You’ve seen the beautiful Pinterest embroidery art, you’ve noted that it looks so lovely on a white wall, with beautiful plants and furniture, and you think to yourself, “Gosh…You know, I could do that.” Well, the truth is: YOU CAN! There are dozens of ways to get started, using the inspiration that you find around you and the inspiration of others around the world via the internet. Let’s dig into where you can find the motivation to start your embroidery journey!
Inspiration and Imagination
All art is born out of inspiration, and embroidery or fiber arts are no different. Modern embroidery is less about samplers and tradition, and more about finding new ways to create the world in this medium. Contemporary embroidery artists use polygon shapes in animals and plants, metallic geometric over succulents, and even stitch up the topography of their favorite mountain or hillside using rainbow colors.
Inspiration for your art is all around you. Do you love cats, dogs, birds, fish? What about hedgehogs or lilies? Perhaps you love daisies and want to put some in your kitchen. Perfect! If you cannot narrow down your first project, there are many kits available which include all the tools you’ll need, and a pattern to start.
Letting your imagination run wild with embroidery is more forgiving than sculpture or painting. If you dislike what you’ve done, it’s easy to pick it out of the fabric and try again. The best way to start is to find something that makes your heart sing and stitch it!
Tools of the Trade
I wrote a more detailed description of some of the essential tools needed for embroidery in a previous post, and you can click here to read it. Most embroidery can be done with a needle, thread, scissors, and something to poke. However, If you’re looking to create a piece of art, hoops can themselves be a frame. From oval forms to squares and hexagons, embroidery hoops are changing into beautiful and unique works of art themselves.
You’ll want a piece of fabric that speaks to you and your decor. White is always clean and tidy, but don’t be afraid to branch out into printed materials, bright colors, and even contrasting thread on a black background. If you do use fabric with darker colors, try to find a thread that stands out on the material; otherwise, your work of art will be difficult to see!
Needles come in all sorts of sizes. You can use any needle for embroidery which has the eye at the opposite end from the tip. Sewing machine needles wouldn’t work for hand embroidery, but if you’re into machine embroidery – well, then! Carry on! Blunted needles are perfect for beginners to avoid pricks and sticks, but make sure that the fabric and the needle are relatively complementary. Don’t use a tiny needle on burlap, and don’t use a large needle on delicate material.
Embroidery thread, or floss, comes in hundreds of colors, and textures, including metallic, silky, soft, or coarse. For your first projects, choose colors that match your inspiration, and don’t worry about shading, texture stitching, or needle painting. Find simple matches and dive in!
How to Get Started
So, you’ve got your hoop, your thread, your fabric, needle, scissors, and your inspiration. Now what? Well, first, you’ll want to hoop up your material. Separate the two pieces of the hoop, and center your piece of fabric over the smaller one. Place the larger hoop over it, and press the two together, sandwiching the material between the pieces. Pull it taught using the edges sticking out until it drums slightly if you tap it. Voila! Ready to work!
Next, your pattern! I draw directly onto my fabric with a pencil or a water soluble pen. Some artists draw onto paper with a black marker, then hold the fabric over the paper up to the window and trace it before hooping. Others use water-soluble facing laid directly on the material and stitch through both, then wash it away after the art is completed. How you transfer your pattern is up to you.
Next, thread your needle, and start stitching! There are hundreds of embroidery stitches, but many tutorials on YouTube provide a fabulous introduction to the basic set of stitches that will get you through your first project. A great place to start is the back stitch.
Poke your needle up and pull the thread most of the way through, leaving a tail behind the work. Some artists knot the tail, and others leave a longer tail to avoid knots on the back. It’s up to you-you can secure the tail using the next stitches, or tie a knot to make sure you don’t accidentally pull the thread through the work.
Next, push the needle down on your pattern a small length forward, and pull it gently through. This will create your first stitch. Then, push the needle up from the back of the pattern about the same length as the first stitch. This leaves a gap on the front of the work. Push the needle back down through the fabric where the thread went down on the first stitch, and it fills the gap. Push forward again under the material, and continue the back stitch. This is a great first step towards outlines, letters, and stitching lines. The smaller the stitch, the more you can use it on curves. Longer stitches make great flower stems!
How to Finish the Project
Alright, your daisies are done and smiling happily on their fabric, and you’d love to hang it on your wall. What now?
If you’ve used a water soluble pen or facing, it’s time to remove it gently. Take the fabric out of the hoops, run it under cool water, and then lay flat to dry. While it’s drying, you can prepare it for hanging. You can finish embroidery in various ways, from framing to leaving in the hoop. Some artists wrap their hoops in ribbons to decorate and leave a loop of ribbon to hang the piece. Others will tie a matching thread around the hoops to hang. When your fabric is dry, place it back in your hoop, and tighten it to where you like it.
Finishing the back of the hoop is done in many ways as well. Some artists leave the border of fabric, cutting it with pinking shears for a pretty ruffle. Others use a running stitch, pulling the edge behind the piece and securing it. Some artists cut a circle of felt and stitch it to the back of the piece, hiding the threads, and creating a secure place for hanging or a tag with the artist’s name.
What’s Next for Your Embroidery Art?
Congratulations on finishing your first piece! The world is your inspiration, and there is so much beauty in it! Artists embroider places they’ve visited instead of taking photos or even update old clothing with new designs. There is no limit to what you can do with your new medium. Take a chance and open a store on Etsy, or check out a local shop to see if they would love to sell your work. Embroidery art takes time, but it is satisfying and beautiful. How far will your inspiration lead you?