I’ve always been interested in various forms of art, but I’ve never dabbled in sewing or embroidery. Something about those two crafts has always intimidated me, so I’ve never dared to try my hand at them. But I’ve always been deeply enamored with embroidery, and it wasn’t until recently that I started considering actually trying to make embroidered goods myself. A friend of mine is a very talented sewer and all-around DIYer, and after I told her that I’m not equipped with the skills to sew, she assured me that I am — that all people are — it just takes practice. Serendipitously, I came across , a new book by Japanese textile artist and designer , and my new creative goal fell into place.
Yumiko’s book is so beautiful — page after page of simply-laid-out embroidered designs in fantastic colors and patterns, all of which have easy-to-follow stitching instructions and diagrams at the back of the book. The 38 projects range in difficulty from beginner to advanced, so there’s a little something for everyone. I was so excited about this collection of how-to’s that we asked Yumiko and to share two of the book’s stunning embroidery patterns and projects with our readers and they graciously obliged. Below you’ll find a list of tools needed, tips for getting your project started, and templates to print out so you can execute these designs. Happy stitching! —
Image above: “Garden Flowers” pattern from pages 68-69, template HERE
From A Year of Embroidery by Yumiko Higuchi, © 2018 by Yumiko Higuchi. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO.
Image above: “Cactuses” pattern from page 78, template HERE.
Introduction from Yumiko Higuchi
“The shifting of the seasons is woven into the themes of this month-to-month collection of embroidery designs. Each motif starts with one small stitch, but as my embroidery progresses through the seasons, I find myself contemplating the gentle turning of the world and the gradual cycle of all living things: flowers and plants, vegetables, birds and insects, snow and stars—and people as well. Spring nurtures its shoots, summer clamors for fun, autumn ignites brilliant colors, and winter deepens its tranquility. I find working on these designs a joyful, exciting time, and I feel grateful for the abundant blessings of nature.
Two of my favorite designs are outlined below, along with some embroidery basics if you are new to embroidery. Once stitched, you can also create small zakka crafts out of these finished projects, but you might also consider stretching them on a panel as art to decorate your walls.
In this day and age when any and everything is available in an instant, I hope you will enjoy the forgotten comfort of working with your hands.”
• Carbon Transfer Paper
• Tracer tool or ballpoint pen
• Embroidery Hoops: Use these to stretch fabric tightly. The hoop size will depend on the pattern size, but I recommend a 4-inch hoop.
• Scissors: Small, sharp, pointed scissors with a thin edge are the easiest to use for snipping threads.
• Embroidery Needles: Choose the size of your needle based on the number of strands you are using:
-No. 25 Embroidery Floss – Embroidery Needle
-6 Strands – No. 3/4
-3–4 strands – No. 5/6
-1–2 strands – No. 7–10
• No. 25 embroidery floss: No. 25 embroidery floss is the most popular. The shades of the colors and their identifying numbers depend on the manufacturer. To embroider the patterns in this book, I used DMC embroidery floss from France, which is known for its vivid colors and lustrous texture. There are 6 strands of cotton thread loosely twisted together in each skein, and each skein is approximately 8.7 yards long.
• Linen fabric. Plain weave linen is easy to work with, especially for beginners. However, linen fabric has a tendency to shrink, so in order to prevent the fabric from losing its shape, it’s best to wash and dry it before cutting it to size.
• Print your pattern of choice – Garden Flowers HERE and Cactuses HERE
• Place your carbon paper on top of your fabric, and lay pattern on top of both. Tape, pin, or hold in place and then trace the pattern using tracer or ballpoint pen.
• Put your traced fabric of choice into the embroidery hoop.
• Follow threading and stitching instructions outlined on the pattern.
Here are eight basic embroidery stitches. I’ll also show you tricks for finishing your work beautifully.
This stitch is used to create short lines. The number of strands you use will produce a different effect.
Use this stitch for borders or hems. See page 54 for a beautiful finishing technique.
This stitch creates a dotted line. When working across a section, move the needle half its length at a time.
The trick to creating a plump and pretty chain stitch is to not pull the thread too tight, and to keep the size of the loops uniform.
French Knot Stitch
The basic French knot stitch is a double wrap. Adjust the size based on the number of strands of thread. The knots are easily crushed, so work them as you finish a project.
This is a three-dimensional stitch. Line up the parallel threads and make sure they aren’t twisted for a beautiful finish.
Lazy Daisy Stitch
This stitch is used for a flower petal or leaf. Maintain a full shape by not pulling the thread too tightly.
Lazy Daisy Stitch + Straight Stitch
Sew one or two straight stitches across the center of the lazy daisy. You can create an oval or a circle, depending on the length of the stitches.