Sunday, March 31, 2013

Designing for the non-designer

There comes a time in most stitchers' lives when they decide that they want to stitch their own designs. But for those of us who can't draw or use computer design programs, what can we do?


I was much less afraid of design as a teenager. Somehow not knowing that much about stitching meant that I wasn't afraid to try something new. I remember making a chain stitch unicorn for a high school boyfriend. The chains filled the shape and made the leg muscles. The boyfriend didn't last. I wonder what happened to the unicorn.


In college, I was away in the Arizona desert on an archeological dig. To entertain myself in the non-working hours, I satin stitched a dog based on a sticker set that I was sealing my letters to my college boyfriend with. I sent him the dog when it was finished, but I don't think it meant as much to him as it did to me.


After that, my designing was limited to swapping out colors in patterns, combining border motifs and substituting sayings in samplers. I was very proud of the following sampler because I had to make up a few of the letters in the alphabet and that was a stretch for me.

Not only did I have to make up some of the alphabet for this sample, but I swapped out the house colors and made up the borders.


But, I've now had almost 4 years of Brazilian embroidery instruction and am almost ready to design a piece on my own. My first attempt was using a pattern from a stitched apron that I have been carrying around for years, and translating it into Brazilian stitches. I think it turned out pretty well. The flower came from The Art of Dimensional Embroidery by Maria Freitas and the hair was a stitch I learned while doing another of Freitas' patterns.

Here is the hand colored photocopy I've carried around with me for the last 15 years.
Here is my Brazilian translation.


I've been gathering photos and pictures and drawing things in a notebook during meetings and bus rides. I took a drawing class, and now I just need a little time to actually experiment with stitches and techniques before I begin designing on my own. Maybe in the fall I'll start a pattern for a Christmas card, although I think, like my angel, my first piece will probably be translating an existing pattern into something new. Even so, I am excited to start and see what happens.


There are many free designs on the Internet suited to adapt to Brazilian. You can download this one from French Knots.


You can tell from this sketch did during my lunch break that I still have a long way to go with design, but I may be able to work with this to produce something eventually.



  1. This is turning out beautifully! Her hair looks incredible. It's lovely to read how other novice designers come up with their inspirations.

    Thanks so much for visiting my blog. I'm really enjoying your blog and your photos over at Stitchin' Fingers.