I got some requests for help with embroidering on knitwear the other day, so I thought I’d put together a list of some things to help you get started. I want to point out that this isn’t the “bible” for embroidering on knitwear, but simply a starting point to highlight what I think are basic and helpful tips. If you do have something to add that works for you, please feel free to add your tips and tricks to the comments below.
1. Get comfortable with executing the stitches on fabric first. Mary Corbet has video tutorials for many stitches on her website. Knitted fabric is lumpy and bumpy, and can be unpredictable. Being comfortable with the stitches will take away some of the frustration.
2. Use a milliner’s (straw) needle. It’s longer, and the entire needle is the same thickness. These are necessary for making great knotted stitches (bullion, french knots, colonial knots, etc). This is the pack I purchased and use the two in between sizes.
3. I use two to four strands of embroidery floss, usually two. If you use an even number of strands you can secure your strands as shown in the photo below, no knot is needed. I cut about a 36″ strand and fold it in half; it’s now an 18″ double strand. Thread both cut ends through the needle. There are other ways, but this way is my favorite. (I learned this from my cross stitch model stitcher 20+ years ago, thank you Geri.)
4. When embroidering, bring your needle through (or splice) the middle of a strand of yarn, not between knit stitches. Sometimes you can get away with going through the stitch spaces if your embroidery stitches are bulkier than your knitting, but most times the stitches will get lost between knit stitches, or worse, pull to the wrong side of the knitted piece. When working with lace weight yarn it can seem impossible to splice a strand of yarn with your embroidery needle, so put on your reading glasses or work with a magnifier. You will be happier with your work if you can see it properly.
5. I use a large cushioned quilter’s board to work on; it acts as a pincushion for quickly setting your needles into and keeps things from rolling around. I also use it to hold my piece in place when trying to create the perfect stitch. Use straight pins as you’d use thumb tacks to secure a corner, one is all you usually need. The board is also what I block my knitwear on, so it’s a great investment.
6. When ending a color, tie 3 half knots (the strands need to be coming out of different spots on the reverse side). To do this, take a tiny stitch on the reverse side and allow only one strand to pull through, now your tails are coming out of different places. Rethread the knotted tail onto a needle (this needle can be easy to thread, and larger in size) and “hide” the knot in embroidery threads or partial strands of yarn to keep the knot from sticking out. Cut your thread leaving about a 1/8″ tail.
7. FYI, there isn’t any way to draw your design on knitwear; at least none that I know of—it’s all freehand work. Sometimes it helps to draw your design on paper and follow your sketch as a rough layout. I draw circles for bullion roses, ovals for buds, petal shapes for lazy daisy stitches, etc.
8. Be willing to rip out stitches that you aren’t happy with. After years of embroidering on knits, I still quite often rip out stitches. And by quite often, I mean almost every project! Either a color isn’t working for me, or the stitch is not laying correctly on the fabric. It’s part of the process, so expect it.
9. Learn from your past work and the the work of others. What did you like, or not like about it?
10. Practice, practice, practice! Your style will start to emerge the more you practice.
In case embroidering on knits seems overwhelming to you here’s a photo of one of my first sweaters/hats from 2011; it was for Kish Bethany. I remember this embroidery being quite a challenge for me, and took ages to complete. At the time, I was very happy with how it turned out. When I look at this photo, I see numerous things that I would do differently today. It’s okay, those thoughts help us better our work.
And, here are some photos from the past year or so.
I have also made three embroidery albums in Flickr: Floral Embroidery, Christmas Embroidery, and Other Embroidery. Nothing new here, but I grouped the photos into themes and picked the photos to best show the embroidery. Enjoy!
If knitwear embroidery is something you’ve been wanting to try, I hope these tips will help you. Let me know if you have questions; I’d be happy to help.
Bye for now! Enjoy the weekend!