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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Inky Wonderlands & Embroidery Designs


Amazon Books

Did you know that creating your own hand embroidery designs really just starts with doodling?

Well, I take that back. I’d say it starts with conscious or mindful doodling.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Johanna Basford published a new book at the end of last year, focusing on learning to doodle in her particular style, which happens to be as suitable for stitching as it is for coloring. In fact, you can see my embroidered version of one of Johanna’s drawings here, if you want to take a look at it.

How to Draw Inky Wonderlands is a fabulous little resource for stitchers who like the contemporary doodling style and would like to dabble in creating their own designs to stitch in that style.

Let’s take a look at the book and chat about how it can be useful to the hand embroiderer.

Inky Wonderlands & Embroidery Designs

Johanna’s design style, in my mind, is a nice collaboration between contemporary and traditional.

In Inky Wonderlands, she takes the would-be Mindful Doodler through her own approach to drawing. She shows us how to start, offers manageable little motifs with practice layouts to work through, and demonstrates how to group together all the various elements that we learn to draw into larger presentations.

Inky Wonderlands & Embroidery Designs

Johanna’s subjects – whether leafy florals, woodland settings, little critters, or underwater scenes – make great subjects for needlework.

Her precise, clean lines are a marvelous springboard for interpretation in stitch. If you’re like me, meandering through any of her coloring books will most likely spark ideas in your head about embroidery!

Inky Wonderlands & Embroidery Designs

The book is divided into different types of elements. In the case above, it’s things you find in the garden, and predominantly flowers.

Obviously, the approach here is a stylized approach. The designs aren’t meant to look exactly like a real flower.

Inky Wonderlands & Embroidery Designs

There are myriad ways to go about producing stylized florals, and Johanna walks us through many accessible approaches.

Inky Wonderlands & Embroidery Designs

And if you need a few leaves to accent your flowers, never fear! You’ll learn to draw a variety of leafy elements, too!

Inky Wonderlands & Embroidery Designs

Once you’ve practiced individual elements, you’ll learn how to expand your design by grouping them together in sensible and attractive ways.

Inky Wonderlands & Embroidery Designs

And your designs can grow and grow as much as you want them to!

(Never underestimate the power of designing with repeats!)

Inky Wonderlands & Embroidery Designs

You have plenty of room to practice right in the book.

You’ll learn to draw some bugs…

Inky Wonderlands & Embroidery Designs

…and to doodle butterflies…

Inky Wonderlands & Embroidery Designs

…and you’ll even find some great ideas for developing critter-based designs. If you’re fan, for example, of Hazel Blomkamp’s approach to embroidering animals as found in her new books, this will give you all kinds of ideas for developing your own designs along those lines.

Inky Wonderlands is a fun, practical little manual of how to doodle in this particular style, and if you’ve ever been one to say, “I can’t draw my own designs,” this book will help you overcome that road block.

I like it a lot! I’ve had a lot of fun with it. I am doodler, anyway, but after playing with Inky Wonderlands, I’ve found myself approaching my doodling with a little more structure.

Don’t underestimate the doodle! I can point out several projects here on Needle ‘n Thread that started out as basic doodles and that developed into projects that I really enjoyed stitching. My blackwork fish project, the crewel rooster, this lattice jumble sampler, many of the Little Things in Lavender Honey, this basic sampler on hand embroidered lettering, many of the designs on my free patterns page – in fact, pretty much any of my own designs that I’ve stitched here on Needle ‘n Thread have begun in a doodle.

Where to Find It

If you’re keen to give Johanna’s approach to drawing a try, you should pick up a copy of Inky Wonderlands. It’s fun and informative, and when it comes to embroidery, it will most likely launch you into all kinds of ideas for your stitching!

You can find Inky Wonderlands through the following sources:

If you’re in the US, I’ve got it listed on my Amazon Recommendations page here. Just click through to the list titled “Browse my Amazon Recommendations” – those are all books that I recommend and that are available through Amazon.

Worldwide, it’s available here through Book Depository.

This article contains affiliate links for book sources, which means that any purchases made through those links will result in a small commission for Needle ‘n Thread. Thanks!


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(6) Comments

  1. Hi Mary,

    I love the book! And, Johanna has a 10 part series on her YouTube channel about “How to Draw Inky Wonderlands” that is all sorts of fun.

  2. These are delightful Mary! I remember enjoying your hummingbird design posts and I can see how these would adapt beautifully to embroidery. Rightio … another addition to my Amazon Wishlist! 🙂

  3. Love her work. I actually used a Sublime transfer pen on one of the pages, and ironed it onto my towel. I filled the design willy nilly with stripes and spots, using outline stitch and French knots. A simple design of one bug, and a couple of strappy flowers and a few blades of grass, turned an ordinary kitchen towel into a nice gift.

  4. Wow, I really like her approach and drawing style. I want her book. I have ideas in my head but hesitate to put them on paper. Thanks, Mary

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