Hand Embroidery: Tips and Inspirations To Get You Started

The Best Thing About Hand Embroidery? It Will Make You Highly Enthusiastic Quickly

Hand embroidery is a wide topic, so let us organize the knowledge regarding this inspiring embroidery department for you.

For starters, there are as many hand embroidery patterns as there are people (or more!). 

Embroidery patterns may come in the form of 

Moreover, you can make a pattern for hand embroidery by yourself or just spontaneously start embroidering without any plan! 

After all, your preparation for the embroidery job is minima; the only embroidery supplies you actually need to make this creative embroidery magic happen are:

The choice of a suitable pattern, its type, and method, will depend on your liking and your level of advancement as a crafter. 

On The Spruce Crafts, the authors share “The Top 9 Embroidery Blogs.” It’s worth checking them out before you get down to crafting!

    1. Mary Corbet’s Needle ‘N Thread
    2. Feeling Stitchy
    3. Sublime Stitching
    4. Karen Barbé Embroidery Workshop
    5. Vintage Transfer Finds
    6. Pintangle
    7. Carina’s Craftblog
    8. Kimberley Ouimet
    9. Red Heart Yarn

Listen to the “Mary Corbet: Hand Embroidery Blogger, Designer, Teacher” interview to get to know this embroidery wizard!

Hand embroidery supplies

Which hand embroidery supplies are vital to creating your embroidery project? Check out these “6 Essential Hand Embroidery Supplies” by Wandering Threads Embroidery to tackle this issue:

Hand embroidery supply Description
Embroidery fabric

You can embroider on any fabric, be it cotton, linen, wool, felt, denim, or leather; also read about embroidery on canvas

As a rule of thumb, 

    • thicker fabrics require sturdier needles, whereas 
    • thinner fabrics tend to pucker, especially when stitching hand embroidery fonts or filled-in shapes. 

Cotton or linen-cotton blend fabrics with a medium weave are the safest choice when in doubt. 

Colored fabrics are great for embroidery. Stitching dark fabrics with light or bright-colored embroidery floss may be fun! 

Hand embroidery thread

Stranded cotton floss by DMC is the most common embroidery thread. You will buy it in skeins with six strands to utilize either all together as a thicker floss or split into fewer strands for varying effects. In addition, DMC floss comes in many colors — each with its unique assigned number. 

A second popular option is two-stranded pearl cotton floss (by DMC and Anchor), intended to be used as one piece. It gives a thicker and shinier effect than stranded cotton. 

Aside from those, you can use any thread for embroideries, such as wool (commonly used in Crewelwork—read what it is on The Spruce Crafts), silk (often found in Japanese Embroidery), and sewing thread. 

We wrote about embroidery floss and embroidery thread in these Super Label Store blog articles. 

Embroidery needle & needle storage

Embroidery or Crewel Needle comes in sizes 1-12 and has a medium-sized eye, slightly larger than the shaft of the needle. Best tip? Choose a needle large enough for your thread choice to fit through the eye but not the size that leaves an unsightly hole in the fabric. 

    • size 3 or 4 suits well for six strands of DMC floss or pearl cotton, while
    • size 8 or 9 for everything else;

Luckily, broadly sold packages of embroidery needles contain multiple sizes of needles, which makes it easy to try out different options.

Needle storage may be handy for these crafters who disapprove of loose needles floating around their work area. 

You may choose between:

    1. Magnetic needle box—made of metal or plastic with a magnet inside to hold the needles. 
    2. Needle storage tubes—tiny, handy, and simple storage solution for long-term needle storage. A magnet at the bottom of each plastic tube holds the needles in place. If you flip the tube upside down, the needles will slide out in a fan shape while attached to the magnet.
    3. Needle minder—this accessory comprises two strong magnets stuck together on either side of your project, creating the perfect spot to hold your needle. 

Needle minder
Image source: House Rituals 

When it comes to choosing embroidery fabric, Craftsy has a few hacks for you. 

We mainly discuss threads, but it’s actually the appropriately-suited background embroidery fabric that has all the power to support your project the right way. 

It also showcases your embroidery efforts in the right light, whether you work on hand embroidery designs such as hand lettering embroidery, sunflower embroidery, or flower embroidery pattern.

With the wrong kind of fabric, you risk to 

    • stretch, 
    • pucker and/or 
    • distort 

your well-thought-off embroidery design and ruin all the hard work you put into your project. 

Why does my embroidery pucker
Image source: Crewel Ghoul

How to ensure the best foundation for your floss every time?

Here are the “6 Tips for Choosing the Right Hand Embroidery Fabric”:

Tip Description
Get to know the thread count Thread count is the number of threads in one square inch, an essential feature in embroidery fabric. Look for lower-number fabrics so that the weave isn’t too tight. Thread counts under 150 are the best ones. There are cotton (read about types of cotton fabric), muslin (comes in natural unbleached or bleached white), Aida, linen, Flour Sack, and Osnaburg (its neutral color allows you to embellish it with all sorts of brightly-colored flosses). These options allow you to pull a needle and thread through without hassle. We took a closer look at the types of fabric in this blog.
Pick au naturel option Fabrics made from natural materials, such as linen, cotton, silk, wool, or blends, will serve your embroidery projects best, especially if you are about to wear your creations on the garments (read here what types of clothes there are). Natural textiles are soft but sturdy enough to support decorative stitching. Also, since their fibers run horizontally and vertically, an embroidery needle can easily pass through them. In the case of synthetic fabrics, your needle may perforate threads, causing the fabric to fray unpleasantly.
Consider Kona quilt cotton fabric for quilting Your virtuous embroidery stitches need firm support. If you work on your hand embroidery on a quilt, Kona (also known as “quilters cotton”) will always be the right choice. It’s lightweight and designed to stay taught in a hoop. Its 120 thread count is embroidery-friendly. In addition, it’s less sheer than other types of cotton fabric, so there is no risk that your stitches show through.

Do you have any favorite fabric? Does it fill all the boxes above? 

Tackle questions such as “Are You Using The Right Fabric? Which material or fabric to use for hand embroidery?” in the Sarah Homfray Embroidery YouTube channel video and discover a few precious embroidery secrets:

Craftsy has three more suggestions to share:

Tip Description
Pre-wash your fabric to avoid puckering Before you start stitching one of the gorgeous designs from the embroidery library, always launder your fabric. It will help tighten up the weave and ensure it’s consistent across the panel. Pre-shrinking the fabric is vital if you are about to incorporate your embroidery onto a shirt, quilt, or any other project that is supposed to be washed during the use of the item.
Stabilize the situation

If your embroidery fantasy goes beyond, and you dream about

    • doing heavy or layered designs or
    • adding beads, buttons, or other accents,

add a stabilizer or interfacing to the back of your ground fabric. The goal is to make your embroidery fabric strong enough to handle heavier stitching without changing the look of your project.

When in doubt, try it out Try it out whenever you wonder which fabric alternative goes nicely with your project! Pick up a few samples and discover which one works and looks the best with the project you are currently working on. Keep in mind that every checked-out textile adds to the experience level you gather and takes you closer to the top-notch embroidery expertise. Soon, you will be able to intuitively grasp every fabric-project match.

If you are still asking yourself, “What Fabric is the Best for Hand Embroidery,” look at this helpful Stitch Doodles handbook.

Hand embroidery
Image source: Stitch Doodles

Are there any other crucial hand embroidery supplies

According to Wandering Threads Embroidery, there are a couple more accessories that may manifest themselves as handy for your embroidering efforts:

Hand embroidery supply Description
Embroidery hoop

Whether you are working on rose embroidery, butterfly embroidery, or other embroidery ideas, a hoop will be vital to kick off your project. 

Embroidery hoops stretch the fabric tight, making it easier to embroider on and preventing wrinkles or puckering. You can embroider without a hoop, but you risk destroying your project without this protective and helpful accessory. 

Embroidery hoops come in an array of 

    • sizes, 
    • shapes, and 
    • materials 

In this embroidery hoop blog, we mention that the most common hoops are round ones made from wood.

If you are curious about “How to Finish an Embroidery Hoop,” explore this Wandering Threads Embroidery article. 

Scissors

The most useful pair of scissors for embroidery will have small, narrow blades (1-2 inches long) and wide comfortable handles. While you don’t need embroidery scissors for embroidery, they come in handy for cutting your thread ends, trimming the fabric around your hoop, or snipping out a mistake stitch or two. 

Have a pair of larger dressmaker scissors around, helpful when you need to cut fabric on hand.

Fabric marking pens

Fabric marking pens and pencils can be air-erasable (disappear over time), water-erasable (disappear with a dab of water), or in the form of a special pencil used for iron-on transfer. Pens tend to make sharper lines and are easier to erase than pencils. Air-erasable options disappear quickly compared to water-erasable.

Read about “Fabric Marking Tools” on The Sewing Directory

Other useful features of a well-prepared embroidery set are:

    • floss organizer, such as an organizer case or a floss bobbin,
    • floss ring,
    • project notebook or spreadsheet, and
    • good lighting;

Hand embroidery yarn
Image source: Nicki Franklin

My Modern Met mentions a few more options in the “11 Must-Have Embroidery Supplies to Buy If You Are Going to Start Stitching”: 

    • stick and stitch stabilizer paper,
    • metal rings to keep your floss bobbins organized neatly at hand and put together while you work,
    • needle minder (that we already mentioned above)—an enamel pin with a super-strong magnet designed to place your needle against it. As a result, your needle stays in place when you pause your work for a moment to change thread or have a well-deserved sip of coffee,
    • needle book—in case you use more than one needle in your embroidery, you will find it convenient to store them in a handy needle book. This accessory is made of fabric and features pages made of thin batting that keeps the needles (as well as other notions) secure, waiting for you to pick up the project again.

Cutesy Crafts suggests additionally getting yourself a needle threader, embroidery stand, lamp, and a light table (for the latter, have a look at this Amazon offer). 

The embroidery supplies we listed are available in hand embroidery kits that you can purchase online and in sewing and craft stores. Read what an embroidery kit consists of in this article. 

Any more ideas for useful embroidery supplies? Let us know, and we will add them to this handy embroidery hand guide. 

What is a needle minder

Image source: Ricamire

Hand embroidery patterns

If you have been in the game for some time already, you know that there is a whole universe of know-how regarding this subject.

You can make hand embroidery stitches—such as these fancy embroidery flowers you’ve seen on your neighbor’s pillow—using hand embroidery patterns free to download online. 

There is more than one embroidery library with the most stunning embroidery designs by hand. For inspiration, check out this hand embroidery Pinterest page. 

How to make your own embroidery pattern even if you cant draw
Image source: House of Mahalo

Otherwise, if you don’t feel like leaning on ready-made embroidery patterns hand, how about creating your own hand embroidery pattern?

Let’s find out how to put this promising alternative into action. 

Create your hand embroidery design

According to the House of Mahalo, you can make your embroidery by hand design, even if you can’t draw. 

Simply use a free online tool called Canva to create your embroidery by hand patterns. Here is how:

    1. Create a new design

In the first step, you will open the Canva website and create an account if you don’t have one yet. 

Then, click “Create a design” and choose “Custom size.”

For crafters who use an embroidery hoop, the design needs to be set an inch larger than your hoop size. So, if using a 7-inch hoop, set your design to 8×8 inches, and so on. 

Otherwise, if you’re stitching your design onto something, set it to the same size as your canvas (by the way, we mention embroidery on canvas here); leave a border around your hand embroidery stitch design to make it look neat and centralized on the surface of the fabric.

Design your own embroidery pattern
Image source: House of Mahalo

      2. Add a circle to your design

This step isn’t necessary, but it may help. If you use an embroidery hoop, adding a circle to your design will help you visualize your creation’s final, physical look. Be sure to make the circle the same size as your hoop.

On Canva, you will find a circle shape in the “Elements” section. As you manually resize your circle, you should see its dimensions pop up. Keep resizing until you’ve got the size you want; at this stage, you can move the circle to be central and symmetrical within your design. 

      3. Import your image

Maybe you already have a hand embroidery heart or hand embroidery lettering made in a different graphic program. 

In this case, choose an “Upload” button in Canva, using the menu on the left of your screen.

You can use plenty of free-hand embroidery printable embroidery patterns in your project. For example, check out these “26 Fun and Free Embroidery Patterns” on Flamingo Toes

This way, you don’t have to draw anything yourself. 

You can add text and numbers to any printable floral hand embroidery patterns or others and personalize them according to your needs and wishes. 

Hand embroidery kit
Image source: Chloe Art Crafts

To do so, browse through the left-hand menu in Canva to see what options you have at your disposal.

Be sure to check the commercial terms of the image you are going to use if you are going to sell it later.

Speaking about customization, Super Label Store gives you a fantastic opportunity to make sure your embroidery project is one of a kind. 

If you are 

    • a DIY/clothing crafter at home, 
    • textile/sewing fanatic,
    • (small/starting) clothing brand,
    • fashion designer,
    • owner or manager of a hotel, bar, or hospitality business, 

and want to customize your textile, clothing, towels, sheets, or other accessories, design your

    1. custom woven labels
    2. hang tags, or
    3. care labels

to make your products stand out.  

Getting back to the project you are developing in Canva:

    1. Create your design

Whether you will work with the downloadable free-hand embroidery patterns or not, now it’s time to create an image to be embroidered later. 

Get down to business with your Canva project and arrange your images and text.

Remember that you can make every element bigger or smaller as you create your mockup.

      2. Once done, download your design and print it onto paper

There comes a moment when you feel that you’ve done everything that was there to do; you analyzed every option of the software—the process of enhancing your project came to its end. That’s it, you are done, and your pattern is pure perfection.  

Now you can download your embroidery designs hand with the “Download” option in the top-right hand corner.

While you have different formats to choose from, PDF seems to be the most convenient option. 

Embroidery by hand
Image source: House of Mahalo

      3. Transfer your design from the paper onto your fabric

If you are a skilled crafter and satisfied with your design, you can now start making your otherwise flat project see the 3D light of day! In this part of the process, you will place your project on the canvas and start embroidering. 

So, how to transfer your gorgeous pattern to your fabric?

Here is what to do step by step:

      • attach your fabric to your embroidery hoop and cut around your printed-out circle,
      • tape it to the back of your fabric using washi tape (read about “10 Things You Can Do With Washi Tape” on Blog Papermart; you created your circle in the exact size of the hoop, so it should fit it snugly;
      • hold a light over your embroidery hoop or use a lightbox (a laptop or iPad screen can serve as such) to see your design through the fabric and trace your design onto your fabric, 
      • to trace your pattern, use an erasable fabric pen, a tailor’s chalk, or a white chalk pen,
      • remove the paper and tape and get down to stitching!

Hand embroidery designs for beginners
Image source: Sum of Their Stories

Need a few valuable hacks regarding transferring patterns on Instructables?

      • if you don’t have a lightbox, as a background use your windows if it’s a sunny day, or turn your computer screen to full brightness;
      • always close your water-soluble pens after using them so they don’t dry out. 
      • Pick Wrights pen for thick, dark blue lines or Clover USA if you want to go for a tremendous fine point pen with much lighter blue ink.

      4. Stitch your design

At this point, your only worry is focussing on how to embroider by hand. 

If you need any assistance with this one, check “How to Embroider Clothing by Hand The Easy Way (Without Messing Up) + Free Download” by Paper & Stitch or “How to Embroider by Hand for Beginners” by Cutesy Crafts

      5. Erase pen marks

When you are done embroidering, erase your pen marks by dabbing your fabric with a damp magic eraser or using a specialist fabric eraser. Use only gentle pats and avoid scrubbing too hard to keep your project at its best.

Fun and free hand embroidery patterns
Image source: Flamingo Toes

Hand embroidery flowers

Embroidered flowers are probably the most popular and at the same time the most traditional type of embroidery design. 

Learn embroidery with this Stylist guide to making a beautiful floral design.

Typically, an embroidery skein for embroidery flowers is green, dark green, yellow, or orange, but don’t limit yourself to these shades! Your hand embroidery flowers can come in, namely, any color, be it neon pink or turquoise.

The making consists of standard moves: 

    1. cut your fabric,
    2. prepare hoop for sewing,
    3. tighten the screw at the top of the hoop,
    4. transfer your template onto the fabric,
    5. sow the leaves using a fishbone stitch,
    6. sow the roses using woven wheels,
    7. start making French knots for the center of your large rose,
    8. back your project,
    9. secure your thread in place,
    10. back your hoop with felt, and
    11. your gorgeous embroidery flower is ready to go!

Hand embroidery letters

Are you dreaming about stitching quotes or embroidering words into pieces of garments?

Let’s start with a few hacks from the article “How to Embroider Words onto Clothing—Stitch Sayings” on Crewel Ghoul

When it comes to embroidery supplies, you will need a basic set:

    • a piece of fabric or clothing 
    • embroidery hoop of preferably 4-5 inches in diameter,
    • a chenille or embroidery needle,
    • scissors,
    • embroidery floss, and
    • water-soluble marker;

DIY hand embroidery floral pattern
Image source: Pinterest

Here are a few examples to get inspired. Check out these “26 Hand Embroidery Letters for Beginners | Top Stitches In Hand Embroidery” by DIY Stitching.

Here is how to perform embroidery by hand letters on a piece of clothing:

    1. Find adequate denim trousers, a t-shirt, jacket, etc., that you want to embroider on (here are types of clothes to remind you what’s available). Make sure the fabric is sturdy; it’s best to choose denim, canvas, linen, or cotton, as they are the easiest to work with in the embroidery department. 
    2. Select the area of the garment you want to stitch on, place it, and secure it in the embroidery hoop.
    3. Take your water-soluble marker and draw your phrase or word on the fabric of your clothing. If you mess up at any point, your pen is water soluble so that you can erase all or any part of your design. 
    4. Take your thread and secure a knot in the thread. 
    5. Pull the thread through the fabric, starting from the back. You will make a simple straight stitch. When you come back through the fabric, pass through the middle of this first stitch, splitting the stitch in two. Then, make another stitch a few millimeters away from your last stitch and repeat the process with a simple straight stitch.
    6. Make sure to secure the thread you just stitched.

How to embroider words onto clothes
Image source: Crewel Ghoul 

Do you like the idea of letter embroidery by hand?

Check out more tips of letter hand embroidery by Precious & Me in the video “5 Ways to Hand Embroider Letters Lettering – Beginner’s”:

Or “FIVE stitches for lettering in hand embroidery – FULL VERSION | How to embroider letters by hand” by Sarah Homfray Embroidery:

Vintage hand embroidery patterns

What does it even mean that certain embroidery patterns are vintage?

Vintage is a somewhat murky term, and it depends on the category of goods that we are discussing. Vintage electronics and gaming systems are typically newer than other vintage items, but most vintage items are between 20 and 100 years old, and we call older ones, over 100 years old, antiques. Vintage patterns and fabrics usually originate from the mid-20th century. 

As we read on Crafts Love to Know, the online world of embroidery attracts a multitude of crafters enthusiastic about sharing their vintage patterns and modern patterns with a distinctly vintage look.

Check out these names of various sites with free and paid precious vintage embroidery patterns:

    1. Knit Heaven Embroidery Index—contains a large assortment of actual vintage patterns, vintage stitches and embellishments, as well as an exhaustive set of embroidery instructions;
    2. Antique Pattern Library—features a plenitude of free embroidery patterns from past eras, with downloadable individual patterns and booklets;
    3. Needlecrafter—with free embroidery patterns by categories such as alphabets and monograms, art nouveau and deco, cottages, fantasy, holidays, and landscapes;

Old embroidery transfers
Image source: Needle N Thread

    1. Pattern Bee Free Section—organized by the items, such as towels, potholders, and design types: Christmas designs, nursery rhymes, flowers of the month, and vintage;
    2. Craft Gossip—with patterns such as babies, flowers, vogart, China maiden, birds, peasant girl dishtowels, and Dutch boy and girl.
    3. My Transfers—containing detailed and well-done vintage transfers for needlepoint or embroidery;
    4. Average Jane Crafter—with a few unusual vintage patterns, such as a car with trees, a fairy, or squirrels;
    5. Secrets of Embroidery—head there for an array of vintage square designs, with or without stippling and to download vintage embroidery squares for large items;

The Spruce Crafts shares another “10 Vintage-Style Hand Embroidery Patterns.”

Vintage hand embroidery design
Image source: Nicki Franklin

To get even more inspired by vintage patterns, have a taste of your options on Pinterest!

Hand embroidery applique

“Appliqué is a sewing technique in which fabric patches are layered on a foundation fabric, then stitched in place by hand or machine with the raw edges turned under or covered with decorative stitching”

—explains Britannica.

“How do you do appliqué embroidery by hand?” responds Kimberly from the Fat Quarter Shop:

Moreover, if you are a novice, “Hand applique – 6 FAQ answered on hand sewing appliques” by Sew Guide will be more than handy. Read this article if you are curious:

    1. how to choose, mark, and cut hand applique designs,
    2. which background fabric is used for hand applique,
    3. which needle and thread are used for hand applique sewing,
    4. how to prepare applique design pieces for hand sewing,
    5. how to stitch points when turning the hand applique pieces,
    6. which applique stitch is used in hand applique, and
    7. what other variations of hand applique can you do;

Hand embroidery applique
Image source: Sew Guide

Embroidery hand stitching can be a lot of fun and it brings an enormous amount of personal and professional satisfaction.

However, if hand embroidery for beginners is not your cup of tea, review our take on embroidery machines (among which Brother embroidery machine) and embroidery sewing machine models.

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