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Embroidery month: tools, tips and inspiration

Nanette Webb embroidery embroidery books embroidery kits embroidery tools inspiration Needle 'n Thread Sublime Stitching Yumiko Higuchi

Along with probably 99% of the US population, I have heretofore been unaware that February is National Embroidery Month!

I had the flu about a month ago, and was all snug and cozy on the couch in front of the fireplace with, gasp! idle fingers. Embroidery seemed like something doable between coughs and naps. 

So while poking around on the internet for inspiration I learned about embroidery month and was prompted, with this as justification, to share an old fondness for this ancient art in the form of free classes and (ta da!) a blog post! 

You won't be surprised that embroidery is making a comeback (along with coloring books and Zen-doodling). All of us are are so eager to employ new ways to re-direct the mind away from daily stressors (not to mention our phones and computers) while at the same time making something beautiful.

Our anecdotal evidence is that four out of five of our free embroidery classes filled up in two days!!

Here are just a few tidbits to get you going on your journey: tools; tutorials; books; patterns and kits; freebies; and inspiration. I'm not going to re-create the wheel here, there is enough out there. Let this serve as your map to find what you need.


Fabric: we love to embroider on linen like our Merchant & Mills yummy linen. But truthfully anything is game to embroider.

Hoop: Any hoop that will hold your fabric is fine! We love these hoops from Sajou, however, because they are sanded and so smooth!

Needle: Choose an embroidery needle that has an eye wide enough to acommodate your size floss. A size 5 embroidery needle is good for the run-of-the-mill DMC as well as our Sajou retors du nord floss. Larger DMC pearl cottons require a larger eye.

Floss: We, of course, love our Sajou retors du nord embroidery floss (available in our brick and mortar store only). But any embroidery brand will do. Play with the different kinds and see what style appeals to you. Here is a thread tutorial from Needle 'n Thread.

Scissors: A good pair of small scissors is necessary. We offer Sajou Decouvit Embroidery Scissors - Vitry or Nogent Models - or a pair of lovely crane scissors from Studio Carta Italy.

Sajou embroidery scissors Studio Carta embroidery scissors

Tracing/transfer paper: Unless you are using pre-printed fabric or iron transfer patterns (like this book of Doodle Stitching transfers), you will need either tracing paper (DMC or Saral work well) or Clover brand iron-on transfer pencil.

DMC embroidery tracing paper Clover heat set pencil

Best Online Tutorials

Needle 'n Thread ...these are really great videos! 

Sublime Stitching...super diagrams of how to embroider if videos stress you out and you need to look at something static.


Oh my the books! There are so many. Here are just a few:

Little Stitches by Aneela Hoey. Playfully modern illustrations are printed on transfer paper to use and reuse.

Little Stitches by Aneela Hoey

Stitching Handbook for Kids by Kristen Nicholas. Fifteen easy projects and 17 stitches show you how to personalize all your stuff.

Stitching Handbook for Kids

Embroidery: A Step by Step Guide to More than 200 Stitches by Lucinda Ganderton.

 Simply Stitched by Yumiko Higuchi. Just a visually beautiful book with some great ideas for gifts! 

Simply Stitched by Yumiko Higuchi

And I'm trying to get this book in stock from the publisher. Love, love, love the designs and inspiration. Zakka Embroidery also by Yumiko Higuchi. I have this book and it is SO nice.

Patterns and Kits:

Bolt & Spool, of course, has a variety of kits to get you started! This is our most popular...the bicycle! These I Heart Stitch Art kits even come with a sampler to practice your stitches before you start on the "real" project!

i heart stitch art bicycle

The French Needle offers embroidery kits for perhaps more advanced embroiderers, but they are certainly something to strive for. Here is an exquisite design by the Swiss company Canevas Folies:

Canevas Foiles embroidery from The French Needle

Sublime Stitching tags itself as a contemporary embroidery design studio. They are also the sponsor of our free embroidery classes this month, so a shout-out and thank you to Jennie Hart and her crew for supplying us with the cutest free transfer patterns! They are definitely more on the beginner end of the spectrum from the French design above. But perfect for making pillows and other sweet gifts from the heart!

Sublime stitching

Etsy has tons of embroidery patterns for sale...I stumbled on this one from England that I love: LiliPopo. Once you purchase the pattern, you simply download the pdf, print it out and transfer the design onto your fabric. Of course I love her use of Liberty fabric!!

Lilipopo embroidery


Free Patterns Online

Needle 'n Thread: download the pdf and print them out. Use embroidery transfer paper to trace the design or trace the design onto your fabric using a heat-setting pencil.

Other free designs: you don't always need someone to draw something out for you. Draw your own or stitch freehand (not scary!!) If you don't feel comfy with that use a stencil to draw a design onto fabric. I have a plastic sheet of circle stencils I bought at Blicks that is great to use. It's also easy to trace shapes in your home, the bottom of a glass, a playing card, your hand! Use rubber stamps like these from Yellow Owl with washable ink pads to transfer a design onto fabric. Or simply use the design of the fabric as inspiration. You don't even have to use fabric, you can embroider on a card or cardboard! 



Pinterest: we have more than 500 pins on one board dedicated entirely to handstitching!! It's a great source of inspiration, but just be careful when downloading a pattern for free: check that it's truly free of copyright - or follow links to the origin and buy the pattern.

Bolt & Spool handstitches board on Pinterest

 And a couple of my favorite embroidery folks...

Here is Ayumi Toda for fabrika uka (Facebook) or @fabrika_uka (Instagram), an embroidery artist and fabric designer for kokka Japan who simply uses the fabric as a guide for stitching:

I can't leave off without linking you to my all time favorite embroidery artist: ironnahappa. The designs are so simple, elegant and perfect. 

ironnahappa embroidery 


OMG I almost forgot to mention a very perfect thing for EVERYONE who wants to improve their embroidery or just meditate/embroider (zenbroider?). Please don't think of it as committing to "one more thing..." I couldn't possibly. I know. But this is YOUR trip around the sun.

It's called a 1 Year of Stitches, (or @1yearofstitches on Instagram) a daily practice of embroidery. Click the link and it will explain it all. Just try it, but definitely make up your own rules.

Enjoy your handstitching journey, my friends! 


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  • Peg prall on

    Love your store do you offer any sewing lessons

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