Sometimes a handmade sewing project needs something extra. That’s when adding a simple embroidery design has really helped to give my garment or tote bag a finishing touch. In this post, I’m going to show you how I’ve done this very thing. Hopefully it will inspire you to do the same!
In a previous blog post, I added a tea shop sign to a tea-cozy that I sewed. The sign measured 1½ inches by 3 inches. In such a tiny space I needed a very simple embroidery design for my skill level.
Since I did not give details in that post of how I made my tea-cozy sign, I thought I would show you now.
Supplies You Will Need
Fabric- I am using linen for this project.
Thread- This the brand I use for embroidery. On my design, I used No. 931 for the words and No. 782 for the teapot.
Embroidery hoop- I use a vintage hoop with a spring, but these look great and come in a variety of sizes.
Embroidery needles- these have a longer eye which makes threading easier.
Water-soluble fabric marking pen
Choosing a Simple Embroidery Design
When I first decided to make a sign for my tea-cozy, I immediately thought that a teapot would be part of it. So, I made some free-hand drawings and quickly decided that I needed a motif to copy.
I have a couple of transfer design books from Dover Publications that I have used for my embroidery projects. But the books I own don’t have teapot designs. So, I searched online and found a free line-drawing here. I wanted to keep the design simple, so I chose an outline of a teapot.
The teapot image may need a size adjustment before it is printed out. First click the download button. Then, this is how I did it on my printer. I clicked on the printer icon. And then I scrolled down and clicked where I saw “more settings”. I chose the size 20, which is 1/20 of the original size of the teapot. Then I printed my teapot template.
Transferring a Simple Embroidery Design
First, measure and mark a rectangle of 3-inches by 3 inches in the middle of the fabric you will be embroidering. I recommend using a water-soluble pen for these lines. These lines will be the finished edges and the lines can be removed at that point. As you design your sign, you can hold it up to the rectangle you have marked to see if it will fit into that space.
Once you have chosen a teapot design and printed it out, it’s time to design the words for your sign. In my original embroidered sign, I wrote out the words in a few different lettering styles until I liked how they looked. You may want to do that, or you can duplicate the lettering on my sign.
In the above photo, I drew a 3/4-inch space to fit my words into, to make my design fit nicely into the 3-inch by 3-inch space. I free-handed my lettering until it looked right to me. It may take several attempts to make it look the way you like and make it fit.
Draw over the teapot printout with a dark marker or pen and then add your words and optional steam coming out of the spout.
Measure and draw a 3-inch by 3-inch square around the writing and teapot design. Then cut out your square. This will help you to line up the design with the lines you have drawn on your fabric in order to center your design.
Tape your paper sign to a window where it is nice and bright. Tape your marked fabric onto the paper, lining up the rectangles. The bright window will make a lightbox to allow you to see your design through the fabric.
Once your layers are where they should be and secured with tape, trace all your lines onto your fabric. I recommend tracing with a pen, so that it is easy to see while embroidering. As long as you cover your pen lines with the thread it doesn’t cause a problem. However, you may wish to use a water-soluble fabric marking pen. When your sewing is complete, you can dab any visible blue marks with water, to erase.
Using an Embroidery Hoop
Embroidery hoops hold fabric in place while it’s being stitched. If you have ever tried to sew an embroidery design without one, as I have, you know how important it is to use a hoop!
Most hoops have an adjustable knob so that the fabric can be tightly held inside the hoop.
The hoop I use most often is a vintage wooden variety with a spring. This hoop can’t be tightened, so my fabric typically slips loose. To remedy this, I’ve wrapped the inner hoop with fabric and secured it with masking tape.
To use an adjustable embroidery hoop, first loosen the knob and remove the plain inner hoop.
Place the plain hoop down on a table.
Center your fabric over that hoop.
Put the hoop with the tightening screw over the fabric covered hoop and press down over all the layers. Then tighten the screw a little to keep the fabric from shifting as you sew.
Choosing and Preparing Your Thread
There are a variety of embroidery thread brands out there to choose from. This is the brand I usually use as I can easily buy it from a local craft store.
Design your embroidery project with the colors you love or use my colors. I have used #931 and #782 for this project.
The thread consists of six strands wrapped together, and they can be divided into individual strands. I am using 3 strands rather than the full 6, because I want my end result to be neater and less bulky.
How to Separate Embroidery Thread
- Cut the thread to your desired length. I recommend 12-16 inches so that it is not as likely to get knotted.
- On one end, slightly pull apart the section you want to separate
- While holding the thread in a vertical position, slowly pull the sections apart.
The tension on the thread will make it bunch back up on itself, but if you pull slowly, it will separate cleanly without forming any knots.
Thread your needle and “relax” the thread by pulling your fingers down over it several times. I learned this from the book, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns by Natalie Chanin. She calls it “loving your thread”.
In the world of embroidery, some sewists knot the end of the thread and keep it on the wrong side. Others choose to fasten the end of the thread in the traditional fashion, without a knot. I am using a knot, but in a bit of a different way.
If your embroidery is on a garment that will be washed often, then you may want to go with knotting your thread, therefore making it more durable.
A Method for Fastening Thread
Start with knotting your thread. Push your needle through from the wrong side of your fabric to the right side about ¼ inch in from the end of the marked line of your design. The knot will be on the right side of your fabric. The knot is at the X in the photo below.
Make several small running stitches toward the starting point of your design. These should get you to where you will be starting your official stitching, indicated by the A below.
Pull up gently on the knot, then carefully snip the knot close to the fabric.
Now your thread is fastened into the fabric, and you will proceed to stitch over the initial running stitches.
Time to Sew a Simple Embroidery Design
Backstitch, split stitch, stem stitch, or a simple running stitch, are all appropriate stitch options for words or an outline on your design. I am using the backstitch for my entire project.
To Make the Backstitch:
- Bring your threaded needle through the fabric from the wrong side to the right side about ⅛ inch from the starting place on your line, inward on your drawn line.
- Backtrack to the beginning point of your design and put the needle through to the wrong side and come up ⅛ inch ahead of your first stitch.
Each time you make a stitch, you will be “filling in a gap” left from the previous stitch.
Embroidering the Words
I started on the left and I worked towards the right, but if you are left-handed, you may feel more comfortable starting on the right.
First, I fastened my thread using the method above, making the running stitch go the whole way to the end of the design. Then I made an additional running stitch so that I could start my backstitch about ⅛ inch from the end.
From there, I inserted my needle through the right side of my fabric and brought it back out about ⅛ inch beyond the thread. Then, pulled my thread until it was completely through the fabric.
Progress gets a little tricky when moving from letter to letter and word to word. But, when you finish sewing the last letter in a word, bring your needle back up through the fabric ⅛ inch along the line of the next word. In this way, you will still be “filling the gap” as you start the next word.
The Back of Your Simple Embroidery Design
You could could get your needle stuck in knots and hanging threads on the back side that would pull on your lovely stitches on the right side. To prevent tangling from happening, make sure you pull your thread all the way through as you sew.
Additionally, ending your thread neatly is really important. On the wrong side, push your needle through a stitch and pull the thread all the way through. Repeat that for a total of two times. Cut the thread about ⅛ inch from the fabric.
Another way to keep your embroidery neat is to avoid carrying a thread to another part of your design. Start a new length of thread, the extra work pays off because the right side of your sewing will look better.
Embroidering the Teapot
Outlining the teapot is quite a bit easier since it is just one continuous line. I started my stitching with the knot on the right side, running stitch, and then cutting off the knot.
In this above photo, I am starting a new length of thread on my teapot.
When all my embroidery stitching was complete, using my water-soluble pen, I remarked the lines that were outlining the words and teapot. These were the first marks I made above in the section about transferring your design.
I removed my project from the embroidery hoop and pressed out the creases with my iron.
Then, I trimmed away extra fabric, but left the blue line plus about ¾ inch more than that on the edges.
Finally, I folded along the blue lines, which became the edges of my embroidered sign.
I pressed the edges very flat with my iron, making sure all the edges were evenly sized.
Hooray! It is ready to embellish something really special!
I’ve used my Tea Cozy sign for my latest teapot cozy!
Have fun making this embroidery design. I hope you find it relaxing and rewarding. Please let me know in the comments if you make this embroidered sign and how you like it!
Thanks for reading,