Text in Thread

Deb asked a great question in response to my last posting. "How do you get your lettering so crisp?"

Well, it may be that I have a slight advantage in that I originally (back in the very early 80's) trained as a graphic artist. This was in the days before computers did it all. I learned to render type by hand, a skill that I never really used in my work pasting up ads and magazines, but might have needed if I had advanced to the exulted status of an art director.

But the fast pace of technology intervened, and my ability to hand draw half point rules and perfectly paste up columns of type became obsolete. Since I had gone into design partly as a way of avoiding typing, which I saw as a dead end street, I decided to forgo the whole computer aided publishing business and went back to art school, where I learned to do really useful things like discuss the semiotics of breakfast cereal and such.

Of course, it was impossible to avoid typing. Computers, as it turned out, were quite a useful tool. And I developed a method for combining my loves of typography and embroidery.

Once I have chosen the text I want to use, I enter it into a word processing program, and play with various fonts, point sizes and line breaks until I have what I want. My background in type is very useful here, as I am familiar with how various typefaces communicate different moods, direct the eye, and underscore the message.

I then print out the text. The printed sheet becomes my template. I transfer it to the fabric in various ways. If the cloth is a smooth, finely woven cotton or linen, I might tape the template to a window and then tape the fabric in position and just trace the lettering with either a HB or 2B pencil, or my new favourite, a Faber-Castell pigment brush marker. (I wouldn't normally extol one brand over another, but Faber-Castell has made artist quality drawing tools for a very long time, and their line of pigment markers has an excellent range of colour, and a choice of tips, including the very versatile brush tip.)

Sometimes if the fabric is dark colored or textured, I use dressmaker's carbon paper and a ballpoint pen to transfer the lettering. Either way, the letters must be traced very accurately. It may be possible to begin embroidery at this point, but I have recently gone an extra step and drawn in the whole letter with the Faber-Castell marker in a matching colour to my chosen thread. This way any small irregularities in my stitching are minimized. This technique can be seen here.
You can also see more of this process and read a bit more of my thinking about it here and here.


  1. thanks so much for sharing your tips! i am glad to know a number of them for refining my text... and may have to try those faber-castell markers!

  2. Anonymous6:49 PM

    very good!


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