One slow afternoon in April 2020, when I was bored to death, my mom pointed to a bag of vibrating threads lying on the couch. In fact, this is exactly what I needed!
I am grateful to have gone through the phases of confinement with my family. I had free time, like so many people my age. Tik Tok was obsessed with crafts like crocheting and knitting, and I already had the resources at my fingertips. So embroidery was obviously what I decided to explore.
I was brought up in a family of artists. My father paints and my mother sews and designs her own clothes. I knew how to hem and sew on buttons thanks to home science lessons in school, but that was about it.
I dove into YouTube tutorials and realized I was drawn to simple but chunky stitches. I focused on an elaborate floral design as a first reference and started sorting through my supplies.
Even though I was threading a needle after years, I found it to be quite easy. Drawing the outline on the fabric, however, seemed daunting since I’ve never been good at the art. With a little help from my dad, I was able to prepare the outlines for the embroidery.
My First Embroidered Flower Garden Hoop
Following a few basic stitches like chain and leaf, plus a few French knots here and there, I embroidered my first row of flowers. To be honest, I still can’t believe how easily this job came to me. Pushing the needle through the tissue and pulling it out the other side was therapeutic.
Nothing has brought me more joy than sewing, in the midst of an unpredictable lockdown. My obsession with embroidery kept growing and I decided to embark on a larger passion project.
This time the canvas was bigger, the fabric thicker and I was more focused because I had chosen to embroider – the back of my denim jacket! I picked the colors and drew on the design and was ready to conquer!
An embroidered back panel on a denim jacket
It took me more than a month to finally succeed. But my oh-so-basic denim jacket had turned into a wearable piece of art. This jacket was going to be a family heirloom that can be passed down from generation to generation!
My next project was to embroider a hoop wall art. I decided to embroider a luminous cycle overflowing with flowers, like those that can be seen in the picturesque towns of Sicily. It was the closest thing to traveling while I was stuck at home.
An embroidered cycle overflowing with flowers
I finally landed on a design that has become my proudest work. Of course, it had something to do with Frida Kahlo, a lasting influence for artists and designers. I was hugely inspired by the artist, so much so that I even got a tattoo of her a few years ago. Embroidering it felt like a fitting tribute. Her signature unibrow, quirky earrings, and the brilliant gardenias and bougainvillea in her hair made for an exciting subject.
A Frida Kahlo embroidered hoop
I was just grateful to have a hobby that took the burdens of the world away from me. If you want to dip your toes into the humble, low-maintenance world of embroidery, you just need a few simple, readily available supplies:
- A set of needles
- Cotton embroidery threads in all colors
- An embroidery hoop
- A few meters of plain white cotton to practice before embroidering your own clothes
Local markets like New Market or Hindustan Mart in Gariahat offer embroidery supplies. You can also opt for DIY embroidery kits available through virtual platforms like Okhai, Fabriclore or Natty. From yarn, needles, hoops to fabrics, you can find it all online.
- Watch as many tutorials as possible to master the basic stitches. Review, pause, stitch and play. Repeat this until you are comfortable with the strokes of each point. If you understand how the threads interact with the fabric at each stitch, you will be able to understand which pattern requires which stitch.
- Always tie a small knot at the end of your needle thread. This will ensure the fluxes don’t slip and stay attached to your fabric so your design is structurally sound.
- Make sure the thread you put in your needle isn’t too long or it could tangle with the threads on the back of the fabric as you embroider. Thus, creating unwanted knots and forcing you to start all over again.
- When trying something like the French knot, be sure to hold the yarn taut and provide a slight tension to the yarn, this will ensure the stitch is tight for a neat design.
- You can mix yarn colors to create ombre shades or even add contrast to your designs. Most embroidery threads have six very fine strands that you can separate. Use three of one color and three of the other to ensure an even color change.