Thursday, July 30, 2009

Embroidery: Main Principles

Embroidery is an easy and relaxing activity. Really! It's long as you don't make knots or tangle your thread! Here are the main principles to get your started, but keep in mind that there are many different types of embroidery to explore.

A few are:

  • needlepoint or canvas embroidery which consists of embroidering from left to right (for right-handers) and diagonally, always with the same half-stitch.
  • cross-stitch or counted thread embroidery which consists of reproducing, on fabric (usually one with even weaving so that stitches can be easily counted), a design laid out in a chart. On the chart, symbols indicate color, number of threads used and stitches required, and location of stitches. Stitches are counted and usually consist of a simple X-shaped stitch.


  • The majority of the time, you'll be following a pattern on a chart: the stitches to make and the colors to use are noted by symbols in a series of small squares.

  • Always start embroidering your pattern from the center toward the outside, color by color, counting the stitches and following the chart.

  • For an even-looking result, always stitch in the same direction and, above all, maintain the same tension in all your stitches: neither too tight nor too loose.

  • Never make knots: this makes small bumps that lessen the quality of the finished work.



  • Fabric
  • Embroidery floss
  • Carbon paper, if you need to transfer a pattern onto fabric


  • Round-ended needle (n° 19 to 24) for Aïda or Unifil fabric
  • Long, pointed-end needle (n° 5 or 7) when using waste canvas on fabrics
  • Small, thin, pointed embroidery scissors
  • Thimble
  • Sewing hoop to hold your fabric while you work


Fabric preparation

  • Mark the center by folding the fabric in 4 so that it corresponds to the center of the pattern on the chart.
  • Position the fabric securely in the sewing hoop. As you get further along in your pattern, move the hoop as needed.

Thread preparation

  • Your thread, or strands of thread, shouldn't be longer than 40 to 50 cm (16 to 20 inches) or else it will tangle easily.

  • Prepare as many colors as needed for the specific pattern you're making. The more colors you use, the more important it is to keep them well-organized.


  • To start embroidering with a strand of thread, leave 3 or 4 cm (1-3/16 or 1-9/16 inches) of thread dangling at the back of the work and hold it with your index finger.

  • Trap this dangling end of thread behind your first stitches. That way, you don't need to make a knot.

  • You can embroider with 2 or 3 different colors at the same time if your pattern calls for it, but be careful not to tangle them!

  • End each strand of thread the way you started it: by sliding it under 2 or 3 stitches on the back of the work (never make a knot!).

See also: main sewing stitches


1 comment:

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