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How to Embroider for Beginners | Learn Embroidery Stitches | Craft Tutorials & Projects

Updated on February 18, 2016
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Embroidery Basics With Lots Of Inspiring Design Ideas

The general definition of embroidery is 'the addition of decorative stitches to fabric'. There are many different variations of embroidery, including crewel, stumpwork and blackwork, however this page mainly focusses on the regular embroidery techniques and stitches, which is the basis for all stitching.

On the page below, you'll find links to the best beginner embroidery tutorials on the web, which will show you the technique required for each of the different embroidery stitches, plus what materials and equipment you will need to get going with this craft. I've listed some fab projects to practice your new found craft skills on too.

I hope this page inspires you to try out this brilliant, and inexpensive, craft :-)

Contemporary Crewel Embroidery

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Top-Rated Embroidery Books

Expert instructions and tips are provided in abundance in these top-rated books, as well as a large collection of patterns.

Little Stitches: 100+ Sweet Embroidery Designs • 12 Projects
Little Stitches: 100+ Sweet Embroidery Designs • 12 Projects

Charming embroidery designs provided on tear-out pages so you don't even need to print them out yourself.

 
Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches
Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches

Full-color dictionary of 400 different stitches you can try, making it an excellent resource for both beginner and advanced embroiderers.

 

So What is Embroidery?

Embroidery is essentially any decorative stitching added to fabric. 'Regular' embroidery, which is what people usually mean when they say 'embroidery', is the addition of stitches such as satin stitch and back stitch to fabric using a cotton embroidery thread/floss.

Embroidery floss consists of many strands, which you can separate to make a thinner thread if you desire. 2 strands are usually used, and the floss is available in pretty much any colour.

This 'regular' type of embroidery is usually learned first, and then you can explore the other types which are explained in this glossary.

The different variations of embroidery are:

- Blackwork

- Whitework

- Candlewicking

- Hardanger

- Punch needle

- Crewel (with wool thread)

- Redwork

- Stumpwork (raised/3D)

- Needlepoint

- Counted cross-stitch

- Sashiko

- Ribbon Embroidery

Tapestry is often listed as embroidery but it's actually weaving rather than stitching so is not actually classed as embroidery.

Although embroidery can be applied to almost any material, woven fabrics are most popular - such as linen or regular quilting cottons - although felt can be good to work with too. Best not to go for anything stretchy or too fine/delicate/loosely woven. If you do want to embroider on a stretchy fabric you will need to use stabilizer.

Apart from fabric and thread, you will require embroidery needles in a few different sizes, small sharp scissors and embroidery hoops. Hoops are used to hold your fabric taut whilst you work, and you can then display your finished project in the hoop too if you wish.

Adding Extra Details

You can use embroidery to add detail and make an everyday product into something special and unique.
You can use embroidery to add detail and make an everyday product into something special and unique. | Source

Hand Embroidery Stitches; Video Tutorials

Butterfly Chain Stitch

Running Stitch

Back Stitch

Outline Stitch

Satin Stitch

French Knot

Long & Short Stitch

Stem Stitch

Most Popular Embroidery Stitches

Here is a selection of stitch techniques that you will frequently see in embroidery projects:

- Chain stitch: This simple looped stitch has quite a few variations (including the lazy daisy and the feathered chain stitch) and is used for creating outlines or for filling in spaces. To use as a filling-in stitch (to cover whole areas with thread), repeat rows of this stitch close to each other to hide the fabric underneath.

- Satin stitch: Great for filling in spaces with solid color, the satin stitch is so-called because the finished result has a smooth finish. It can be used for shading too. If used on clothing or anything usable like a bag, it can be prone to snagging because the stitches can be quite long.

- Backstitch: Quick outline stitch which looks like a running stitch i.e. a dashed line. Can be used as a fill stitch by arranging the stitches like bricks.

- French knot: These are perfect for accents and they create a fun dotted texture. The knots can be repeated to fill in spaces.

- Split stitch: Neat stitch for making solid outlines, letters and fills, it can also withstand wear well if used on clothes and bags.

- Stem stitch: A smooth stitch for outline or letters, and is easy for beginners to do.

Embroider Details Onto Dolls

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To get a free pattern for one of these cute 'silly dolls', click here.

Embroidered Art

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Different Ways of Displaying Embroidery Hoops - And Ways of Altering the Frame

A Few Different Methods.
A Few Different Methods.

The top of this diagram shows two ways of altering the hoop if you don't want the natural wood (or sometimes plastic) frame on show:

First you need to separate the 2 hoops (the inner and the outer hoop). You don't need to do anything to the inner hoop as this will be hidden behind your work. The outer hoop can then be painted with brush-on paints or spray paint, and this allows you to match the frame to your home décor, or to choose a color that shows off your embroidery work better. You may need two coats of paint, and if you want to protect the finish properly you can add some sealer on top.

Another idea is to wrap the outer loop in fabric, which you can do with relatively thin fabrics and trims (such as lace). To do this you need to cut the fabric into long thin strips and glue the start of the strip to the inside or the back of the hoop, so it is positioned at a slight angle. Wrap the fabric around the hoop frame, gluing the fabric in place (to the inside or back of the hoop) every 3 or 4 wraps. Do this for the whole hoop, cut off the excess fabric and glue the end down.

With regards to how you can hang an embroidery hoop on the wall, there are a few ways:

1) Use a nail (or perhaps a push pin); this is the most common option and it simply involves inserting a nail into the wall and hanging the hoop on it. Some people like to use a more secure method with nails and screws but this isn't usually necessary.

2) Use a long strip of material: Again you will need a nail in the wall (unless you going to be hanging the hoop from a door/cupboard handle or ceiling hook), and this method involves attaching a strip of material around the embroidery hoop to form a large loop.

The material you use could be a ribbon, lace trim, a strip of patterned cotton fabric, or even leather. You just need a strip of your material the same width - or slightly wider - than the sides of your hoop frame, and long enough to go around the circumference and have excess to create the top loop.

Then all you need to do is glue it onto the hoop, making sure the join is at the bottom of the hoop.

3) Ribbon hanging: The tightening clamp at the top of the outer hoop is perfect for tying to a loop of ribbon, string or yarn, and again this can be used to hang the hoop from a nail in the wall.

Embroidery Video Tutorials

Raised Stumpwork Embroidery

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A lovely example of 3D embroidery.

Embroidered Jewelry

These gorgeous brooches are made with embroidered felt and zippers.
These gorgeous brooches are made with embroidered felt and zippers. | Source

Freeform Embroidery

Photo and embroidery by Jacque Davis.

For more examples of freeform embroidery from the same artist, click here.

Crazy Creatures

Experiment with your embroidery! This particular example is made up from an old china doll and a stuffed toy, with embroidery then added over the top - I love it!
Experiment with your embroidery! This particular example is made up from an old china doll and a stuffed toy, with embroidery then added over the top - I love it! | Source

Textile Jewelry

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French Knot Sheep

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Embroidered Butterfly

This beautiful butterfly is made up of 'lots of split stitches, some french knots, and a few back stitches' on reclaimed linen.
This beautiful butterfly is made up of 'lots of split stitches, some french knots, and a few back stitches' on reclaimed linen. | Source

How to Finish an Embroidery Hoop

Ways of finishing an embroidery hoop for display purposes.
Ways of finishing an embroidery hoop for display purposes.

For a neat finish on the back of an embroidery hoop (once you have completed your embroidery work), you will need to remove or hide the excess fabric. The more excess fabric you keep intact, the more freedom you have to change/alter the way your work is displayed in the future.

The top half of the above diagram shows the stages involved in finishing the back of an embroidery hoop in a neat and professional looking way. It's my favorite method, and here are the instructions:

- First, whilst your embroidery work is fixed tightly in place inside the embroidery hoop, cut the excess fabric in a circle shape as shown in the diagram. You should leave at least 1" of excess fabric around the outside of the loop, but I would recommend 2" - 3" minimum, especially if you are using a larger size hoop.

- Use loose and long running stitches (basting stitches) all of the way around the edge of the excess fabric. Use good strong thread (i.e. not single strand cotton).

- Flip the embroidery hoop over so it's now upside down and you're looking at the back of your embroidery stitches. Pull on the two tails of thread that are connected by running stitch to your excess fabric. Scrunch up the excess fabric whilst you pull on both ends of the thread until the fabric edges have folded inwards as far as they will go and are lying as flat as possible.

- Making sure the thread is pulled tight, do a single knot and then finish with a bow. Done!

This is a popular technique, especially if you sell your work, and the fact you keep a lot of the excess fabric intact means you can re-tighten it in the hoop in the future (if necessary) and you could also display the work in a larger hoop or in a different frame.

The bottom half of the diagrams covers other options for finishing the backs of embroidery hoops:

1) Adding a fabric backing: If you want to completely cover the back of the hoop (so that you can't see the backs of your stitches at all) you can add a circle of fabric. The circle could be big enough to just cover the gap in the center, or big enough to cover the whole back.

In the diagram above you can see I've shown a backing covering the whole of the back, and the best way to do this is to use whip stitch to connect the fabric to the excess fabric underneath (that you will have folded inwards).

Before you stitch the fabric backing down, you can pin it in place with sewing pins to keep it in place and make sure that it is kept taut and stretched across the back as you sew it.

To prevent the edges of the backing fraying, you can roll the edge under as you stitch around, or you can hem (or serge - if you have a serger) the edge before you sew it down. The other option is to use felt, which doesn't fray.

2) Gluing/taping method: This is a common alternative to the method detailed above (with the running stitch). In this method you cut more of the excess fabric off, so that there is approx. 1" left all around - there should be only enough to fold inwards and cover the inside surface of the inner hoop. You then use glue or double-sided tape to keep the excess fabric in place on the inner embroidery hoop.

3) Cardboard backing - padded or not padded: After using method 2 (as described above) you can then add a cardboard backing which is simply a circle of card that perfectly fits into the back of the hoop.

If you would like a 'padded' effect instead, you can cut a slightly smaller circle of card, plus 2 circles of fabric that are 1"-2" larger in diameter than the card circle. One of the fabrics should be batting/wadding, and the other can be a plain or patterned quilting cotton.

You simply create a sandwich with the cotton fabric on the bottom (right side down), batting on the inside and the card on top. Then fold the fabrics around the card and use a needle and thread to sew the edges together - as shown in the diagram you do this in a cobweb type style.

Using a Plate Display Stand

If you don't want to hang an embroidery hoop on the wall, a picture/plate/book display stand can be used as a quick and easy method to show off your work.

The following black wood plate stand is a good example of a simple and inexpensive stand; simply rest your finished embroidery hoop on the stand for a smart display method.

Fun 'Scream' Art

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Be Creative!

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Do you embroider?

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    • profile image

      Mary.boylan1@btinternet.com 7 months ago

      I have just visited your page today and the amount of information here has just overwhelmed me. As I am returning to do craft projects again of all descriptions.This site is invaluable to me for ideas, etc. Keep this site going. Much appreciated.

    • profile image

      Bri 12 months ago

      This is an amazing page for references and ideas! Thank you so much for putting this together! Please, never take it down :)

    • profile image

      moonlitta 3 years ago

      The ship definitely are a win. Embroidery is so underappreciated! (And how the person in boots did that?!!)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      appreciate you

    • Elizabeth Braun profile image

      Elizabeth Braun 4 years ago from Sheffiled, UK

      Good, informative lens with HEAPS of useful looking links! I'm on board when it comes to promoting stitch crafts as embroidery is a serious hobby with me (might be a link to my blog from my profile, if anyone's interested=). I also did a len on stumpwork. How cute are the french knot sheep??=)

    • kimberlyschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel, MLS 4 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      I am in awe! Beautiful and informative lens.

    • weakbond profile image

      Nnadi bonaventure Chima 4 years ago from Johanesburg

      Great lens thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I learned to embroider as a child and still love it today! I really like the french knot sheep.

    • JoolsObsidian LM profile image

      JoolsObsidian LM 4 years ago

      Fab lens !! You have inspired me to start embroidering again !!

    • Mussarat LM profile image

      Mussarat J Moghal 5 years ago from Ontario Canada

      This is a very beautiful lens. I have learned embroidery many years back, it became dusty over the years. After seeing your lens it came back to me. Thanks for sharing.

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 5 years ago

      Fantastic lens ..pinned too!

    • profile image

      enjoyecigs 5 years ago

      i love this lens! this has def inspired me to try it out <3

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 5 years ago from So Cal

      After 20 years of not doing embroidery, I have rediscovered it again. This is a great lens and I so appreciate the word that has gone into this. I am repinning it so I have it handy. Great job

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I do enjoy embroidery and need to make more time for my favorite needle craft. I added your lens address as a resource to my Words of Encouragement newsletter in my homeschooling column. Many girls want to learn!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 5 years ago from New Zealand

      Great Lens. Lots of help for anyone interested in learning to embroider. I do needlework and enjoyed looking through all the info. Thanks for sharing. *Blessed*

    • Noelle and Dan profile image

      Noelle and Dan 6 years ago

      Nice len. Lots of helpful embroidery info and photos. Check out my http://www.squidoo.com/hand-worked-needle-crafts lens where I show and discuss my hand worked needle crafts in crewel, counted cross stitch and Hardanger.

    • LadyFlashman profile image

      LadyFlashman 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      This is a beautiful tutorial! I love the wellington boots especially! :)

    • Shanir LM profile image

      Shanir LM 6 years ago

      These are all so cute!! makes me want to learn how to do this! :) great lens

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 6 years ago from Missouri

      Great lens. I found you while looking for patterns to use in teaching my granddaughters to embroider. Thanks for links to such nice patterns.

    • ctavias0ffering1 profile image

      ctavias0ffering1 6 years ago

      Nice lens. There are many more types of embroidery than you mention above, Richelieu embroidery is a favourite of mine, as are Broderie Anglaise, drawn fabric, and drawn thread work. Nice introduction to embroidery. I have a lens on embroidery stitches which I'm lensrolling this to.

    • noobeegin profile image

      noobeegin 6 years ago

      I learned how to embroider when I was 6 years old. My grandmother taught me how to do it. It is such a lovely craft. I do more counted cross stitch now, but I find myself adding embroidery stitches into my projects all the time. Beautiful lens.

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      Craftybegonia 6 years ago

      Very nice lens! Thank you for all the information you have shared.