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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Let’s Look at Lettering in Embroidery


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There are so many stitches out there in the embroidery world! And there are so many opportunities to use them to write with embroidery!

Favorite sayings, personalization, motivational aspirations – or the comical reverse – can all be said with embroidery. Embroidered words, phrases, names, places, dates – these can all be added to larger projects like quilts, blankets, samplers, decorative towels, pillows and pillowcases, wall hangings, and more. There’s no end to what you can do with embroidery and words.

What stitches work best for embroidering words? Well, it really depends on several factors: the size of your project, the design layout, the words you want to emphasize, the use your project will be put to, or simply the look you like. You have to take into account many factors when you consider what stitches to use.

What’s the best way to know how to determine what stitches to use where? Trial and error, really. Practice over time, experience – these things will help to teach you what works, stitch-wise, in different scenarios.

One of the best ways to get in that kind of practice is simply to stitch. A lettering / text sampler can help, and that’s what I was doing when I put together these lessons for hand embroidered lettering and text some umpteen million years ago.

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text Tutorials

I didn’t really start with anything “perfectly designed” as a sampler. My goal was simply to develop some lessons to demonstrate the types of embroidery stitches you can use for lettering.

I sat down with a piece of graph paper, a pencil, the most generic of texts – which I managed to get wrong! – and my own handwriting, and I doodled out a layout to stitch.

You can do the same thing! If you don’t like your own handwriting, use computer fonts and type the words out fairly large, print them, and trace them.

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text Tutorials

In this series of tutorials, we looked at all kinds of stitches, most of which are pretty basic, and we looked at how to use them best for writing.

We covered topics like how to carry the stitching thread from letter to letter so that the threads don’t show through to the front; how to stop and start stitching, to get nice intersections where the lettering comes together in sharp points or joins; how to work curves on curvaceous letters, and more.

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text Tutorials

Simple stitches like backstitch work well for a very clean, distinct letter style, especially when you want fine lines.

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text Tutorials

But you can also use stitches like ladder stitch, coral stitch, chain stitch, buttonhole stitch, stem stitch, Palestrina stitch, and you can even embellish your stitches further with other stitched elements – it all depends on how much texture you want, how much space you have, how big your letters are….

Throughout the series, I use a variety of threads for the letters, too, so that you can see that lettering isn’t relegated to one or two types of embroidery thread.

Learn From My Mistakes!

Before you launch into your own lettering sampler, here’s a little lesson for you.

I got something wrong when first working up the layout on the lettering sampler above.

That ubiquitous sentence (called a “pangram” because it contains every letter used in the alphabet), used often in teaching typing, is “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” I wrote out “jumped” and missed the “S” in the sentence.

To remedy, I just penned in an “S” after “dog” here and there, so I ended up with “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs.” It made the quick brown fox into quite a jumper!

I did something similar (only worse, really!) on this project:

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text Tutorials

This was a lettering tutorial that I worked up for a guest post on the old Craftsy website a long time back.

When I doodled up that text, I didn’t really even think about it. It’s the common placeholder text you see in publishing / wysiwyg software and such, where filler text takes up space to demonstrate what text will look like in that space. It is actually a Latin text – it isn’t just nonsensical gibberish. But I was lazy and I didn’t look up the spelling. I just typed “Lorum ipsum” … when it’s really “lorem ipsum.”

Learn from me!!!! These are both good lessons to demonstrate how important it is to double check the accuracy of – and proofread – your text before you embroider it!

Other Examples of Embroidered Text

Here’s a little bookmark that I stitched that had some text on it:

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text Tutorials

The front of the bookmark, which reads Save this Spot, was embroidered on green linen, using whipped backstitch in red and white.

The back of the bookmark was a red-and-white polkadot fabric. Spotted. Get it? It was a pun. (I’m not actually sure if anyone ever caught it…)

So that’s a simple example of how you can use text for something quick, fun, and useful.

Hand Embroidered Lettering and Text Tutorials

And here’s a sample of lettering that got verily encrusted with flowers. You can read about it here.

No, I never finished that sampler.

But the point: yes, you can write with embroidery stitches and then heavily embellish all around your writing with anything you want, really!

Go Have some Fun!

Now, here’s an idea:

You can take everything you learned from perusing the Stitch Fun! series that we revisited last week, and everything you learned from revisiting the drawn thread tutorials last week, and everything you learned from revisiting these hand embroidered lettering tutorials today, and you can work up your own stitch sampler featuring your favorite quote and framed or interspersed with a some drawn thread work borders.

That would be fun, wouldn’t it?

(Actually, that would be really fun! Why didn’t I think of that?)

What’s Up?

I’m on the road this week, so email response and comment moderation on the website will be slow. If you email me with something urgent – like a problem with a download – please be patient. I will reply as soon as possible. If you have a general question about embroidery, please use the search feature on the website to see if there are any articles that might answer your question.

Anna and Christine are holding the fort back at Needle ‘n Thread, so if you are in need of hoops, kits, ready-to-stitch towel sets (they’re all in stock!), or anything else that we have, you can still visit the shop and your items will still ship this week! Yay!

Have a wonderful week!


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(2) Comments

  1. Mary, how do you do it? Every time I think about trying something new to me, you anticipate by publishing something really, really helpful! When a friend shared the pangram ‘Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow!’ I foolishly said that would be a great text to embroider. It’s all drawn on the linen, with an appropriate sphinx illo, but I hadn’t started because I’d been dithering about how to stitch the letters.

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