Embroidery on clothes

A couple of links I came across this week with embroidery used in fun and interesting  ways on garments. As you probably know by now: I love hand-embroidery on clothing for two reasons. First, it’s a reminder that a living person’s real hands made the garment. And second, when I pick up something I’d embroidered, I remember where I was, and what was going on around me during the time I stitched it. Like a few summers ago, when I made this blouse:


from the Cabbage Rose Fancy pattern set, available here

The girls and I were staying at our summer house near Lake Balaton, and I remember the sunlight through the trees in the late afternoons when I sat down to stitch for a while. The girls and their cousins ran around in the garden, snacking on fruits we’d set out. Every time I look at this blouse I also think of a dear friend who stayed with us a lot that summer.

Anyway, on to the links!

Have you seen the first issue of Seamwork magazine, freshly launched by Colette Patterns? What an exciting new venture! The first issue comes with a lovely free snowflakes embroidery pattern (entirely appropriate for the chilly damp weather we’re having around these parts), along with a tutorial to embroider the snowflakes along the hemline of a skirt or a dress like the Dahlia:


The patterns can be executed with very easy stitches like chain back stitch, stem stitch, or chain stitch. A great way to dip your toes into embroidery, without needing a lot of know-how to do it. Looks like the patterns would stitch up pretty fast too. It lends a festive seasonal touch to a simple LBD, and does so with elegance and a touch of folksy style.

Speaking of folksy, what about this fascinating dress from the 1920s:


I found it at the Dreamstress, who called it “peasant chic” (I must steal that moniker).

Today no one would consider the sleeves or waistline flattering, or for that matter practical in everyday life. But I love the color, the fabric, the pleating of the skirt, the neckline, the waist treatment, and (of course!) the embroidery.

One more thing: notice how both dresses use only white thread for the embroidery? This works particularly well on clothing, turning a folkwear-inspired piece into something more versatile that you can pair more easily with other garments in your wardrobe.

Using one color of thread on an entire design is also a good way to make embroidering a bit easier: you don’t have to worry about choosing colors, or switching between threads quite so often.

What do you think? Do you prefer colorful or monochrome embroidery?




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8 Responses to Embroidery on clothes

  1. TinaD says:

    I grew up in a house where everything that didn’t move was embellished; the sheets from my crib had handworked roses–big fat ones the size of an adult’s hand–all across the top edge of the flat sheet and pillowcase. (Who does that? All that gorgeous embroidery, covered in baby goo…) but I must admit, as nostalgic as color!pattern!flowers! makes me, the thing that makes me go ooooohhhh is proper Victorian whitework, with the white linen and the drawn threads and the whole bit.

  2. Jeri says:

    I absolutely love embroidered clothing! I agree that one color makes it much more elegant. For some reason, I have always associated colorful clothing with summer and monochrome stitching with winter so right now I have lots of black and white in my “to sew” pile!

  3. Kati says:

    Victorian whitework: now THAT is time-consuming to make! But you are right, so beautiful.

  4. Kati says:

    That’s a good point: that the colors one uses are seasonal. It makes sense: winter really is more toned down in terms of color.

  5. The colorful flowers you have made on the blouse are very beautiful and give an great look with green leaves. Seasonal colors really gave an extra edge to the design. I like to use dark colors in winter season and faint in summers.

  6. Susan Barnes says:

    I love the last photo of the blue dress and embroidery in one colour. Very classy and dramatic!

  7. Kelly Meyer says:

    Love the blouse you made! Wondering when you do such heavy stitches on light fabric if you use any stabilizers? I always see them recommended for machine embroidery but hear nothing about hand stitching.

    • Kati says:

      Hi Kelly,

      So very sorry for this late response! For the piece above I didn’t use stabilizer, however, I would not consider this a hard and fast rule. I also don’t use hoops, for the most part – I simply make sure to leave the thread tension for each stitch slightly loose, so that the stitch ends up kind of soft and fluffy, and doesn’t distort the base fabric. If you do want to use a stabilizer, my preference is to use fabric because it feels so much nicer in one’s hand while stitching. Silk organza underlaid the base fabric would work well, or even silk gauze. Whether you remove them afterwards or not is a matter of personal preference!

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