Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Miniature Embroidery Tutorial


   Here is a short tutorial to get you all started with miniature surface embroidery!  First, you'll need a good workbox, to keep your threads and fabric clean and grease free.  Mine is plastic, but as I sew with silks, I never close it properly, as this can cause the silk thread to 'sweat', losing moisture and becoming brittle.  A wooden box would be perfect.


             You don't need a lot of equipment to start.  Silk embroidery floss (try Piper's silks), size 12 quilting between needles, sharp scissors, a 4 inch embroidery hoop and a block of wax.  I also have a small pincushion, so I can thread up more than one colour at a time.


Keeping your thread short and waxed is the best way to protect from snags and knots.  I recommend a length of no more than 25cm.


I have spent years trying to work out the best way to transfer images onto fabric, and I've tried practically everything!  The best, for me, is to draw the pattern in black ink, and then place the fabric over it.  Then I use either a lightbox or a window as a light source to trace the image directly onto the fabric.


In my professional days of sewing, I would have bound the bottom hoop with bias binding to protect the fabric and keep an even tension - but miniature embroidery is quite quickly done, so all I do is pink the edges of the fabric to stop is fraying too much.  Try not to use a larger hoop than 10cm/4 inches, as the tension is too easily lost.  Most miniature items don't need anything bigger.


I start with the stems, and use a small stem stitch.


Then I use satin stitch to fill in the leaves.


A darker contrasting colour is used to fill in the other half of the leaves.  The detail is added by stitching over previous stitches in different shades, a bit like painting.  I find on a miniature scale, three to four different shades is enough to give a good impression of detail, without the colours getting lost.

A good thing to remember is that bright colours often look much more dull in miniature, because you're not using so many stitches, so don't be afraid to experiment with colour.

My top tip is to practice your stitches before you start - a bit like handwriting!  This gets your hands used to  the tiny scale and you can improve really quickly with practice.

Here is a pattern I drew inspired by 18th century French silk.  I have given you the reverse as well, to help with transferring the image if necessary.  The scale might need to be changed a bit!


I hope you give this technique a try, and please don't hesitate to ask any questions - if I can help, I will!


Have fun!



  1. Hello Jonquil,
    Thank you so much for this tutorial. Miniature embroidery is an artform I love and want to try when the time to make bedding comes. Your tips are greata nd I can't wait to try it.
    Have a wonderful day,
    Big hug,

  2. You make it look so easy!! I might even try it! ;)

    1. Do, Andy, do ... it's not that hard, just needs a bit of practice!


  3. Thank you for the tutorial Jonquil! I ordered silk a week and a half ago, still hasn't arrived yet but I can't wait! I do want to try this type of embroidery as I want to try and embroider the upholstery for some of the furniture (which I still have to make) in my dolls house.

    What do you use to trace the pattern onto the fabric? Is it just pencil or would that smudge?

    1. Hi Josje,

      I just use a 2B pencil, and keep it really sharp. I sew over the pencil, and I don't have any problems with smudging. It is the only method I've found that gives the most consistent results. There are fabric pens, but I find that the nibs are too big. Also, I don't add too much detail to the pattern, mostly just the outlines, and add detail afterwards with the thread by checking the original drawing.

      Now all I need is one of your upholstering tutorials!


  4. PS: I didn't know silks were best kept in a wooden container. Great tip, thanks!

  5. Thanks so much for this tutorial, Jonquil -- I'm going to order some silk and give it a go!

  6. Thanks for the tip about storing silk threads. I am just gathering together a small collection of silk threads to try them out ....and I did put them into a plastic box .... I will now have a rethink .