Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hand Embroidery Revival

Who knew!?!  Hand embroidery is making a comeback! 

I learned embroidery at a very, very young age.  I started with simple cross-stitch (not the counted kind), and progressed through dish towels and pillowcases with simple crocheted lace edging.  I had a cute little sewing box  (shown above) and a small metal embroidery hoop with a thin cork inner lining to grip the fabric.  My mom thought it would keep me from biting my fingernails – Wrong!  But it was something I loved to do.

Later, after I became a quilter, I discovered redwork and bluework—a monochromatic blend of embroidery and quilting.   For a brief history of redwork, and some interesting samples, see:

Baltimore-style appliqué also included some embroidery stitches (including the dreaded French knots!) as embellishments.  I was fortunate to attend the first session of Baltimore on the Prairie, where I learned several new embroidery techniques from a gifted teacher, Nadine Thompson.

I am delighted that multi-colored embroidery is making a comeback in the handmade community, and I love all the fresh new designs – from dainty, to bold, to whimsical.  Embroidery threads have improved, too, in the past 50 years.  I especially like the Cosmo threads, which I purchase from one of my favorite quilt shops, Dakota Cabin Quilts in Hettinger, ND:

Anna Maria Horner, one of my all-time favorite fabric designers, has also developed a new line of needlework patterns and threads.

Kim & Kris of The DIY Dish did a fun interview with Anna Maria at Quilt Market:

I've also found two wonderful new books on contemporary embroidery.  One I own and love is Doodle Stitching:  The Motif Collection (400+ easy embroidery designs) by Aimee Ray.  It was published by Lark Crafts in 2010, and includes a CD with downloadable patterns, mostly small outline motifs with a touch of whimsy.

The second, which I discovered at the library on Sunday afternoon, and which I intend to buy soon is Embroidery Companion:  Classic Designs for Modern Living, by Alicia Paulson.  It was published by Potter Craft in 2010.  In addition to traditional embroidery and counted cross-stitch, this book offers a fantastic section on crewelwork, where embroidered shapes are not merely outlined, but filled in with stitches which add design elements and texture.  The "must-have" pages, for me, are beautiful cursive letters with small floral accents that would be perfect for hand-monogrammed linens or accessories.  

I plan to do embroidery embellishments on some linen clutches and zipper bags.  Another project to add to my To Do Before the Holidays list.  My lists are always longer than my days.


LeAnn aka pasqueflower


  1. I love embroidery... have a few pieces of vintage embroidery to add to my new vintage booth. Orangies Attic

  2. "I am delighted that multi-colored embroidery" - me too. I try to work hand embroidery into my ooak pillows when I can, it adds a special touch I think : )

  3. I have never learned how to embroider. Maybe this time around!!