Sunday, October 16, 2016

Christmas Embroidery School - Lesson One

Welcome to Christmas Embroidery School, the third installment of the SweaterDoll Embroidery School series

Each series is a stand-alone series, so if you haven't attempted the previous lessons, don't worry. Every stitch is taught anew, even if it has been used in a series before.

In this one week series, we'll learn some new fill stitches and repeat a few basic stitches, such as stem stitch and lazy daisy. Each lesson covers three to four stitches.

What you need:

Basic supplies such as scissors, a hoop, needle, fabric, and stranded cotton embroidery floss. 

You'll also need to choose a method for transferring the pattern to the fabric. You can review a number of methods in this lesson from the original Embroidery School.


The pattern for this series is shown in the photo at the top of the page. Just click here to download the pdf.


The design shown above was printed at 95% and fits well into the 7" hoop shown. If you trace or print at 100%, use an 8" hoop.


Choose your own colors or make one just like mine. A seasonal red linen worked in white would look stunning. Or have fun and go with fun brights. The colors I used are charted on the second page of the pattern download.

Splitting the floss

Stranded cotton embroidery floss has 6 strands. Most of the work in this sampler is done with 4. Each lesson will specify how many strands to use with each stitch.

The skein of floss ought to have one protruding end which should pull smoothly. Sometimes it doesn't, causing a traffic jam in the middle of the skein. But usually it works perfectly. 

Pull out about 18" of floss (I use my forearm as a measure) and cut this off. 

Some people like to grab the thread about an inch or two from the top and pull out one strand at a time and then use the number needed. 

I just grab 2 strands in one hand and 4 in the other and start pulling the strand apart. At some point, this will get tricky and I just grab the opposite end with my mouth and straighten out the Y of floss and the rest separates easily all the way to end in my mouth.

Not very scientific, but it works for me.


I use a smaller embroidery needle, size 7, and sometimes a quilting sharp size 10.


I used my favorite cotton homespun fabric. This homespun is a lovely weight and is available in Australian quilting stores. It is a linen-like fabric that has more weight than a quilting cotton and is easier to embroider. It is soft, like a good flour sack towel, but has the weight of an old-fashioned, truly excellent calico (US)/ muslin (AU) fabric.

How much fabric? Take the diameter of the hoop you use and add at least 1 1/2". For example: for a 7" hoop, use at least an 8 1/2" square of fabric.

NOTE: This is NOT the cotton quilting fabric in Spotlight or Lincraft with the same name.

And now it's time for the stitching!

Stem stitch

Use 4 strands of floss. Bring the threaded needle up from the back at one end of the line. Insert it into the fabric at the end of the stitch and pull through to the back, leaving a loop. Bring the needle back up about halfway down the first stitch and pull through.


Insert the needle at the end of the next stitch and pull through, leaving a loop again. Bring it back up about 1/3 into the entire stitch - about halfway between the end of the last stitch and the thread on the right.

You will continue to make stitches this way. You only go halfway on the first stitch and about 1/3 the total stitch on the remaining.

This is how to do it if you don't want to use the stab method.

These are the areas using stem stitch on the ornament.

Diagonal Laid Fill Stitch

This stitch is a lovely fill using diagonally laid straight stitches which are tacked down at the intersections. 

Use 4 strands of floss for the diagonal lines and 2 strands for the crosses.

Draw evenly spaced parallel diagonal lines or eyeball lines and stitch from one side of the space to the other as shown.

Once you have completed one side, cross the stitches over the first set creating wide diamonds.

Use the second color to tack down the intersections using a small vertical straight stitch followed by a small horizontal stitch - a small cross.

Wheel Stitch

Use 4 strands of floss. Draw three circles in the wedges on both sides of the area you just stitched. Bring the needle up at the edge of a circle, down into the center, and back up again a little way along the circle edge.

Wrap the floss around the back of the needle. Pull through.

Insert the needle again in the center of the circle coming back up another small bit away on the circle edge. Pull through.

Work these stitches all the way around the circle edge.

Closed Blanket Stitch

Use 4 strands of floss. Bring the needle up as shown at the top corner of the wedge outside the wedge with the wheels.

Take a slight diagonal, insert the needle to the back, and come up next to the original stitch and pull through to make one straight stitch.

Insert the needle as shown in the second photo and come up at a point further down the side of the wedge. Wrap the thread to the back of the needle and pull through to create a triangle. 

Begin making the next closed stitch the same way, making a single straight stitch first for one side of the triangle and then closing the other side of the triangle.

Keep working down the wedge making smaller triangles. Repeat this stitch working in mirror image in the wedge on the opposite side.

That's it for today! Great job!

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