It’s February, learn to embroider

It’s February, learn to embroider

February is National Embroidery Month. It’s the perfect time to reclaim the skill or seize the day and learn it for the first time.

The minute you thread a needle with floss, Pearl cotton, yarn or other fiber and push it through fabric, you are joining legions of women, who for generations, have used embroidery to create art, to add beauty and color to an otherwise plain garment, to embellish a household item, or to sew in service to one’s faith.

A trip to the library or a search online will yield all you need to know to start doing embroidery. Embroidery stitch guides, fabrics, threads and supplies also are available at local fabric stores and departments. It’s not an expensive craft to get started in. You will need embroidery needles with long eyes in several different sizes to accommodate various threads; cotton, linen or wool fabric; an embroidery hoop; a thimble; and a few skeins of floss.

Stitch libraries are available at, and Visit for video tutorials of embroidery stitches. Check the stacks of your local library for how-to books or look for them at your favorite bookstores.

Much of the embroidery of today relies on printed patterns, transfers or charts, and these are easy to find on the Internet, either for purchase or to print for free. The lines of the free patterns must be outlined with a transfer pencil, then ironed to fabric. Sometimes the transfer pencils don’t work very well, or at all. In that case, I tape the design to a sunny window, tape the fabric over the design and trace it. It’s a little awkward, but it works.

It’s always fun to look at images relating to embroidery. Go to Google, click on Images, search for embroidery designs, embroidery patterns or embroidery stitches and lots of images will appear. Click on the small image to enlarge it and you will find the website it appears on so you can go there to learn more.

Websites offering free images for embroidery include the blogs and Other sites are and But this is only the top strand of a huge ball of thread, so to speak. Embroidery is a big topic, and much is available on the Internet and in books.

For those who would rather not rely on images from the Internet or books, or transfers, the best way to come up with a design is to work out your own ideas on paper and draw them directly on the fabric with an ordinary pencil or a marker that fades and leaves no trace after a few days. Draw a heart on fabric, embroider it, stitch it to card stock, write a message to your best beloved on the card and you have a valentine from heart and hand.

After the basic stitches, such as stem, back, lazy daisy, blanket and running, are learned, it’s possible to create your own design simply by stitching, no drawing involved. Start with a stitch you like and can do easily. Sew bands of the stitch on the fabric, make the stitches large, small and in between. Use shades of one color or bright colors. Use a mix of threads, thin and thick, cotton, silk and wool. Stitch for the fun of it and see what happens — something will and you’ll be intrigued.

My favorite source of inexpensive fabric for use in embroidery is thrift stores. Look for 100 percent cotton, wool or linen shirts or dresses. Wash the garments and cut them up into whatever size suits your purpose. Save buttons and zippers for future sewing projects.

No matter how you outfit yourself for embroidery — thrift shop finds or the best stuff from the best shops and online venues — let your imagination be your embroidery guide.


Interested in an embarrassment of knitting and crocheting pattern riches? Go to for thousands of free patterns — in 14 languages.
Pattern categories include women, men, children, infants and accessories.

The Ewe Spinners will host a day of spinning 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, at Newport Elementary School on Elm Street (Route 2). Entrance fee is $2. Coffee, tea and refreshments will be available. Bring goodies to share if you wish. Bring a mug and a lunch. The event will feature a fiber-related yankee swap, a used equipment table and a table for show and tell. Organizers say this event is for grown-ups only. For information, call 474-0476.

The Fiber Friends will gather 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, March 24 and April 28, at the Page Farm and Home Museum at the University of Maine. Organizers plan to include activities that will supplement knitting, spinning, quilting and other handcrafts. Ideas include a spinning clinic for those interested in exotic fibers, further adventures in spice dyeing, locker-hooking, or more about gardening for fiber arts to add to what was learned at last year’s program on dyes from the garden.

For information, call the museum at 581-4100 or email

Go to to read a blog about cross-stitch embroidery in both English and French.

Visit to learn about the Month of Letters Challenge in which one writes a letter (not email) every day during February.