Sewing expert Sammy from Paraffle Embroidery provides top tips to help beginners Craft for Cats
In April, cat lovers across the UK are invited to take part in our next Craft for Cats event to learn how to create a needle painting of a cute cat.
The virtual craftalong will raise money for the cats and kittens in our care, and it will be led by needlework expert Sammy Bishop from Paraffle Embroidery.
Sammy Bishop in the Paraffle Embroidery studio.
Ahead of the event, Sammy has provided her top tips for beginners wanting to try embroidery, including advice on the best equipment and stitches to get you started, and some cat-themed embroidery inspiration...
If you’ve never tried your hand at embroidery, it can be hard to know where to start. There’s such variation in designs and techniques that a newbie can end up feeling overwhelmed!
Well, that’s not a problem. This guide will show you just how easy it is to learn the basics of embroidery - so you’ll be stitching your own pieces in no time!
It’s totally worth a try, too – the calming and therapeutic benefits of sitting down with a piece of embroidery are well-known. Once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s the perfect craft to pick up, whenever you need a pick-me-up!
You don’t need much to start embroidering, just a few essentials will get you on the way.
- A hoop. I like wooden embroidery hoops but if you’re just getting started then it doesn’t matter which kind you choose
- A needle. Embroidery needles have a larger eye so are easier to thread, but it’s fine to get started with any needle you have lying around!
- Embroidery thread. This is slightly thicker than threads commonly used in sewing machines, and is usually made up of six strands of cotton, twisted together. You can pick up quality brands like DMC or Anchor in fabric, craft and haberdashery shops
- Fabric to stitch on. This could be almost anything that you have around the house (an old blouse, cloth, tote bag or teatowel). Try to choose a cotton fabric that isn’t too thin and isn’t too stretchy. Sometimes it’s easier to use lighter colours, as it’s easier to draw patterns on!
If you’d prefer to buy an embroidery kit with all the bits and pieces included, there are plenty of options to make it easy for you.
Choose your pattern
If you’re the creative type, you can create your own pattern to stitch! Have a go at doodling a picture on some paper (or even straight onto your fabric) or just some fun squiggles that you can have a go at stitching.
If you prefer having an image to guide you, have a look online for some inspiration. There’s lots of downloadable embroidery patterns that can get you started in almost any design, including lots of lovely cats! You can also use free stock images, or if you see an original artwork you’d like to stitch, make sure you track down the artist and check that they’re OK with you recreating their work.
Then, you just need to transfer your pattern onto the fabric.
For light coloured fabrics, the easiest way to do this is to lay your fabric over your pattern and trace over it. There’s lots of specialist fabric pens that you can use to draw your pattern with (like water-soluble or heat-erasable pens) but using a pencil or pen to draw straight on is an easy alternative if you want to get started quickly.
For dark fabrics, you can draw or print your pattern onto adhesive, water-soluble paper that you simply stick straight onto your fabric and stitch over (I’ve used this in my Craft for Cats kits).
Put your fabric into your embroidery hoop, and you’re good to go!
The foundation stitch of hand embroidery is back stitch: it’s the easiest way to create a continuous line.
With back stitch you can create pretty much any shape, text or image.
This simple cat outline on pink fabric is all done with back stitch.
There’s lots of resources out there that can help you learn different stitches. Here’s a back stitch tutorial that can get you on the way.
Once you’ve mastered back stitch, have a go at some other stitches that can create lines with different thicknesses and textures.
This simple cat’s face is outlined in chain stitch, with stem stitch ears and back stitch details (there’s tutorials for all of these here).
Experiment with the different stitches and notice how they create different effects against your fabric.
Sometimes it’s nice to start small – hand embroidery can take quite a long time, especially if your pattern is really big!
Tiny charms like this are ideal for beginners, as they only take an hour or two to stitch (and you can attach them to your keys or bags once they’re done!).
This paw print is made with satin stitch, which is a great stitch for filling in blocks of colour.
Needle painting is another type of hand embroidery, where all of the stitches are bunched close together (almost as though you were painting with a paintbrush!).
Needle painting is the style that I’ve used in my Craft for Cats kits, and it’s surprisingly easy to learn.
It’s done using only one stitch, long and short stitch, and just takes a bit of practice to achieve more detail. Needle painting really comes to life when lots of different colours are blended together!
It’s good to start needle painting with smaller projects, as the stitches are packed together quite tightly so it can take a bit longer than other types of embroidery.
It’s so easy to get started with hand embroidery. Don’t be afraid to just grab some fabric and thread and have a play around with stitching different shapes. Hand embroidery is never perfect but it’s lots of fun to experiment with new ideas, and you can always undo any stitches you don’t like!
Finally, I’ll leave you with something inspirational – check out the work of embroidery artists such as Michelle Staub (Stitching Sabbatical on Instagram), who embroiders stunningly realistic pet portrait. We all have to start somewhere, right?!
The needle painting Craft for Cats event with Sammy takes place on 2 April 2022. Sign up now and we’ll send everything you need for the craftalong straight to your door.
Keep an eye out for future Craft for Cats events or get in touch with our Fundraising Events team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01825 741 960 for more information.