*Contains gifted items
It looks like needlework is having a bit of a revival at the moment and it’s something that I for one am delighted to see. I was first introduced to sewing and embroidery by grandma when I was younger and eventually learnt the craft myself, starting off with simple cross stitch designs then slowly evolving to more intricate projects as I got older. These days, most of my craft projects involve embroidery, which I picked back up recently after a bit of a hiatus.
If you’re new to embroidery, I’ve put together some tips to help you along:
The beauty of embroidery is that you can design on whatever fabric you like, even items of clothing or tote bags. When I’m creating hoop art, I like to to use linen, calico or cotton fabrics as I find them easiest to work with and like the end result.
You’re looking for a needle size that will comfortably pass back and forth through the fabric without stretching. They come in a massive range of sizes but I’d suggest sticking to either a 7, 8 or 9 as the long ‘eye’ means they’re easier to thread yet sharp enough to tackle most fabrics.
The majority of designs are stitched with stranded embroidery thread. These threads are made up of six strands and can be separated according to the design you’re working on, usually into three. To split the strands, cut a length of the thread, hold one end taut while you carefully pull as many strands as you need away.
I use an embroidery hoop to keep the fabric taut while I stitch and it also helps to prevent the stitches from becoming distorted. Like needles, hoops come in a variety of sizes, and can even be used to mount work afterwards. I tend to stick to either a 6″ or 7″ for most designs.
A good pair of scissors are invaluable when working with threads. I used my kitchen scissors before buying specific needlework ones and regretted it instantly when I nicked the fabric due to them being too clunky, undoing all of my hard work. Keep them sharp and use them to cut the ends of threads when you’re finished stitching.
It’s much easier to see what you’re doing, prevent eye strain and get an accurate idea of colours when you sew in daylight so I’d recommend finding a comfy spot as close to the window as you can.
If this is all seeming a bit intense, you can buy kits which have pre-printed designs and contain most things you need to get started straight away.
There will inevitably be times when you mess up but the good news is that most missteps can be sorted with an unpicking tool and a little bit of patience. Start off small and try to master just a few key stitches such a backstitch, running stitch, stem stitch and French knots before moving on to more complex ones. I’m very much a visual learner so found these online video tutorials really helpful.
The beauty of embroidery is that it gives you loads of creative freedom to make something entirely unique. You can play around with different combinations of colours, shapes and stitches; there are no rules. Pinterest is a gold mine of inspiration or you can find loads of free pattern downloads here. If you’d like to keep things a bit more simple, you can find a brilliant range of embroidery kits from Love Crafts here, which are great for both beginners and those with a little more experience.