my embroidery journey

My Embroidery Journey So Far

The least creative creative person in existence

I describe myself as someone who is creative, but not artistic. I appreciate art and creativity, and at any one time can have a dozen art project ideas in their infancy, but I rarely complete them. Mostly, this is down to lack of skill or ability. Sometimes, it’s down to time or resource. Other times, it’s because I get distracted by the Next Great Idea. I have a lot of NGIs…

A little over a year ago, my sister gave me a cross stitch kit for my birthday. I was so excited, because it was a fun project to get stuck into and I knew how to cross-stitch already. In primary school we were taught some basic stitchings as a Mother’s Day bookmark project and it’s one of those weird memories I’ve never forgotten.

It took me a long time (cramping happens) and a lot of thread, but the finished piece was fantastic and so adorable!

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You could say that my flamingo project was the start of a love affair with needlecraft.

After that, I indulged myself at Hobbycraft and picked up the basic supplies to continue my new hobby:

  • aida
  • embroidery threads
  • wooden hoops
  • embroidery scissors (or, if you have a spare pair, just use nail scissors)

I already had a bunch of needles and a Cath Kidston sewing kit (another present from my sister from a few years back – she knows me so well). I was ready to get started.

It makes me a little bit sad that I can’t remember the first hoop I created without a pattern. I think that’s probably because there have been so many!

The benefits of embroidery

This particular creative outlet is, for me, one of the most enjoyable. It’s low energy, low maintenance and low mess (apart from when I sprawl all my kit across the entire sofa and leave no room for Tam to sit…)

One thing I really love about embroidery is the sense of accomplishment. It’s a productive hobby and you can measure your progress very easily and visually. As the number of completed hoops begins to pile up, and I refine my technique or learn a new stitch, I feel proud of myself. It’s a simple pleasure, but an important one. Pride in our work, and in our abilities, is an under-appreciated luxury in our society. Embroidery gives me a spark of accomplishment with every new stitch and I love that!

For me, embroidery is incredibly therapeutic. It occupies just enough of my attention, but doesn’t require so much concentration that I can’t listen to the latest Guilty Feminist episode or rewatch Brooklyn 99 for the 147th time. The repetitive motions are soothing for an over-active brain like mine, and it can literally be done anywhere. I’ve taken hoops on buses, to cafes, to work, and I’ve even been known to finish some stitching in bed of a weekend. It’s a versatile, flexible hobby that can fit into your lifestyle, no matter how busy you are. It’s the perfect Me Time activity, in my opinion.

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There’s a really wonderfully tight-knit crafting community online (pardon the crafting pun). Embroidery is especially prevalent on Instagram. Check out different hashtags to see the vast range of embroidery art that people share, sell and teach via Insta, it’s really quite incredible.

You cannot make an irreversible mistake when you’re embroidering. Either unpick, cover up or snip away any rogue stitches and no one will ever know your needle went for a walk off the beaten path. And don’t be afraid to get creative. The possibilities are endless with embroidery. People embroider all sorts of things, in all sorts of places. The opportunities are there for the taking – unleash your creativity and see what you can create!

How expensive is embroidery?

In all honesty, it can be a pretty cheap hobby. Most people have a sewing kit lying around from a Christmas cracker or hotel room. Skeins (or embroidery threads) can be relatively pricey, depending on the colour and manufacturer. DMC embroidery thread is lovely, but cheaper versions do exist. I recommend bulk-buying to avoid running out too quickly and to lower the cost per skein. It’s the economical way to do it, I reckon.

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Hoops are available on Amazon for next to nothing if you bulk buy. Again, shop around. They come in varying sizes – all measured in inches – and for beginners it makes sense to go a little cheaper at first. If you’re keen to display your patterns in their hoops, you might want to go for slightly more expensive hoops, though. If you’re not planning on displaying the hoops, why not invest in plastic embroidery hoops? Tam gave me a set for Christmas and I ADORE them.

As for fabric, anything that can handle being punctured by a needle is good material. You might have old clothes that are too raggedy for the charity shop – why not practice your stitching on them first? If you have the budget, packs of aida are great – especially if you’re new because the fabric is woven in squares and makes creating patterns very intuitive. I bulk-bought a bunch of fun, printed cotton fat squares from eBay for more variety, too.

My fabric pens and pencils all came from Amazon. I’d highly recommend picking up a few – especially fine-tipped pens. You’ll need those if you want to draw anything detailed. The ink disappears under warm water, like magic!

Presents will never be hard to come by again, either! Who doesn’t love a handmade gift? You’ll be able to show off your newly learned skills and give someone a heartfelt, thoughtful pressie for every holiday and birthday from now on. Win win!

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How do I start embroidering?

Thread a needle and stab some fabric!

If you’re not keen on drawing out your own designs or free-handing it just yet, there are plenty of places you can go for lessons on stitching and pre-drawn patterns.

DMC has a fantastic selection of patterns you can download for free from their website. If, like me, you don’t have a lightbox at home, just stick your design to a window and trace the pattern onto your material that way. Their patterns also tell you which stitches to use and how to create them. I’ve used a few of their patterns already and have a bunch more downloaded, waiting to be copied onto some fabric.

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YouTube is also your friend. You can learn specific stitches from a wealth of videos online. I reference them now and again when I forget how to do something. They’re incredibly useful and straightforward to follow.

Buy books! Check in the charity shops, book shops and online for beginners’ guides to embroidery. There are so many, and once you’re feeling confident you can pass the book on to someone else.

Etsy is a great place if you’re able to pay for patterns. Buying pre-drawn patterns or embroidery kits from Etsy sellers is a great way to explore different styles and patterns while supporting artists and helping the embroidery community continue to thrive!

What are you waiting for?

Embroidery is really fantastic. It’s productive, pretty and you’ll end up with presents and wall art for everyone you know! You can only improve your skills and you’ll always feel like you’ve achieved something after a stitching session. I’m always up for a crafternoon session, so if you fancy getting started and want a friend to stitch with, hit me up!

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