Hello everyone

This week we are going to start the stitch along for project 12 of the mini journal. I will post each step of the project on this Blog every Friday and you can stitch it at your own pace using the instructions in the post. If you are subscribed to this blog you will receive weekly updates by email, if you are not subscribed you will need to check for new posts. If you have a question please post a comment on this Blog and I will endeavour to answer it asap. If you are joining us from Facebook or Instagram please post your comments here as I may not have time to answer comments placed on all three venues! Thank you.

Firstly I am going to give you a list of materials so that we can start stitching the project next week, and secondly I am going to give you a blow-by-blow account of my process of designing and stitching a new piece of embroidery. So lets get going!

List of materials needed for this project

You can find a list of online stockists in your country here. It may prove difficult to get delivery in time so don’t worry if you are not ready on Friday you can catch up when possible.

  • Needles. Needles sharps size 10 or crewel embroidery size 10
  • Scissors. Small sharp pair of embroidery scissors
  • Light. Magnifying light. This will help you to see those tiny little stitches, but if you don’t have one use a bright daylight light and some reader specs to magnify the work.


You will need Adobe Reader to download and print these files. When printing please use the actual size printing option as shown below:

Process of creating an embroidery design

All designers have their own way of creating an embroidery design, this is how I do it and it works for me. I have realized over the years that it is vitally important that you spend extra time on preparation, as it will make all the difference to the outcome of your work.

1. Reference photo

As mentioned in my previous post I have chosen this lovely fuschia flower photo as a reference for our design. I should mention at this stage that it is important that you do not infringe on copyright – all my reference images are either licensed from the artist, stock image sites/museums, used with permission, or the source is acknowledged. I often re-draw an image completely or use aspects from several different sources to create an image, to make it my own.

The reason that I chose this photo is:

  • It is a good reference photo because the flower picture is clear and will be easy to follow
  • As our project is small we want something that is fairly simple, with not too many details.
  • The colours appeal to me and I can see them stitched up in embroidery

2. Creating an outline

The first thing I do is scan this picture into Corel Draw. Corel Draw is a graphic design software programme that is used for illustrating. It is similar to Adobe Illustrator, but I have been using Corel for almost 30 years so am more familiar with it. I want to remove the background as this is too fussy and I want to create a portrait of the flower.

Here is a short video of how I trace the outline in Corel using the drawing tools. This video is sped up 5 times, so you can imagine that it is quite a lengthy process, depending on the size of the project it can takes several days.

To view videos full size click on YOUTUBE bottom right of screen.

3. Finalizing design outline

Once I have the outline the way I want it, I need to resize it to fit into a specific hoop size. Then I will print it out so that I can check all the components of the design are suitable for embroidery. There may be some areas that are just too small or fussy so I can amend these before I finalize the design.

Again I use Corel Draw to do this – here is a short video to show you how I draw in a circle the size of my hoop, (in the case of this fuschia project I want it to fit nicely into a size 6 inch hoop) and then resize the outline to fit inside the hoop. So there are no surprises when I come to mount my fabric into the hoop.

4. Creating a mood board

Next I will make a mood board to use as a reference whilst stitching. I use the main reference photo and often l include some extra images, in different light or compositions and a simple colour scheme which helps when choosing threads. I print this on good quality photo paper and past it onto cardboard so I can keep it beside me whilst stitching.

Mood board with possible colours

5. Preparing the fabric

Cut Fabric

Now my design is ready to transfer to the fabric, I will cut a piece of fabric to the size I need – to do this I place my hoop on the fabric so I can see the size that I need and add approx 8cm (3 inches) extra as shown below.

Wash and iron.

Next I wash it in tepid water with a mild, chemical free, hand soap (castille is good). Then I iron it till dry. This ensures that the fabric is pre-shrunk and removes any sizing that is on the fabric. If you don’t wash your fabric two things will happen:

  • Sizing is a substance that is often applied to textiles to act as a protective glaze. This needs to be removed otherwise the fabric will not accept the transfer. Wash or steam iron the fabric to dissolve the sizing and ensure the fabric is bone dry before using the transfer.
  • Most fabric will shrink slightly when washed. As mentioned earlier when your stitching is complete and you wash it, the fabric will shrink and cause the embroidery to distort.

NOTE: If you have purchased your fabric with the print already on it, do not wash your fabric as it will distort the print. Keep your fabric clean whilst stitching and block afterwards, do not wash.

iron fabric till dry


Next I will overlock (serge) the edges, because I have an overlocking machine so I can! But you can also use a zig zag stitch on your sewing machine or fray stop or even masking tape to bind the edges. If you don’t bind the edges the frayed strands of thread will interfere with your stitching and are a nuisance.

Fabric cut, washed, ironed, overlocked and outline transferred.

Backing fabrics

A quick note at this stage about backing fabrics – I don’t use one. If your fabric is of medium weight and sturdy enough to support your stitching there is no need to use one and it makes life much easier! But if you normally use a backing fabric or if you are concerned that your fabric is not sturdy enough then use one, it is your choice.

NOTE: It is essential to keep your fabric very taut in the hoop whilst stitching so that you have a good tension. One of the major causes of puckering is due to slack tension.

6. Transferring the outline

So now I am ready to transfer the outline. There are a few ways to do this – I have a sublimation printer so I print out an iron on transfer and iron it on to the fabric, or if you have purchased one of my iron on transfers you can use this.

If you don’t have an iron on transfer here is another method – of using a light source and tracing the outline on to the fabric – you can find details here.

7. Mounting fabric in the hoop and needles

At this stage I will get out a size 10/11 sharps needle. I use Bohin needles exclusively now they are awesome but you could use any good brand of needle, more info here.

Finally I mount my fabric into the hoop – don’t forget to bind the inner hoop first. Most of you know how to mount your fabric so am not going to repeat this – if you are new to embroidery you can find details here or in my handbook.

8. Choosing Colours

I use my mood board to choose my colours. Here is a photo of my DMC stranded cottons – they are all housed in clear acrylic drawers so I can easily see which colour I am looking for. Right beside this is the colour chart – so I can refer to the chart and then find the colour. I try to do this in daylight and then check my colours again under my magnifying light to make sure they are correct.

The process of choosing colours does not end here, it is an ongoing exercise where I will change colours continuously whilst I am stitching.

I select more colours then I need so that I have a good selection to choose from whilst stitching and put them into little drawstring organza bags so I can see them at a glance.

9. Preparing instructions

I have a ton of spiral bound notebooks like this. I print out an enlarged outline or parts of the image and glue them onto a page in the notebook ready for making notes whilst I stitch. While I am stitching I will pencil in each thread colour and any specifics I have used for each part of the stitching.

Notebooks for Kew Book of embroidered flowers

Every now and then I stop stitching and go up to my studio to scan the embroidery so I can show step by steps in the pattern. I use a scanner rather than a camera because 1) photography is not my strong point and 2) the scanner captures the image using a consistent light source and picks up little details.

scanning step by step

When the project is complete these notes have to be transcribed into a pattern, which I do in either Indesign or Corel Draw. The process of scanning and writing up notes is my least favorite part of embroidery as it can be very disruptive and spoil my creative flow!

Pattern Instructions

10. Preparing for Stitching

I put everything I need for my project, mounted fabric, threads, needles, and scissors into a clean white cotton bag – you could also use a pillowcase. Then march off to the living room with my notebook under my arm, where I have a comfortable chair and my magnifying lamp and start stitching. I often watch a good TV series or listen to a podcast whilst stitching so this is my happy place!

11. Conclusion

So thats my process for the preparation of a design. If you are not sure about anything you can find all the information you need under Resources. Next Friday we will start the stitching. Meantime, please assemble all your materials and prepare your project so that you can follow along. Don’t worry if you miss any of these blog posts you can access them by looking for the previous posts on my Blog and stitch at your own pace in your own time.

Till then, wherever you are in the world keep smiling and happy stitching!


September 17, 2020 — trishburr
Tags: News