Embroidery has for such a long time been the most prominent needle work credited for some of the most creative designs the embroidery world has ever seen. For you to stand out among your peers, you needed to know how to embroidery by hand perfectly well. Compared to the ages past, time has now changed and embroidery has become a little bit complex. But even with the complexity, embroidery is still attracting a huge crowd of embroidery enthusiasts who have dedicated their time and energy to doing exquisite embroidery for the contemporary consumer.
There are advanced embroidery machines available today that have made the whole embroidery process time efficient and cost effective. These machines come loaded with features that have automated most of the processes making embroidery a breeze. However, despite the prevalence of these machines, if you know how to embroidery by hand, you still retain your own group of enthusiasts and followers because hand embroidery has a higher value and attractiveness compared to the machine-done embroidery. The beauty with hand embroidery is that it can be done on any fabric and be a perfect match for any occasion. Mostly learned as a past time, hand embroidery has grown into such a huge art.
What to Consider When Learning How to Embroidery by Hand
In order to succeed when learning how to embroidery by hand, there are a number of things you need to factor in. Among these things include:
The Choice of Fabric
Among the embroidery supplies, fabric is the most important because upon it the embroidery designs are done. The choice of fabric is therefore critical to ensure the finished piece turns out just expected. When choosing the fabric for hand embroidery, it is important that you choose one that supports both the weight and style of stitches. The following tips will help you in choosing the right fabric.
- The Thread Count – The fabric chosen must have the appropriate thread count and weave that allows the needle to pull through the thread with a lot of ease. Fabrics that have a looser weave such as cotton, linen or muslin are recommended.
- Pick Cotton for Quilting – When embroidering by hand for a quilt project, stitching on Kona Cotton is considered appropriate because its thread count is 120 and the weave is loose enough to allow you to pull the thread and the needle through with ease.
- Pre-Wash Your Fabrics – To avoid puckering, it’s a great idea to pre-wash and pre-shrink the fabric before stitching. This is particularly important if you will be incorporating the embroidery piece into a sewn or quilted fabric project.
- Use Stabilizer Prior to Adding Accents – If you are going to incorporate heavy embroidery with buttons, binding or thick stitching styles, using an appropriate stabilizer or interfacing as a backing for your fabric is important. Stitching with fabrics that have stretch in them may be a little bit tricky but it is possible.
- Try Out a Sample Stitch on the Fabric – If you are not sure how a given stitch pattern will appear on a fabric, the best way on how to embroidery by hand is to try a few fabrics and see the one whose hand embroidery you like best and take off from there. As you progress with your projects, you will learn the variety of fabrics that go along well with certain patterns.
The Choice of Needles and Floss
As you learn how to embroidery by hand, another factor you need to consider apart from the fabric is your choice of supplies. These include needles and threads. If you are not sure of where to begin, here are quick tips to help you in picking the right needles and floss. Depending on the style of embroidery, floss and fabric you will be using, the better the needle the more beautiful and easier is your finished embroidery project. Lower quality and inexpensive needles bend easily or even break when the tension becomes high. This results into a damaged or crooked embroidery project.
There are three basic types of needles used in embellishing fabric; tapestry, chenille and crewel which is also referred to as embroidery. Embroidery needles are normally thinner than the rest and usually come with a long and sharp point which enables them to move through the embroidery easily. The large eye of embroidery needles makes it easier during threading with the floss of your choice. Chenille needles on the other hand have sharp points, a larger eye and a thicker form compared to embroidery needles. They can be used on the same fabrics as the embroidery needles. Last but not least, tapestry needles have a blunt point and a large eye which works well with canvas fabrics or counted cross stitch done on Aida fabric.
The three needles discussed above come in a different range of sizes and the higher the number the smaller or thinner the needle.
When learning how to embroidery by hand, your choice of embroidery floss is also a critical factor in coming up with a desirable embroidery pattern. Embroidery floss is mainly available in silk, satin, cotton or pearl cotton. The 6-strand cotton is the commonly used floss in hand embroidery. The strands are divided based on how fine you want the embroidery piece to appear. The lesser the strands you use, the more fine your finish design will look.
If you are creating an embroidery design requiring fine or thin floss, a thinner needle will be appropriate to ensure no holes or large spaces are created as you move the needle through the embroidered fabric.
The Choice of Your Hoop
Most beginners practicing how to embroidery by hand usually question the kind of hoop to use. Embroidery hoops come in a variety of sizes and materials such as plastic, wood and metal. Some hoops are oval, square, round as well as large rectangles or scrolls. Choosing the right hoop will give you comfort as you embroider and guarantee you quality finished stitches. Embroidery hoops consist of two pieces; the framing piece or outer edge that has a spring and another piece that fits inside of it. Round hoops which are the most common sort of hoops range from 3 to 14 inches in diameter.
The size of hoop to settle for will depend on the size of your project. A good hoop should fit round your fabric with some overhang. Inasmuch as the fabric should lay taut within your chosen hoop, it should not be very tight because this may cause the fabric to pucker after you run the floss through the embroidered fabric. Choose a hoop that fits comfortably on one hand while you use the other hand to stitch. Wooden or bamboo hoops have a smooth inner surface necessitating you to wrap the inner layer with tape to create snug for the fabric. Plastic hoops come with a lip or grove inside thus not requiring a twill tape.
Embroidery hoops are usually smaller than quilting hoops and support much thinner fabrics. A Q-snap frame can be used both for hand embroidery and quilting.
The Stitches You Must Know When Learning How to Embroidery by Hand
The crux of hand embroidery lies in the stitch patterns you use. Some of the stitches may look laborious from the outset but they are fun and easy to practice. The moment you master the basic stitches, they can form the foundation for the more elaborate ones which many people fear to tackle because of the complexity.
- Running Stitch – This type of stitch is quick to do and excellent for outlining an embroidery design. It can be done in two ways; the first being pushing the needle and floss in and over your fabric in a continuous motion while the second is pushing the needle through the fabric and then pulling it back up also known as the stabbing method.
- The Backstitch – When your hand embroidering text or doing a design outline, backstitch helps in creating a good solid line. To do this stitch, you start by pulling the needle and floss up through the fabric and then doing one stitch forward. From below, space the needle to match the length of your desired stitch and then pull it up through the fabric before bringing the needle and floss back down through the end of the stitch previously done.
- The Split Stitch – This type of stitch helps to create a solid line with a texture added to it. You can use split stitch for outline as well as text in addition to filling designs and creating variation from the backstitch or running stitch.
- Stem Stitch – This stitch is commonly used in embroidering stems of vines or flowers. Since it curves nicely with letters, it is used for stitching text.
- Satin Stitch – This stitch helps in creating a smooth appearance and commonly used in filling leaves and hearts of flowers.
- French Knots – This is a favorite decorative stitch for those learning how to embroidery by hand as well as experienced embroiders. These stitches can be used to create fun fillers for most embroidery designs as well as in doing accents.
Other stitches you may explore include chain stitch, lazy daisy, feather stitch, and seed stitch.
In order to get inspirations for hand embroidery, you can look at books, patterned items and vintage textiles on thrift stores as well as explore art websites. For the best results, you should allow your mind to wander organically as you dream up how to embroidery by hand.