I find hand sewing and hand embroidery to be relaxing. I dislike sewing machines; I have a tendency to break needles. By hand, I can sew or embroider while watching television.
I’m self-taught when it comes to embroidery and still very much a beginner. If you are interested in teaching yourself, I highly recommend Sublime Stitching. Jenny Hart provides some excellent tutorials.
I’m going to show you three basic stitches used in medieval and modern embroidery, split stitch, back stitch, and stem stitch.
All three are used for outlining, but each produces a slightly different look.
First, gather your materials: design, fabric, hoop, scissors, floss, and needles. Halla design provided by Halla and Hart.
The black floss is silk and the brown is cotton. Cotton floss is quite inexpensive; I prefer the look of the silk and use it when I can.
Alas, I can’t afford silk fabric, so I’m using cotton. I encourage you to use natural fabrics and fibers whenever you can. They have a nicer look and feel.
I have a very basic method for transferring my design — I put the fabric on top and trace it in pencil. This limits me to see-through fabrics, though. Other methods include using iron-on transfers or using a pinwheel to prick the design into the fabric.
Once the design is on the fabric, affix the hoop. You do not have to use a hoop — I usually don’t for very small stitches. But the hoop keeps the fabric and stitches tight. Tighter stitches means a more beautiful design. They don’t cost much to begin with, but you can often find cheap ones at thrift stores.
Typically, one does not knot embroidery thread. You weave the loose end under the stitches. Generally the back of the embroidery will be covered anyway. But you can make a knot if you wish.
From the underside of the fabric pull the needle through, leaving a small tail. Move the needle forward a small distance (generally, the smaller the stitch, the nicer it looks), then pull it back through the fabric.
The underside (or “wrong” or “back”) side of the fabric will look like this:
For a split stitch, take the needle backwards through the middle of the previous stitch.
Repeat these steps, following the line of your design.
Here is what the back looks like:
Next, a back stitch. Start the same way — pull the needle through the wrong side of the fabric, move forward a bit, and then back through the fabric.
For the second stitch, move forwards while on the underside of the fabric (instead of backwards to the middle of the previous stitch):
On the “right” or “top” side of the fabric, move backwards, to the previous stitch.
Keep following these steps to finishing following the design.
Here is a picture comparing the stitches and threads. Back stitch is on the top, split stitch on the bottom.
Finally, a stem stitch. Begin the same way as the other two. Pull the thread next to the middle of the previous stitch — not through the middle, as you did with a split stitch, but next to it.
The back looks like this:
This post originally appeared in slightly different form on Mirous Worlds.