So far in this blog series, we’ve learned about kumihimo, knitting, and crocheting. Each is special in its own way and attracts a variety of people, but just in case you aren’t interested in any of those, we thought we would discuss another handwork craft today that’s just a little different from what we’ve talked about before. Here’s a hint: It involves a needle, thread, fabric, and a whole lot of creativity. That’s right: we’re here to talk about embroidery!
Embroidery is a personal favorite craft of mine because of the amazing representative capability of the art: you can make a design or pattern with embroidery like you can in kumihimo, knitting, or crocheting, but you can also create a hyper-realistic animal portrait or depict an entire, detailed scene. Embroidery, or “the art or process of forming decorative designs with hand or machine needlework,” employs dozens of different techniques, has an extensive history, and can be used for any number of things. Let’s dive in!
Embroidery is global, and has history all over the world. Ancient Egyptian tomb paintings depict embroidery on clothes, hangings, and tents, and some Ancient Chinese silk robes were decorated with embroidery. In Northern Europe, embroidery mostly focused on Christian themes until the Renaissance, when embroidery became more of an amateur craft rather than a profession and crafters could experiment more with their designs. Certain indigenous tribes in North America practiced quillwork, in which they would embroider skins and bark with porcupine quills, and other North American embroidery practices mimicked European styles, yet tended to be simpler. During the Industrial Revolution, France was the first country to mass produce embroidery through the use of machines.
There are many different ways to embroider, and many different stitches you can use. Embroidery can be done in the crewel style, which uses two wool threads and dates back to medieval periods; you can do needle painting, which is typically used to create realistic images; you can try stumpwork, which creates more dimensional designs; and finally, surface or freestyle embroidery, which encompasses anything else! This style of embroidery is most popular today because it allows crafters the most freedom to explore what they want to design.
There are many kinds of stitches to use when you embroider, but some of the more simpler and more popular ones to teach your kids are the running stitch, the back stitch, and the split stitch. The running stitch is used for outlining and creating straight and curved lines, and there is space in between each stitch. The back stitch is also used for outlining and creating straight and curved lines, and the stitches should be touching. The split stitch, which you use for outlines, lines, and filling a shape, is created by splitting the last stitch to create the next. If you or your child wants to achieve a specific look, it may be beneficial to research what kind of stitch would work best for your project!
Although the type of stitch and style of embroidery are necessary to determine before starting a project, it is also important to know how to teach your kids to embroider! In general, it is good to keep your thread from twisting around while you work, keep your hands clean, and create uniform stitches by marking your fabric, but helping kids out with handwork can be particularly challenging, especially if you aren’t familiar with the craft yourself.
When you and your kids start, they should work on fabric scraps and use big stitches to help them get the hang of the movements and processes. Make sure you choose bigger threads, thicker needles, and a medium weight fabric that is easier for kids to hold and use and show them some examples of what they can achieve to get them inspired. Maybe even invite over a friend and make the lesson a fun social event! After making sure your kids understand the dangers of scissors, needles, and other tools you may be using, make sure the lesson is fun and memorable, and choose a time that your child wants to learn so they can get the most out of it.
If you can’t teach your child to embroider yourself this summer, The Handwork Studio has amazing camps and tutorials where they can learn these awesome skills from incredible teachers, surrounded by kids their age! And remember, if you and your child create an embroidery project that they want us to see, post it on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove! Happy embroidering!
1. Embroidery of a butterfly by @emillieferris on Instagram
2. Camper's embroidery, Philadelphia School Handwork Studio
3. Camper with embroidery, Garrison Forest Handwork Studio