Embroidered lettering as a modern art for self expression

Embroidered lettering might be one of the most common forms of embroidery through both ancient and modern history.

I remember even my grandmother telling me how she would embroider initials on bed sheets and towels before her wedding.

Today we often see machine embroidered texts written on clothes, sheets and accessories. Considering the facility by which you can embroider letters with most sewing machines today, you may wonder why still do it by hand?

This is a common question that we receive from people who don’t create with their hands on a regular basis. Because truth is, it’s not the final result that matters. It’s the process of creating it, which you will soon discover when you begin to stitch.

Thus machine embroidered lettering might look more neat and “perfect”. But hand stitched lettering reflects a personal story and involvement.

Hand embroidery = Mindfulness

It’s no secret that we all at different points in our lives face various stressors and anxieties.

But what has happened this spring of 2020 is that the whole world is experiencing drastic increase in stress due to the global pandemic. Instead of talking about the facts of the situation and the worrisome uncertainties that it brings, I’d like to focus on what we can do to feel better.

If you already follow Charles and I, it will come as no surprise that we have sought refuge in creativity.

But we have witnessed something quite remarkable these last weeks and months: We are not alone. More people are picking up creative projects than ever before. More people are re-discovering and re-connecting with their inner selves through handcraft and the arts.

Already last year I wrote an article about how hand embroidery should be considered a modern mindfulness practise. Because to embroider by hand allows you to be present, disconnect from stress around you and let your thoughts wander free. All of which are elements of other mindfulness practises out there. Thus with these reminders of what hand embroidery can do for you, it comes as no surprise that we have seen an increase in students taking our courses and embroidering our patterns. And best of all, an increase in students who send us their finished works, which concretely shows that they prioritised time to create.

Embroidered lettering as a way of self-expression

But let’s get back to the topic of hand embroidered lettering. Just as modern hand embroidery has increased in popularity over the last few years, so has lettering. For example, we had a podcast interview with Lauren Hom, who is a professional lettering artist.

Lauren and many other letterers, use lettering as an art form to express thoughts and messages in an artistic way. Instead of writing diary or journaling to deal with your thoughts, you work with them through art. The longer you work on a particular sentence or quote, the deeper its meaning becomes. And the more you get the chance to work through potential emotional connections you have with it.

To give some concrete examples, Charles has embroidered a few lettering projects over the last couple of weeks. It has been a way of practising mindfulness, while connecting with strong words related to our current state. Embroidered lettering can seem straight forward if you just follow the lines of each letter. But as you can see in the full process videos that Charles filmed, there are endless possibilities of how you can write.

Ideas for embroidered lettering projects + Free pdf pattern

Relax Embroidery

The first project that Charles stitched was the word “Relax”. It serves as a reminder that we all need to take breaks.

Whether you have a lot of things on your plate or not, it’s essential to still take time to relax.

In fact we’ve seen and heard many struggle with feelings of guilt now that they spend more time at home due to confinement. The guilt origins from an internal pressure that we should use the additional time available in a productive manner.

Of course it’s fabulous if you are able to make use of the extra hours in the day that you save from not having to commute to and from work. However, those extra hours, doesn’t mean that you have to absolutely work. Use the time for relaxation and self-reflection or else you might create the opposite effect and experience burn-out.

To best encourage you to give embroidered lettering a try, we’ve made this first Relax pattern available for free. You can download it instantly via our resource library “Going Knots” on Charles and Elin Academy.

Here are some versions from other stitchers as well:

Relax-Embroidery-Testimonial-2Relax Embroidery Testimonial 3Relax Embroidery Testimonial

Embroider letters with French knots

The second design that Charles embroidered was the word “Hope”. At the time we had just received the news that the hospitals have installed limitations for partners during birth. As we are only weeks away from meeting our baby girl, we both felt the need for to concentrate on hope. Both on a personal and collective level. We hope that everyone feels well and we hope that we all will work through this together.

To make a creative twist in relation to the previous Relax pattern, he decided to stitch with only French knots. Thanks to the French knot technique the word becomes highly textured and the movement is meditatively repetitive. To still add life and variety without changing stitching technique, he used a variated thread.

Letters with negative space

The last piece he stitched was the sentence “Be Patient”. This design cam to life when we all began to realise that things might drag out on time… Quite a lot… There’s no quick fix to global pandemics and we all need to practise our patience to get through it together.

In conjunction with the meaningful message, he wanted to add a more experimental and creative element. Thus, instead of embroidering the actual letters, he embroidered the space around them. You may recognise that he still used the French knot technique and another variated thread. With French knots you can easier create the illusion of shade by placing the knots closer or further apart.

I really hope that this article can help to inspire you to express yourself in whatever you’re going through. Express your thoughts and emotions to not let them spread negativity from within. Or stitch joyful messages as reminders of good moments and goals.

I also hope that by showing some concrete examples of Charles’ recent embroidered lettering projects, it can give you a better idea of how it can be done. Ones again, don’t forget that it’s not about the final result. But rather about the process of embroidering and creating with your hands that is the most important!

Sending you warm wishes,


Ps. If you’re new to embroider and not sure of the techniques that I mentioned, I invite you to join our free resource library. You can also have a look at this article about the only 7 stitches you really need to embroider anything. Both Charles and I are promoters of simplicity when it comes to modern designs. Thus it hopefully feels less intimidating to know that you don’t need to learn too many stitches before you can get started and create amazing embroidery art.

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