The COVID-19 pandemic inspired the revival of several arts and crafts; among them, embroidery. During long days cooped up, working from home and spending hours in front of a screen, I found myself eager to trade in my evening Netflix for a digital detox. It was my need for a tactile, analog activity that inspired me to try my hand at a new craft. When I tried embroidery on a whim, I stumbled upon more than just a break from constant connectivity — it was a fun, foolproof hobby with endless possibilities.
Curling up on the couch with a needle, thread, and embroidery hoop made for a cozy nightcap, and it’s now a consistent evening ritual I refer to as my “stitching hour.” The gentle, meditative quality of embroidery offers me a way to unwind and refocus, and I relish the pursuit of progress with each completed project. Now, as I come across many others seeking a bit of respite in their daily routine, I’m eager to share the creative and calming benefits of this classic craft.
What’s So Great About Embroidery
As an old soul, I wasn’t surprised to find that I caught onto the craft quickly. Embroidery offers a unique, nostalgic charm, harkening back to a simpler time when people derived satisfaction from the fruits of their labor. Its endearing, handmade quality means every project is a heartfelt endeavor, complete with personal touches. Not to mention, it’s portable and customizable, making for an easy on-the-go activity to pass the time while traveling or commuting — and create something beautiful, practical, and even giftable in the process.
The best part? Minimal investment is required to get started.
How to Get Started Embroidering
To get started, at the least, you’ll need a needle, thread (embroidery floss), and cloth (tea towels are a great choice). An embroidery hoop (to hold the fabric in place) and needle threader (to thread those thin strands through the needle) make for an easier embroidery experience, but aren’t required. If you’d rather not procure your supplies separately, embroidery kits are a great all-in-one option, and come with a stenciled pattern. Here is my suggested hierarchy of easing your way into embroidery with pre-made kits.
A Starter Kit for Basic Stitches
You’ll learn the essentials (e.g., running stitch, backstitch, and split stitch), and then branch out into slightly more complex stitches (e.g., lazy daisy, french knot, chain stitch). These become the basis of any pattern you create. You can find my favorites on Amazon and Etsy for less than $15.
Kits with Pre-Set Patterns
These have a pattern stenciled on the cloth, with detailed instructions for which stitches and colors to use. The best part? It comes with all the colors of floss you’ll need, so you don’t need to purchase any separately. Personally, I’ve started with floral designs, as they lend themselves well to a variety of stitches. I’ve found kits I love on Amazon and Etsy, although many are often also available at retailers like Walmart and Michael’s and on small business sites like Jessica Long Embroidery or Cozy Blue Handmade. (Pro tip: For visual learners, some Amazon listings have video instructions.)
Unlike the all-in-one kits, these most often come in the form of a digital download, sometimes with step-by-step instructions, video tutorials, and recommendations for color scheme. The pattern can be transferred onto cloth through a variety of means, including a water-soluble pen, pencil, a heat transfer pen, or tracing paper. Etsy has an entire library of PDFs, many which include multiple patterns per purchase.
This is the “no-rules” approach. Embrace creative freedom and spontaneity, and put your needlework knowledge to the test. There are plenty of Instagram accounts offering up stitch-spiration for your first freehand endeavor.
Most basic kits won’t set you back more than $15 to $20, although there are plenty of nicer, more customizable ones available. If you’re exceptionally thrifty, craft stores like Michael’s offer in-app coupons.
What You Can Use Embroidery For
Beyond being a soothing and satisfying hobby, embroidery can be pretty and practical. After a few practice rounds, your finished projects can be hung in the hoop, mounted and framed, or transferred as patches onto clothing. You can also stitch directly on different mediums, from canvas tote bags and kitchen towels, to denim, pillow cushions, and T-shirts. If you’re washing the item, just make sure to use a color catch at first, as some of the dye may run. Not only can embroidery spruce up your clothing or home decor, but your projects can also become cherished and sentimental gifts — perhaps inspiring others to pick up the craft, too.