Learning Embroidery – Work In Progress


originally posted January 2010

This year, instead of coming up with New Year’s resolutions to try to accomplish, and most likely fail, I decided to make a list of Things To Do In 2010 – seems less stringent than a resolution list. If I procrastinate and don’t get something done on the list, no biggie, I’ll just add it to 2011’s list . The beauty of procrastination is there’s no pressure.

In my creation of said “to do” list, several craft-related items have come up that I want to accomplish, one of which is learn to embroider. As a kid, and early into adulthood, I had dabbled with stamped cross stitch projects. In most cases, I never finished any of those projects – which is in my nature anyway – and I also never learned any other stitches other than filling in the X’s on the stamped patterns. My mother, who is a member of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America, does very intricate counted cross stitch designs that as far as I’m concerned look way too complicated. So counted cross stitch is out for me. Now don’t get me wrong, I think counted cross stitch is quite nice, but it’s not my particular style. I’m more interested in old fashioned embroidery – the kind you’d find on your grandmother’s (or great grandmother’s) old kitchen linens or pillow cases. You know, kitchen towels from the 30’s and 40’s with dancing fruits and veggies telling you what day of the week it is, or cutesy potholders with kittens, puppies, woodland animals and insects.

Well, a couple of weeks ago my sister and I spent a rainy afternoon wandering around Joann Fabrics, my sister in search of quilting fabric and me in search of something to do. We were hanging out in the yarn department when it dawned on me that I should get some embroidery supplies, which happened to be a couple aisles over. They had a fairly good sized selection of Aunt Martha’s iron-on transfers in cool vintage motifs. I picked up a pack of vintage bee patterns as well as a pack of fruit/day-of-the-week patterns. My ultimate plan is to do a set of kitchen towels with the fruit/day-of-the-week transfers.

I decided to start off with one of the Busy Bee patterns on muslin for practice. If all goes well this will actually end up being a potholder, which someone else will have to sew together for me because learning to sew isn’t on the 2010 to do list. The transfer was easy to iron on, although next time I’ll use more than one pin to hold it in place on the fabric. In the midst of my ironing, the transfer moved slightly at the bottom and I ended up getting a faint double transfer, but that should be covered up by the embroidery, so in the words of Lita Ford, “it ain’t no big thing” (those of you who were into 80s hair bands will understand that).

My mother let me borrow a couple of her stitching books and I’ve also been watching the totally awesome how-to videos from Mary Corbet’s Needle ‘N Thread website. If you’re interested in learning embroidery, watch these videos. Often times it’s much easier to watch someone else doing the stitch rather than trying to figure out a diagram in a book. So far I’ve learned how to do the stem stitch and the split stitch.

I outlined the bee’s shoe with stem stitch and I’m filling it in with the split stitch. As you can see, I’ve gotten real far. I figure it should probably take me the rest of the year to finish my practice piece – hopefully not! I’ll periodically post my progress either by way of blog post or in a Flickr badge on the sidebar of this blog. If you want to learn how to embroider, I suggest checking out Needle ‘N Thread as well as Sublime Stitching for great instructions. Pattern Bee and Needle Crafter have a nice selection of vintage patterns that you can buy as well as some free patterns.

Happy Crafting!