Create Your Own Embroidery Design Charles and Elin

5 Misconceptions about creating your own embroidery designs

To create your own embroidery designs is perhaps one of the most fulfilling processes of modern embroidery art.

However, it may also be one of the most daunting…

Because where to start?

How to start?

And perhaps the most burning questions of them all…

How to know what to make?

This article cover 5 of the most common misconceptions and hesitations that embroiderers have regarding creating their own embroidery designs.

  1. You need to know many embroidery techniques perfectly
  2. You need to have long experience
  3. You need to be super creative (and absolutely original)
  4. You need to know how to draw
  5. You need to have gone to art school

1. "I don't know enough embroidery techniques"

One of the most common misconceptions is that you have to be an expert embroiderer…

That you should know tons of different techniques and be able to execute them perfectly before you can even begin to consider making your own designs.ย 

But to create your own embroidery designs is actually less about the actual techniques you use than how you use them.

In fact, we hardly ever use more than 5 basic embroidery techniques to create all of our patterns.

Hidden Courtyard Paris Embroidery
Brooklyn-Bridge-Embroidery-Pattern-Closeup
Flower House in Strasbourg

We mix and match:

  • French knot (also known as the knotted stitch)
  • Straight stitch
  • Satin stitch
  • Backstitch
  • Split stitch

“It looks too difficult!”

It’s very interesting, because one of the most frequent responses we get to our patterns is:

“Oh No! This looks way too advanced for me,ย  I don’t think I can do it.”

And yet, as you’ve just learnt – we use only a handful of easy embroidery techniques that any beginner can get their head around in a matter of minutes.

Despite not being a beginner, Nikola from @mindfulstitchingco describes in her IGTV review of our book “Mindful Embroidery” that she first thought the patterns would be way too advanced for her.ย 

And yet, as soon as she got started she realised that it’s truly not difficult at all.

It’s just a matter of how you combine the techniques and you can achieve “advanced looking” stitchery anyway!

2. "It's easy for you to say because you have so much experience!"

A second misconception is that you need to have a ton of experience to be able to create your own designs.

No you don’t.ย 

You just need to have the guts to make mistakes and be ok to bring out the scissor.

One of the things that I love about embroidery is that you work with floss.

Embroidery floss is incredibly easy to cut up to undo stitches that you’re not happy with.

This makes modern embroidery a very “forgiving” medium for both professional and amateur embroiderers.

The only thing to keep in mind is to not pull out the cut-offs too aggressively…

If you pull too hard you may risk harming the fabric and thereby leaving a trace.

Nevertheless, in most cases nothing happens regardless of how you take off the threads.

But to be on the safe side, just gently pull out the cut off parts and you’re good to go!

French knot florals

3. "I am not creative so I cannot make my own embroidery designs"

First I’d like to liberate you from such negative thoughts.

Because I truly believe that everyone is creative.

But unfortunately it’s not everyone who allows themselves to be out of self-doubt and self-criticism.

Creativity does not have to involve completely original ideas or pieces.

That is simply putting the bar way to high.

“Partially original” is enough to aim for.

Because much of what is considered as original has still been born out of inspiration from something around us (something that already exists).

And the chance that someone else in the world has never thought of, or done something similar, is close to 0.

So, let’s just conclude that we must drop the idea of being absolutely original in our own embroidery design making.

And instead focus on the action of creating.

The action of making something.

Now that is not to be mistaken with copying.

To legitimately copy someone else’s work is not ok.

But to take inspiration and mix it with other sources of inspiration is what will generate your own creative expression.

In other words, the result becomes your own “mixture of ideas and interpretations”.

And this is where you will be able to find your own style.

But the question remains: What is creativity then?ย 

It’s your ability to create something.

And we can ALL create something!

Even if you follow a pattern you are being creative – because you will never place your needle in the exact same spot as me (in case it’s a charles and elin pattern).

You will ultimately make slight alterations to the original pattern, which will create your own creative variation.ย 

Look for example at these two embroideries of the same pattern.

ย 

Relax Embroidery

Both have been stitched with the use of Charles’ Relax pattern that he made as a way of self expression through embroidered lettering.

And yet, they look very different!

To change colours is a relatively easy way to express creativity.

Ps. you can get this Relax pattern for free in our resource library Going Knots.

You find the pattern as a downloadable pdf under the curriculum section.

Another way to express creativity with an already existing pattern is to:
  1. add,
  2. take off or
  3. change an element

For example on the images below you can see how one of the stitchers in the Charles and Elin Community, Mir Rogacion, have embroidered her own interpretations on our Tuscan Patio pattern.

The first image shows the original version (our pattern), and the second image is Mir’s interpretation.

The image shows the same motif, but interpreted differently.

For example, Mir has changed the laundry that is hanging to dry.

Instead of single pastel tones, she has added colourful florals as well as enhanced the flowers in the pots on the tile floor.

This is a small example of personal creative moderation.

If you have never done your own embroidery designs before, or feel limited by your idea of creativity – to practise with small moderations to already existing patterns is a great exercise!

It allows you to avoid the “blank sheet” blockage of not knowing what or how to start.

Instead, you are given a base to start from and then you can add as you go.

Because in most cases, when it comes to creativity, we become more creative when we are already in movement creating something.

It is as if creativity is what also nurtures more creativity… How interesting!

(Plus you take off the dreaded pressure of staring at a white canvas!).

I invite you to browse through some of our patterns if this sounds like the perfect place for you to start exploring your creativity.

4. "I don't know how to draw, so I cannot make my own embroidery designs"

I want to be honest and say that of course it is a benefit to know how to draw.

If not with regards to technical skills, it will at least give you a greater confidence in your new embroidery design venture.

However, to design an embroidery pattern is about many other aspects than just drawing.

In fact, to not know how to draw is probably the easiest to “get away with”.

Because you can efficiently use artistic support such as a light-box or architectural trace paper to transfer and combine varying images.

What is much more important is your idea of:

  • composition
  • perspective
  • proportion
  • colouring with respect to ambiance
  • and texture

Because if you want to create your own embroidery design, that means to use your creativity to alter any inspirations that you may find.

For example, you may use subjects that you have cut out from magazines or your own photographs.

If you trace (or essentially copy) them straight over, without adding any personal element such as a) adding, b) subtracting, c) or changing any aspect of the subject – you have not achieved anything creative (unless it was your own photograph from the start of course).

However, if you cut out series of images and combine and overlap them into a new image.

And you spice up the colouring, shade and tones as well as add an unexpected texture to a certain area – that is designing!

Transfer-to-fabric-header

5. "I haven't been to art school so I can't make my own designs"

Even though we all see and hear about self-taught artists, there is still a lot of stigma around art school.

Art school can be an incredible opportunity to discover various art forms, mediums and styles.

You often get to try different before deciding on a specialisation.

Furthermore, you have instructors who teach you all the foundational techniques so that you have the tools to go about and explore your creativity.

But, art school cannot create the art for you.

It’s not your professors who will make your designs for you.

Rather, you have the full control over how much and when you create.

Whether you challenge yourself or stay within the boundaries.

And whether you deepen your research and look for more tools outside of school or not.

Charles did art school in Paris for many years and he told me that it actually limited him in some way.

Because there was an expectation of the kind of art that you should be doing.

Or a kind of process that you should follow.

Whereas when you are free of the institutional box, you can go about creating your work however you feel like it!

In today’s modern world, there is an infinite amount of artistic tools, courses and tutors out there that can cater exactly to your needs.

No need to adapt to a universal class schedule or other peers in the group.

Instead, it’s something for YOU.

You are simply a click away from emerging yourself in new knowledge and skills that targets exactly your interest.

You don’t have to go through years of tedious practise that you will not use later anyway.

Now I don’t want you to interpret it as it being useless to have a broad base of skills.

Of course knowledge is never a bad thing!

But when it comes to art, it’s such a personal form of expression that you cannot force yourself to create with tools, techniques or mediums that simply doesn’t resonate with you.

Art school can be fabulous.

But you are just as free to become incredibly skilled at your chosen medium without it as well.

ย 

If you have made it this far reading the article, I dare to say that you love the embroidery medium.

Just like me, you have found embroidery to be exciting for its endless potential.

You can create both visually and graphically as well as texturally interesting work.

For example, thanks to the needle and thread I often refer to my work as “touchable drawings“.

Because you can’t only see the lines.

You can feel them too as you slide your finger across the fabric.

I JUST LOVE IT!

Solution: How to create your own embroidery designs

You’ve just read a long piece with 5 misconceptions about creating your own embroidery designs.

Now what?

I’m hoping that you feel inspired and itchy for more.

That you feel encourage to give it a go and experiment with the skills you already have. 

And if you feel that you need some more support, we have designed the perfect course for you.

We have a full online masterclass designed as a “create you own embroidery  design” toolbox.

It is tailored perfectly for you who love embroidery (and perhaps you’ve stitched up a few patterns from other embroiderers), and you feel a strong urge to take the next step with your own designs.

The course gives you concrete and actionable exercises to know which colours and techniques to use when and where. 

You will also have guidance on how to compose an interesting image (with or without drawing) as well as how to adapt proportions and perspective to reach your desired result.

Thank you so much for reading!

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at hello@charlesandelin.com if you have any questions about embroidery or creating your own designs.

We are always happy to help and see you dive deeper into this incredible art medium.

Cheers,

Elin

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