Hand Embroidery Tips and Tricks – Mother Earth News
Keep these guidelines in mind and use these primary stitches when sewing for a flourishing project.
Famous Japanese textile artist and avid gardener,Embroidered garden flowers: botanical designs for needle and thread(Roost Books, 2017), by Kazuko Aoki brings the vibrancy and brilliance of the flora and fauna seen in her needle and thread garden. Each of its designs is presented with care and realistic detail, including the buds, flowers, roots, seeds and insects that accompany the plants. The following excerpt is from the “How To” chapter.
embroidery floss and thread
I mainly use DMC embroidery floss.
For the DMC n°5 and n°8 and for the linen thread, I embroider with a single thread.
DMC #25 comes in 6 loose strands, so I first cut it to the length I’ll be using (I find about 20-25 inches the easiest to work with), then I pull the number of necessary strands, one by one, and pull them up. I embroider with 3 threads, unless otherwise specified here and in the individual instructions.
For instructions that use the term “variegated”, I embroider with 2 or more colors threaded on the same needle. Mixing colors is an effective way to add intensity and depth.
For projects that require a sleeping stitch, I use 1, 2, or 3 strands of #25 unless otherwise specified; sometimes I call for No. 5 or linen thread. To avoid drawing attention to the #5 laid yarn, I use a single strand of #25 of the same color to secure it. When using linen yarn for the laid yarn, I use a single strand of #25 of a similar color to secure it in place.
The correlation between the embroidery thread and the needle is very important. Choose an appropriate needle according to the weight of the thread and always use sharp needles.
DMC n° 5, single strand French embroidery needle n° 3 or 4
DMC n°8, single strand French embroidery needle n°5 or 6
DMC n°25, 2 or 3 strands Embroidery needle n°7
DMC #25 Single Strand Fine Sewing Needle
Linen embroidery thread, single strand
French embroidery needle n° 7
For the projects, I worked in the center of a 12 x 15 inch 100% linen piece. You can finish each project in different ways, but if you plan to insert the last embroidered piece into a panel or frame, leave at least a 4-inch margin around the design.
Always apply single-sided fusible interfacing (medium weight) to the wrong side of the fabric before embroidering. This application reduces the amount of stretch in the fabric, prevents the back stitches from pulling on the front, and dramatically improves the appearance of the finished product.
Embroidery designs are displayed in actual size. To transfer the design to your fabric, first copy the design onto tracing paper. Next, layer the Chaco paper (I recommend using gray), the tracing paper with the design, and the cellophane on the right side of the fabric. Use a craft pen to transfer the design to the fabric.
Stretching embroidered fabric over a frame is a great way to finish a project. For smaller projects, use a circular hoop; for larger projects, use a rectangular frame in a size that matches the project.
Use a running stitch when you want to add a stitch but don’t want it to be visible.
A backstitch produces a neat, cleanly finished seam line. When working along a curve, make fine stitches. I use stitch for the leaf patterns and stem tips.
A couching stitch is a good choice for embroidering fine lettering because you can create your own freestyle lines. Or use this stitch to create a vigorous shank with #5 dental floss. Work in compact lying stitches for a nice finish.
A contour stitch creates line stitches that have volume and texture. You can also use this stitch to create a surface of stitches next to each other, like those used to create stems and roses.
A straight stitch is a simple stitch, but it can bring your embroidery to life. Use it to work on fine petals or plant details.
I often use a split stitch to work an area of stitches next to each other. Even on wide sheets, where the stitches overlap, this stitch is not bulky. Use a slightly longer needle for a flat finish.
A satin stitch is a perfect stitch for the flat, shiny look of flower petals. You can also use it for leaves. Create a beautiful finish by pulling all stitches to the same tension.
Long and short stitch
I often use stitch for large areas like flower petals (like pansies). Be sure to work the stitches by bringing the needle up from somewhere outside the pattern line and then back down inside the line.
I mainly use fly stitch for the calyx which encloses a flower bud. You can create different rod lengths depending on the anchor point.
Leaf stitch conveniently includes the design of veins on a leaf. The trick is to keep a V shape in mind as you work and you’ll end up with a leaf shape, ready to go.
My tips and tricks for embroidering flowers
• Embroider in this order: stem, branch, flower, leaves. Keep an eye on the whole project as you go. The instructions usually call for using #5 dental floss and often lots of stitches for the rods. The norm is to work the design from top to bottom, trying to keep the flowers centered. Aim for curved lines, as opposed to straight lines, to give a more natural look. Make the roots thick and the branches thin.
• For the flowers, knit the embroidery from the outside towards the center. For the petals, start in the middle, then finish on each side. Even for small flowers (like forget-me-nots), you get the best shape by working center, left, then right. For the pistils and stamens in the center of the flower, add these and with a gentle hand.
• The leaves differ depending on the flower, but for spindle-shaped leaves, knit stitches from tip to base. Before you start embroidering, decide which angle you want to work with. You can also adjust the angle as you work.
• Before you begin, it is important to imagine what your work will look like. Whether you want it to be flat or soft, you can work with that idea in mind – even if it differs from the pattern or even if the stitches aren’t perfect – so that the finished product matches your sensibilities.
• If a flower has many color variations in real life, you can also change the color of the embroidered version. In this case, rather than choosing a thread color that is the same as the flower, I recommend going for the shade closest to your favorite.
Use French knots for flower centers, small buds or seeds. Knots may feel stiff or soft, depending on the tension of the thread. (shown with 2 envelopes)
You can use a chain stitch to create line stitches that have volume by working a thin chain of tightly pulled stitches.
Lazy Daisy Stitch
Use a lazy daisy stitch for smaller petals or calyxes. You can also combine it with a straight stitch to fill in the middle of the shape. Adjust the shape by changing the thread tension.
More: Embroidered garden flowers
• Embroider Allium flowers
• Embroider pink flowers
From Embroidered Garden Flowers by Kazuko Aoki, © 2017 by Kazuko Aoki Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO.
Posted on December 5, 2021
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