As you read this I am on vacation, happily snuggled in on a chair by the fire with my pug, Elvis, peacefully hand stitching. At least, I hope this is what I am doing–I'm writing this a week ahead!
Winter is the perfect time for handwork, I think. There's nothing like a piece of linen, cotton, or silk, and a basket of pastel and jewel-colored fibers to play with. The art of needlework soothes me.
In case, you, too, long to spend time by the fire (or on a porch with some lemonade if this time of year finds you in warmer climes) hand stitching French knots and stem stitches, here are some of my favorite tips for hand embroidery.
|Detail of some cross stitches, French knots, and straight stitches on one of my Prayer Flags.|
My tips for hand embroidery:
- Handwork takes a long time, and it should be done with the best quality of supplies that you can afford. There is a difference in quality in threads and fabrics, and you should use what works best for your project.
Learn how to use a thimble—it will save your fingers!
Threading the needle with multi-stranded thread can be tricky. Try folding it over the eye of the needle and pinching the fold between your finger and thumb nail. Sometimes it is easier to get a folded strand through the eye of the needle rather than a raw edge of cut thread.
Keep your supplies for your current project (threads, scissors, and instructions) together and store them in an inexpensive pencil case (available for $1 in the school supply aisles of discount stores.)
Use a fishing tackle box or a kid's matchbox car holder to organize your stash of needles and threads. These boxes are much less expensive than embroidery-specific cases, and often can be stacked more easily in tight studio spaces.
Hand-dyed thread is wonderful to work with and does much of the design work for you!
Learn a new stitch, try a new technique, and challenge yourself to move beyond your comfort zone.
You'll find a wealth of techniques and tips for how to hand sew in the beautiful new book Handsewn:The Essential Techniques for Tailoring and Embellishment by Margaret Rowan. Lots of detailed images and advice on how to combine stitches and techniques.
P.S. What is your favorite hand sewing project? Tell me about it in the comments section below.