Mary Corbet

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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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Easy Sources for Embroidery Designs: Plants and Animals


Amazon Books

Since a reader asked where to find some embroidery patterns for botanical subjects, herbs in particular, I thought I’d address the topic of where to find hand embroidery patterns of things that might not specifically be found as “hand embroidery patterns.”

First off, I should let Susan (the reader) know that she can find some embroidery patterns for herbs in particular at Colonial Patterns. They have an iron-on transfers for popular herbs, and the patterns look small enough for the type of linen Susan is planning to make. Just type “herbs” into the search box on their website, and it’ll come up.

BUT, if you’re looking for a particular embroidery pattern for something – especially botanical things – and you aren’t great at drawing, I think the best sources are …. coloring books! Especially if you’re looking for a “real” rendition of a plant or animal.

For example, this Dover coloring book on herbs has line drawing of all the popular herbs. You can photocopy and reduce them to the size you want, or you can just re-trace them. You could re-trace them and eliminate the details you don’t want, and then photocopy the tracing and reduce it to the size you want – and there you have your pattern! If you’re good a drawing, coloring books like this one are great for inspiration and accurate detail in the look of the plant. For example, I might know what coriander seeds look like, but if I want to draw the plant they come from (cilantro), I’d want to find an accurate image of it first, so that my interpretation in embroidery is at least recognizable! With the Dover coloring books, you’ll also get colored plates that show (in miniature) what each picture would look like colored. So Dover coloring books come in really handy for this type of thing, and they’re relatively inexpensive.

You don’t have to stick just to coloring books, though, when you’re looking for embroidery designs. Another great source for images of botanical life – or wild life, or aquatic life – are the various “field guide” type books. The nice thing about these books is that you get images of the plants (either drawn, watercolored, or photographed) of the plants or animals, and the colors are always absolutely accurate, because the whole point of the field guide is for you to identify what you’re looking at. I especially like books like this that have artistic renditions for images (so, drawn, painted, etc.) because the shading done by the artist is easier to imitate in embroidery, than if you were working from a photo. In fact, when working from a photo, I like to turn it into a line drawing (either by sketching or tracing), then shade it myself with colored pencils – photographs don’t give the same sense of “artistic” shading, I don’t think.

If you can’t find these types of books at your local bookstore or library, order them on-line. If you can save on shipping, you can get a good deal at Amazon, but if you’re buying just one item, it’s not necessarily worth the extra shipping (unless you can’t find what you want locally!).

So there are some ideas for embroidery design resources. Hope they’re helpful! Have fun!


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