Humans have been embroidering for tens of thousands of years, and it’s not hard to see why. From traditional designs to abstract patterns, the variety of artworks you can create with embroidery is nearly limitless.
But when you want to make hand-embroidered pieces with a message, you’ll want to learn how to embroider letters. Whether you choose to stitch block letters, cursive script or a mix of the two, your embroideries are about to have a voice of their own.
How to Embroider Block Letters
As with any art project, you’ll need to start by gathering your materials. For most hand embroidery projects (including this one!) you’ll need:
- Embroidery needle: Also known as a crewel needle, this type of needle is typically thicker than a sewing needle, but thinner than a tapestry needle. You can find embroidery needles in a variety of sizes, but sizes 5, 7 and 9 are all good choices for most projects. The smaller the size number, the larger the diameter of the needle.
- Embroidery hoop: For most small- to medium-sized projects, a six-inch embroidery hoop will suffice. Just remember to choose a hoop that’s slightly bigger than the size of your finished project.
- Fabric: While just about any type of fabric can be embroidered, most embroidery experts recommend starting with a woven cotton (calico and muslin are both good choices, but any standard cotton fabric will do).
- Embroidery floss: Available in a rainbow of colors, embroidery floss usually comes in a bundle of six individual strands and is made of cotton.
- Pencils or a water soluble marker: To trace or sketch the letters you’ll be stitching, you can use pencils and then erase any visible marks later. And if you have a water-soluble fine-tipped marker on hand, that will make the process even easier.
- Scissors: In order to cut your embroidery floss down to the appropriate size, a pair of scissors is a must. Sewing scissors are nice to have, but any kind will suffice.
Once you have all the necessary supplies, you’re ready to stitch block letters using just six steps.
- Sketch or trace your design on a piece of fabric using the method of your choice.
- Stretch the fabric taut using your embroidery hoop.
- Thread your needle with about 18 inches of floss, or whatever length your project requires. Use just one strand of floss for very fine lines, or use multiple strands for thicker lines. If you’re unsure, two to three strands is always a safe choice.
- Insert the needle in the fabric. You can either knot the floss to keep it from pulling through, or you can leave a one- to two-inch “tail” on the backside and make sure it gets stitched to the fabric during your first few stitches.
- Use the back stitch to start embroidering your block letters. It’s easiest to begin stitching on the left side of each letter so you finish on the right—this way, you’ll be in the perfect place to start the next letter.
- Switch from one letter to the next either by cutting the thread and starting the new letter separately, or by simply running the thread between the letters on the backside of the fabric. When you reach the last letter, tie a knot and cut. Or, just use your needle to thread the floss through the back sides of a few stitches before snipping it.
That’s it! And if you’re not sure how to do a back stitch, or need a quick refresher, rest assured it’s easier than you think.
To use the back stitch, make a single straight stitch along the line of your letter. Bring the needle back up through the fabric, leaving a space between your new stitch and the end of the previous stitch. Insert the needle through the last hole of the previous stitch, thereby filling in the gaps and creating a solid line. Then, repeat.
When you’ve stitched several back stitches in a row, the line you create will look seamless and solid:
Once you’ve used the back stitch to fill in the lines of each letter, your embroidered block letters will look very similar to handwritten block letters, with the only difference being that they’re written in thread rather than ink:
You can even add another line of stitches to each letter in a different floss color, creating an eye-catching 3D effect:
The best part? Once you’ve embroidered your first block letters, you’ll be well-equipped to embroider letters of any kind and create any kind of embroidered message imaginable.
How to Embroider Cursive Letters
Ready for a pleasant surprise? Embroidering cursive letters is done in exactly the same way as embroidering block letters.
The only difference is this: Instead of leaving a space between each letter, you join them together with a connecting line, just as you would when writing by hand.
As a result, you can use the skills and knowledge you gained from embroidering block letters to embroider cursive letters in any style.
For instance, you can use a single line of back stitching to create a minimalist monogram:
And by stringing multiple cursive letters together, you can create beautiful one-of-a-kind projects decorated with any number of words. Here, the artist has used a stitch called the chain stitch, as well as two different hues of floss, to create the desired effect:
As you can see, learning to embroider a single letter is the first step toward embroidering detailed monograms and words.
Want to Say It with Stitches? Learn to Embroider Letters
Flowers and plants might be some of the most popular things to embroider, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only things to embroider. By learning to embroider letters, you’ll open up a whole new world of embroidery, from gift-worthy monograms to catchy sayings and more.
With embroidery, the fabric is your canvas and the thread your paint. So expand your artistic abilities, and add both block and cursive letters to your embroidery repertoire.
Learn the Basics of Embroidery
Painting With Thread: Modern Embroidery for Beginners