So Easy

The first crafty thing I ever learned was embroidery. I think it was a pillowcase kit. Picture a 10 yr old girl with tangled floss and crazy looking stitches. And, I'm pretty sure that felt the need to use every bright color of the rainbow in every flower. But, I learned. And I got better.

These days, I am quite comfortable picking up or even designing a project. Now, I am not the best embroiderer by any stretch of the imagination. But that's okay. Even hand embroidery that is a bit uneven here and there has a charm unmatched by machine work. I want to encourage any of you who have never tried this craft to pick up a needle and give it a whirl.

It doesn't have to be this ambitious to be beautiful.

Unlike knitting which I think has a rather large learning curve (see Alex's post from Wednesday), embroidery can be picked up pretty quickly. If you know one or two stitches you can really create some fun stuff. There are all manner of great books out there that include stitch dictionaries. Some of my favorites for beginners are Embroidery Companion, Embroidered Effects, and Sublime Stitching. These are contemporary books that really speak to the beginner.

The sample I embroidered of the free pattern we posted last Wednesday only uses 4 stitches. I would like to go into some detail about when to use these stitches and share some images:

Chain Stitch
The chain stitch is a real workhorse. I have seen stunning pieces done in nothing but chain stitch. It is the most basic, and versatile stitch around.
This rabbit is in chain stitch, around his eye I used stem stitch.
Stem Stitch
Much like the chain stitch, this technique creates a line. The difference is that this one is thinner. I tend to use this stitch in conjunction with the chain stitch when I am trying to get a bit of depth by using them to make thicker or thinner lines.

Satin Stitch
As the name suggests, this stitch creates a satiny-smooth texture. For beginners, I think it's best to stick with small areas of satin because bigger areas are really best done with alternative techniques. On our Hare pattern, only a couple spots are done with this stitch.

The fruit is satin stitch.
French Knots
Slightly tricky, but worth the effort. These little knots are great accents on a piece. They are raised higher than the rest of the stitching so they add a little pop wherever you set them. Once you get the hang of it, I guarantee that you will use these whenever you get a chance.

French knots, stem stitch, and satin stitch make these flowers.
Now, before you can even set a stitch in place, you need the right tools. An embroidery hoop, an embroidery needle, and floss. All of these items can be found at any local needlework shop or big box craft store. The embroidery hoop sets the tension while you are working. They come in plastic or wood. For a beginner I think a 5" or 7" hoop works perfectly. Embroidery needles are specific to this craft. They are labeled specifically for embroidery. Not needlepoint, or are looking for embroidery needles. Floss is a term for the type of thread that comes in skeins (much like yarn) and has strands you pull apart. When embroidering our patterns, you want to be working with 3 strands of thread at once unless directed to do otherwise. The skein comes with 6 strands stuck together so you will need to pull them apart.

This is a breezy overview for someone considering beginning embroidery. It is really a simple, satisfying and versatile craft to explore. I want to encourage everyone to not be intimidated to give this a try so I think I am going to spend some time on my next few posts talking about the necessary tools and techniques. Hell, we'll just call it a tutorial.


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