You have embroidery thread, needles, and the motivation to make something beautiful. Now what? If you’re not quite ready to freehand your embroidery, don’t be afraid to use embroidery patterns.

You can find thousands of patterns, both free and for purchase, that can help you produce gorgeous handcrafted embroidery designs.

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Where to Find Embroidery Patterns 

Just like a pencil sketch can help steer a painting, a pattern is a useful tool to guide your embroidery. Following a pattern can ensure that you produce the exact design you have in mind. Fortunately, there is no shortage of embroidery patterns available online, both for free and for purchase. Ready to find your next design? Start with these sources. 

animal embroidery
Following a pattern ensures your design turns out exactly as you envision it. 

Where to Find Free Embroidery Patterns

Getting started with hand embroidery can be an accessible and inexpensive venture. There are thousands of free patterns available online, so once you pick out a design you like, you only need a few additional basic supplies, like embroidery thread, a needle, fabric, and a hoop. To find free embroidery designs, start here: 

  • DMC: A well-known cotton floss brand, DMC also offers free embroidery patterns, including birds, flowers, seasonal designs, people, and more. Plus, the site allows you to sort by experience level, so you can select a pattern that’s suited to your current skills.
  • Anchor: Another thread brand, Anchor also has an extensive library of embroidery patterns. While some designs are available for purchase, you can filter by price to view the free patterns. 
  • The Spruce Crafts: A DIY and hobby site, The Spruce Crafts offers many free and unique embroidery designs, including fun projects like miniature designs and the alphabet in a flowing script.
  • Cutesy Crafts: This craft blog features more than 45 free embroidery designs, all created by an avid crafter and hand embroiderer. If you like her style, she also offers additional patterns available for purchase. 

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Where to Buy Embroidery Patterns

Some designs—especially those that are especially complex or advanced—are only available for purchase. Or, you may simply prefer to purchase patterns to support the artists who design them. Either way, check out these sources for a wide variety of paid options: 

  • Etsy: From flowers to bookshelves to pies and more, you can find embroidery patterns for nearly anything on Etsy. Some sellers will even turn a photo—of your pet, for example—into a custom embroidery design. 
  • Local craft stores: If you’ve done any sort of art project, you’re probably familiar with stores like Michaels and JOANN Fabrics and Crafts. These stores are one-stop shops for everything you need for embroidery, including kits that include a pattern, as well as the floss, needle, and hoop to go with it. Most patterns are targeted at beginners, but it’s a convenient place to start.
  • Amazon: For embroidery patterns and instructions, check out Amazon. You can find books with hundreds of patterns based on what you want to embroider, such as botanical motifs, animals, or folk art. 
sketch out embroidery
Embroidery patterns show a basic outline of the design, so you can see exactly where to stitch. 

How to Make Embroidery Patterns 

Can’t find an existing pattern that fits your vision? Or just want to have complete creative control over your project? Learn how to make embroidery designs with the following methods:

Draw It

If you have some natural sketching abilities, you can hand draw embroidery designs. Simply draw the design directly on your canvas with a water-soluble pen, or sketch it on lightweight trace paper, pin it to your fabric, and stitch through both layers. 

Digitize a Sketch With Digital Illustration Software

For a more precise pattern, turn your original sketches into embroidery designs with digital illustration software. First, scan your sketch, and then use a program like Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape to turn it into a vector image. Once the image is a vector, you can resize it without losing any quality. 

At this point, you can export it as a PES file if you plan to use an embroidery machine to produce the design. If you want to hand-embroider the pattern, simply print it out, and then use one of several methods to transfer it to your fabric, including tracing with a water-soluble pen or using transfer or carbon paper. Or, try printing the pattern directly on water-soluble stabilizer, and then attach it to your fabric and stitch through both layers. When you’re done embroidering, place the piece in water, and the stabilizer will dissolve.

drawing flower
Skillshare instructor Danielle Clough demonstrates how to use carbon paper to transfer an embroidery pattern to fabric. 

Unlimited Design Possibilities

Following a pattern will ensure that your embroidery designs always turn out exactly how you envision them. Fortunately, there are plenty of patterns available online—but if you still can’t find what you’re looking for, it’s also easy to create your own. Ultimately, you have endless options to let your creativity shine through embroidery.  

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Written by:

Katie Wolf