total beginners’ hand embroidery DIY

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Embroidery has been trending with a vengeance. But before you cave in and buy a mass-produced, cheaply made rose-embroidery bedecked thing (you know exactly what I’m talking about), read this super easy DIY tutorial and get stitchin’! To see where I wore this DIY, read my previous post.

What you’ll need:

embroidery supplies

  • a shirt or other article of clothing (I got this sweater from Savers for $6; you can also use something you already own)
  • embroidery needle (they have longer eyes than sewing needles; get them at Amazon or any craft supply store)
  • embroidery floss
  • embroidery hoop

First, you’ll want to decide on a design. With a thin material like a t-shirt, it’s best to stick to simple line designs like words or outlined shapes.

I wanted to embroider my name on this sweater, but “Catherine” seemed too long and “Cat” didn’t feel right, so I went with the midlength, kinda retro-sounding “Cathy.” I’ve never been called Cathy, except weirdly enough when I studied abroad in South Africa and everyone called me Cathy or Cath. But I digress.

You can freehand your design like I did for a more organic feel using a washable fabric pen. If you have a lighter colored shirt, you can also trace on the shirt with pencil or a washable fabric pen by placing the design, either printed or on your computer screen, underneath the shirt.

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Okay, now for the fun part. Embroidery floss comes in 6 strands twisted together that you can unwind for varying thicknesses, but I used all 6 strands so the embroidery would be more visible since it’s just an outline. Thread your needle, knot the end, and start embroidering! I used split stitch, which involves bringing the needle back up through your previous stitch to “split” it (tutorial). Backstitch is another easy stitch if you’re completely new to sewing and embroidery and gives the appearance of a simple, continuous line (tutorial).

Follow the outline of your design. You may have to embroider in separate parts depending on your design; after you finish one part, knot and cut your thread and go back in as if you’re starting over. I did the “c,” top of the “a,” stem of “t,” and tall stem of “h” as one part, then the bottom curve of the “a,” the dash across the “t,” and the little leg of the “h,” and the “y” as separate little parts.

If you mess up, it’s totally fine! You can slip the needle off the embroidery floss undo the wrong stitches, and then rethread the needle and keep going. Once you read the end, knot your thread on the inside of the shirt.

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Once you’re done, if you used a washable fabric pen follow the directions to wash off the ink (it probably involves rinsing in cold water).

And that’s it! This is an easy beginner project if you’re just getting into hand embroidery, but once you build some confidence and skills it’s fun to experiment with different shapes and stitches, creating different textures (so many possibilities!!!). I also recommend trying this on denim (see this previous #ootd for one of my denim embroidery DIYs), since embroidery and denim bring back those late 90s’, early 2000’s vibes that we’ve tried so hard to forget but are now on trend (can someone explain fashion trends to me pls???).

If you try this out, post your pics and tag me on Insta (@cookiecat.herine)! I’m so excited to see what you all come up with. And if you have questions, ask away! I am totally new to writing tutorials so things probably don’t make that much sense.

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