Creative Hand Embroidery on Leaves: Stitch & Make a Sustainable Piece of Art | Diana Escamilla | Skillshare

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Creative Hand Embroidery on Leaves: Stitch & Make a Sustainable Piece of Art

teacher avatar Diana Escamilla, Crafter, Maker & Teacher

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

13 Lessons (37m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Project

    • 3. Materials

    • 4. Leaf selection and pressing

    • 5. Pro tips for thin leaves, breaks or tears

    • 6. Design transfer and Punch

    • 7. Floss, thread and knot

    • 8. Straight and Running Stitch

    • 9. Backstitch

    • 10. French Knot

    • 11. How I create my designs

    • 12. Project Details

    • 13. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

Get ready to unleash your creativity and add your touch to nature by embroidering on leaves!

This class is perfect for crafters of all levels, whether you're a beginner looking for a new craft to learn or you're a seasoned pro wanting to try embroidery in a more sustainable or unconventional way. I will teach you everything you need to know to create stunning embroidered leaves.

Along our journey together, we will be covering:

  1. The materials and tools that I use
  2. How to select and prepare your leaf for embroidery
  3. How to transfer the design onto your leaf and punch holes in it
  4. Learn about 6 stranded floss, threading, and knotting
  5. Four hand embroidery techniques
  6. My thought and work process to create my designs
  7. My tips and tricks 
  8. Tips on completing your class project 

By the end of the class, you'll have the skills to create your own embroidered leaf using our provided templates, such as The Dandelion, Paper Plane, and Moth, or design your very own following my tips and process.

Nature has given us the perfect canvas to embroider more sustainably, so join me in this class and learn how to turn leaves into works of art. 

See you in class!







Meet Your Teacher

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Diana Escamilla

Crafter, Maker & Teacher


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1. Introduction: Hello and welcome to my second-hand embroidery class. If you were in my first class about embroidering on paper, welcome back. I'm over the moon that you came to this one too. In this one, we will explore a new material that is all around us, leaves. But in case this is the first time that you see me, let me introduce myself. My name is Diana Escamilla and I was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. Ever since I was a little kid, I would find myself playing with different materials to create all things. I would sometimes alter a few things in my house and it would drive my parents crazy. I still think that my dad's vinyls looked better with my glitter and doodle interventions. My biggest passion has been making and creating things with my hands especially if the craft allows me to take my time, slow down, and rebel against the urge for immediateness. I am constantly seeking inspiration, finding new crafts and techniques that I would enjoy and value from creating stained-glass plants to making bronze. Once I find my next craft, I go all in and we'll learn all I can to create something with my personal touch. After I'm satisfied with my new skills, I would pass on to the next craft, but now I'm taking the extra step to share all that I've learned with you in my classes. My subject of interest for the past year has been hand embroidery. Recently, I have been exploring materials to choose more sustainable ones, and as a result, create less waste. The answer to my dilemma was all around me, nature, specifically fallen leaves from plants and trees. They allow us to work in a more sustainable way, and the best part is that they are free and within everyone's reach. Some people view fallen leaves as garbage, that is simply crazy talk. You will discover that leaves are the perfect canvas for embroidery. In this class, we will do an exploration of embroidery and adding our touch to nature. I will go over the different materials that allow us to play and embroider beautiful designs on leaves. I will show you what you need to know from how to choose your leaves and plan your designs to the different stitches you can use to embroider on them. For your final project, we will be using them all to embroider your final design. You can choose from the design templates I provide for you or you can create your own following my tips and tricks. Join me in this class, where together we will take our time to experiment and play as we discover how to embroider and add our touch to nature. See you in class. [MUSIC] 2. Project: [MUSIC] Hey. It's great to see that you've decided to take this class. Before I go into our class project, I just want to express something that is very important when learning. Don't feel that your leaves and projects need to be perfect. This is a class to learn and explore embroidery on leaves, it is not about the outcome, but about slowing down to connect your mind and hands to create something. Escape the anxiety of what embroidery is supposed to look like and let your curiosity flow, and with every stitch we make, we are practicing and improving. With that said, let's go over what our class project will be. As you go through the lessons, you will learn four different embroidery techniques that you will put into practice on a leaf. This practice will allow you to build the skill and confidence for the final project. You can either choose to create a design or pattern of your own, or you can choose one from the templates I have provided for you. Either the dandelion, the moth or the paper plane designs. Whichever option you choose, please be sure to share it in the project section of our class. I would love to see your creations. At the end, you will have pieces of art made by you and by nature that you can hold in your hands, explain to your wall, gift to a friend and share it with the world. The class materials you will find everything you need to successfully do your project. The list of materials and tools that are used, the templates for our practice leaf and the project design templates. Although I shared the colors, stitches and templates that I use, feel free to break away from these if you want to play and make this project more unique to you, just have fun with it. Now, we're ready to start our learning journey. Remember to enjoy every moment as you take your time to connect with your hands and create something new. With that said, let's go to our first lesson. 3. Materials: [MUSIC] In this lesson I will share with you the materials that I use and recommend for this craft. I use the six- stranded DMC mouline floss. It comes in over 500 colors and has a great quality and shine to it. However, there are many browns out there that you can buy and test. A pair of scissors, needles. I recommend the DMC round end needles, emphasis on the round end. These are not as sharp as regular needles, which is a good thing because as we embroider, sometimes we will use the same hole multiple times. If we were to use a regular needle, we could damage or break our threads in the process. I like using Number 26 because as you can see, the eye is quite small and this helps us to not make our holes bigger as we pass through the leaf. We will also use painter's tape or masking tape and leaves of course. I will go deeper into how to select them on our next lesson. One sheet of wax paper, one regular sharp needle with a plastic round top if possible. I also recommend having a magnet to mind your needles and avoid misplacing or losing them. You can also use a magnet from your fruit or a pink cushion to keep them safe. A pencil, a cardboard sheet. I usually grab one from the boxes that I get on the mail. Then your class materials, you will find the practice template with two versions for you to choose from. One for thicker leaves and one for thin and delicate leaves that will have less stitches. I will use the thicker leaf version so that you can see some situations that can happen. I suggest that you start with Version 2 for thin and delicate leaves to start. As we go through the lessons, you will see how each of these are used. It is okay if you don't have all of the materials, as long as you have floss, scissors, needles, painter's tape or masking tape, and your leaf, you're good to go. Now let's go to our next lesson where I will share what I look for when choosing my leaves. See you there. [MUSIC] 4. Leaf selection and pressing: [MUSIC] When it comes to leaves, I like experimenting with different shapes, sizes, and thicknesses to learn which ones work best and which ones I need to be more delicate when working on them. But usually, what I look for are thick leaves. With trial and error, I have found that my favorite leaf to work on so far is the magnolia tree leaf. It is sturdy, thick, and it holds up really well. You do not have to be as delicate as with other thinner leaves like maple leaves. Here are a couple of examples of work I have done on a magnolia and a maple. Other leaves that have also worked well for me are the live oak, ginkgo, and eucalyptus leaves. Now, if you do not have these trees or plants close, don't worry, this is where you can experiment with what you do have around. If you found a thin and delicate leaf, I have a tip to make them sturdier and thicker in our next lesson. For this class, I will use a live oak leaf, which is neither very thick nor thin. My preference is to grab fallen leaves that are not completely dry yet. You will know because they are still flexible. This way, I can press them flat to remove the curls without breaking them. A flat surface makes the process easier from punching the design to even displaying it on a frame. Now, you can embroider on dry and curly leaves and thick or thin leaves. The constant thing to be aware of is that you must be careful while working on them so that you don't break them. The more you experiment, the more knowledge and experience you will gather as you work with them. These are the steps that I follow to select and prep my leaf. First, I choose it, the thicker the better, then I gently wipe the leaf clean with a wet cloth or a sponge, and let it dry. Once it has completely dried from our previous step, I place it between the pages of a book. If it is a fallen leaf, sometimes half a day is enough to have it flat enough to embroider. But you can give it a few more days and allow it to dry more. If you grab a leaf attached to a tree or a plant, it could take around three or four weeks to completely dry. I like to work on dry ones because this means it will not shrink or change with time. Now that we have our leaves selected, washed, and pressed, let's go to our next lesson where I will show you how to make thin or thick leaves thicker and more stable. See you there. [MUSIC] 5. Pro tips for thin leaves, breaks or tears: [MUSIC] Here are some situations you may encounter. You may have a thin and delicate leaf, or it may have a broken piece, or you accidentally tear the leaf as you are embroidering. In this lesson, I will show you how to solve for the situations like a pro. First, let's make a thin leaf thicker and sturdier. I will use a pencil, scissors, masking tape or painter's tape, and wax paper. Here's how I do it. First, we will place the leaf bottom side up on top of the wax paper. Let's trace the shape of the leaf as close as we can. If the leaf is delicate, be very careful as you are doing this to avoid breaking it. Once you have gone all around, remove the leaf. I want to make sure that I can see the marks if I turn the wax paper as we will be using them as our cutting guide. If it is not easy to see, do another pass. Now, grab your tape and start covering the area of the leaf completely. I like to lay the next piece starting around halfway of the previous one to get a thicker layer. We will continue to do this until we cover the leaf template completely. Now it's time to cut following the marks. Here, I like cutting three millimeters or an eighth of an inch towards the inside from the marks to prevent the tape from sticking out of the leaf, once we stick this to it. I will show you that in a minute. Now that we have cut all the way around, we have a nice backing layer. Let's grab our leaf and place it bottom side up again. Separate the tape from the wax paper like a sticker and position it to be centered. Then gently press so that it sticks completely to the leaf. Now, let's see if any tape pokes out. If it does, we just need to either cut directly or peal that spot a little bit and cut. There you have it. Now we have a sturdier leaf to embroider around. Note that you can also use tape on thick leaves. I like to think of this tape as my trainer wheels for embroidery. It has helped me get a better sense of the leaf and how much tension I create with the floss. Another benefit of using this tape is that if the leaf break as you work on it, the piece is going nowhere. It also keeps the floss in place and reduces the risk of tearing your leaf while pulling on the floss. This also allows you to do more intricate designs as you will be able to do closer stitching without the fear of breaks and tears in the process. As you can imagine, this tape help us fix any break the leaf may have, or if we accidentally tear it. We just need to add a piece of tape to that spot and we are good to go. Here are a couple of examples of how I fix this. Here is a broken leaf. One way to fix it as putting a complete backing to it like we just did. But if you decide to embroider without the backing, you just need to secure that piece with tape like this. Now, if I break or tear the leaf by accident as I am embroidering, I just undo my last stitch, add a piece of tape on the back, press and then I just need to punch a hole with the needle again. More on this punching on our next class, and we are golden. In our next lesson, I will show you how to transfer the design to your leaf and punch the holes. See you there. [MUSIC] 6. Design transfer and Punch: [MUSIC] Now that we have our leaf prepped, it's time to transfer the design onto it. In the class materials, you will find the practice template document I created for you. You will notice that it is divided into four quadrants. Each has its own pattern, the stitch that we will practice, and dots that mark where to punch. We'll use this to transfer the design. However, if you're more of a free spirit, you can go ahead and gently draw the design onto the leaf with a pencil. Go ahead and print the template. Quick tip, if you do not have a printer, you can create one by placing a piece of paper on your screen and tracing it. I have done this multiple times when I need to do a quick transfer. Now, with your template in hand, let's position the leaf on the center or in a way that we get a piece of all four quadrants on your leaf. I placed these dotted lines to help you position it as centered as possible. The next step is to trace the leaf with your pencil. Remember to do it gently if you have a thin or a delicate leaf. Once we are done, I will check that I got a good piece of all of the quadrants. It's looking good, so I can go ahead and cut following the mytes. [MUSIC] Now that we have our template cut, let's position it over the leaf and secured on the sides, the top, and the bottom. This way as we punch our holes, it won't move. [MUSIC] I also like to trace the shape of the leaf about three millimeters or one eighth of an inch in. This will be my barrier to make sure that I do not punch too close to the edge and avoid breaking the leaf. Before we go into punching, make sure to place a cardboard piece below to receive the needle, allowing it to go through. Now grab your sharp needle and start punching on the holes and remember to not go beyond our barrier. Let's start with our top right quadrant. We have a white dot by the corner and let's punch through. You will notice that I did not place other dots here. This is because the spot where we will punch depends on the size of your leaf. So we will punch where the barrier meets the lines. For the rest of the quadrants, you can go ahead and punch on the holes. A quick tip, when we finish punching the designs and remove the template, it may look like a bunch of holes making it hard to know where to start or where to go. To avoid our future selves frustration, go ahead and punch a specific area or line. Then carefully remove the tape and lift the paper a bit and with a pencil, connect the dots. Believe me, the more intricate the design, the more you want to do this. Let's continue to punch. [MUSIC] Once you complete this, check to see that you are not missing any holes. Flip your leaf and check if there is a hole with no tape. Add a piece of tape and press to stick it and punch through once more. Now we can remove the template and we are all set. Now with our leaf prepped, in our next lesson, we will learn the basics about our six-stranded floss, thread, and knot and learn to make a knot like a pro. See you there. [MUSIC] 7. Floss, thread and knot: [MUSIC] In this lesson, I will show you what you need to know about the floss we will be using. Tips on how to thread your needles, and make knots like a pro. As you know, we will be using a six-strand of floss to embroider. I use DMC but feel free to test other brands. You will notice that it has two tabs, a small one with the brand DMC and how many meters or yards it has, and the larger one with the bar and color-code on it. Now let's pull some floss out. You will notice there are two ends of floss. Pro tip, always pull the end that is on the side of the longest tab. By pulling this end, you will be able to pull, and pull your desired amount, and it will never tangle up. This is what happens when you pull the wrong end. You won't be able to pull much and you will have to remove the tabs, and untangle it. Remember, pull the end with the longest tab. Now that we're pulling, I like to use 45 centimeters or around 18 inches because it is easy to control, and avoid any accidental tangling as we we're embroidering. I will cut right around here. Once we have our piece of floss, we can actually separate the strands. This allows you to choose how thick you want your stitches to be. To separate, just untangle the tip a bit, and grab a single-strand. Pull on that strand while your other hand holds the rest in place. Pull until it's free. The other strands will bundle up, don't panic, this is normal. Once your strand is free, you can place it somewhere safe, and pull down on the other strands to get them back into place. That is how you pull them apart. As you can see, one piece of this floss can really go a long way. I usually use one, two or three strands at a time, but feel free to experiment with more strands as you practice. Now let's get these on the needle. Here, I got two strands. I get the ends together. As tradition dictates, I lick them a [LAUGHTER] bit and with two fingers squeeze, and pull the strands to create a flatter surface. Now, with a little bit of patience, get the thread through the hole. If you rather not lick it, you can also have a glass of water to use as a substitute. Once your strands are through to needle, you will have a couple of tails. I like to have a long one and a short one that I usually keep around this height. The last step is to make a nice, and sturdy knot. With one hand grab your needle between finger and thumb. Let your other fingers wrap around the short tail, and the long tail. Now grab the long tail, and bring it to run parallel to your needle. We will grab that too, letting the end show a bit. Now wrap the tail, and wind it around the needle three times. A quick tip here. You don't want to do this very tight because it will actually have to go through the eye of the needle. After you wind it three times, pull it down a bit so that now you are holding everything together. Once you have them all secure and held tight between your thumb and finger, pull the needle, and you will end up with a knot. Now you can cut these messy ends if you want. One last tip. If you do this with just one strand, you will need to wind the thread around 10 times to produce a good sized knot. This can take a little bit of practice, but in no time, it will become second nature to you. Now, we are ready to start embroidering. In our next lesson, I will introduce you to our first embroidery techniques to straight, and running stitch. See you there. 8. Straight and Running Stitch: [MUSIC] We're ready to start embroidering with the straight stitch. We make it by creating a line that can be any length, and yes, it must be straight. It can be used to create fillings, starbursts, or geometric shapes, to name a few. Let's get started. Grab your leaf and two-stranded needle we prepared in previous classes. We will focus on the top right quadrant and start in this lower hole. Pro-tip; pass your needle through the front hole halfway, turn your leaf, and that way you will find the right hole to go through easily. Now, we will bring the needle up that hole through the back of the leaf and pull until the knot makes contact. Be very gentle as you pull, because although we have the backing too much force could create some cracks. Now, let's take our needle down the hole to the right and pull until the thread is tight. Let's do that again. Through the hole that's closer on the top and bring it down through our corner hole. Let's take our needle back to the right to come up the next hole and back down the corner. Continue to do this until you finish or when you run out of thread, then it will be time to make a knot on the backside. What I do is pull gently to make sure that my threads are tight. I put a bit of pressure on the last stitch with my fingers and then I go through another stitch on the back to create a loop and pass the needle through. Pull tight. We will do that one more time. We pass a needle through to create the loop. Pass a needle, pull, and cut. Awesome. Thread your needle and create another knot to continue your straight stitches until you complete this quadrant. There you have it. Take a moment to look at your work from the front and the back of the leaf. Right now, we are just starting, but as you progress, the back will also show your work. Let's continue on the bottom left quadrant to learn and practice a variation of the straight stitch, the running stitch. The way it varies from the straight stitch is that it has a gap in-between. The gap can be even or uneven. I like to use this stitch to create dashed lines, plant stems, swirling patterns, and uneven rays. The process is almost the same as the straight stitch with the difference that we are leaving the gap in-between. Let me show you. We will start once more from our quadrant's corner hole. We go up through the hole from the back and down the hole to our left. Out again, on the hole next to that and down. Here, you can see that my holes were very close and caused the leaf to crack. But our backer saves the day by keeping the pieces in place and showing us our holes on the back. You will find a second version of the template marked as thin and delicate leaves with leaf stitches to avoid this. Once we complete that running stitch line, move to the hole below and continue the stitching, now moving towards the corner. Continue stitching until you complete the quadrant. To finish up, remember to make your knot. There you have it. You now have two stitches in your toolbox. In our next lesson, I will show you the backstitch. See you there. [MUSIC] 9. Backstitch: [MUSIC] The backstage is my go-to stitch to create outlines, lines, curves, and letters. The key to this one is that we're going in a back-and-forth motion. Let's go to our top left quadrant and we will begin on the hole at the bottom that is closest to the corner. We will start with a single straight stitch. We will come up from the back, and going down the next hole. Now through the back, we will come up our next hole and go back down through our previous one. Now you know why it is called the backstitch. We are going back and forth to join the stitches and create one smooth line. We go out our next hole and come back through the previous one, and on and on it goes. Now, keep in mind when you go to the next curve above or the one that's next, remember to start with a straight stitch, then go on with back stitches. Here's a quick tip for this one. When stitching curves, you can alter the length, making the distance between holes smaller to round out the edges and smooth out any sharp corners. Continue practicing and complete this quadrant. In our next lesson, I will show you the French knot. See you there. [MUSIC] 10. French Knot: [MUSIC] The French knot is my favorite stitch to add texture and dimension to my embroidery. You can cluster them together or they can be stand-alone. I use them to create flowers like dandelions, stars, and shapes by clustering them together. For this stitch, we will go up through the hole, wind our thread on the needle three times, and go back down the same hole. Let me show you how that looks like. Let's go to our final quadrant on the bottom right and begin in the corner. We come up from the back and pull. Grab your thread with your non-needle hand. Hold the needle horizontally and wind the thread around three times. When you finish winding, keep holding the thread with your non-needle hand. Now, stick your needle through the same hole we came up from. Just enough to keep it in place and leave it there. Now tug on the thread gently. Just enough so that we create a little bundle that comes close to the leaf. Do not pull too tight since the needle will have to go through. This is what we want to see. A clean bundle around the needle with no messy threads or loop sticking out. But loose enough for the needle to go through. Now, secure the thread with your non-needle hand thumb. Turn the leaf. Here's where I recommend that you use your index and middle finger to support the leaf from behind with the needle passing through the middle of them. This way as you pull the needle, you avoid accidental breaks. Now, pull on the needle very gently until it goes through. If after a couple of gentle tries it does not pass through, the threads are too tight and this is what I do. I put out the needle just a bit and with my finger, I pull up and down my threads are a couple of times, and finally pull them up like this. This provides extra space between them. When you pull gently, it goes through. Continue to pull all the way and just until your knot forms. Careful not to pull more as you might break your leaf, and the knot will go through. Look at that, a great French knot just materialized. Let's do that one more time. We go up our hole, we wind our threads three times, we stick our needle through the leaf, we tug gently to make our bundle, secure the thread and leaf with our fingers, we go through, and there it is. Now, pro tip, when making French knots, take into account how many strands you are working with. For instance, if I did just one strand, I would wind the needle at least 10 times to have a big enough knot to not go through our hole. The fewer the strands, the more winds around the needle. Also, think about how big you want it. Practice with your leaf with two, three or more winds so that you can see the different sizes you can make. Have fun with it. Complete your quadrant, and I will see you in our next lesson. [MUSIC] 11. How I create my designs : [MUSIC] Something that I really like about this craft is thinking about what to embroider next. Let me share with you my process. My first step is identifying what to embroider. This can be tricky because the possibilities are quite endless. What I'd like to say is that it is super helpful to think about something that you are very passionate about or that matters to you. In my case at the moment I love whales and moths, or it could be a quote that inspires me or reminds me of something, or a simple line art of my favorite thing. Next, I go out and do a little bit of research and look for inspiration. I usually start with Google and do an image search. Sometimes I go into the articles or to top searches since they could also inspire an idea. Once I know what I want to do I choose to leave that will be a good fit considering the design and the size, and then I trace the shape on paper to make my template. This way I can start doodling or tracing the design on it. When I'm happy with the design, I start placing and spacing my dots for punching. Remember that I like doing three millimeters or 1/8 of an inch apart. Remember that if you use a tape backing, they can be a little bit closer allowing for a more intricate stitching. Next, I mark up a few things like the name of the stitches I will use and on which parts of the design, how many strands and what color in case I use multiple ones. This will be your guide in the process. I recommend keeping this for your records and using another piece of paper or a tracing paper to create the template that you can cut and place over the leaf to start punching, or you can also take a picture of the page so that they can cut if you prefer. As you are punching each section of your design, remember to remove the paper and connect the dots with pencil so that you don't get lost when you are embroidering. There you have it. Now you know [MUSIC] how I do it, and I hope that it helps you to create your own designs. 12. Project Details: [MUSIC] Congratulations on making it to this lesson. Now it's time to choose your final project. In your class materials, you will find the templates for the three different designs: the dandelion, the moth, or the paper plane. I included two different sizes for the dandelion and the paper plane, and one size for the moth that will hopefully fit your leaves. If they don't, you can resize them or you can use your computer screen to zoom in or out to a size that will allow you to do it on your leaf template. You can then trace the design from your screen and mark the holes. Remember to keep the distance of three millimeters or 1/8 of an inch, and the views of background, they can be a little bit closer. You can go ahead and create your own design. Whichever route you take, I would love to see pictures of your art. It can be just of the finished piece or you can also post pictures of your progress. I cannot wait to see them. [MUSIC] 13. Final Thoughts: [MUSIC] You did it. By now you should have completed your practice leaf and you either created your own design or chose one of the templates that I provided for you. Now that you have seen the way that I design, embroider my leaves and also my thought process. I am hoping that you are able to adapt any of this to your own so that you can continue to create beautiful pieces of art on leaves. I also hope that you enjoyed the moment of pause that this craft gave you. One last thing, please upload your art to the project section. I am so excited to see them all. Thank you for joining this class and learning with me. I hope to see you soon in another one. Bye. [MUSIC]