Like many people, I’ve spent the majority of this past year sitting at home. My down time has mostly consisted of reading, knitting, and watching an excessive number of TikToks, but I’ve also committed myself picking up new hobbies.
Last spring, I went through a painting phase. Following that, I got really into bleaching and tie dyeing clothes. A short period later, I started doing dramatic eyeshadow looks on a regular basis (because if you’re stuck inside, you might as well wear hot pink eyeshadow on random Wednesday afternoons, right?).
For me, 2020 was a year of numerous short-lived hobbies. And recently, I decided to try something I’ve always wanted to learn: embroidery.
Maybe it’s because I love Jane Austen novels, but there’s something about embroidery that’s interested me for the longest time. I’m not artistic at all, though I’ve always wished I was, so embroidery seems like a cool way to do something artsy without needing the skills to paint or draw. And now felt like as good a time as any to give it a go.
I want to stress that I went into this knowing absolutely nothing about embroidery, so this is more about my thoughts throughout the learning process, not a tutorial. I’ll include some links below if you’re interested in trying it yourself.
Here’s a little look into my embroidery experience!
After watching several Youtube tutorials, I started browsing craft store sites for embroidery materials. I was pleasantly surprised by how cheap the materials were. I don’t know why I always had it in my head that embroidery would be an expensive hobby, but I was able to get everything I needed for less than $30.
I purchased the following: three wooden hoops, a pack of hand needles, five different colors of six-strand embroidery floss, and cardboard floss bobbins (look at me using fancy embroidery terms!!!). Everything cost less than $2, which I was super excited about. Seriously, if I’d realized how inexpensive embroidery materials were, I would’ve picked the hobby up a long time ago.
I also bought five yards of unbleached muslin fabric. Five yards was way more than I needed, but I ordered the fabric online, and the website required a five-yard minimum. If you’re not sure you’ll like embroidery, I’d recommend only getting one or two yards to start with, or you could end up with a lot of leftover fabric. My total for the fabric was $11.
Once I had everything I needed, I went back to Youtube and watched about a dozen more videos. The most intimidating part was actually getting started. I wasn’t sure whether to learn stitches first or go straight into a pattern, but I ultimately decided to go with a simple pattern that used a couple of basic stitches.
The first thing I made was a single chain stitch flower. I used a four-inch embroidery hoop, which was a good size for my first effort because I could embroider something small without leaving a ton of empty space. My muslin fabric had yet to arrive when I wanted to begin embroidering, so I found a white cami that I cut up and used as embroidery fabric. The material worked pretty well, surprisingly. Actually, if you don’t want to buy fabric, an old T-shirt would be a good substitute to muslin fabric.
My first few attempts were disastrous, and that’s putting it mildly. I messed up, like, a hundred times, and put so many little holes in the fabric that I ended up switching it out for a new piece. I probably would’ve given up if it weren’t for the fact that I’d already bought the supplies.
Once I figured out how to do make the flower petals, the process become much less complicated. Finishing the flower was shockingly easy. I only spent 10 or 15 minutes on it after I got the hang of things. The final product was a little messy, as the individual strands of floss became knotted in places, but overall I was happy with the result. Embroidery is really self explanatory once you get going with it.
Trying new stitches
After I started gaining confidence, I tried several new stitches to see what I liked. The first project I tackled after that initial flower was a series of roses and leaves that I did using the woven wheel stitch and the fishbone stitch. Both stitches were pretty basic, which was perfect for a beginner like myself. Neither took more than a few minutes to get the hang of.
I’d say the hardest part was trying to keep the needle from getting twisted in the individual strands of floss. All the spots where the floss isn’t even with the rest of the flower are places where I accidentally caught the floss on my needle. I probably could’ve avoided it if I’d been more careful, but I watching Netflix while I was working on this, so my focus wasn’t 100% there (I blame Criminal Minds, not myself).
Side note: If you can’t already tell, the dark pink rose with the three leaves in the bottom left was my first attempt…yikes.
I didn’t follow a specific pattern with the roses, but I watched a couple tutorials and then experimented with the placement of the flowers and leaves. I liked this strategy because I could follow instructions but also make it my own.
The next project I completed was inspired by a video I found on Pinterest of this hanging plant design. I didn’t have the same flosses (or the skill set, lol) as the person in the video, so I did the best I could. My project turned out slightly crooked, but I was surprised by how easy it was to follow along with the pattern.
After following a few patterns, I decided to try creating one of my own. Using a ruler, I drew a dress on a hanger. I filled in the dress with a pale yellow floss and dotted the skirt in little blue flowers, which I made using the French knot stitch. The dress itself wasn’t difficult at all, but I struggled a bit with the French knot. I didn’t love the final result, but I think with practice it could get easier.
Overall, I really enjoyed learning embroidery. Aside from a few initial struggles, the process wasn’t complicated, and the materials weren’t too expensive. I could definitely see myself continuing with it with in the future.