Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How to Make an Embroidered Painting

Today is my friend Margaret's Birthday! She's been one of my few good friends since I arrived in Columbia so I wanted to be sure to make it extra special. One of my favorite presents to make is an embroidered painting. 

I don't know if there is a real name for this: I've not seen the exact same thing before. But it's relatively easy to do and very personalized. It could be adapted into a sweet Mother's Day gift as well (I'll post more on my actual Mother's Day plans later). It might look complicated, but it's totally doable in one evening and worth the slightly extra effort.

You will need:

1. Acrylic paints in colors of your choice. These are the Joann Fabrics store brand (Essentials) in basic black and white, "Baby Blue," and "Carribean Coast," Scribbles fabric paint (aka puffy paint) in "Glittering Ruby", a wide flat brush, a skinny flat brush,  a detail brush, pencil/pen, and an awesome eraser.*
*this might be optional for you. But not me.

2. A blank white canvas on a wooden frame. Fun fact: These are usually about $3 a piece at Big Lots.

3. Embroidery floss, a needle, and a push pin.

Now let's get started!

Use a picture of an outline map as a guide to copy on your canvas. Mess it up. Erase it all. Start over. You could also trace an outline if you have a map cutout you like.When you're happy with it, pencil in your quote and location hearts. It's not going to be perfect and that's part of what makes it special.  Marge's family is from Florida, she lived in Philly, and now we're in SC.

The "...Whithersoever thou goest." is from the King James version of Joshua 1:9,
Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

Paint your background. The plan originally was to mix a very light gray for the outside, and a slightly darker gray for the land so the words and hearts would pop. It didn't look as gross as this picture would suggest, but I ended up covering the light gray with baby blue anyway. It was much harder to see the pencil then anticipated so it was a good thing I covered the final lines in a fine Sharpie first. That detail will be entirely dependent on the paint you use. Each layer should dry in about 10-15 minutes. 

Prep to start embroidering. Use a push pin to pre-poke holes in the canvas along your pencil outline, keeping the holes between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch apart. Don't skip this step: it will make the embroidering to come SO much easier. If you've worked with embroidery floss before, you know it's pretty thick to use the whole chuck at one. Unravel about 2 feet at a time and split the 6 strands so you have 2 long pieces of 3 strands each. Thread it on to your needle by pulling the length of the floss halfway through (you're now working with a piece that's about a foot long since it's folded in half through the needle). Tie a knot at the very end. You'll end up doing this step multiple times depending on the length of your quote. 

Now it's time to embroider your quote. I learned to embroider from my Grandmother when I was 10. My skills have not improved any since, but I like to pretend. To embroider, (1 and 2) you will bring your needle up through the next hole, (3) pull all floss through, (4) and stitch over the space you skipped. Those are terrible instructions. But these at Sublime Stitching are great, promise.

Once you've finished embroidering, the hard part is over! Now it's just time to add some fun details. The glitter puffy paint was a perfect touch for the location hearts. Then add some waves (Carribean Blue) and mountain ranges (1 more drop of black paint to the leftover dark gray mix). The color used for the waves just happened to matched the embroidery floss so it made the perfect color to finish the edges.

Let it dry over night, mostly for the puffy paint, and then it's ready to be gifted or displayed! The gray comes out looking like many different colors throughout this tutorial since it was dark outside while this was being made, but it actually looks pretty cute in real life and I would still recommend using it. I even grew to appreciate the light gray layered under the baby blue  All together, this took about 3 hours, not counting final drying time.

I can't wait to give it to Marge tonight! Who would you make something like this for? And where would your hearts be? I'd love to know.

Sheila :) 


  1. Wow love this idea! This is such a cute painting/embroidery! Good work! We'll have to try this out some time. Thanks for sharing! Xo, M&K at

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words and letting me know you stopped by :)I'd love to see yours when you make it!


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