Simple Embroidered Portrait

Recently, a close friend announced she was pregnant with her first child! Combining my drawing and sewing skills, I created a simple embroidered portrait of the family.

A Gift To Cherish

Recently, a close friend announced she was pregnant with her first child! While I purchased the happy parents-to-be gifts on their registry, I also wanted to make something special.

I have been dabbling in embroidery lately and decided to challenge myself artistically. Combining my drawing and sewing skills, I created a simple embroidered portrait of the family. As the family grows, I’m looking forward to creating more portraits to mark special life events!

People have been capturing portraits using various mediums for over 5,000 years, according to the Tate in Britain. Embroidery is another ancient art form dating back some 3,300 years, according to the Textile Research Center. I loved the idea of combining these two traditional forms to celebrate this baby!

A simple embroidered portrait made for a very special gift!

Project Materials

  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery needle
  • Embroidery thread (various colors)
  • Remnant fabric (woven is best) to fit the embroidery hoop
  • Interfacing
  • Scissors
  • Sketch paper
  • Pen or fabric marker
  • Bright light source (lamp or light table)

How To Create A Simple Embroidered Portrait

I approached this embroidered portrait with a clean, modern and colorful aesthetic. First, I traced the inner circumference of the embroidery hoop onto my drawing paper. Within that circle, I created a weighted line drawing of the subjects. I refined the sketch until it was simple enough for a beginner to embroider.

For this project, I used remnant fabric I had on hand. You’ll want to choose a woven fabric for an embroidered portrait, as it will hold your stitches better than a knit. Choose a fabric in a light hue in order to see your drawing laid underneath. Before transferring the line drawing onto the fabric, I reenforced the woven cotton remnant by ironing on a very thin layer of interfacing.

After I was satisfied with my drawing and my reinforced fabric, I laid the fabric flat on top of the final sketch. You should be able to see the sketch through your fabric. Using a bright light source (I used a desk lamp), I traced the portrait onto the fabric. I used a ballpoint pen, but a fabric marker or pencil will work well, too.

Using a bright light source on a flat surface, trace the sketch onto your fabric.

Once the drawing has been transferred onto the fabric, it’s time to embroider! I used a wooden embroidery hoop, black embroidery thread and an embroidery needle. I fit the embroidery hoop over the fabric, centering the portrait and making sure the fabric was taut within the hoop. A backstitch worked perfectly for this project. I doubled up my backstitch on portions of lines to add weight and dimension.

Once the portrait part of my embroidery was done, I added some colorful knot stitches. Layering one color after another, I framed my embroidered portrait in a wreath of color.

Knot stitches add color and texture. They look lovely bunched up like flower clusters.

There is no wrong way to create a knot stitch border.

It’s a great stitch for beginners and looks lovely randomly placed. These knots are various sizes and colors.

A colorful border of knot stitches frames a minimal portrait.

Once I finished embroidering, I tacked the edges of the fabric together on the backside of the embroidery hoop and tighten the hoop screw. The embroidered portrait should now be taut and snug in its frame.

Ensure the fabric is taut before tacking the edges of fabric behind the hoop.

Finally, I tied some leftover embroidery string to the hoop hardware to hide the screw.

Leftover thread can be used to hide hoop hardware.

The final product is a beautiful keepsake, perfect for hanging.

A beautiful, timeless keepsake.


© 2021 Emma Westfall

By Emma Westfall

Founder of Una Voce Equa, a fair fashion blog.

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