I love that embroidery has been making such a big comeback lately! There are so many amazing embroidered pieces popping up that I can’t help but be inspired by them. (If you haven’t already seen Grace’s roundup of 18 Embroidery Instagram Feeds to Follow, go now!) Recently I stumbled upon this image of Ellie Mac’s embroidery, and I knew I wanted to try my hand at some really textural embroidery.
Using cording under the embroidery stitches (“satin stitch couching”) is the key to getting such a 3D look. The abstract shapes were so fun to come up with, and I had to throw in some fun colors a la Elizabeth Pawle. I will warn you that this project is not a quick one! I’d estimate it took me about 8 hours to do this piece, and it’s only about the size of a sandwich. Once you get going, though, the stitch is super simple to do while binge-watching your favorite show. —Kathleen
-Small picture frame (with removable glass)
-Cord (various sizes)
Step 1: Trace your frame onto a piece of paper and draw your abstract design into the visible space. Keep in mind the different sizes of cord you have to use when drawing the shapes.
Step 2: Cut a piece of white cotton and lay over the paper design. Lightly trace the design onto the cotton.
Step 3: Put the cotton into the embroidery hoop and tighten until the fabric is taught, like a drum. If possible, use a hoop that can fit the entire design at once. To get started, cut a piece of cord to the length of one of your drawn lines. My cord was fraying a lot, so I wrapped a piece of washi tape around the cord and then cut through that. Thread your needle with the desired color of embroidery thread, using all six strands together, and tie a knot at the end.
Pin the cord in place and start embroidering! Start with the needle at the back of the fabric and come up right next to the cord you’re working on, staying as close as possible. Then pierce the fabric right next to the other side of the cord, going from the top through to the back. You should have something similar to the aqua thread below.
Step 4: Continue wrapping the cord in this way, tying off and rethreading when necessary. This stitch is a version of couching, sometimes called satin stitch couching.
Step 5: When you get to the end of the cord, carefully remove the wrapped washi tape and continue as before, using your finger to guide the thread into place. Getting the end covered nicely can be tricky, but be patient and pull the thread carefully and you’ll have it in no time. Depending on the cord you use, it can help to use scissors to trim down the ends to a rounder shape — I found it was easier to get them fully covered that way.
Step 6: Continue adding cording onto the drawn lines, switching colors as you go. If you’re working with a longer/bigger design, it can help to do a few tacks along the cord first to hold it in place, as shown below in pink.
Step 7: When done, remove the fabric from the embroidery ring and iron/steam any visible creases. Then cut a piece of cardboard to fit into your frame and wrap the fabric around it, taping the edges down on the back. Put the embroidered art into the frame, and hang!