Embroidery Steps Up Its Style

Embroidery Designer Shelli Christiansen shares the keys to giving this classic art and hobby a fresh new style and look.

The “Wicked Spider” pattern is free to KSL viewers and can be downloaded instantly at

Women (and lots of men too!), have an innate need and desire to create beautiful things and to have our “creative outlet”. Embroidery is a perfect medium for this, as it compact and can be easily carried and accomplished anywhere– at the doctor’s office; while waiting for a football game to start; or for dance class to get over. It is therapeutic and calming to work on while the baby is napping or while watching your favorite reruns of “Friends” or “Seinfeld” late at night. The finished products make beautiful pieces of wall art and home decor, and it’s so very rewarding to be able to say, “I made that!”

In addition, it is “hot” right now to have “hand-made”! We see this everywhere in the boutiques and online stores such as Etsy, Ebay, or You Can Make This. With so many people “going green” or being frugal these days, embroidery offers an inexpensive, yet stylish and meaningful option for decorating and gift-giving. What says, “You are the best!” more than a hand-made gift?

We’ve seen the lovely, antiqued handiwork from our grandmothers, but today’s stitching is different. Not only is it pretty or charming; it is chic, hip, and trendy. There are a several ways that today’s embroidery varies from our grandmother’s hand-stitching:

1. The Use of Multi-Media Treatments: In addition to simply stitching the thread to the fabric, we are seeing a variety of textures and embellishments incorporated into the works of art created through embroidery. For example, appliqué, buttons, ribbon, fringe, and rick-rack are simple flourishes that add a lot of impact to an embroidered piece. Items from the scrapbooking industry such as beads, crystals, charms, washers, and brads are finding themselves at home with embroidery as well, adding a little “bling” and a greater sense of style to the traditional embroidery designs.

2. The Style of Stitch: Many of my grandmother’s embroidered handkerchiefs and pillowcases featured a “stem” stitch (that sort of ropey stitch we often see in antique items). While it is beautiful and classic, today’s style offers a cleaner, more sophisticated appearance through the simple lines of the “Back Stitch”. While this stitch has been around forever as well, it is typically the basis for today’s embroidery, as it lends itself beautifully to curvy words and detailed art.

How to Embroider the Back Stitch: work from right to left if you are right-handed.

3. Current Trends and Designs: Words are everywhere! The vinyl industry has proved this through their booming business of printing words and quotes to display in our homes. Today’s embroidery has followed that current trend as well. There are so many fabulous embroidery patterns out there with inspiring quotes, phrases, and words—all designed to create attractive wall art and items of home decor.

The fabric today is inspiring as well! Never before has there been such a wealth of trendy, funky, or gorgeous fabric choices to choose from that perfectly compliment an embroidered design. We see embroidery coupled with fresh fabrics to create table runners, aprons, quilts, tea-towels, wall hangings, pin cushions, or pillows in all shapes and sizes. Keep your eyes open for designers and companies that include Moda, Riley Blake Designs, Heather Bailey, and Amy Butler, just to name a few. You can’t go wrong with any of their fabric choices!

So, give today’s embroidery a whirl…you just might find yourself to be more relaxed, inspired, and with a whole new inventory of stunning home decor items to display or give away. And best of all, you’ll be able to say, “I made that!”

Shelli Christiansen is a mom and designer behind Needle in a Haystack Designs. She is also a member of the YouCanMakeThis.com team. You can find all of her hand-embroidery e-Patterns at:

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