Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tutorial - "Sew Sweet Roses"...

I am asked to share many things on the blog, but the number one request (by a large margin)  is "how do you make such neat tiny stitches?"

In the past I've shown a couple of different backstitch tutorials but this time I'm going to take you through some 'extras' and hopefully this will be the tutorial I can refer future blog readers to when they email and ask that same 'how' question.

The design I've prepared, "Sew Sweet Roses", is a tiny one because my latest request was from Glenda, and she specifically asked about stitching the small Shabby Roses blocks in the Churn Dash Stitchalong I'm currently hosting.

Start by downloading the free pattern sheet HERE and grab yourself a piece of solid quilting fabric to trace it onto, but don't trace it yet!

Look at the pattern, and look at what I've traced...

Can you see that I have not traced the leaves?
When you are preparing a design that includes sewing lazy daisy stitches don't trace the whole shape, only place a small dot where they start and where they finish. This will prevent tracing lines peeping through as often happens with a lazy daisy.

Fuse a piece of fabric stabiliser behind the block. My favourites are Weaveline, Staflix or Whisperweft.
Weaveline and Staflix are as thin as tissue paper but are actually a fine fabric.
Whisperweft is woven, and is the stabiliser I chose to use when putting together this tutorial...

Gather what you need to begin stitching the block.
I use a size 9 embroidery needle, and never use a hoop. Instead, I rest the base of my palms on a small 'sewing cushion'...

Thread your needle with two strands of embroidery cotton. (I've used some DMC threads for this stitchery)
We'll start with the vase. Bring your needle up from behind the block and out along the traced line...

This is what it looks like behind the block. No knot, and just a little tail of thread. You can easily hold this tail in place with one of the fingers on your non-stitching hand...

To begin the backstitch, do exactly what the name suggests. Take you needle back, behind the exit hole of your first thread, and push through to the back of the fabric, and up again through the front, just ahead of the original stitch. Keep your other hand securing that little tail at the back for a moment longer...

Now you're going to bring the needle 'back' again. This time push it into the original stitch hole. When you do this, you automatically secure that tail of thread behind the block. Don't tug hard on the thread, it only needs a gentle pull to sit flat...

When you've stitched the full vase make a small knot behind and trim your thread.

Now we'll stitch the small shabby roses.
Again using two strands of thread, begin your rose the same way you began the vase, and always begin stitching a shabby rose from the centre...

NOTE: The key to a neat circle of  roses is to keep your stitches very small, but I'll share more about that at the end.

Continue around the rose...there are 18 tiny stitches in my sweet little rose!

When you finish a rose, secure the thread behind the block before you move on to the next rose. Never carry your thread across from one shape to the next.

Now I'll show you how to make a lazy daisy leaf around the roses.
Secure the green thread on the back of a previously stitched shape, one that is closest to your leaf...

There are two dots marked on your fabric for each leaf. Choose your leaf, and bring the needle and thread up through the dot closest to the rose. I'll begin with the leaf at the top right of the vase...

Bring the thread across the front of the needle entry hole to create a circle of thread around the needle. Push the needle back through the same exit hole...

...and out again, but this time through the other marked dot for this leaf.

Let the needle exit above the circle of thread, and gently pull the thread to reduce the circle to an elongated daisy petal shape...

Bring your needle over the front of the lazy daisy stitch and push it through to the back of the fabric. Secure the thread in a knot behind and trim the end.

Stitch the rest of the roses and leaves.
Add some extra running stitches inside the vase if you like...

Now about those tiny stitches.
Do you know how many backstitches you personally sew to an inch?
Draw yourself a true one inch line on some fabric...

Using two strands of thread, backstitch along the line. When you've stitched your line, count how many backstitches you have made.

I stitch 15 to the inch, but from what I've seen in my years of embroidery, most people don't.
The reason my little shapes, whether they be flowers, birds or bees, look so good in photos is wholly due to the small size of my stitches. But you don't have to stitch 15 to the inch for that result; 12 stitches to the inch also brings a lovely rounded result.

Here's the difference between 15, 12 and 8 stitches to the inch. Do you see that the larger your stitches the more difficult it will be to achieve circular and rounded shapes?

If you're not happy with how the curves look in your stitched projects try practicing smaller stitches. 
It makes all the difference, and you'll be surprised at how quickly you'll master those smaller stitches if you...s l o w...d o w n...when you stitch. After all, it's not a race to the finish but a piece of art made by your precious hands.

Another little tip I shall leave you with about backstitch is to be sure and let your stitches share the same entry and exit holes in your fabric, thus avoiding a gap between them.

No gap between the stitches creates a lovely flowing continuous line...

But gaps? The flow is missing...

 I hope this tutorial has helped answer a few of those questions many of you have asked?

Don't forget to download the free practice block HERE and let me know if you've improved your backstitch after stitching it. 

After all, it's like with me and sewing those pesky little hexies...only practice will improve my skill.

My completed mini-stitchery now features on the cover of a small notebook. What will you make with yours?



  1. Wonderful tutorial as usual! Thank you so much Jenny.

  2. You are truly wonderful Miss Jenny. Thank you so much for the stitching tutorial i have learnt a lot today. Am now off to look at one of my stitchery's to see how many stitches i do in 1 in. Have a wonderful day.
    Big Hugs
    Narelle xxxOxxx

  3. Great tutorial! Thanks, Jenny.

  4. Another wonderful tutorial with such great clear pictures. Thank you so much for sharing these tips with us.

  5. Another wonderful tutorial with such great clear pictures. Thank you so much for sharing these tips with us.

  6. Thank you Jenny for another great tutorial, explaining everything around backstitch, my own stitching will be much improved (look forward to doing more)from reading this and can refer back to it from time to time to keep on track. For me it is keeping stitches even. Have been reminded/learnt much from your tutorial. Judithann :-)

  7. Wonderful! Beautiful! Generous as always. :o)

  8. Thank you, Jenny, for this tutorial. The 1 inch test is certainly a way to help me make smaller stitches. I am probably closer to the 8 stitches to an inch. Thank you, again.

  9. Thankyou very much for the great tutorial.

  10. What a great tutorial Jenny! I've not been all that happy with my backstitching so this has definitely been a help. And the two dots for the lazy daisy....that's such a clever simple idea! Can't believe I never thought of it before :D

  11. Wow it's so sweet..thank you for sharing xx

  12. Jenny thank you so much for sharing this have explained it well..and now we need to practice

  13. You are generous with your talents and I appreciate it immensely. Thanks for taking the time to do this for us.

  14. Thanks, that's very helpful! Hard to believe you're just stitching on quilting cotton, lol! I have something to aspire to. :) have you seen Japanese Sashumo embroidery? It looks like running stitches to me. 'M thinking that your back stitches could also work.

  15. Great tutorial! I am stitching the Eye is on the Sparrow pattern and I wish I had known about just using a dot before I traced the pattern. You can see the tracing line under the lazy daisy stitch. :( Oh well, now I know for next time!

  16. Great tutorial, Jenny. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Jenny, Thank you for this tutorial, it is just what I have been needing.

    Patricia C

  18. Thanks Jenny, I always have a problem with back stitch and gaps, will have to practice more.

  19. Thank you jenny for this tutorial. I have always used the Stab method to do the back stitch beause I didn't know there was another way to do it. This will make my back stitches much more even and way faster. I'm excited.

  20. Thank you for sharing your perfect little stitches and how you stitch them. Lovely Forever!

  21. Oh thank you for this tutorial and pattern.It ...It is a really cute design.

  22. Thanks Jenny! Guess I need to practice my backstitch some more including a test to see how tiny I can go. Recently I've been using an illegal backstitch. Do you have a pattern for the "pillow" you use when stitching?

  23. I did the inch thing and got 22 stitches. I think mine are way too small that's why I'm having such a problem

  24. Beside this great tutorial on stitches, I found that you taught not to trace the entire leaf and use just dots. I am always trying to make the lazy daisy just the right size so that I cover all the marking. What freedom now! Thanks so much......One of those why didn't I think of that moment. Linda

  25. IN RESPONSE to a couple of comments:

    Aimee, I also stitched smaller when I started out in 2005, as did my Blossom-girl. But when they are too small the thread is ‘crowded’ with no room to relax. xx
    Between 12 and 16 to the inch is a lovely size to aim for.

    RE: My stitching pillow -
    I have two: My favourite is a firm 10" x 13" rectangle. Soon I think we may make one as a tutorial... x

  26. Possibly the background makes a difference in the look of the stitches, too. I normally use muslin, though for a few projects, I've used the love linen I bought from you. It gives it a little different look.

  27. Such a wonderful clear tutorial!! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this for us all :) x

  28. I have been embroidering since I was four. My mother started me out on a stamped cross stitch kitten head with a bow around it's neck. The bow, eyes, nose and tongue were not cross stitch so my mother taught me satin stitch and stem stitch. I have to say having learned stem stitch or outline stitch first I tend to use them first when I am outlining something. I do use backstitch but not as much as most people do these days. One thing my mother taught me was to never put a knot on the back of your embroidery. I always use waste knots. O.K. I am probably from a different era. I am 55 years old, so I have been embroidering for 51 years. My mother also taught me the dot trick for lazy daisies. Such a simple thing, but I sure do get annoyed if I buy a pre-printed kit and those lazy daisies are printed on. The thing I have never been able to do is design. That is why I love such talented people as you. When I found you and your designs, I loved the stunning simplicity of them. But much more than that it seemed 90% of them were praising our Father!
    How could I not want these around my house as reminders as I went about my day? What could make better gifts than your beautiful designs? You have truly blessed me Jenny, and I thank you.

  29. What a cute project. Thank your for another great tutorial. I use a stem stitch, that was how I was taught by my friend. I was teaching someone else at a retreat and she said I stitched small. I was showing her how I was taught.

  30. Such a great tutorial - so easy to understand for even a newbie like me. The step-by-step photos made it so very easy to understand the written word. Many thanks.

  31. Great tutorial Jenny! Thank you for sharing.

  32. Thank you sew much!!!!! I will return often to refresh my stitching. Where did you get those adorable polka dot scissors? ??? I need a pair.your such a talent Jenny and so kind to share

  33. Thank you I hope I can get half as good as you. Beautiful work

  34. Thank you so much, I do a lot of stitching, much of it in redwork and primitive styles so I can pretend those bad stitches are just part of the design, but have been stumped when it came to doing smaller stitches. I really needed this and am going to go and find some new fabric in the stash to start a little project today. I loved that you don't use a hoop, I don't either and have never seen anyone else who does it like this. I think having my fabric flexible is better for more even stitching, but it also makes sense that this would be part of getting smaller stitches. Thank you and God bless.

  35. gracias Jenny por compartir tus conocimientos. Eres muy generosa!!!🙅🏻

  36. thank you Jenny ,thank you very much

  37. Tiny, but makes a tremendously beautiful statement to me. So elegant and refined!



  38. Wonderful tutorial, Jenny! Thank you for providing this. I am stitching the sample and aiming to get my stitching as small as yours!

  39. Oh thank you. Wonderful tutorial. I feel like a new beginner but want to do it right as in SLOW down. That’s my problem! But doing the leaves with the dots. That is so helpful too!

  40. Hi Jenny, I love your patterns and would like to try some, I am new to stitchery so I would like to try your Sew Sweet Roses Tutorial to improve my stitches before I start a bigger project. Reading it through it has already helped me but I can not make the link work to download the design. Can you help please? Many thanks Pauline

    1. I just fixed the link for you - thank you for letting me know it had stopped working. :-)

  41. Jenny, I don’t write often - but so you know I appreciate all that you do - Thank you - Blessings - Jane


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