Before we get into the step-by-step process I used for embroidering Emma's shamrock shirt, I feel like I should add a small disclaimer that I am in no way an expert on this subject and have just recently branched out into free-hand stitching (as opposed to the lovely cross-stitch patterns that come with markings all ready to go). I did quite a bit of research before even touching Emma's shirt. My goal in this "tutorial" is simply to pass along the methods I used and any helpful beginner tips that I can think of.
Now that we've got that out of the way, on to a little lesson on embroidery using the back stitch!
The first thing you'll want to do is gather all necessary supplies:
-embroidery hoop (the one pictured is 4-inches)
(The helpful people at Michael's told me to buy smaller needles since it's easy for beginners to create holes using the bigger ones. The bigger the number, the smaller the needle. I used a size 7 from a pack of sizes 6-12.)
Start by cutting a piece of yarn. I wish I could tell you how long mine was, but since I used a different piece for each letter, I simply "eyeballed" the length that I would need. Go with your gut here.
Separate the yarn in half--there should be 6 strands total, so split the top into two sections of three.
Very carefully pull the two sections of yarn apart. I emphasize the word carefully because pulling too hastily can cause the yarn to twirl and knot--no fun. I found it easiest to hold one section down with my thumb and pointer finger while using my other hand to slowly pull the second section of yarn down.
Take one of the three-strand sections, wet one end really well in your mouth and thread it through the eye of your needle. Then pull it down until it's even with the other end of the thread and knot it twice. Trim off the excess tail.
Once your needle and thread are taken care of, place the section of fabric you intend to embroider into the embroidery hoop. (Unscrew the top until the two piece come apart, place the inner ring underneath the fabric and the outer ring on top. Secure the inner ring inside of the outer ring, making sure the fabric is smooth and taut, and screw the top of the hoop until it is snugly in place.
As mentioned before, I opted to stitch my letters free-hand. There are several different methods you can use if you're not comfortable enough to work without a pattern, two of my favorite tutorials being the use of a tear-away stencil and creating an iron-on pattern. However, I was not patient enough to try either of these methods for five little letters, so I decided to wing it as I went along. And you know what? It really wasn't that hard--promise!
Start by marking the fabric with a tiny perforation where you want your letter to start. It's a good idea to make your stitches small so that you can work easier around the bends, curves and corners of each letter.
(I'll be stitching the letter 'C' in the following pictures.)
Now take your needle and push it up through the fabric where the first stitch should end and the second stitch should start.
With me? Good.
Now bring the needle back down into the original spot that you marked.
You've completed your first stitch!
Here comes the "back" in back stitch--you'll be working each stitch from back to front rather than front to back! Bring your needle up through the fabric where the second stitch should end and the third stitch should begin, and then bring it down through the last hole that was made.
Continue in this manner until you have completed your letter, and don't worry if you need to take the thread out a few times around the curves. This happened to me more than once and everything turned out just fine.
Turn your work over, thread the needle under the second to last stitch that was made and tie a knot. Do this once or twice more for extra hold, if you like, and snip off the tail.
Now stop to admire your handiwork for a moment before moving on to the next letter!
I get such a kick out of seeing Emma's new little shirt and knowing that the bright, colorful lettering was hand-stitched by her very own Mama.
I hope this tutorial was helpful to those of you who, like myself, are new to embroidery and looking for a no-fuss way to get started. I think I see a lot more of this addicting hobby in my future!