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What You Need to Know About Modern Embroidery

Louisville, it’s official – Embroidery is cool again. The New York Times Style Magazine called it last summer when Rachelle Hruska MacPherson’s early attempt at the art morphed into a side business selling $350 sweaters to celebrities and everyday folks with an eye for the fresh and fancy.

Even if you aren’t looking to cash in on your craft, embroidery is a fun fiber art to try your hand at. And by embroidery, I mean modern embroidery – not saying what your Nana does isn’t hip, but the art has changed some over the years. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Embroidery?

Wikipedia describes embroidery as, “the handicraft of decorating fabric or other materials with needle and thread or yarn. Embroidery may also incorporate other materials such as, pearls, beads, quills and sequins.”

Embroidery is known as a “slow art” because it takes time and patience, but you will be rewarded at the end when you’ve upgraded your dress or scarf or pillowcase from Plain Jane to one-of-a-kind status. Yes, there’s machine embroidering, but most folks will tell you it doesn’t compare to the look and feel of embroidery done by hand.

Embroidery supplies:

  • Embroidery hoop – An embroidery hoop is use to stretch your fabric taut

  • Thread – Thread comes in nearly every color you can imagine and you’ll most likely use “six-strand floss” that gives you some room to play around with thickness

  • Embroidery threads – Also called “crewel needles” and are bigger than a sewing needle

  • Thread clippers – For clipping the thread

  • Pattern – Choose a pattern to follow for your embroidery project

Basic embroidery stitches:

  • Backstitch – The backstitch is a stitch that basically creates a little loop. You will use this stitch often.

  • Stem stitch – This is an overlapping, spiral stitch that is very pretty.

  • Satin stitch – This stitch is used to fill in an area on your fabric and takes a lot of thread and time to perform.

You’ll use a combination of these stitches to bring your vision to life. These are just a few basic stitches, but there are more you can use.

What’s Modern Embroidery?

These days, makers are really pushing beyond the boundaries of what’s seen as “traditional embroidery.” Some cool things we’ve seen:

  • Using embroidery for the unexpected. We’ve seen iPhone cases, clutches and even embroidery dancing along the trim of a shower curtain.

  • Mixing it up. Artists are doing cool things with embroidery and other art forms like photography and KMAC even has an eye catching exhibit up of fruits that are partially drawn and partially embroidered.

  • Fun patterns. Go on right ahead and stitch your favorite Drake lyrics on a pillow or use bright colors that pop or – Really, almost anything you can imagine you can do with embroidery!

Getting Started

If you’re lucky, you have grandma who can show you the way. Otherwise, there’s always the internet. You can also order an embroidery kit. For hands-on learning, you can take a modern embroidery class. Our embroidery classes are taught by Jordan Kavuma of Thistle & Thread and everything you need to get started is included in price of enrollment.

Check our schedule for Jordan’s next class with Level Up Louisville.

Minda is Level Up's Content Maven and Blog Goddess. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Louisville – Go Cards! – and a master of fine arts degree in Creative Writing. When she is not wordsmithing for Level Up, she writes content for startups and she is LEO Weekly's relationship advice columnist.

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