Planning an Embroidery Workshop

I have been asked to present an embroidery workshop for this coming spring's "Isle of the Arts Festival." For two weeks in April, various short workshops in all kinds of disciplines are offered to the general public. Some are free and the rest are low cost, so it's a great way to try one's hand at ceramics, painting, garden design, bookbinding, poetry, what-have-you. And Gabriola apparently has more artists, writers, musicians, actors and dancers per capita than anywhere else in Canada, so the talent pool is quite deep.

I struggled to come up with a three sentence description of what I would offer. I have done workshops before, and usually run into a fairly large gap between what I think we can cover and what actually happens. And I only have three hours - really, if a complete non-stitcher came in and left with running stitch mastered I would consider it a success. Anyway, here's my blurb:
Learn basic embroidery stitches and make them your own.  Using an intuitive approach, we will create personal samplers that can be used as reference and inspiration. We will also look how various threads and yarns can be used to embellish and enhance your work.
I'm hoping to avoid the "shoulds" and "musts" of traditional embroidery and approach it more as "mark-making". If a person is so inspired after the workshop there are lots of paths to follow, from Royal School of Needlework perfection to Mr.X Stitch pop culture. I just want to turn people on to the pleasure of stitching.

I am thinking of a band sampler format, with a feast of threads, yarns and sparkly bits and bobs set out for the participants to try. A long, narrow, band sampler of linen cloth, that can be rolled up and added to as one goes. I'll include a handout of "How-to" stitch instructions.

What do you think? Any favourite references for stitches? Any pitfalls that I should watch out for? What is YOUR favourite stitch and why? Any memories of learning to do embroidery or plain sewing? I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Hi Heather, In my humble opinion the absolute best stitch books are:-
    Jacqueline Enthoven - The Stitches of Creative Embroidery and the Constance Howard Book of Stitches. Both are great for beginners to experts and both have lots of examples of creative use of stitches. I would suggest your students learn the stitches on a "Doodle Cloth" and then work them again on the sampler fabric - perhaps in their own time if you only have 3 hours. Have you seen Sharon Boggin's Band Sampler on her Pintangle blog. It is amazing. Cheers and HNY to you.

  2. I don't consider myself an embroiderer although I use a lot of hand stitching on my quilts. That said, I've got interested in making more varied marks after buying Helen Parrot's book. I went on a similar workshop to what you're describing, working on a square piece of quite coarsely woven fabric and using thick threads including silk ribbon and torn pieces of fabric.
    Reminders on how to do french knots , chain stitch and couching were particularly useful and half an hour at the end to choose just one stitch and explore possibilities.

  3. Backstitch!!! You can build so much on it, from interlacing it on its own or interlacing between lines of it, using it as a base for needlelace, spoking out from it,winding fancies through it--my personal workhorse favourite.

  4. The only thing I'd add, is to take along lots of books and images and website addresses for people to take away to build up their own references/libraries. Also, as a beginner in stitching, I think it's so inspiring to be able to see what other people can do with different stitches, including 3D work! That's why I lurk around on blogs such as yours!

  5. Anonymous3:22 PM

    from a humble weaver - buttonhole stitch, long and short, different spacings, a border around cut-outs and I've even woven ribbon in and out of the long stitch.


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