6″ Embroidery Hoop — it helped me to achieve the correct tension and keep my fabric taut. In terms of fabric, you should look to purchase some plain cotton fabric.
Finally, a water-erasable fine tip marker will enable you to transfer your design onto your fabric, then wipe it off with a damp cloth once you’ve finished. For this, I used a Hemline Wipe Off Fabric Marker. When you finish stitching your design, you can remove visible marks by spraying with water or dabbing with a damp sponge. It disappears like magic!
We’re keeping it simple in this first tutorial. My ‘Looking Sharp’ Cactus Embroidery Hoop Project will teach you how to complete the split stitch and the French knot. The cactus, flower pot and writing use the split stitch, while the little dots on design use the French knot.
Top Tip #4: If you’re using a new type of stitch, practise first on a piece of spare fabric.
The project includes a downloadable template of the design — you should print it out at 100%. Afterwards, you simply tape this paper copy of the cactus onto a window and then transfer the design onto your fabric using the water-erasable pen. Simple!
To prepare the embroidery hoop, first loosen the screw on the side. Remove the outer ring, then place your fabric over the inner ring. Replace the outer ring and tighten the screw. You want your fabric to be drum tight in the hoop, so gently pull on the edges all the way around before the screw is fully tightened. You now have your blank canvas to work on.
Next, prepare the embroidery threads. Choose any colours you like to complete your design — that’s the fun of embroidery! I used black for my writing, but you can use anything you want. Embroidery threads are made up of six strands, but we want to use three strands when sewing. Cut a length of thread and carefully split it into two pieces of three strands each.
Top Tip #5: If you like to stitch in the evening, consider buying a daylight lamp. They make such a difference!
The outlines and writing in the cactus design are all sewn using split stitch, which makes a nice solid line and is easy to work. First, sew a single stitch (top left), then bring the needle up through that stitch, about 1mm from the end (top right). Take the needle through the fabric to complete the stitch (bottom left), and continue to make a solid line (bottom right).
When you get to the end of a section or near the end of your piece of thread, bring the needle to the back of the work and sew through one of the stitches on the back (but not the fabric itself). Make a loop in your working thread and sew through that as well. Pull tight to make a knot.
Once you have finished all the outlines, you can go back and dot the ‘i’ and the exclamation mark using French knots. First, bring the needle and thread through to the front of the work (top left), then wind the thread around the needle two or three times (top right). Pull on the thread so that the knot sits against the fabric and insert the needle through the fabric a couple of threads away from where you originally came up (bottom left). You should be left with a nice round knot (bottom right). French knots can be a bit tricky, so you may want to practise them on a spare piece of fabric first.
When you have finished stitching your whole design, you can remove the visible marker pen by simply spraying with water or dabbing with a damp sponge – it disappears like magic!
Once the fabric is dry, tighten up the screw on the hoop with a screwdriver and cut away the excess fabric from the back.
Summary: This fantastic embroidery hoop tutorial takes you, step by step, through how to embroider simple stitches and designs, and what you’ll need to get started!
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