How to embroider lettersMarch 30, 2021
I realised recently that I hadn’t really touched on embroidering letters in any of my blog posts apart from a few examples in my themed inspiration articles . And as since this is such an awesome way to get creative using embroidery, I wanted to remedy that immediately! While I don’t use this particular practice in my Paraffle designs, I love to use it when I’m creating custom gifts for friends and family. It offers next level options for personalisation of names, dates, favourite quotes or lyrics… You name it! I’ve given pieces to friends for weddings and birthdays and they’ve always gone down a storm.
So, today I’m going to take you through some of my favourite tips and hopefully answer some of the questions you might have been pondering when it comes to how to embroider letters. I’ll be covering three key sections – how to choose a text design, which stitch is best, and how to transfer your lettering onto your fabric – and I hope you’ll feel fully prepared to give it a go by the end!
How to choose a text design
If you’re really keen to try stitching a text-based piece but don’t know where to start, I’d suggest looking at typography inspiration first before looking at specific embroidery ideas. Pinterest is obviously a go-to where you’ll be sure to find an incredible range of styles from talented artists that will get our creative mind buzzing. You could also keep an eye out for flyers, posters and magazine spreads that have great typography and create a little scrap collection if you’d rather keep a record that’s a bit more tactile. I know this approach appeals to lots of us embroiders who love doing things with their hands!
Once you’ve chosen the actual words you’ll be stitching, you can then create your final design using your inspiration as a base. Don’t worry about how complicated the lettering might seem on paper because with some of the tracing and transfer options I’m going to detail later, you’ll find that pretty much no style is off limits. Any text inspiration you find can be adapted into embroidery form with a touch of creativity and a sensible stitch choice.
How to transfer your lettering onto your fabric
So, now that you’ve chosen your text design, you’re going to want to transfer it onto your fabric and start stitching. As always, you have options here! Below are three of the most common methods, as well as the one that I use pretty much all the time.
This option is probably only for those of you who are either a) artists with a knack for letter drawing, or b) very brave! Stitching straight onto your fabric without any design outline to follow is certainly a valid choice but is also a tad on the risky side if you’re someone who notices when lines are uneven or if letter sizes differ slightly. Both of these outcomes are much more likely when freehanding unless you have a lot of experience! That said, it can also create a really lovely organic and personal feeling, so it’s really up to you how much of that vibe you’re after!
Wash away markerThe perfect option for anyone working with a light-coloured fabric. This magic pen allows you to draw all over your fabric but will disappear without a trace when you’re done.
A few top tips: If you’re using it to trace a design, you’ll need to have your fabric placed on top of your master copy and ideally have a strong light source behind it. There are dedicated light boxes out there, but you can also just hold your design up to a window! Some people also manage to trace designs directly off their computer screens with the brightness turned up, but you’ll need a very light fabric for that to work. Plus, you’ll need to be very gentle so as not to damage your screen. Proceed with caution with that one…
I find these pens are also particularly useful if you’re wanting to create something in your own handwriting. You can simply write straight onto your fabric, embroider over it in your stitch of choice and wash it off when you’re done. Easy! Some people just use a normal pen or pencil for this kind of approach, but you do run the risk of ink bleeding or unwanted marks being left behind if you don’t fully cover it with thread, so I’d only do that as a very last resort.
You could also use this sort of marker to help you with positioning for freehand writing by just drawing some guidelines but not the letters themselves.
Carbon transferTransfer paper is a brilliant option for when you have a large or perhaps slightly complicated text design that you’d like to trace accurately from paper onto your fabric. It’s my absolute favourite method and I include it in all my kits. It should be noted however that it’s only really appropriate for designs being transferred onto darker fabrics as the lines are normally either white or yellow. I’ve got a video tutorial here if you’d like to take a look.
Which stitch is best?
Now for the part you’ve been working towards – finally stitching your letters! I rarely advocate for any one stitch being the absolute best when it comes to embroidery in general. So much of this craft comes down to personal choice and style aesthetic, which means there are always multiple options that can work. This is no different when it comes to stitch choice for embroidering letters. There are, however, a selection that work particularly well and are used most frequently, so these are probably a good place to start.
Back stitchThis is a great choice if you want to create beautiful text but keep the stitch skill level fairly basic. I often use this in the pieces I make as gifts as you can still achieve impressive variation from this most standard of stitches. The examples above really show this off I think - one is just a solo line for ultimate elegance and simplicity, the other creates a more stylised design.
Another stitch that also works particularly well for single lines but adds a bit more texture and interest. I often see chain stitch used for joined up, cursive-style writing, and I think it works perfectly when creating beautiful, flowing lines.
Satin stitchA fab stitch for creating bolder, block text that really makes a statement. I love not only the shine that comes with a well-executed satin stitch, but also the texture it creates. When the stitches are really dense like they seem to be here, the stitched area becomes thick and really stands out.
French knotsA less common choice for text for sure, but if you’ve seen my French knot inspiration post then you’ll have already spotted how this can be a super striking choice for text. I mean, how amazing is this piece that plays with the fabric pattern to create a statement with loads of texture?! Be sure to check out my other post for more ideas.
If any of these stitches are new to you, you can find tutorials for all of them on my YouTube channel .
I honestly could go on and on with this post, especially when it comes to stitch choices as embroidering letters really does offer so much room for creativity. I’ve only touched on my favourite basics to get you started, but you can also combine different types for a totally unique result. If you’ve never stitched lettering before then it may take a few easier pieces as practice before you get to that point, and I hope this post has given you everything you need to get started on that journey!