Embroidered Portrait With a Quote
I am fascinated by hand embroidery. People never cease to amaze me with the beautiful artwork they can create with it; from intricate details to simple stitches, the effect can be equally awe-inspiring. This was how I felt when I first came across embroidered portraits. I couldn’t believe that with a needle and thread you could bring someone to life on your canvas. I knew that I wanted to create like this, but I have never been much of a drawer and knew that I would never do anyone justice going freehand!
Using Photoshop and a little bit of trial and error, I discovered a great way to make your own patterns to embroider a portrait of whoever inspires you most. I wanted to create something for my daughter, so I thought that adding a quote would really pull the project together. Using a few different fonts from the awesome Swirly Fonts Bundle, I came up with a few words that I hoped would inspire and motivate her. This pack of fonts is perfect for embroidery, as it has such a great selection of calligraphic designs which translate perfectly through needlework.
To make this project you will need a basic knowledge of both Photoshop and embroidery, but nothing too fancy.
What you will need
- Embroidery hoop
- Embroidery floss, needle, and scissors
- Photoshop software
- A clear digital photo of your chosen subject
- The Swirly Fonts Bundle
- Fabric pen (I like the friXion Pilot pens as the ink is removed with heat. Blow dry your final project and there won’t be a trace left!)
Import your chosen photo into Photoshop. Ideally, you will have a decent contrast between them and the background. This will make it easier to select their outline.
With the quick selection tool selected, go to the top menu bar and choose “Select Subject” or “Select and Mask”. This quickly selects the outline, which you can define more closely using “Select and Mask”. With your subject selected use “command/ctrl+J” to copy it as a separate layer. Add a white solid colour layer, ensuring that the order from top to bottom is: selected subject, solid colour, original image.
Add a brightness/contrast layer (or your preferred contrast tool) and bring the contrast right up. This helps to distinguish the key lines in your pattern. Flatten your image or merge your layers, then make sure that your foreground and background colours are set to black and white.
From the top menu bar, choose “Filter”, then “Filter Gallery”. Inside the filter gallery there are two options that I think work best; either photocopy or stamp. Try each one with your image to see which effect you prefer. On the right-hand side you will see sliders for detail and darkness. Play around until you get your preferred effect, and click OK. You should now have your pattern ready to embroider!
Open a new document with the same dimensions as your printer paper (A4 = 210x297mm). This will help you to get a feel for the final size, and minimize resizing issues when it comes time to print. Drag your image onto the new document, ready to arrange your text. Now let your artistic license run free! Using your chosen quote and fonts, play around with positioning until you are happy with your final layout. I used a mixture of “Seabright”, “Desyanti script”, and “Charlize”. Once you’re happy, send it to print!
Tape your printed image to a backlit window, then tape your chosen embroidery fabric on top of it. Using your fabric pen, trace the pattern you have made in Photoshop onto your fabric. I recommend starting with your portrait—that way if you make a mistake you can start again without removing any of your text.
Time to get sewing! I generally stick with a basic backstitch to outline the portrait, but this is down to how creative you want to get. I used a chain stitch for the neckline and a combination of long and short stitch and loose threads for her hair.
You can check out some instruction videos for basic embroidery stitches here.
When choosing the stitches for your quote it will depend on which font you have chosen as to what will work best. Both the “Seabright” and “Charlize” fonts had quite thick outlines which lent themselves to a satin stitch. I combined this with a backstitch for the thinner parts of the script. For the “Desyanti Script” I combined backstitch with chain stitch as it was a finer font. For the dots on top of the “I’s” and the full stop I used a French knot. (Bring your needle through from the back of your fabric, wrap the thread three times around your needle, then push it back through the same hole you came up from.)
Now for the final touches! There are so many options to choose from to add a little something special and complete your work. I chose to add a couple of stars to tie in with the “magic” of the quote.
Finally, turn your hoop over ready to bring together the excess fabric at the back. Using a running stitch, stitch right around the inside of the hoop, and pull it all in tightly. Trim off the excess. Now it’s ready to hang!
I really enjoyed this project, and can’t wait to make some more! It’s such a fun way to bring some of your subject’s personality into a special work of art for them.
As an aside, I originally tested this project by pinning the pattern directly onto my fabric and stitching through it. It didn’t turn out too badly, and if you’re working with a dark fabric that’s difficult to draw on it could be a good solution, but here are some observations:
- If you are working in an area with a lot of detail it can be difficult to remove the paper afterwards.
- After you remove the paper you will release some of the tension from your stitches. I used standard printing paper, so if you can find a thinner paper that’s suitable for printing on that could be a solution.
- It’s a much slower process, as it’s a lot harder to push the needle through the paper as well as the fabric.