Good day to you, fellow stitchers! I hope you’ve decided on a design to embroider (I’ve narrowed mine down to three...no two! Two. For now). Today I’ll give a little overview about preparing your project and starting to stitch. In the coming weeks I’ll offer updates on my progress with various projects, share tips and troubles, and then what to do with these lovely little stitches when they’re done!
So I have a design, but how do I transfer it to my fabric? Some books, like Little Stitches by Aneela Hoey, provide iron-on transfers, the easiest way to put the design on fabric. Little Stitches has all of the illustrations in the back of the book plus separate sheets of iron-on transfers. Fabulous.
I used this girl reading a book to make a cushion for Bunny, my bookworm.
Most designs, however, will need to be traced to get to fabric. If you’re using a white or light material, perhaps you can simply put the fabric on top of the design and trace it – I like to trace with a very fine-tipped marker pen, but you can use fabric pencils or any other writing instrument you’re confident you can cover completely with your stitching.
The design above is from Carina’s Craftblog, a great resource for embroidery, and she offers beautiful, colourful patterns.
Or you can trace the design onto tracing paper, which will free it from a book, then put your fabric over the tracing paper. I did this with Sam-I-Am:
|Just an example, my tracing isn't that wonky!
Tracing is easiest with a light source behind the paper, making the design shine clearly through the fabric. Tape the paper to the window, then tape your fabric on top and trace. Advantage: Very cheap option; Disadvantage: Sore arms after a few minutes!
After doing enough embroidery to know that I wanted to continue with this craft, I decided to invest in a light box for more detailed designs.
There are many on the market, so I chose a mid-priced one at about £30. Here is the fabric on the light box as I transferred my “hive sweet hive” design for a hexie project:
|I didn't trace the bees - I'll add them freehand at the end
You can draw lines or use tiny dots – either is fine as long as you know you’ll be covering it with stitches.
Now get that pattern into a hoop and start stitching! Make the fabric drum-tight in the hoop – tighten the screw a bit, pull the fabric evenly around, tighten the screw some more, pull the fabric, etc. then use a screwdriver to really get the hoop secure (it really does make a difference as you stitch!).
Unwind enough thread to reach from your fingertip to your elbow – more than this and you risk tangling the threads as you pull them through the fabric. I usually use two strands of floss for embroidery, though I often add one-stranded elements or even all six strands in a design. A valuable tip is to pull out one strand at a time from the bunch, no matter how many strands you are using, then line up the strands together. The thread will lie so much flatter and neater on your work this way.
Tie a knot in your floss, then it’s between you and your conscience whether you leave the knot on the back of your work or make a waste knot:
Put the knot on the front of your piece, then make two tiny stitches along the design line and cut away the knot. The stitches will anchor the thread, and you then go back and do your embroidery over these stitches.
I have done this a few times, mainly for gifts, but for most projects I confess I just tie a knot, pull the thread up through the back and get on with it! As I get more proficient with embroidery I might become a stickler about not having any knots in my work, but for the moment, I’m just happy to get even a few minutes before bed to do a few stitches, so I’m not fussed!
The easiest stitches to outline a design is the back stitch and the stem stitch. I’ll get stitching and talk more about outlines next Sunday. I plan to give some details of stitches as we encounter them, but I also will share my favourite web sites for embroidery tutorials. Today I recommend:
Mary Corbet’s Needle N’ Thread: This woman knows it all and teaches it better than anyone! A must for embroidery enthusiasts at any level. Her tutorials are second only to having your mother or grandmother by your side.
Now I’m going to go trace the sheep and tree for the bookends I showed last week. And I’ll be hopping round Blogland to see what you’re up to – link up your blog below!