How to learn embroidery at home?
So it looks like you want to learn embroidery? Great news! The lockdown is actually the best time for that :)
You are probably captivated by all the charming works you see on Instagram and Pinterest and want to stitch the same thing right now, or better, yesterday.
Well, in fact, if it is a one-time project you can, indeed, tackle an easy pattern right now.
But if you want to master hand embroidery, and make it your long-time friend, then you will have to go through several stages.
I would argue that there is no formula, no universal ladder that will take you from one stage to the other stage until you reach the peak (is it even possible?). The journey varies from person to person and depends on many aspects: what you like, how much time you can spend on it, what resources you are exposed to, and so on.
Nevertheless, here is a very rough list of common points that we go through in the process of learning embroidery and which you may or may not come across as well.
1. Get yourself a needle, thread, and fabric
That's actually all the instruments you will need to make your first stitch.
Add to that any scissors you find at home, then take a photo frame and fix the fabric with office clips on it, and you got yourself a nice embroidery frame. I actually use this trick sometimes :D
Of course, you can totally get yourself a table mat for cutting fabric, a needle-threader, special boxes for thread bobbins, etc. But personally, I think you don't have to bother with that in your first stages. An abundance of instruments and materials that you don't have a use for yet, will only distract you. I've been embroidering for several years now and I don't have much of the equipment that is mentioned in some articles.
So take it easy and start small, give yourself some space to grow and later choose what you really need.
Now, you might question: but what kind of needle? What kind of fabric and thread?
If you are a complete beginner, then take anything you find at home. Search in your stash and take whatever you're okay to use. You or your parents most probably have that tiny sewing kit and some extra linen or cotton at home. Make your first stitches with what you already have, and when you acquire the “feel” of the needle and thread, you can upgrade to something better.
I didn't have a good fabric and good needles when I started. I took what I found at home and if I bought something, I bought something really cheap.
Actually, I don't want to encourage you to save money on embroidery materials. Not at all! Good quality fabric and thread, correct needle, a nice hoop – all of that is important for a pleasant result.
But I think it is okay to level up in your equipment along with leveling up in your skills, you know?
And when the time for the upgrade comes, read these posts:
2. Learn some basic stitches
You know, when you learn a foreign language, the first words you need to memorize are the most popular ones. Because in daily conversations our vocabulary is actually not that large!
The same goes for hand embroidery where stitches are our vocabulary.
You don't need to know a hundred stitches to be fluent in embroidery. In fact, you only need a bunch of them because the vast majority of hand embroidery designs and projects use the same group of stitches.
Read this list of 10 basic hand embroidery stitches, practice them and you'll be able to complete virtually any embroidery project.
And little by little add the new ones to your vocabulary from this Stitch Library.
The good news is that, after you practice the first ten stitches, the other ones will be easier to get right!
3. Don't get disappointed at your first results
I remember that learning new stitches was one of the most fun stages in my embroidery journey, even though they didn't turn out that well, haha.
Well, I will never get tired of repeating this:
Needle and thread are just like any other craft instrument. Your hands, eyes, and the whole body system need to get used to them and the new movements that you do.
That's also why you can see people who draw a lot get nice results in embroidery quicker. Their bodies are already accustomed to something similar.
I think I already told this example in a post before but I will tell you here as well.
In the beginning of my embroidery journey here was one stitch that I attempted to work and it just didn't get right no matter how many times I tried. So I put it away and forgot about it. After several years of doing embroidery, I returned to this stitch and it turned out right from the first attempt! The only difference between the two attempts is the amount of embroidery practice I had.
That's why you should NEVER despair and think “I just can't do it, it's just not for me, why others' stitches look so neat and mine aren't” and so on.
No, no, no!
The neat and pretty stitching you see on Pinterest and Instagram is always a result of hard practice. Either hard practice in embroidery, or hard practice in another field like drawing that makes embroidery easier for them. But hard practice anyway!
Let's learn to respect that without putting ourselves down.
4. Stitch your first project
Most of us learn new stitches by working short lines or small shapes and motifs. I personally think that's a great way to start and get used to this new fun activity. I did the same!
However, after a while you might want to attempt stitching a “project”.
What would be a good project for a beginner though?
Anything you like!
You have many options. There are lots of embroidery freebies to try, there are even vintage embroidery books you can read online for free, there are Youtube tutorials and lots of patterns on Pinterest suitable for personal use.
Pick whatever attracts you and get started!
It might be nerve-wracking to get to this more “serious” stage. Try to relax and do this for your own practice. You don't owe anyone a museum masterpiece, right? Just enjoy your stitches and have fun with the needle and thread!
5. Practice more and observe
In my personal opinion, practical knowledge is far more beneficial than theoretical. That's why I wasn't eager to tell you which needles and fabrics to choose at the very start. Because after trying this and that fabric and needle yourself, you will start noticing certain things.
You will start noticing that this kind of fabric fits more with this kind of thread and this kind of needle.
You will start noticing that this kind of stitching looks better on that kind of fabric.
You will start noticing that when you take this needle that stitch looks better.
And so on.
Maybe you won't have any “academic” definition for your observation. It will be more like intuition. But hey, intuition is important.
You also might start noticing that certain things are more effective than others. Or, on the contrary, that there is a certain problem you don't know how to solve.
That's usually the period of asking more specific and detailed questions. How to end thread in an open area? What should I do if marker inks stay after washing? And if I really like certain fabric but it is too lightweight for the kind of stitching I want to do?
Well, I can just recommend reading some tips,tricks, and guide to embroidery posts, observe what other stitchers do, what mistakesthey talk about and ask them about what makes you confused. You can ask me through the contactform or chat with me on Instagram.
6. Celebrate your progress
Save your first embroidery pieces! Or, at least, take pictures of them. It will be so fun to look back at them after a couple years of practice and see the difference.
Maybe your journey will be different from what I described here (very likely), and that's amazing.
Follow your own way, there's no right or wrong here!
The most important is to take the first step, then the second step, then the third step, then start walking and then start running :)