How to achieve professional results in embroidery 

17 September 2020
Jessica-Devin-Robin-Red-Breast-embroidery Robin Red Breast by Jessica Devin. Full project in Stitch issue 127.
Wondering how to make your embroidery look professional? Follow needle-painter Jessica Devin’s guide to achieving perfect results every time!

Great embroidery starts long before you pick up needle and thread. And ends well after the stitching is finished. 

Following on from Jessica Devin’s guide to beautiful embroidery, Jessica shares her embroidery process, step by step. Learn how to prepare your embroideries, how to get stitching and how to achieve the desired finish. Plus, find out Jessica’s stitching mantra! Happy stitching!

Getting professional results

Jessica Devin

Jessica Devin.

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Jessica’s stitching mantra

  • Wash your hands before you start – every time!
  • Use one strand of floss. 
  • Make sure to stitch with the grain of your floss. 

How to prepare your embroideries

1. Wash the fabric first so you can wash them when finished – this will avoid shrinkage later. Gently wash, dry and iron your fabric. 

2. Next, identify the grain of the fabric. Do this by pulling a thread on two sides, at the edges of the fabric at right angles. Then you can centre the design.

3. Transfer the design onto your fabric using your preferred method.

"I use prick and pounce to transfer my pattern. Or, using a lightbox and a pencil or a blue water soluble fine-tipped pen, you can trace the pattern onto the fabric."

4. Overcast or machine zig-zag stitch around the edges of the fabric.

5. Mount fabric on stretcher bars or in a hoop. Always keep the fabric drum tight. If using a hoop, remember to take the fabric out, if not actively stitching, to prevent hoop marks or burns.  

Get stitching!

6. Cut one thread at a time off the skein, and thread your needle with the non-cut end to ensure you're stitching with the grain. This helps keeps your stitching smooth. Just make sure you’re pulling from the proper end of the skein. On DMC threads this is the end with the bigger barcode label. Always pull the thread slowly to avoid tangles.

7. To start your thread, use waste knots or away knots. End your thread with 2-3 tiny seed stitches. Make sure you place the stitches somewhere within the pattern, so they’ll be covered by other stitches. If you can’t start or end your thread with seed stitches, weave your thread a few times behind previous stitching on the backside of the embroidery to secure the thread. Then add a small knot securing the thread to the stitches. Don’t use regular knots to start or end your threads. They’ll come undone over time and leave bumps on the back of the embroidery. Don’t carry your threads too far over on the back of the piece. Try to keep the back of your work tidy. 

8. Use tissue paper or cellophane wrap over the fabric. This protects it from any dirt or oils on your hands while stitching. Place it on the sides, bottom and top of your frame over your embroidery, after you’ve tacked your fabric. Or, if using a hoop, cut a large enough piece of tissue or cellophane to cover the fabric. Place it over your fabric then place the hoop over them all together. Tighten the hoop and adjust fabric like normal, then tighten hoop with a screwdriver. Carefully cut an X in the tissue or cellophane and fold over the edges to access the embroidery pattern.  
9. Draw in directional lines if needed, in each element, as you come to it. Keep the direction and angle of your stitches correct to achieve organic blending and a natural shine to the thread. 

Robin Red Breast work in progress

Like what you see? You can follow Jessica’s step-by-step guide in issue 127 of Stitch magazine and recreate your own seasonal superstar in thread. Click here to get a copy

How to finish your embroidery piece

10. Gently wash your embroidered pieces when finished. This ensures that any oils or dirt that may have been unintentionally transferred to the fabric are removed. 

11. Take a large clean glass bowl, fill with cool water, add a very small drop of Fairy Liquid or Blue Dawn dish soap and a tablespoon of white distilled vinegar. Let it soak for 10–15 minutes. Rinse under cool water until the water runs clear and no suds are present. To dry, place embroidery on top of a clean towel. Place another towel on top and gently push down. DO NOT wring or roll up the piece. 

12. Now you will damp stretch the fabric. While still damp, place the embroidery on a cork board. An ironing board will work as well. Tack the fabric around all the edges with stainless steel tacks – this is important as you don’t want the tacks to rust. Make sure you pull the fabric as taut as possible while tacking it down. Let it dry for a day or two.

13. You can finish your piece in your preferred method.

"I like to mount and frame my pieces. To do this, I lace my piece on acid-free artboard, cut to the size of the frame opening, using No8 Perle cotton. After lacing the embroidery, it’s ready to be mounted in a frame. If your frame has glass, make sure the embroidery doesn’t touch it. You can do this by using two pieces of matting."

14. Now pour yourself a lovely cup of tea and appreciate all your hard work.

Now you know how to achieve a professional finish, explore stunning embroidery technique, silk shading!

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