Embroidery 101: Satin Stitch Nepali Tiger Pillow

Three years I ago I took the adventure of a lifetime traveling to India and Nepal. We rode trains through the foggiest picturesque landscape, drank real chai tea from unfired clay cups, took a boat ride on the river Ganges, witnessed a holy dip in Allahabad, visited temples where cunning monkeys stole sweet offerings, and soaked in the traditional handcrafts. I really could go on and on reminiscing. In Nepal, on the steps to a temple, I met a man selling punch needle embroidery, thread and patterns. Of course I spent some time with him and purchased a few sets of hand pin-punched embroidery patterns on vellum paper. I could not be happier to be able to share the tiniest sliver of this memorable trip with you with this project using a reproduction of a Nepali embroidery pattern.

In the past two posts we’ve learned the running and backstitch, which are great for outlining and text. Today is all about the satin stitch, a great fill stitch used for covering larger areas. A striped tiger is a perfect way to practice and perfect your satin stitching skills! –Jessica

The full how-to continues after the jump…


Template (download here)
20 x 20” pillow cover (or make your own! I did using a yard of Kaufman Organic Canvas from Purl Soho)
20 x 20” pillow insert
Pebeo Setacolor fabric paint, Fawn (or any fabric paint)
Paint brush
Embroidery hoop/ 6x Q-Snap (http://www.qsnap.com/all_products.asp )
Embroidery floss, DMC 310 (black), DMC 3865 (white)
Size 5 embroidery needle


1. Print, center and transfer your pattern onto the pillow form. Since I made my own pillow I used a window as a light box and transferred the pattern with a water soluble pen. If you are using a premade pillow cover a transfer pen/pencil would be best, Just note that the image will be in reverse.

2. Paint the body of the tiger, avoiding the stripes, outlines and eye, with fabric paint. Let dry and heat set (check instructions on bottle for exact time).

3. Stretch your fabric in a hoop or Q-snap. I love q-snaps! They are basically PVC pipe square embroidery hoops that are perfect for larger/rectangular imagery. Use the satin stitch in 6ply to fill in the stripes in black, and teeth and nails in white.

First, I like to outline my shape in a rough, quick backstitch. This will be covered so don’t labor over perfect stitches here. This outline helps to define the shape, gives a smoother edge and adds a more three-dimensional finish. It also helps cover any uneven paint edges.
Break up your shape into two parts work from the center out one way and then come back to the center and work to the other end to complete the shape. I work in halves to help keep my stitches even or else they tend to slant. Start in the center of the shape coming up from the back of the fabric and going down into fabric on the opposite edge just beyond your outline. Make parallel, straight stitches that are close, but don’t overlap. Try to keep the stitches smooth and even.

4. Outline your tiger in a 6ply backstitch.

5. Remove any left over water soluble markers lines with water and a paint brush. Enjoy the hell out of all your hard work! If necessary, spot clean/hand wash your finished piece and iron from the reverse.

  1. April Louise says:

    Great step by step. The cushion looks really nice.

  2. Tulisaa says:

    This looks amazing i might have to try this out and save some money!

  3. Catherine says:

    NICE! Love hand embroidery. <3

  4. Ryan says:

    Anyone know where I can find that sofa?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      hi ryan

      it’s a custom sofa by leland at revive in pdx, i bought it at the portland bazaar:



  5. Kiel says:

    Hello – The gold wire object on the table is beautiful – Where can I find this? Thanks! :)

  6. Christina says:

    Love the other pillows on the couch! Any idea where one could find them also? :)

  7. Ryan says:

    Thank you Grace. I’ve been hunting for a sofa like that for awhile!

  8. jenny says:

    it looks beautiful!

  9. Lisa says:

    well I think I could do that!

  10. Gina says:

    I would also like to know where you found those other beautiful pillows!

  11. Melanie says:

    Yes, where are the other pillows from?

  12. melissab says:

    thanks for sharing this! i may make a baby blanket with it.

  13. Eva says:

    Awesome design, it’s going on my project list

  14. Sarah says:


    this may sound silly but how do you do a satin stitch?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      hi sarah

      the stitch is explained in the post :)


  15. Adam Harper says:

    Great post and I love this project. It has completely warmed my heart seeing someone else using there window as a tracing frame. I can’t tell you how smudged mine gets from me leaning on it and drawing all day. I’ll feel a little less alone when shaking my arm after it tires from holding it aloft for so long.



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