Hand Sewing Magic: Essential Know-How for Hand Stitching--*10 Easy, Creative Projects *Master Tension and Other Techniques * With Pro Tips, Tricks, and Troubleshooting

Hand Sewing Magic: Essential Know-How for Hand Stitching--*10 Easy, Creative Projects *Master Tension and Other Techniques * With Pro Tips, Tricks, and Troubleshooting

by Lynn Krawczyk


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781589239685
Publisher: Quarry Books
Publication date: 12/04/2018
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 654,144
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Lynn Krawczyk is a mixed-media surface design artist who focuses on pattern and color. Her work features painting, drawing, and hand stitching on both fabric and paper. Lynn has written nearly 50 magazine articles for such publications as Quilting Arts Magazine, Cloth Paper Scissors, Uppercase, Fiber Art Now, and Sew Somerset, and is the author of The Hand-Stitched Surface (CPi, 2017) and Intentional Printing: Simple Techniques for Inspired Fabric Art (Interweave, 2014).She also has a collection of floss with thread manufacturer Aurifil, Inked by Lynn Krawczyk, as well as three instructional DVD workshops with Quilting Arts/F&W Media: Print, Design, Compose; Color Theory Made Easy; and Thermofax Screen Printing Essentials. Lynn teaches surface design workshops at various venues throughout the United States. She lives in Plymouth, Michigan.

Read an Excerpt


The Hand Stitcher's Toolki

As with every activity, you will find the tools that suit your personal sensibilities. However, there are some basics that can't be avoided. This chapter will help you get a good foundation for the materials and supplies that make hand stitching a breeze.


Needless to say, thread is one of the main elements of hand stitching. Just as a painter can choose from acrylic, oil, or watercolor paints, stitchers have a wide variety of thread types to choose from as well. It's incredibly exciting to try them out, but it can also be overwhelming, so we are going to take a close look at exactly what embroidery thread is and what fibers can be used to make it.

What Is Embroidery Thread?

Embroidery thread is simply defined as yarn that is spun specifically for the use of embroidery and needlework. When you hear the word yarn it may seem confusing, but all it means is that the fibers are made into embroidery thread using the same techniques that yarn is made from — spinning and plying.

The raw fiber is spun into a single thread. The threads are then twisted together with varying numbers of strands to create the desired weight. The thread will also be dyed and some threads may be treated with specific chemicals to acquire a unique characteristic.

Types of Embroidery Thread

We are going to examine five different groups of threads and what makes them special.

Disclaimer: The threads shown in the photos are from my personal stash. I've been collecting for a couple of decades. This is the long way of saying that I know the manufacturers of some threads and the labels of others have long gone to thread heaven. I will identify brands where I am sure of them to give you a reference should you like the looks of them.


Cotton embroidery thread is one of the most commonly found types of thread. I use this thread a lot in my work because it's affordable and easy to find, and I like the dimension that the thicker sizes lend to my stitching.

This type of thread is often mercerized. This is accomplished by treating the thread with caustic alkali to increase its strength and give it a shiny appearance. The smoothness this process lends to the thread makes it especially nice to stitch with.

When a size number appears next to the thread, it indicates the thickness. Size 3 is the largest thread and size 12 is the thinnest thread in the group shown. The higher the number, the thinner the thread.

Six-stranded floss is made up of six thin threads. This allows you to control how thick your stitching thread is. It is one of the least expensive threads, and being able to produce thick or thin stitches from a single skein makes it even more economical.

Crochet thread is used to crochet lace and other detailed home décor items, but it can also be used for embroidery. The thickness of this thread is similar to perle cotton weights, but not exact. Again, the higher the size number indicated on the tag, the thinner the thread.


Wool thread is another favorite of mine. I love the rawness of the fiber, and it's always a good addition to any project needing a punch of texture. It has a kind of primitive feel to it, but I find that cozy, like an invitation to come sit by the fire to chat.

This type of embroidery thread most closely resembles the yarn we use for knitting and crocheting. It's just made to a finer grade.

Typically, this kind of thread is not divisible. It's a single strand or multiple threads twisted into a single thread. How the thread is spun defines its strength. The tweed thread, for example, is fairly easy to tear if you use too much tension. Wool has a rougher texture and, even with simple stitches, it can really stand out in your stitched work.


Silk is one of those threads that you love or hate. I've learned to love it over the years. One of my biggest issues with it is that it can snag easily. Anything from thick layers of fabric in your project to dry hands can catch on it. However, the beauty of it is worth the extra effort of making friends with it.

Silk thread is made from the cocoons of silkworms. The cocoons are pulled apart during a process called reeling.

There are two types of silk thread — spun silk and reeled silk. Spun silk is made from short silk fibers and waste silk. Waste silk ranges from the rough outside layers of the silk cocoon to small pieces of silk that have broken during the reeling process. Reeled silk is made from cocoons, as well, but the strands are long and are not twisted. It is also known as filament silk.

Silk threads all share the characteristics of softness and high shine. The thread is very strong but is easier to use in shorter lengths because of its tendency to snag. The thickness of the thread depends solely on how the silk is reeled and whether it's waste silk or long strands.

Silk adds an instant elegance and beauty to any stitching project.


Each thread in this group has unique characteristics that make them niche threads. Either by their fiber content or dyeing methods, they stand out in the crowd as something that you just don't see every day.

Linen thread — This is made from the fibers inside the stalks of the flax plant. The thread is matte in appearance and has a somewhat compressed look as opposed to a visible twist.

Nylon thread — This is made from 100 percent nylon, which is a plastic-based material. The thread is incredibly strong and has a fantastic shine.

Cotton/rayon blend thread — Blending the fiber contents of thread allows the strength of each one to shine through. Adding rayon to cotton gives the thread incredible softness. The high shine of the rayon coupled with the cotton creates an almost sparkle effect.

Rayon thread — This thread is made from purified cellulose fibers such as wood pulp. The fiber is chemically treated, which makes it a semisynthetic fiber, meaning it starts out as an organic compound but undergoes a chemical reaction during processing. The result is incredibly shiny thread. It's very strong and is especially useful for dimensional embroidery.

Wool/silk blend thread — The combination of these two fibers results in a full, soft thread. The silk lends strength and shine to the wool. The wool maintains some of its original texture, giving it a distinct, fluffy appearance.

Metallic thread — These threads are often made up of several layers of different fibers. The outer layer bears the metallic thread. It can be coarse, which makes it harder to stitch with, but the depth and shine are incredible.

Novelty yarns — These yarns include anything out of the ordinary. They have high texture and are mixes of several different fibers. They are not meant to be threaded through a needle and stitched with. Instead, they can be laid on top of your project and secured with stitches of a different embroidery thread. This process is called couching.

Persimmon-dyed thread — This is a naturally dyed thread. The color comes from the persimmon fruit. After the thread is dyed, it is exposed to air and sunlight to create the rich color.

Sashiko thread — This thread is specifically made for the Japanese stitching art of sashiko. It is a simple, decorative form of embroidery that has its roots in mending. The thread used for this is tightly twisted cotton in a thicker weight. It has a matte appearance and its weight adds bold marks to your project.

Thread Storage Options

Collecting different kinds of threads can quickly become a tangled mess if you don't adopt some form of organization. Depending on your level of neatness needs, here are a few options to consider.

Thread boxes and paper bobbins. These can be easily found in craft stores and are nice because everything is lined up in an orderly fashion. The paper bobbins that you wind the thread onto lend an extra opportunity for organization because you can write thread information on them, such as brand and color codes.

Glass jar. If you are more free spirited and just want to make sure that your threads aren't roaming randomly about the house, a glass jar or little vase is a nice option. You can just wind them into little balls and toss them in there. Plus, it's fun to look at.

Clothespin board. I am the kind of artist who needs to have my supplies in front of me or I tend to forget about them. But that leaves me with the dilemma of things getting extremely cluttered. My threads are no exception.

In response to not wanting my house to look like it belongs on the TV show Hoarders, I turned my supplies into a sort of art installation all its own. Here's how you can make one, too!


• Embroidery thread

• Wood clothespins

• Craft magnets (the self-adhesive rectangular kind wound in a coil so that you can snip pieces to the size you want)

• Magnetic board

1. Begin wrapping your thread around the clothespin behind the spring (A).

2. Wrap the thread along the clothespin to just before the notch near the end that opens. Be careful to wrap the thread securely but not tightly. You should still be able to open the clothespin (B).

3. Continue wrapping back and forth along the pin, keeping the thread thickness even. If you wrap too much thread on the pin, it won't lie flat on the board and the magnet won't be able to hold it (C).

4. Cut a small piece of craft magnet and stick it to the upper back portion of the pin. Arrange them on the magnetic board (D).

Tips and Tricks for Working with Thread

I wish I could say that thread will always behave when you work with it, but I'd be lying to you if I did. It has its quirks. Below are some of the more common ones and how to navigate your way through them.


There are two possible culprits for this problem — the needle you are using is too small or the length of your thread is too A long. If the needle is too small, it won't create a hole in the fabric that the thread can pass through easily. If you have to struggle to pull the thread and needle through the fabric, try a larger needle.

Keeping your threads at a shorter length also helps reduce the chance of fraying. This is because the thread passes through the fabric layers a fewer number of times so it's not exposed to more friction than necessary. I recommend a length no longer than 18 inches (45 cm).


If you're not using an overly long length of thread and are still having trouble with the thread curling back on itself or getting tangled easily, consider using a thread conditioner. Thread conditioner is wax that coats the thread, making it easier to stitch with. Simply lay the thread you want to use on the wax, lightly press your finger over the top of the thread, and pull the thread so the entire length is coated.


Six-stranded floss can have an attitude when it comes to trying to pull one or two strands out. Cut the thread to no more D than 18 inches (45 cm). Hold the thread lightly between your forefinger and thumb and pull one strand from the bunch.

The thread behind your fingers will quickly bunch up into a pile but continue to gently pull until the single strand is free. The rest of the thread will straighten out once it's free. Continue to pull single strands in the same way until you've removed the quantity you want to stitch with.


Although thread companies and hand dyers do their best to make sure that a thread is colorfast, it's not always a guarantee. Colorfast means that the thread will not release any dye when it gets wet. If you are planning to wash a project, it's always a good idea to test if the thread will bleed before you begin stitching your project.

Dampen your thread and place it on white fabric or a paper towel.

Fold the fabric over and press firmly. If you see any color marks on the fabric after you're done, the thread is bleeding excess dye and can cause you grief in the future.

So what do you do? Is it possible to stop the thread from bleeding? Some particular colors are difficult to set no matter how hard you try. (I'm looking at you, Red.) Part of the reason is that to make some colors brilliant and bright you simply need more dye to make it happen.

If you have your heart set on using a particular thread that doesn't pass the bleed test, you can soak the thread in warm water and rinse until it no longer bleeds.

However, a word of caution. Washing the thread repeatedly to reduce bleeding means that you are removing dye. This will cause the color to fade and, depending on the fiber, could stress it and degrade its appearance.

A quick internet search will find advice on soaking thread in vinegar or other solutions said to "set" the color. I don't find this to be true at all. Dyes need to be set (meaning permanently fixed) to the thread during the dyeing process itself. Attempting to do so afterward is likely to damage the integrity of the thread, and I don't recommend it.


What Is an Embroidery Hoop?

An embroidery hoop is a frame used to keep fabric taut during hand embroidery. It does this by creating tension on the fabric so it remains smooth and stable as you stitch.

Hoops can be round or oval and come in many materials, such as wood, metal, and plastic. We are going to learn how to use a round wood hoop because they are easily found at craft stores.

How to Use an Embroidery Hoop

Using a hoop is fairly straightforward, but there are some things to keep in mind.

An embroidery hoop consists of an inner and an outer hoop that can be made larger or smaller in diameter. The hoop is adjusted via a screw attached to the outside of the outer hoop. When the screw is adjusted, the gap between the two hoops changes to accommodate the fabric being assembled into it.

How much you adjust that gap is the key to avoiding fabric distortion. Fabric distortion can create puckering and uneven stitches.


If the outer hoop is too loose when assembling the fabric, there will be no tension on the stitching surface. This means that in order to make the fabric lie flat, you will need to tighten down the screw on the outer hoop and tug on the fabric to make it taut. This is the easiest way to create permanent distortion on your fabric.


On the opposite end of the spectrum, if the outer hoop is too tight, it too can create permanent fabric distortion. This will happen when you press the two hoop pieces together — the outer hoop will "drag" the fabric against the inner hoop.

So how in the heck do we use this thing? Well, it's kind of like Goldilocks and her bed — you have to find the "just right" amount of looseness of the outer hoop.

Here are some handy steps to creating the right amount of tension on the fabric with the hoop:

1. Using just the two pieces of the hoop, tighten the outer hoop until it just touches the inner hoop. You should still be able to easily remove the inner hoop, but it shouldn't freely fall out if you pick up the hoops as a unit (A).

2. Separate the two pieces and lay the inner hoop flat on a table.

3. Lay your fabric on top of the inner hoop (B).

4. Lay the outer hoop over the top of the fabric and press into place (C).

Even if you use the preceding steps, fabric distortion can still occur. There are two simple things you can do to help further decrease the odds of this happening.

The first trick is to wrap the inner hoop with bias tape used for quilt binding. You can also use scrap fabric strips, twill tape, or any other fabric you have that will lie flat. Bias tape is cut on the bias of the fabric so it has some stretch to it, and that helps wrap it tightly against the wood.

The reason I like to use bias tape is because you can purchase it very inexpensively at the craft store in many widths and colors. I use the ¼-inch (6 mm) single-fold tape. I tend to use smaller hoops and find that this size is easier to wrap around the wood. If you're using a larger hoop, try wider tape.

The goal of the wrapping is to create a lightly padded buffer between your project and the hoop.


Excerpted from "Hand Sewing Magic"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc..
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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