Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hand Embroidery Tutorial

I learned to cross-stitch when I was young and have enjoyed needlework off and on since then. Two years ago when I made quilted Christmas stockings for our family, I looked into paying for someone to embroider our names on the cuffs. Ultimately, I decided that I should try to do it myself instead. They turned out really well considering that I learned by doing. Since then, I have had several people see our stockings and say, "You did that by hand?!" So I thought I'd share my method in case anyone else is looking to learn how to do this.

Our hand embroidered Christmas stockings
Step 1: Lay It Out!

Your first task is to figure out exactly what text or design you want to embroider and the size it needs to be. I generally only embroider text, so it's not too hard to figure out how to lay it out. For our stocking cuffs, I simply measured the width of the stocking, marked the center, then lined up the text accordingly.

Next, lay it out on your computer, using whatever application you like. I generally use Illustrator. Choose your font style and size, then print out your words or design in solid black. Thicker fonts are easier to embroider neatly!

Step 2: Trace!

Trace your design onto your fabric using a pencil. I tape my paper to a window, line up the fabric over the top, and use the light to trace the shape. I have done this on various colors of fabric, but haven't tried black fabric. Any other color should work great!

Step 3: Stitch

Once your design is traced onto your fabric, it's time to do the actual embroidery. Place your fabric in your embroidery hoop and make sure it's nice and snug. I usually start on the left and work left to right, top to bottom. You want your embroidery to be smooth, so do your best to make your stitches even and straight. For text, use one stitch to span across the character. Do one stitch from top left across to the right, the come back to the left behind your fabric. Your next stitches will be parallel to the first one, making sure not to leave gaps between stitches. When you come to a curve, use a pivot point, as illustrated below.

My poorly designed diagram to illustrate my stitching method.

Depending on your fabric and thread colors, you may need to tie off and cut your thread often to avoid seeing lines across the back of your design. Patience is key! And don't be afraid to pick stitches out if you notice they are getting crooked. Straight and even stitches are the most important thing to make your embroidery look smooth.

More Tips for Embroidery Success

  • If you are using thin fabric, like cotton, a smaller embroidery hoop is easier to work with.
  • Use two or three strands of embroidery floss in your needle to make sure you have good coverage.
  • Don't put your design right on the edge of your fabric because it makes it really difficult to secure it in your hoop!


  1. What a great idea- thanks for sharing!

  2. Holy cow you make that look and sound so easy. I might have to give it a try.

  3. Good tips. Thanks for sharing on my blog hop!

  4. I will have to give this a try. Saw that you had visited so I'm returning the look see I'm lorraine at


Comments are swell!