Friday, December 13, 2019

Tutorial revisited...

I receive plenty of emails, comments and messages from lovely ladies asking how I embroider with such small neat stitches and though I shared a detailed tutorial many years ago in response to the same question I thought it was time to 'revisit' that tutorial for those who missed it back in 2014 and new readers who've visited the blog since then. 

There's also a link at the end to download the pretty sweet vase of roses pattern which is a nice quick one to practice with.

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 and quick to stitch.

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 because I had plenty on hand...

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 onto a piece of fabric...

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

I've not blogged this past week as there's been plenty of other things happening which filled my time. Apart from making Christmas gifts, many days have been spent with Blossom and the girls - wonderful days of laughter and tea parties, plans, prayers, swimming and sewing. Today we chatted about Genesis 1 and 2, spent an hour in the pool with Cully May and Rafaella, played dollies with the little ones and read some wonderful books to them before going our separate ways to clean house and prepare food before the Sabbath rest.

I had many mangoes to cut up and freeze as we went to the farm last Sunday and gathered three large bags....

This farm is where we buy bales of sugar cane mulch through the year and the lovely farmer encouraged us to raid his mango trees before the bats ruined them.

I gave a big bag to Blossom and we kept two for ourselves - one for freezing (smoothies all year!) and the other for eating fresh as they ripen.
How blessed we are!

Next week I have a sneak peek at my free BOM for 2020, plus an extra free pattern which may come in handy this time of year.

Bless you heaps!


  1. Hi Jenny,
    What a treat, all those mangoes! Enjoy!
    Lot's of great photo's for this back stitch tutorial! That was quite something to create! Needle in one hand, camera in the other :) Add detailed wording to photo's, nice that there is a real thumb for scale! Then post it in order! A super reference for years to come!
    Enjoy the weekend!

  2. Thank you for your helpful tutorial!

  3. Thank you for revisiting the BackStitch Tutorial, I never really thought much about the size of the stitches in reference to how smooth a line one would then have when stitching. Your Granddaughters are adorable

  4. Oh, my! The mangos! I miss them sooo much from my years as a missionary kid in the Philippines. They're just not the same, nor very affordable, in northern U.S. Thanks for the embroidery tips; keeping learning.

  5. An odd tip I learned when I was taught embroidery in 4H at about age 12. If you wet the end of your floss, and flatten it, it will catch as you pull it through at the beginning. Primitive children that we were, we just stuck the tails I our mouths as we put our needle into the fabric. Now I am apt to dip it into my water glass. Either way, you don't pull it all the way through.

  6. I visited your tutorial a few years ago when I wasn't happy with my stitching. As they say 'practice makes perfect' and while mine aren't perfect they have improved greatly. Thank you for the revisit. You're so fortunate o have access to all those mangoes. They are quite expensive here in Sydney and I do so love a mango!

  7. Great way to explain/show the stitches you made and why they always look so beautiful! are definitely blessed to have them grow where you live and have a farmer willing to give you so many to save them from the bats!! Smoothies all year long...very good thing!

  8. That is a very informative tutorial for those who have never learned to sew, Jenny. It is so sad that young people these days don't learn such skills when growing up as I certainly did in the fifties and sixties. I remember the samplers we used to make at school. They had to be almost perfect. You do such beautiful work and your granddaughters are just gorgeous.

  9. I am SO glad you reposted this articule, I've looked for it numerous times, my mistake i think was that I didn't read the whole articule. Needless to say I have yet to master the art of small stitches but I'll keep practising. Thanks So Much

  10. Thank you for the tutorial. We can all use a tune-up from time to time!

  11. Thanks, Jenny, your tips are always good, and my stitching has improved over time with you. The mangoes are wonderful! Do they make good jam? I was thinking I might try that next time they are less expensive here. I really like the mango ice cream the Indian ice cream store has - so fruity and creamy. I love pics of those little girls. Cully Mae smiles with her whole face, doesn't she? And Rafaella looks so shyly appealing peeking up from those big eyes. It's so nice of you and Blossom to share those girls with us! They always make me smile. God bless you with good weather and no migraines this week coming!

  12. Yummy mangos. Your grand daughters are sooooo cute! Nana time woukd hsve been fun.

  13. Your stitching is so beautiful Jenny. How lovely playing dollies, so many children now just play with electronic stuff.

    Mmmm mangoes, lusciuous, so tasty & good for you too. You lucky chucks!


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