Embroidery – also called Needlepoint – is one of the oldest forms of decorative arts. The embroidery stitches are the tools that create the artwork. Learning the basic stitches of the craft enable you to create beautiful decorative masterpieces for your home and as gifts. Once you have learned the basics, you need to practice, practice, practice and you will fill your home with this ancient art.
Assemble your supplies. The main items you will need to begin include thread, needle, canvas, and a pattern. You may choose to work your design on a hoop if you want. A hoop stretches the canvas and holds the shape in place while you stitch.
Choose your cloth. There are different types of cloth used in embroidery. This stitchwork is done on cotton, linen, canvas, and even plastic. A common canvas for beginners is Aida cloth, which is made of interlocking threads that form little boxes. Depending on your project, you can choose different sizes of Aida cloth. I recommend that beginners use 12-point (meaning that the ‘boxes’ are larger).
Pick the appropriate thread. As with the canvas, there are many different types of thread. Different threads are used for different stitches. You can purchase embroidery thread in small bundles at any craft store or chain supermarket.
Choose your needle. Needles also vary in size and shape. Most embroidery needles have a blunt end and are easier to work with than a traditional sharp needle. It is helpful to have several needles already threaded with the colors you are working with. This way you won’t have to keep stopping to change colors.
Pick a small project to start with. I recommend a short verse with an easy border. This will give you practice with different stitches and teach you how to make letters. Adding a flower or two will enable you to practice a few fancier stitches, if you desire.
Secure the edges of your canvas with tape or stitching. Turn down the edges about ¼ of an inch on all sides and stitch them down. You can also tape them down with simple masking tape but you run the risk of your thread tangling in the tape now and then. Not a huge problem, but a headache as it happens.
Fold your canvas in half after securing the edges. Then fold it in half again. This folding will leave vague creases in your canvas. Don’t worry, they will iron out later. Open the canvas and lay flat. Find the point where the fold lines intersect. This is the center of your design and this is where you will begin stitching. Do the same folding technique with your paper design to determine this mid-point.
Begin your stitching by tying a waste knot at the end of your thread. Pull the thread through the first hole until the knot catches securely. An alternative to using a waste knot is to secure your beginning thread by holding the tail of the thread down with your finger. The tail will be secured to the canvas as you stitch over it.
Learn the cross-stitch.
Learn the straight stitch.
Learn the French knot.
Learn the chain stitch.
Tips & Warnings
Practice, practice, practice.
Increase or decrease the size of your pattern by omitting parts of it or repeating parts of it.
Don’t forget to block your canvas when finished. Pin a cloth to a board and lay the embroidery face down on the cloth. Lightly dampen the back of the embroidery. Pin the embroidery to the cloth and let it dry out for about 36 hours.
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