/ / 3 Simple Ways To Improve And Better Enjoy Your Hand Embroidery

3 Simple Ways To Improve And Better Enjoy Your Hand Embroidery

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old, whitewashed farmhouse with a sea of purple crocus in front of the cottage.

I grew up in the northern part of Germany in a small farming village close to the Danish border pre the Internet era. I was always quite a restless child, so sitting indoors and reading was not my cup of tea, at least not at that time. I loved to explore anything craft, though, as it allowed me to get lost in an activity and create something along the way.

As much as I loved to craft and got so much joy from it, it also caused me some frustrations. But over the years, my approach to and my appreciation of crafting has much changed and for the better.  Like so many things, crafting is about how you approach it. I want to explore this a little bit further. 

The thing with perfection

I wouldn’t say I was the most talented crafter or hand embroiderer, but it brought me so much joy (at least most of the time ), and I was always eager to learn more. But I always have had that little voice in my head saying things were not good enough and not perfect, so I was redoing, redrawing and opening up and redoing my stitches a lot. I still hear my dad saying, “you are opening up more than you are stitching”.

I followed this pattern for many years, as everything had to be just so. As with so many things in life, there is a negative side and a positive side to creating something perfect. 

On the negative side, it can result in quite a lot of stress and frustrations. I still remember one time when I had chosen to sew a blouse for a school project, and I was fuming when I couldn’t get the collar the way I wanted it to look. My poor mum often had to help me out; she was so patient!

work in progress of hand embroidered and applied daisies on vintage linen

On the other hand, repeating an activity time and again allows you to improve your skills over time.

I think a big difference here is to see your craft as a journey. You can invariably enhance aspects of your work, whether it is the stitching, the combination of colours used, the introduction of texture or creating more space around your object. Aim for mastery but perfection? 

I remember an occasion when I was disappointed about a piece of work I created in an art class, and one of my art teachers told me, “Why do you want to achieve perfection? If you have achieved perfection, you won’t want to create anything else, which would be a real shame!”

Trying things out

Most of the time, I try out stitches before starting on my hand embroidery project to see whether they work for my intended purpose. But I am not only trying out stitches; I also try out threads, colours and textures and how elements work with each other.

For example, I love using different hand embroidery threads, whether they are linen, cotton or wool. Each type of thread has its unique properties, and I love how you can achieve variety by using these different kinds of embroidery threads. 

image of a partially finished and hand embroidered burden stitch sampler.

Sometimes what I have in my mind turns out very differently when I stitch, so practising does not only improve your technical skills, but they help you to determine what works best.

By practising your stitches, you are training your embroidery muscle. And when you get started on your main piece, your hand already knows what to do, and you can focus on the design rather than the stitching and, most importantly, enjoy seeing the design grow under your hands.

Keeping notes 

As other people journal about their life, I journal about my embroidery and embroidery journey. The things I journal about can either be thoughts about a particular piece I want to stitch or about more practical aspects such as individual motifs, colours, and materials to use. 

I started keeping a stitch journal when embroidering a few years ago as I realised that I ‘lost’ lots of my thoughts along the way. I found creating the journal a little bit cumbersome initially, as I did not know how to best approach the journal. I now love my journal writing.

When I begin with creating a new embroidery design, I always start with gathering inspiration around me. I then continue drawing motifs with a simple pencil and then get fancier with some watercolour sketches. I write down what I like and what I don’t like and what can be improved. Often I jot down a little drawing and annotate the design elements with any changes or ideas for future projects. If something did not work, I note down what I did instead. 

drawing of alice in wonderland whith annotations how to hand embroider and apply each drawn element.

When I begin with creating a new embroidery design, I always start with gathering inspiration around me. I then continue drawing motifs with a simple pencil and then get fancier with some watercolour sketches. I write down what I like and what I don’t like and what can be improved. Often I jot down a little drawing and annotate the design elements with any changes or ideas for future projects. If something did not work, I note down what I did instead. 

Besides helping with future projects, journaling is an excellent way of documenting your embroidery or crafting journey and a great memento to look back on. Moreover, like embroidery making notes and thinking about your designs makes you more present and be in the moment. It helps you focus and enables you to declutter your mind. 

I also often find that putting pen to paper expands my creativity. By engaging with what is on my mind and jotting this down, I often develop other solutions or generate ideas for future projects. 

Hand embroidery is a skill like any other that you need to hone, and it takes time to improve. Try not to compare your work with the beautiful hand-embroidered pieces of artists you see on Pinterest and Instagram; these were usually years in the making. We all need to start somewhere, and we will learn from our mistakes and improve over time.

I would really encourage your to start an embroidery or craft journal as it allows you to track your progress and expand your creativity.

Embrace your imperfect work. It’s a marathon and not a sprint. And the main thing is to enjoy the journey.

I would love to hear whether any of this resonates with you and whether you have your own practices that help you to improve your stitching practice.

Happy Stitching!

XO,

signature with the name 'Heidi'

PS If you enjoyed this post you might also like the following post, in which I will explore some techniques to help with productivity in crafting.

8 Tips To Be More Productive When Crafting

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