Saltie Crafts – With Lou
Lou first turned to embroidery in January 2017 as a New Year’s Resolution. Lou now has a loyal legion of fans that follow her patterns available within her Etsy store, and marvel at her intricate creations on Instagram.
A combination of YouTube tutorials and a very helpful neighbour who gave her a book first published in 1936 called ‘Mary Thomas’s Book of Embroidery’, guided Lou in her early days. ‘The basics haven’t changed in all those years’, Lou told us, but she recognises that the role of embroidery in society has: 'it is now having a resurgence amongst women and men of all ages, breaking away from traditional notions’.
To celebrate that resurgence Lou shares her story so far, and also steps us through a tutorial to try at home.
Do you have any favourite fabrics that you like applying your embroidery to?
I love neutral fabric colours which is why I love to use calico, a natural cotton that is easy to find online and in craft stores. Osnaburg fabric is my favourite though. It’s a cream coloured cotton with dark brown specks in it, which gives it a rustic vibe and is perfect for my wildflowers!
You’re obviously a huge floral fan. What are some of your favourite flowers?
I do love flowers and all things outdoors and nature. My favourite flowers are wildflowers and spring flowers that grow naturally in woodlands or by roadsides. There’s just something extra special about them. Daisies, daffodils, bluebells, snowdrops, lavender, blossom, baby’s breath, Queen Anne’s lace are my favourites.
Your work is heavily inspired by nature. Do you have any favourite spots in the UK that have inspired your art?
I live on the outskirts of a big city in Yorkshire, UK so I’ve always been grateful that I grew up near the city, but near countryside too. From my family home you can walk to ancient woodland and it’s so beautiful, especially in spring when it’s like a carpet of green and the trees are in bud and the blossom is starting to appear. It’s a lesser known beauty spot so it’s nice and quiet too! My favourite places in the UK are the Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District and the North Yorkshire coast which has inspired many of my landscape designs.
Do you work from patterns or do work more experimentally?
I usually work freehand, with no plan! I might have an idea of the kind of colours I want to use, but other than that, I make it up as I go along and trust my sense of colour and texture. If I’m working on a commission or an element that requires more detail, I will sketch directly onto the fabric with a heat erasable pen so I can easily remove the outlines afterwards.
Where is best for beginners to begin?
Head to YouTube or Etsy for tutorials, patterns and kits.
My advice is not to worry about having the right or ‘best’ materials and equipment - you can learn and create beautiful things using what you have around you or the colours you can find nearby.
Also, try not to get caught up in learning all the different types of stitches at first – you don’t need to know anything to start. I’m a big fan of freehand embroidery! As long as you are enjoying yourself, you can’t go wrong, the rest will follow. Embroidery is an incredibly forgiving art form too. If you go wrong, you can snip stitches out as if nothing ever happened!
What is your most popular pattern?
My most popular pattern is the second pattern I released with peach, blue and white flowers. More recently I released ‘The Happiest Bee’ pattern and I think that might be about to overtake it!
Do you take on bespoke commissions and if so what would be your dream brief?
I love to take on bespoke commissions, it’s so rewarding and challenges me as an artist. I’ve worked on pieces for weddings, new babies, favourite flowers and more recently I’ve started applying my designs to clothing and accessories. They are the most rewarding part of embroidery. I get to be a part of people’s special days and memories!
My dream brief would definitely be big and include flowers! I’d love to get stuck into a larger piece, maybe a giant landscape.
What are you making at the moment?
I’ve started a 12 inch hoop of freehand wildflowers. It’s going to take a long time to finish and I can’t wait to see how it turns out! I’ve shied away from large hoops in the past so now it’s time to begin one and enjoy the process. I’ll be sure to update you with my progress on social media.
Bunch Of Daisies Tutorial
You will need:
- 5-6 inch embroidery hoop
- Fabric, such as a good quality linen, or cotton. (I used calico)
- Erasable fabric pen or pencil. (I used Frixion heat erasable pen)
- Embroidery needle. (I used Milward)
Thread colours. I use DMC or Anchor threads. Anchor colour codes are listed below:
- White 2
- Yellow 293
- Yellow-Green 279
- Dark Green 263
- Green 266
- Pink 63
Feel free to create your own colour scheme using any colours you have to hand.
Simply save the above daisy template to your desktop, print and trace it onto your fabric using a window or a lightbox. If using a pencil, make sure you trace the pattern lightly as the marks can be difficult to remove. Secure your fabric in the hoop. Ensure the fabric is stretched as tight as possible and that the screw is tight. Cut the fabric around the hoop, leaving 1-2 inches of spare fabric. This will help you to finish the back of the hoop later.
Note: Each piece of embroidery thread can be divided into 6 separate strands.
Step 1: Daisies
Using 3 stands of yellow thread, fill the flower middles with as many French knots as you can.
Alternatively, you can use satin stitch if you find this easier.
Time for the petals! I find it easier to divide my petals into sections before filling them in with lots of straight stitches. Take all 6 strands of white thread to complete each daisy.
Step 2: Stems & Leaves
Outline the daisy stems using 3 strands of green in back-stitch. Repeat this for the rest of the stems using 3 strands of dark green. The leaves use all 6 strands of thread in yellow-green and green. 3-4 straight stitches will fill each leaf.
Step 3: Details
Take 3 stands of yellow-green and add several French knots (or straight stitches) around the yellow daisy middles to make them stand out. Use 1 strand of pink thread to add a tiny stitch to the end of each petal. The blossom around the daisies are made up 1 yellow-green French knot surrounded by 4-5 white French knots. Each use 3 strands of thread.
Step 4: Finish Your Hoop
Take an arm’s length of thread to close the back of the hoop. A simple running stitch around the leftover circle of fabric will allow you to pull the thread to gather the fabric. Tie a knot in the thread to secure the back.
Bring your thread through your fabric. Keep the thread pulled tight in your other hand as you wind the thread 2-3 times around the needle. Slide the wound thread towards the sharp point of your needle and push the needle back through the fabric (as pictured), just next to where you first came up.
Bring your needle up at 1 and back down through the fabric at 2. Come up at 3, a stitch length away, and back to 4 at the end of your last stitch.
Stitch a series of close lines together to fill in your outline. Keep them as neat as possible and carry the stitch just over your outline. The stitches on the right of the image are spaced further apart than those on the left to show the process in greater detail.
Bring your needle up at 1 and back down through the fabric at 2, a short distance away, then repeat for 3 and 4. Continue stitching in short even stitches as required.
Thank you Lou! So helpful to see those Stitch Guides.