Mary Corbet

writer and founder


I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Hand Embroidery Patterns


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Free patterns for hand embroidery! Here you’ll find a variety of motifs to embroider anywhere. They would look great on household linens (guest towels, table runners, table cloths, & cutwork pieces come to mind) or even as accents on clothing.

You can find my complete index of hand embroidery patterns (with thumbnails) available on Needle ‘n Thread here.

These hand embroidery patterns come from a variety of sources – some from old embroidery pattern catalogs that I own, that are well out of copyright, some designs below I drew myself, inspired by objects that were never meant for hand embroidery.

I hope you enjoy the designs. If you use them in your own projects and are interested in sharing the results, feel free to contact me! I’d love to see what you do with them!

Here’s a stylized flower stalk. It would look great in any kind of thread, but especially in silks, with a combination of stitches for texture. You could also “needle paint” it for a nice, smooth effect. Goldwork is another option, for something very fancy. You could work this in white, on white linen, for a nice guest towel. Vary your stitches for texture, and you’d have a beautiful design in white. Seed stitch inside different line stitches can create a nice effect. Click on the image for a larger version.

Here’s a list of more designs for hand embroidery that you’ll find on this site:

Passion Flower Design – great for corners!

Fleur de Lys border – lots of options on this one, and easy to stitch, using basic line stitches.

Single Lily – perfect for household linens, guest towels, and whatnot.

Border for Redwork or other techniques – a simple border that would work up quickly.

Pretty Daisies – great for practicing line stitches around curves.

Butterflies! – A couple nice butterflies for any kind of hand embroidery technique.

Acorn Border – a simple border suitable for anything fallish!

Maple Leaf

Flower Border – published under the “Linea” post, this pattern is suitable for any embellishment.

Grape Vine – Exceptionally pretty design for borders on household items.

A Scrolly Border – another versatile border design

Jacobean pattern – an exercise in crewel work, for more advanced embroiderers

The Acorn, revisited – another acorn pattern for seasonal embroidery

Simple Rose Design – a corner design of simple roses

Jacobean pattern with Butterfly

Daisies! – great embellishments for just about anything.

Single Flower – another multi-purpose design, suitable for beginners and beyond; includes stitching suggestions.

A Bunch of Little Flowers – all kinds of uses for this design. A repeat is also shown.

Goldwork Sampler – a magnificent pattern to use as a ‘sampler’ for learning different techniques of goldwork.

Silk Shading Sampler – a beautiful pattern suitable for practice in silk shading and gold couching.

Sunflower Cross – a nice pattern for basic embroidery stitches – can be used for church embroidery or secular.

Flower Medallion – another pattern that can be used for basic embroidery on household goods, etc.

Decorative Border – this pattern would look great on the edge of household linens.

Simple Lily – this pattern is very simple, and would be great for quick embellishments or even for applique techniques.

Bookmark or ? – a diamond column with a four-petal flower motif within, great for a hand embroidered bookmark or even household linens.

A Circular Thing – I’m not sure what else to call this. It’s a nice circle pattern, especially suited to line stitches.

Monogram – the Letter A – a very pretty “A” that can be used to personalize gifts and household items.

Circles – a pattern for stitching on the drawstring bags the kids made in our summer embroidery classes, 2007.

Dancing Daisies Garden – another pattern for stitching on the drawstring bags, Summer, 2007.

Simple Daisy Wreath Pattern – this is another pattern used on the kids’ drawstring bags this summer, 2007. The middle of the wreath is perfect for a fancy initial!

A Simple Jacobean Motif – with suggestions for stitching.

Embroidered Bag Sampler Pattern – a simple pattern for the outside of a drawstring embroidered bag. Uses a variety of stitches!

Jacobean Flower and Leaf – this is a typical Jacobean looking flower and leaf pattern, very nice for a single motif or worked into a larger piece.

Single Stylized Leaf – here’s a simple single stylized leaf pattern which would combine well with other Jacobean motifs or work on its own.

Hanging Flower Pattern – good for goldwork or any kind of surface embroidery, this is a unique little flower and very pretty.

Jacobean Leaves – three leaves together that would make another interesting addition to a whole Jacobean sampler, or can be worked individually. This one is also adaptable to goldwork.

Fuschia Embroidery Pattern – here’s a pattern for a single fuschia, very pretty and simple in design.

Simple Single Flower – another pattern that would work well as Jacobean or crewel embroidery, but is adaptable to any surface technique.

Pretty Stylized Scroll & Flower design – this is a beautiful design suitable for silkwork or other shading techniques. It can be adapted to other forms of surface embroidery. It’s one of my favorites!

Tulips ala William Morris – Here’s a nice tulip pattern after William Morris. It would make a great pattern for any surface technique.

William Morris Flower Thingy – another motif after William Morris.

Slender Flowers – a tall and slender bunch of three flowers, with very pretty leaves and stems. It would make a great study in whitework, but could be used for almost any surface technique.

Fortune Cookies – Rather a strange little motif, but there it is, nonetheless.

Repeating Scroll Design from Therese Dillmont – perfect for shading and filling techniques. A pretty design!

Corner Motif – A pretty and simple diamond (or square) shaped corner motif perfect for hand towels, bread cloths, or even for goldwork couching practice!

A Leafy Border – another simple line design suitable for all kinds of applications – from household goods to the hem of a skirt.

Scrolly Design – works great for line stitches; pretty on household linens and so forth.

Scrolly Medallion – somewhat diamond shaped (though not perfectly symmetrical) and very ornate; another good pattern for simple line stitches.

Medallion Frame – a simple interwoven, double-lined frame that would look great enclosing a monogram.

L-O-V-E in a Box – a four-box design, with L-O-V-E written in flowered monograms.

Scalloped Heart – very simple and sweet.

Leafy Medallion – I think this one would work well for goldwork.

Blackwork Trees – Well, you can divide up the motif, actually, and use it as trees, or line them up and use them as a decorative edge! Up to you!

Stylized Pomegranate – Pretty design, perfect for needlepainting or goldwork, and would work well for ecclesiastical embroidery, too.

Carnations – a pretty carnation bunch, perfect for needlepainting. There’s a colored version along with it, so you can get an idea of shading!

Leaf and Flower Corner – a perfect design for the corner of a handkerchief, or cloth napkins, or a larger tea towel, or – even larger – a tablecloth.

Diamonds and Fleur de Lys – a diamond motif for simple embroidery.

Needlelace Pattern – an egg-shaped pattern for needlelace, with resources for learning techniques.

Cutwork Pattern – flower motif with scroll designs for cutwork. This pretty design can also be used for other embroidery techniques.

Another Scrolly Medallion – perfect for line stitches and satin stitch dots. This design would be great on a square pillow or on the outside pocket of a tote bag.

A Turkey – Great for Thanksgiving and Autumn embroidery, as well as for various kitchen items.

Stylized Tudor Pomegranate – This design would be fantastic for goldwork and silk shading.

Quaker Motif: Bird in Tree – This design is styled after a Mary Wigham cross stitch motif and adapted for hand embroidery. It would make an excellent Christmas ornament or a nice element on your own surface embroidery sampler.

Quaker Motif: Circle, Petals, & Quilt-Square – This is another design adapted from a Quaker cross stitch motif and made into a hand embroidery pattern. This would work well on quilt squares, as it has a kind of quilt-square-look.

Farmyard Scene & Fable Illustration – a neat cutwork pattern that illustrates a fable, this can be used as a regular surface embroidery design as well.

Springy Flower Corner Design – this makes a really nice corner for a brightly embroidered towel, tablecloth, pillowcase, etc. You can see my embroidered version here.

Needlelace Pattern: Easter Egg – This is an egg-shaped pattern for needlelace, perfect for a lace Easter egg or an oval inset.

Celtic Cross – Perfect for St. Patri
ck’s Day or any time of the year!

Stylized Pomegranate – used for goldwork and silk shading – you can watch this series progress by visiting my goldwork links.

Heart o’ Flowers – a fun design for colorful embroidery! It’s a heart, filled with flowers.

The Crewel Rooster – this is my crewel embroidery project worked in January, 2010. You can see the embroidered rooster here.

Easter Egg with Flowers – a fun egg shaped design packed with flowers – perfect for Spring!

There are more to come – I try to post free patterns fairly regularly! If you want to be informed of new content on Needle ‘n Thread, sign up via RSS feed or subscribe to my daily newsletter (the subscriptions in the top of the right hand column!) With the daily newsletter, you get each day’s blog post delivered straight to your inbox, so you never miss a post, and you can save them or print them for future use!

Hope you enjoy the patterns!


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(66) Comments

  1. I’m looking for an embroidery pattern for violets either single or in a line or small bunches for an edge or border. Can you help me? I’m also interested in butterfly patterns, if you have any. Thanks! Sandy Nelovnik

  2. Mary,
    I was going through your website last night and noticed all these beautiful patterns that you suggest would be good for table cloth, pillow cases or guest towels. My question is, how do you embroidery a border pattern on towel material? Also, for pillow cases, do you suggest store bought table cloth and standard pillow cases are fine for embroidery? Please advise.

    Many thanks!

  3. For towels, I’m generally talking about flour sack or linen towels, rather than terry cloth towels (like the standard bath towels). You can find flour sack towels at hobby stores or even just in the housewares / linens sections of regular stores – you can use white, but you can also used colored towels to embroider on, too. For pillow cases, just use standard pillow cases – the problem is that there is usually a “hem” or casing on the finished ones you buy in a store, so you might want to make your own (pillow cases are super-easy to make, if you sew – or even if you’re just a beginner. OR – you can buy the standard pillow case and undo the casing, do your embroidery, and then sewing the casing back up. OR you can buy pillow cases for embroidery at craft stores… so many possibilities…. so little time!

    If you’re buying your own fabric to make pillow cases, go for a high thread count cotton (200 or higher).

    Hope that helps!

  4. Sorry – for table cloths, you certainly can use store bought! You can embroidery on anything, so it just depends on what you want to do! But you can also buy, for example, white linen or white cotton to make more delicate table cloths!

    Check out stores like TJMaxx or similar for good deals on cloth napkins or table cloths. Even if they’re colored or “damask,” you can still embellish them.

    You can also go through sites like http://www.embroiderthis.com and order a pre-hemmed table cloth and pre-hemmed napkins to embroidery (usually they’re a blend of linen and cotton). They’re pretty nice!

  5. Thank you so much Mary for your detailed response. It seemed like you were talking to me in person explaining me in detail :)) I appreciate your excellent ideas.

    Wishing you much success!


  6. Does anyone know where I can find a large horse/western themed pattern? I need one large enough to almost cover a 45″x41″ Afghan. I’ve looked everywhere and everything I find is so small… thanks bunches!

  7. Hi!
    Does anyone know where I can find a lavender pattern to embroider. I am just learning to hand embroider and thought it would be neat to make pretty heart sachets or a small pillow with lavender vines/flowers hand embroidered on them and stuffed with fragrant lavender. Also has anyone tried whitework? It looks so pretty.

  8. hiiiiiiii
    i must congratulate you for your fabulous site and the amazing patterns you have posted.
    iam planning to do some embroidery on my kurti(dress top) could you suggest some pattern and also which fabric
    iam planning to do on cotton fabric will your patterns work out well on them

  9. I want to hand embroider onto linen for items such as dresser scarves, sachet pouches, pillows, but I am so confused about which linen to choose and which online to to buy it at. I cannot find linen locally. Does anyone have this kind of information to share? I want to be able to wash the linen and I love the old fashioned crispness.

  10. Hi, rgl…

    You’ll find good linen at a variety of online shops. You might want to try Nordic Needle, Needle in a Haystack, Windham Needleworks – to name a few. If you’re looking for a high-count, firm linen for cutwork or whitework, I suggest looking at the ecclesiastical linen by Legacy.

    There are other brands of linen that are good, too: Strathaven, Zweigart, etc.

    You might want to read my post on fabrics for surface embroidery, which may help you.

    Hope that helps!


  11. Hey ya’ll,
    I would like to know if there is a special kind of ink I should use to print out the pattern of my choice? This is all new to me.

  12. Does anyone know how to make a reusable – non-permanent transfer with these patterns? Would like to do it from my computer rather than having to trace the whole pattern.

  13. Just wanted to say thanks for all the patterns! I’m just starting out, dabbling a bit and needed something to work on since my imagination is terrible, though I can draw.

  14. I am making a poet shirt. Since I am using a solid color, I thought I would embroider down one side of the chest, the same side of the back and down the length of the opposing arm. Can you suggest a nice repeating pattern that is not too bold?

  15. This Site is AWESOME>>>>>>>>

    Hey that will be great if you can post some color pictures….that will help ppl to choose the best color

  16. Your site is wonderful!! I mostly embroider pillowcases and sheets and patterns are simply not commercially available. Thank you for posting your site. I like colonial girls or other fancy dressed ladies for pillowcases for little girls. Can anyone help me locate those types of patterns?
    Shirley, Louisiana

  17. Hi Mary,

    Thank you so much for your website, I love it! I am starting to get into embroidery, and have just finished a felted wool project. (I love felted wool projects) I have a basic question. How to I transfer the embroidery patterns you have posted on your site to fabric? Do I print the pattern from the computer onto transfer paper, and then iron it on? I have no clue. Thanks again for all of your help on the website, it is really great.

  18. Hi, AJ –

    Thanks for your comments!

    To transfer the patterns, I’d print them from your computer onto regular paper, then use either a light box or sunny window to trace them. If you are working on darker fabric, you could use dressmaker’s transfer paper (use it like carbon paper). You can also buy iron-on transfer pens (sulky are apparently the best), trace the pattern on the other side of the paper, and then iron it on. There are other ways of transferring fabric as well, such as prick and pounce, or using tissue paper, or using a water-soluble stabilizer…

    Best of luck!


  19. For a dahlia, maybe if you tried some dover books on flowers, or maybe some coloring books? You’d be surprised how accurate some of the finer botanical coloring books are! For stitching suggestions, I’d probably just adapt any long and short stitch techniques to the layers of the daisy-like petals. Trish Burr’s books would come in handy for this…..

    Best of luck!


  20. Thank you so much for posting all these wonderful patterns! Pretty patterns can be so hard to find. I love your site and use the it the time!

  21. Hi Mary

    I’ve never commented on any website before (so I hope this works!) but I just found your website and just have to say how great it is. I’m certainly a beginner and never thought I could do anything like this so thanks for making me believe that I can. I’m sure your site is going to be a great source of information. Thanks, you’re an inspiration.

    Canberra, Australia

  22. Hi, Lisa!

    Thanks for your comment! I’m glad to hear you’re getting into embroidery and enjoying it, and that Needle’nThread is helpful to you!

    Your first comment worked great! Good job! 🙂


  23. I have been embroidering since I was 4yrs old.I enjoy making some-thing old into some-thing new.I am always on the look out for nature,fancy ladies & men,puppies & kittens,butterflies,unicorns,fantasy,flowers.Just about any thing that catches my fancy.

    I have enjoyed following the different stitches that you post.Thank you so much for doing this.It has been hard to find different patterns that I can do without so much trouble that looks like I have spent many hrs doing on each project.Thank you so much for showing us how to do the different stitches.

  24. Hi! I am pretty novice in embroidery, but I want to learn more. So I would like to embroider a 9in round tablecloth to enhance further my skill and to gift as a gift.
    So could you please give me a pattern suggestion. I would be really thankful if it would have a central piece and little motifs on the edge. Thank You!
    By the way, I really love your website!

  25. Hi Mary,
    Just had a look on your site and it is really splendid and highly useful.
    The embroidery patterns too are so good that I feel like just tracing them out and working on them.Thank you…..Harina

  26. Hi Mary. Do you know where I can find a simple pattern for a cymbidium orchid? Or, can I just draw my own pattern and transfer to my fabric? Thanks! Christie

  27. I’m looking for a pattern to duplicate a pillow I saw in a gift shop in Colorado Springs. The pattern is of the State of Colorado with all the ski areas stiched in their approximate geographical location. It was fun and colorful and I would love to know if there is such a pattern I could do! Thanks!

  28. hi dear…..
    i looked at your website. all the designs are really good. i am impressed thanks. this is my first time that i have commented on any website

  29. Hola estoy buscando dibujos para bordar sabanas,toallas y mantelerias usted me los podria enviar si los tuviera o si sabe donde los podria consegir.
    Gracias y un saludo.

    1. Hi, MRY – I would imagine you can you can use google images and search “Cancer Ribbon” and come up with plenty of clip art that could be traced for an embroidery pattern. Just a thought! ~MC

  30. Hi Mary – Wow – you know there is a ton of stuff on the web about sewing/quilting etc. but your site is dead on with what I’d love to be doing here in Beacon, NY. I do not find very much available in the way of embroidery here – its all cross stitch and needle point and very corny craft projects. I want to do really, really beautiful hand embroidery – I too started very young and embroidered things on the legs of my blue jeans and where ever I could stitch something, I would. I am just now getting back into it as a hobby, but also teaching workshops because I feel there could be interest in it if only people offered to teach it. So, your web/blog site is a role model for me to follow and I thank you for putting yourself out here. Carry On!!

    Mary Ann – The Nacient Needle.

  31. i am looking for a embroider pattern for my pillow cover including chin stich, french knot, laisy daisy only . i want beautiful and easy designs for my pillow cover. please help me out

  32. Hi, Mary

    You’ve got a lot of designs here! After seeing your website, I have been inspired to take up embroidery

    I haven’t sewned a thread yet and I don’t know where to start in terms of learning the different stitches.

    Is there like a super basic pattern that I can use in order to learn say line stitches?

  33. I’m looking for a Thanksgiving theme to place in the center of a rectangular tablecloth. I like the acorns, but maybe a few pumpkins, scarecrows,fence, “Happy Thanksgiving”, and gourds. Have you ever seen something like this, or where would you suggest I look. Thanks for the help.

  34. Im trying to embroider on a somewhat silk fabric. And I need to embroider a five words. My question is: How do I do it?

    The fabric is multi colored. And I plan on using a white or beige thread for it. How do i embroid letters in a straight line on a multi colored fabric.
    I thought about printing the words on paper and somehow transferring it, but i dont see how.

    If you could please help me that would be great!! please email me! 🙂

  35. Thank you for the lovely patterns, I would love to use them later. Right now I am trying to embroider jeans jackets for my small grandsons. I have tried the tissue (carbon paper) and it doesn’t come off on the denim. So I tried the iron on patterns. They work but are all black, so they don’t show. I wanted to use a camping, tent, trailer, animals theme.

    Do you have any suggestions for me?

    Thank you, Myra Lehmann

    1. Hi, Myra – in the sewing notions section of any sewing or fabric store, you’ll find what’s called dressmaker’s carbon. It usually comes in a 5-pack of different colors: red, blue, yellow, white, and black. The yellow and the white work really well on denim, so you might try that! Best of luck! ~MC

  36. I am looking for patterns for the state pillows. Do you have them available? I have been searching for a long time and have never been able to fine a pattern. Thank you for your help. Kathy Holmes

  37. hi,
    i m fashion designing students
    i want to know about how designs created?
    is motif created with any theme?
    wat r prob if any correction need to made in designs?

  38. I am putting together a you tube video for a new paper craft product and wanted to take inspiration from historic embroidery. Would you mind if I adapted one of your out of print patterns and included a link to your website?

  39. Hi! Great site, so many lovely patterns. I am actually trying to find a simple border pattern (maybe small leave or floral in nature) to put around the bottom hem of my daughter’s jeans to dress them up. Everything I seem to have looked at so far seems a bit more ornate or intricate than what I’d need/she’d like. Any ideas??

    Many thanks!

  40. Thank you for sharing.

    Hi, I love your website. It is helpful, useful and practical. I need to say thank you.

  41. I have been looking for the Aunt Marth’s LARGE iron on patterns to embroidery for pillowcases and spreads.
    Looking for the large rose and basket designs, the large peacocks designs, the pillowcases borders. I would appreciate it if you can help me. Thank you. Mary

  42. I’m trying to find a pattern for an elderly friend in a care home. She had a pattern of a girl with a long skirt & holding a parasol. I think the girl was also wearing a bonnet. (The pattern was lost in her move to the home.) Can you help with a similar pattern? I’d love to be able to fine this for her as she has just now shown a renewed interest in embroidery.

    1. Hi, Paula – if you google “parasol girls embroidery pattern” you’ll find a lot of images. There are some folks who post vintage embroidery drawings online, and maybe you’ll find links to patterns available for purchase. You could also trace any of the drawings that are similar to what you’re looking for. Just a thought!

  43. This is the second time I have left a message, so I really hope you can find time to answer me. I am searching for iron on transfer patterns of Lilacs, but although lots of people have posted pictures or have a vintage pattern to sell, it will not fill my need. I need several of the same pattern to make several look alike tablecloths. Can you help me or point me to a company that might. I am running out of time.

    1. Hi, Georgette – You might try going through the various transfers available on Colonial Patters (that’s the website that has all the Aunt Martha patterns, including all the old florals). You might find something there. If not, you might invest in one of the fine-tipped iron on transfer pens from Sublime Stitching, find a good image of lilac clip art, and make your own transfer. That might work for you!

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