Tips on Hand Embroidery

I’ve been learning hand embroidery for about six months now and thought I’d share some tips – and frustrations! – that might give anyone considering trying it (or even beginners) some insights.



The fabric is your background that pulls your design together. When I first started I used some terrible fabric. It was heavily patterned and pretty but overwhelmed the embroidery instead of complimenting it. I’d recommend planning. Being impulsive I went straight in and was left disheartened with the end result.

Another thing that may seem obvious is ironing your fabric piece! Even if it seems relatively flat it may have some small creases and it’s best to start from a completely smooth piece.

In my last two projects I used a tear away fabric stabiliser (Seen here) which I found gave a good stability to the hoop. These were larger projects where I felt I needed some stiffness for so much thread, and this might not be needed for smaller pieces.


Back to planning. It doesn’t have to be meticulous and take ages, but I do some sketches before I start a project now and this allows me to play with ideas. I then use a tailor’s pencil to sketch the image onto the fabric and found the best way to do this is before putting it in the hoop. I’m going to be looking into transfers soon, but my approach has always been quite loose so I have some freedom as I make the project.



So far all my hand embroidery has been in hoops as wall decoration and I’m not bored with them yet! I love the variety of sizes and there is something pleasing about the circular shape. I tend to plan my projects with this in mind, although this is personal preference. After I finish the project I use a glue gun to secure the loose fabric at the back.


hoop and thread

With thread I found it was a bit of trial and error. You may find this too as you develop and learn as you go and it can get frustrating at times. I’ve had to unpick things before that didn’t work or the thread wasn’t very good.

My two favourites to use are Anchor Stranded Cotton which has 6 strands and is easy to divide when working split stitches for example, and Anchor Pearl Cotton which is 2 ply twisted thread and gives an interesting raised effect. I have tried to split this thread but I wouldn’t recommend it, you will be swearing for days!

I also like metallic thread although some a more difficult than others to work with, so I use them sparingly.


I choose some stitches before I begin such as a back-stitch for an outline but I also like to have some freedom while I am making the project. I love the split stitch for outlining, a satin stitch for filling in larger areas and then adding a fancy stitch to elements that need more embellishment. Stitches for depth and interest include stem stitch, lazy daisy, French knot. It’s surprising how much I’ve improved since I started, my stitches are much tighter and neat. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new stitches – that is how you develop your style and add to your work.


Suggested Reading

Some things that I found useful:

  • Mollie Makes: Embroidery
  • Stitch Along – Jenny Doh
  •  Kyuuto! Japanese Crafts! Embroidery
  •  Hoop-La! magazine
  •  Mollie Makes magazine


2 thoughts on “Tips on Hand Embroidery

  1. I’ve always been impressed with your fabric designs (and other pieces). This article really helps to demystify the process you go through to create your artwork. It’s reassuring to know that people are allowed to make mistakes when creating art, and they’re allowed to correct those mistakes, as you explain in this post. Keep up the good work! 😀

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