Hopefully I have now convinced you to make crafting one of your New Year’s Resolutions, I have also let you know what questions I ask myself when I am picking a craft to try, So what about the answers to those questions, (for example what do you need to know when starting embroidery)? If you have never tried a craft before it may be a bewildering mess with no clear place to start so or my next few posts (and at semi regular points throughout the year) I am going to provide a “fact file” with the answers to the most common questions.
First up, Starting Embroidery…
What Is Embroidery?:
Embroidery is decorating fabrics with patterns and pictures sewn in coloured threads. Unlike cross stitch or tapestry it is usually done on ordinary fabrics without holes woven in to guide size and shape of stitch. A line drawing of an image is transferred onto the fabric using one of several methods and different stitches are used to make up different shapes and cover area, such as in the toadstool below.
How Much Time Per Week Will Embroidery Take Up?:
To be honest, starting embroidery can take as little or as much time as you want. A small project, like monogramming hankies will only take a couple of hours to complete and can be picked up and put down as much as you like.
A bigger project like Aimee Ray’s gorgeous cuckoo clock will take a lot longer, is a lot bigger and obviously that makes it less portable!
By the way, if you are thinking of taking up embroidery you should seriously check out Aimee’s books on Doodle Stitching. So cute and easy to follow, I love them!
Do I Follow Patterns Or Do I Have To Make Up My Own Designs?:
That is entirely up to you! If you check out Aimee’s Instagram feed you will see that she takes her own line drawings and turns them into transfers for embroidery. However you can buy ready made transfers that simply iron on or create your own from line drawing images found on the internet or books.
As I am no Leonardo Da Vinci I tend to use the images of others but I have used my own handwriting to embroider quotes for quilts etc.
How Much Money Does It Take To Start Up?:
To begin you really only need some fabric or a garment to stitch onto (100% Linen retails for about £7.50 per half metre). I quite often just use men’s hankies from Primark (£3.00 for five!).
That said if your fabric is too thin you will need to use a stabiliser to stop stitches ruckling it up. I use a water soluble one which means that you place it under your fabric in the hoop, sew into it and then wet the fabric so that it dissolves away (it’s like magic, I love it!). I paid £0.74 for a piece 20cm x 90cm in my local haberdashers recently.
An embroidery hoop is not an essential but I find it incredibly useful as it holds the fabric taut and makes it MUCH easier to position the needle accurately for the stitch. As I mentioned above it is also really useful for holding fabric and stabiliser together while you sew. I prefer a small hoop that I move around if I am working on a bigger design. A 10cm wooden embroidery hoop recently cost me £2.99
Embroidery threads (also known as Stranded Cotton) start at around £0.90 per 8 metre skein from Hobbycraft or any of your local Haberdashers. Metallic or variegated colour threads cost between £0.40-£0.50 more. There are two main manufacturers, DMC (pictured) and Anchor. I recommend sticking to them as many patterns use their colour numbering systems to tell you what colours you will need.
If you choose something like a simple Redwork design you will only need one colour of thread. Redwork is simple and rather beautiful and Mandy Shaw of Dandelion Designs does it beautifully. A packet of embroidery needles will set you back about £1.50.
To get your design onto the fabric you can trace in ordinary pencil (cost will probably only be some tracing paper), you can buy iron on transfers (cost depends on who has designed them but start at around £3.50) if you search for “iron on embroidery transfers” on Etsy some great results come up!
Total cost to produce a simple first design is around £12.68 (around $18.41). Not a huge cost and this would give you several hankies to personalise as you wish.
How Quickly Will I See Results?:
A simple monogram like the one in the picture above usually takes about 30 minutes to get the transfer onto the fabric in the right place. Sewing it usually takes a maximum of two hours. Obviously the more colours and different types of stitch involved the longer it is likely to take. The toadstool took me about three hours, start to finish but there was a lot of solid colour to fill in.
I like to see results quickly so small projects like hankies work well for me plus they make wonderful presents for people.
What Previous Knowledge Do I Need?:
If you can sew a running stitch you can learn embroidery. I say this because running stitch is also an embroidery stitch! Craftsy have some wonderful guides for hand embroidery that are free to download if you sign up (free of charge to do that as well).
How Dexterous Do I Need To Be?:
Honestly? Pretty dexterous. I have improved A LOT with practice but the ability to wield a needle has to be there to begin with. Accuracy in placing the stitches can make a lot of difference to the final result. I will add that good lighting also makes a significant difference.
How Much Brain Power Does It Take?:
Starting embroidery takes a bit of brain power to learn a new stitch but once you get past the first few stitches you settle into a rhythm and it becomes soothing. To be honest I never memorise how to do some of the harder stitches (like French Knots) but re-learn them via You Tube whenever I need them. You can see one example below (thanks to Needleknowledge.com) but there are LOADS.
This stitch is one of the more complicated ones, so don’t be put off!
If video learning isn’t for you find a local beginners class, like the one I run, and take it. There are quite a few around and learning in a group is always less intimidating.