Or should I call this preliminary preliminaries? Whatever the case…
We’ll mark today as the official start date of this series on an embroidery project based on a design by Johanna Basford, from her book Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book, which I mentioned to you in December.
To start off, I’ll show you my preliminary steps in preparing to think about embroidering the design I chose from Secret Garden, and I’ll tell you what you can expect in this kind of step-by-step project development on Needle ‘n Thread.
The very first thing I did in preparing to prepare for this embroidery project (besides getting the artist & publisher’s permission to do all this with their book!) was consider the designs in the book and select the one I want to re-create with needle and thread.
If you’re familiar with the book and have your own copy of it, you’ll be able to go through it at this point to see what I’m talking about. Three designs struck me as particular suitable for the types of projects I was toying with: the owl, the peacock, and the hummingbirds. They each had their merits and I can easily see each of them translated with different types of embroidery techniques.
I settled on the hummingbirds finally, because as my ideas for the project developed, the “mirrored” birds seemed to be the best subject for translation.
Next, I did the one thing you should never do to a book: I cut it to pieces.
This is where a craft knife (think x-acto) comes in handy. The way the book is bound required me to slice the page I needed out, rather than cut the page or undo the binding. A craft knife did the job well.
Unfortunately, in cutting out the hummingbird page, I had to disrupt a design on the back of the page that’s part of a two-page layout. But, it’s all for The Cause, my friends! All for The Cause! We do what we must!
Oh, yeah. And I have two copies of the book – that’s why I’m not sweating the destruction of this one!
The next step I took is represented in the photo above, which doesn’t look too much different from the photo above it! But to clarify: I photocopied the design. In fact, I made two copies: the first is at 100% and the second at 90% (or 10% reduced in size).
Then I marked which was which.
Why the two copies in different sizes?
Well, the 100% represents the actual size of the design as it comes in the book. It is approximately a 9.5″ circle.
The copy that reduced the design by 10% produced approximately an 8.5″ circle. The actual elements in the design are not, individually taken, all that much different – just slightly smaller. But over all, the design is a whole inch smaller.
I wanted to see how much of a difference it would make in the individual elements, to reduce the design by 10% – I might end up working the 8.5″ round design rather than the 9.5″ round design. I haven’t made up my mind on this one yet.
The next stop: colored pencils. This is the fun part! I love coloring, and I sat down to color with absolutely no plan – just a casual coloring exercise. I’m working on the original page from the book. I’ve found that regular Prismacolors work well here, and so do Prang colored pencils (which are much more affordable). I tried the Verithin Prismacolors, but the hard lead, when sharp, tends to tear up the paper.
Now, the colors I’m working with are not necessarily the colors I will use. In fact, I’m still playing around with ideas about techniques, stitches, and so forth. At this point, I’m just coloring the design to get familiar with it and to see what I like and don’t like, as far as colors go.
Familiarity is Important
Getting familiar with a design – especially if you didn’t draw it yourself – is a pretty essential part of the preliminary process in an embroidery project. You might glance at a design and think, Wow! That would be great as an embroidery project! But until you are actually intimately familiar with the design, you can’t make good decisions about stitches, techniques, colors, or anything else.
Keep a List!
So this step of actually coloring the original is a good way to familiarize yourself with the whole design.
While you’re coloring, ideas about stitching will undoubtedly occur to you. It’s a good idea to keep a notebook on hand (or maybe an extra copy of the design that you can jot on), where you can write ideas down as they occur to you. Trust me! There’s nothing worse than having that Scathingly Brilliant idea that comes in a flash – that you’re sure you’ll remember – only to lose it again a few minutes later. So I always jot ideas down as I color or doodle!
Another way you can familiarize yourself with the design is to trace it. In my case, I made photocopies. But most home printers are not going to be able to handle the size of the original – it’s too wide for the typical home scanner that accommodates 8.5″ x 11″ pages. This page is approximately 10″ square, which makes tracing your pattern out a better option (though time consuming) if you can’t copy it. It might seem like a waste of time, when it would be much easier to photocopy, but while tracing, you’ll definitely accustom yourself to the details in the design.
Maybe I should mention that it’s always a good idea to have both the original of the design and at least one copy when you’re working out an embroidery project. I usually have several copies so I can play with color, take notes, doodle if I must, without worrying about marring up my pattern.
Step-by-Step Development on Needle ‘n Thread
What can you expect while I develop this project step-by-step on Needle ‘n Thread?
Well, I’ll warn you in advance: I won’t be publishing an “official” list of thread types and colors before I start stitching – I’ll publish the ones I’m using as I go; I won’t be telling you what technique goes where, ahead of time.
Unlike embroidery kits and instructions that you purchase, this design has not yet been worked out in embroidery – that’s what the step-by-step development is all about.
What I’m going to show you here on Needle ‘n Thread are my choices, explorations, trials, errors, corrections, decision-making processes, tips and instructions and so forth as the project develops.
How can you follow along?
If you’re interested in stitching the same project, you can do it the same way I do it, by working on a delay. You can wait until I publish a finished area or element, and then stitch it the same way yourself…
… you can take what you’ll learn from my explorations and apply what you learn to your own development of the project, your own way, with your own choices of thread types, stitches, colors. That way, you’ll have something unique at the end.
You might not be interested in stitching the project yourself, or you might be interested in stitching a different design from the book (for your own personal use) – and that’s fine, too! You can still benefit from following along, because many of the points we’ll cover can be applied to any embroidery project.
And just so you know in advance, I’ll be publishing articles on this project only occasionally – not every day. I’ll still be continuing with the same type of content you’re accustomed to on Needle ‘n Thread.
Think of it as a slow, meandering journey with a friend, full of adventures, obstacles, and fun moments along the way, and and you’ll have a good idea of what you can expect.
If you want to follow along and stitch this design – or another design in Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden coloring book – there’s one caveat: you’ll have to purchase the book. Since it’s not my design, I can’t share it with you. Please respect the artist’s copyright and don’t share the design among friends.
You can find the book through the following book affiliates:
In the US, you can find Secret Garden through Amazon and other major bookstores.
Free worldwide shipping for Secret Garden is available through Book Depository.
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