Get into the flow with creative free hand embroidery

3 insider tips by professional embroiderer, on how to create your own free hand embroidery design

Creative free hand embroidery is incredibly liberating, stimulating and FUN! Yet very few dare to give it a try. Why? Because we are so entrenched in the idea that what we make has to come out pretty. Let’s imagine a scenario…

Do you recognise yourself in this? creative freehand embroidery

You have a strong desire to create and to be creative. You work hard to get some free time on your hands so that you can finally do that amazing embroidery art piece. And suddenly… BOOOM. A complete stop. It’s as if the creative department of the brain office went on holiday.

SOOOO incredibly frustrating! If this has never happened to you – lucky you! Because it happens at least to both Charles and I on a regular basis. Thankfully there are several effective exercises to do that quickly gets your creativity flowing again.

2 keys to creative free hand embroidery

You can distil free hand embroidery to involve only two essential processes. If you get these two right, you have immediately increased your chance of success by 100%. Now we can always discuss what the term success actually entails. But let’s assume here that success involves your enjoyment of the freedom that the medium brings, as well as the final results.

  1. Simplify
  2. Make that first line/stitch

The two keys explained…

First, we tend to overcomplicate creative tasks, because we want so badly that whatever we make will come out amazing in the end. Unfortunately, this is a pretty big pressure to put on our shoulders… which ultimately creates a pressure block.

Solution: Simplify your mission

Fall in love with creative free hand embroideryIf you instead simplify your mission from: “This will be my most amazing piece ever”.

To: “I’m going to have so much fun making a few lines/stitches”.

Then you will already enjoy the process and have more ease to be creative in the first place!

Secondly, we all got to start somewhere. The first stitch is NOT what will make or break a design, so better get it over with and break the scariness of having a blank canvas in front of you.

The 3 insider tips that all embroiderers should know about embroidering by free hand

Now that we’ve covered the 2 keys to creativity, we can move on to my top 3 insider tips to successfully embroider by free hand.

1. First you’d want to use a small hoop rather than a big one!

The reason to use a small hoop is that it gives you a smaller space to fill out. With a smaller space, the task immediately feels less daunting and scary, because you don’t have to come up with too many things to fill it out with.

Hence to simply use a small hoop, you have immediately alleviated some pressure on your creativity. For example, I love to use a 6″/10cm diameter hoop for my creative freehand embroideries.

Mini Parisian Building Embroidery Pattern
Mini embroidery design


        2.  Stitch any shape

This is very similar to the second key to creativity that I wrote about above. So why is that first stitch so important? Because there will be no more difficult stitch than the first one when you have an empty fabric.

Perhaps it sounds silly, but you can really get a mental block to stare at an empty space rather than to add a few random stitches. The scenario often plays out in one of two ways:

  1. Either you can’t come up with a single idea for what you want to embroider/fill the space with
  2. You have way too many ideas for what you could make that you end up not being able to choose which one to go for

The solution to both the aforementioned scenarios therefore become to settle for something basic. Why? To make a couple of random stitches is perfectly fine, but to help myself even further, I always choose a shape that I stitch first.

Examples of simple shapes could be:

  • A square
  • A rectangle
  • A triangle
  • A circle

Regardless of your previous design experience, I am absolutely certain that you’re able to stitch any of the shapes above. The general recommendation is to use the backstitch technique to embroider the basic shape. The backstitch technique is perfect when you want to embroider contours.

Avenue Daumesnil Embroidery Design
Popular backstitch pattern of Parisian building

You who’ve tried any of our architectural patterns will know how much we love the backstitch technique and use it all the time.

Ones again, you’re simplifying the process which will allow you greater success and more fun. As soon as you have a shape in place

Ones you have that shape, you can begin to explore ideas of what it might represent…

You can see how I begin with a general shape of a rectangle in this real time process video. The design is completely embroidered by freehand without a transferred pattern.

          3. Last but not least, choose 3 colours to avoid the overwhelm.

Since I have a love for architecture, I usually choose a base colour for the structures and 2 colours for potential greenery. However, let’s say you’d want to embroider something completely different, distil the subject to three main colours. It may feel very simplistic, but ones again, you’ve got to start somewhere!


As you can see, all these three steps serve to alleviate pressure from creativity in order to allow it to bloom.

It deserves to be repeated: Creativity is a treat not a burden! It should be fun to create your own designs, not feel like a stressful experience that you “should” be doing because you have been embroidering for a while.

And if you feel that to embroider your own design isn’t for you, then that is completely fine too! The most important, and what I feel the most passionate about, is the action of creating.

Whether you create your own designs or you embroider other’s patterns matters less. As long as you do something you will quickly notice how your overall well-being will drastically improve.

Parisian Window Embroidery Pattern CharlesandElin
Beginner pattern

If this article sparked your interest and curiosity about creating your own designs, we have a full Masterclass that gives you actionable skills to level up your designs.

The article has covered tips and practises for when you want to embroider by free hand. The Masterclass on the other hand also covers more in depth knowledge on how to plan out unique and compelling designs with respect to:

  • composition
  • perspective
  • proportion
  • color choices
  • texture
  • and of course how to bring it all together!

The course serves as your perfect go to guide and toolbox throughout the process of design-making. And you can easily navigate back forth to watch and re-watch modules as many times as you want.

Create Your Own Embroidery Design Charles and Elin

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