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Inspired to Design


Many embroiderers want to move onto that next step to design their own piece of embroidery, but feel they cannot find inspiration, or that it won’t look “good” enough compared with bought kits or designs.

To deal with the second problem first. Professional designers not only have more experience in creating embroidery designs, they also have a lot of tools that they use; ranging from the actual tools they use to create their design, to test stitchers to see how it works, and finally the professional publishers who publish it and some even have people to help write the instructions.

Do don’t despair – the most important thing about designing your own embroidery piece is that you are happy with what you are done and feel a sense of accomplishment that it is all your own work! It doesn’t need to look professional, but it does need to please you and give you a sense of accomplishment.

The inspiration is another thing – and you only need to look at historical embroidery pieces to see where those embroiderers got their inspiration from.

Late Medieval and Elizabethan amateur embroiderers used books called “Bestiaries” or “Herbals” for their inspiration. A beastiary was a book with illustrations of not only real but mythical animals (even if some of the depictions were rather far fetched!) and herbals were books with illustrations of plants – both exotic and local. They would copy or trace these illustrations to their designs, often in the same size as was depicted in the book, so their work has a glorious lack of scale to it, resulting in lions the size of carnations, butterflies the same size as trees. They also didn’t even try to match “natural” colours, instead using whatever colour took their fancy, or suited their colour scheme.

Don’t worry if you can’t draw! There are plenty of books out there with simple line drawings that you can trace, then put together to make your design. Colouring books are great sources for these simple line drawings as well. The main focus of the design is not the quality fo the drawing, but the skill you have as an embroiderer. The colours and threads you use, the stitches you choose, and the fabric you choose to stitch on.

In many ways, it is where we, as amateur designers, tend to go wrong. We want that “perfect” look – and fret if your dog design doesn’t look exactly like a dog, or if our attempt at a building doesn’t have exactly the same colour scheme as the original. Designing an embroidery, just like any form of artwork, is all about you and your imagination. It is about letting your imagination run free and express it in your stitching of your imaginations design.

And when you look at a piece that you have designed and stitched, you forget the imperfections and think proudly “I made that”!


Recommended Reading

Design in Embroidery

Stitch and Structure: Design and Technique in Two- and Three-Dimensional Textiles

Digitizing Made Easy: Create Custom Embroidery Designs Like a Pro


Is there anything that you would particularly like to see an article on? If so, please contact me with your suggestions.

© 2014 Megan McConnell



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Content copyright © 2014 by Megan McConnell. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Megan McConnell. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Megan McConnell for details.

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