a question for the embroiderers

I know I have people reading this blog who spin, crochet, weave, knit, and sew; I figure odds are good at least a couple of you embroider.

How would you recommend going about embroidering this figure?

Assume a smallish size — maybe two inches in diameter. I’d love to hear what types of stitch you would use where, in what order, and bonus points for specifying whether it’s what an experienced embroiderer would do, or what a hypothetical embroiderer who used to know about three stitches fifteen years ago might have an easier time with. (Not that we know anybody fitting that description, nosirree.) I’m mostly concerned with making the end result look good; cutting corners to make it less of a pain in the ass is not necessary. 🙂

I’m not even sure how to effectively transfer the design to the material (which is dark grey, and will be embroidered in white) — I’m almost tempted to print it onto thin paper and then just stitch straight over that. Is this a bad idea?

(The whole project is probably a bad idea, for the aforementioned reason of three stitches semi-mastered fifteen years ago. But it’s not like I’ve ever done anything crazy in the textiles department before. kurayami_hime, remember the Greek key belt?)

0 Responses to “a question for the embroiderers”

  1. Anonymous

    I’m not a master of embroidery by any means, and most of what I know is self taught, but I might be able to offer something.

    Depending on whether or not you want the design to be filled in or only outlined, there are a few different options. If you want it to be filled in, the best thing I could think of would be satin stitch. That would give you a fairly smooth texture and is probably the easiest way to fill in a space. If you want only the outline, there are a number of stitches you could use, the easiest of which is probably the backstitch, although that’s not particularly interesting. If you want a more finished look, you could use the chain stitch or (one of my favorites) the split stitch. I’m sure there are others too, but that’s what occurs to me off the top of my head.

    I don’t know how standardized the names of those stitches are, since I’m drudging up knowledge from a book I haven’t looked at in several years, so if any of the above requires further explanation let me know.

    As for the transfer of the design, I wouldn’t sew over the paper. Not that I’ve tried it, but it would most likely leave bits of paper behind (especially if you went with satin stitch)and leave bigger holes than you’d want where your needle pokes through the fabric. I’ve never used it, but a lot of craft/sewing stores have paper which you can put through your computer printer and make your own iron on transfers. If you can’t find that, then there’s always chalk and tracing paper. 😀

  2. shadowkindrd

    When I embroider, I use one stitch, the split stitch, where I do a full stitch over, and then come back through the very end of that stitch, through the threads, and on to the next one. The key to making anything like this look awesome is to take fairly small stitches and keep them right next to each other. Fill stitches, I do the same kind of thing. I outline first, then fill.

    As for transfering, there are pens out there that transfer white via iron on, but for something that small, you probably won’t get a good transfer. You can also find a black or other colored iron-on transfer pen–Google for them; they’re hard to find in stores. Again, the small size is against you with that intricate of detail. If you choose to trace, remember that the symbol will be inverted, so trace on the BACK of the copy, not the front. 🙂

  3. Anonymous

    An embroiderer answers LOL

    Hi! I found your question on torforgeauthor’s twitter feed. I’ve been embroidering since I was 5 (almost 50 years ago) and have won prizes in the local county fair for my work. I also used to teach classes at the Embroiderer’s Guild of America chapter in Eugene.

    Two inches is going to be very small to work with. Given that size, I can think of two ways to do the design. (Nice design btw). One is to use satin stitch to stitch the bird. You’d probably need to use one strand of 6 strand floss. This might still be too big for the design. I’ve actually done embroidery using size 60 sewing thread. That might be a better option for satin stitch.

    The other choice is to use white fabric and stitch the white lines in grey using couching stitch. You probably could get away with using size 8 pearl cotton for the line, and sewing thread as your couching thread. If you need the background to be grey, you could applique the finished embroidery onto a grey piece of fabric or do some other sort of stitching to surround the bird.

    Last piece of couching I did, I copied the design onto copier paper, and couched thru it. It was easy enough to remove after the couching was done.

    Also remember, you are going to need very fine, densely woven fabric.

    Hope this helps!

    Joann Loos

    • Marie Brennan

      Re: An embroiderer answers LOL

      Ooh — couching is an interesting suggestion. I’m painfully aware that the small size is going to be a challenge, and the fabric may not be densely woven enough to support the design anyway. I think I’ll experiment on a bit of scrap, and if that doesn’t work I may try couching instead. Thanks!

  4. heygirlie

    I’m surrounded by embroidery machines at work, so I say find someone with one of those.

  5. diatryma

    If you stitch straight into the paper, you’ll have to get a lot of paper pieces out. It’s kind of a pain. If you have a bright enough light to get through the fabric, you can do that– bright shiny window and such– with a white marker, if you’re working large enough. Or you can do guide lines that way, at least the three circles and the rows of feathers.

    I have done one embroidery piece, Screw Perfect. I would satin-stitch everything, assuming it’s small enough to look good, and I’d try to make the stitches go with the wings. I’d probably backstitch the outline of the body area before satin-stitching to make it a little more three-dimensional. Because I like stem stitch, I’d do stem stitch around the satin stitch. I’m a big fan of stem stitch– it looks nice and ropy. I can’t see the beak well enough to tell if I’d do couching stitch or something else, nor can I really think of what else it would be if satin stitch didn’t work.

  6. kurayami_hime

    No idea what you’re talking about. None whatsoever.

    I’ll be in the corner, thinking about running vine embroidery and twitching, if you need me.

    • Marie Brennan

      Ah, Deucalion.

      Though technically I did a hell of a lot of backstitch for one costume piece while playing Ree. But that was all straight lines — much easier than this.

  7. anghara

    If you want, and if the point isn’t DOING IT YOURSELF, I could probably do it for you…

    • Marie Brennan

      DOING IT MYSELF isn’t exactly the point . . . but I’m obsessive enough that I’m likely to at least try.

      In case this results in me wanting to light the piece in question on fire, however, I will keep your very generous offer in mind.

  8. st_aurafina

    I’d use satin stitch for the wings and the body, and long and short stitch for the beak to give a contrasting texture. And I think, for little repeated panels like that, something with lustre will look great, so I’d use silk instead of cotton.


    • wyld_dandelyon

      Ooh, nice thought to use silk, though that will depend in part on the material it’s decorating. If this is a logo on a sweatshirt, I’d stick with cotton. But for any fancier garment, you’re absolutely right. Silk would be gorgeous.

    • la_marquise_de_

      Yes, this. And I’d outline in split stitch first, to raise the design.

  9. wyld_dandelyon

    If you’re up to making satin stitch look even, that’s the best way to go. This would look gorgeous in nicely-done satin stitch, with perhaps a knot for the center of the eye.

    If your satin stitch is as irregular as mine was as a child, you can fill with rows of chain stitch. Since the chain “links” are round, that technique is more forgiving of an “organic” look.

    They do make paper that’s designed for stuff like this, it dissolves in water, so you tear out the big pieces and then just wash the garment. However, I’ve had very good luck using a Prismacolor pencil in a color that contrasts with the cloth. It lasts longer than chalk, but does not last forever. For a 2″ piece, you probably would not have to touch it up before finishing but if you did, that’s not a big deal. And, to my mind, any product that will leave permanent lines (so if you don’t completely cover them with the thread, they’ll always be visible) is a much worse thing than touching up the guide-lines halfway through.

  10. Anonymous

    I watched my now-ex do some of this sort of thing some years back. Her solution was to draw the pattern in reverse on the back side of the piece. I’d imagine that, since it appears that you’ve already got the pattern on a computer, you could use one of those inkjet-print-to-iron-on-transfer sheets (about $6 for ten at an office-supply store) to make a custom low-contrast pattern and just iron it on, on whichever side of the fabric you choose.

  11. Anonymous

    Try sending an email to your Aunt Carol. This comes to you from Zermatt where we actually saw the Matterhorn!

  12. mindstalk

    What’s the image from? It looks familiar, but maybe it’s just a style similarity.

    • Marie Brennan

      It’s one of a whole bunch of variants that turned up when I image-searched “crane mon” — the style is that of a Japanese crest, so maybe that’s why it’s pinging as familiar.

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