dash away the winter blues with embroidery!

01.18.11 | sweater embroidery tutorial

After being so cruel as to post some summertime fashions yesterday, I thought I’d better post something a bit more seasonal! lol. Over the weekend I decided to pull out one of the many thrifted black cardigans I have and add some embellishment to it. While a basic, jewel neck cardigan is a great staple to have, I admit I have more than one and multiples of the same thing are just a bit redundant. I had originally bought this particular sweater months ago with the intention of either adding beading or embroidery to it, but finally decided on what I wanted to do and how to accomplish what I envisioned! I thought I’d document the steps for how I embroidered a sweater knit; I do hope you enjoy! (A little disclaimer though: I am not an expert on embroidery, so if you’re more well versed in techniques, please feel free to chime in the comments!)

The lovely thing about this embellishment method is that it is cheap. The sweater was thrifted for less than $2, I already had the supplies on hand, so it was quite budget-friendly. Even if you don’t have all the supplies lying about, embroidery thread and tracing paper can still be had for literally pennies. Supplies you will need:

01.18.11 | sweater embroidery tutorial

  • jumper-style sweater or cardigan – whichever style you most prefer
  • sew-in stabalizer – I used a piece of cotton voile, but organza or any other lightweight (preferably natural fiber) material would work. Just a scrap a bit bigger than your embroidery design will do!
  • embroidery floss – I use DMC brand, 6-strand floss; just gather up as many colors as you’d like
  • hand embroidery needles
  • embroidery hoop – big enough to allow the design you’re embroidering to fit
  • tracing paper – I just used the paper I use to trace my sewing pattern, but regular tracing or even tissue paper would work
  • embroidery design – I found the one I used here
  • scissors, marker, pins

01.18.11 | sweater embroidery tutorial

Begin by printing off your design if you’ve found it online. Place the tracing paper over top and trace using a permanent, fine-tipped marker. Trim the edges of the paper down a bit if needed.

01.18.11 | sweater embroidery tutorial

Decide on the placement of your embroidered motif (I went with the upper, left front; but you could do the back, sleeves, lower edge… anywhere!), and pin the tracing in place.

01.18.11 | sweater embroidery tutorial

Cut a piece of the stabilizer slightly bigger than your embroidery area. Slide underneath the sweater, sandwiching the sweater between the stabilizer and tissue paper (on top). Pin in place.

01.18.11 | sweater embroidery tutorial

Using a single strand of embroidery thread, run a line of uneven basting stitches around the edge of the paper, catching it to the sweater underneath. (Just be sure to not catch the backside of the sweater! I find working with it opened up or my hand underneath prevents this.) Remove the pins.

01.18.11 | sweater embroidery tutorial

Place the non-adjustable hoop underneath the design and the adjustable piece overtop. Tighten so the embroidery area is taut and held in place.

01.18.11 | sweater embroidery tutorial

Begin outlining your design (a good piece on how to start and finish the embroidery is here). I decided to just use outline stitches on mine–no filler stitches (like a satin stitch). For a good list of embroidery stitches, see . For this particular design I decided to outline in a stem stitch with three strands of floss. I used white for the Scottie, and various pastel shades for the bow, grass and floral motifs. There are a myriad of great stitch references online: Stitch School, Sublime Stitching and Needlecrafter.

01.18.11 | sweater embroidery tutorial

Once you have completed your design, secure all your thread ends and remove the embroidery hoop and temporary basting stitches. Gently tear away the larger pieces of the tracing paper. Use a needle and tweezers to remove any smaller bits. It’s a bit tedious at this point.

01.18.11 | sweater embroidery tutorial

On the inside of your sweater, trim the stabilizer fabric to within 3/4″ or so of the design. I pinked the edges of my fabric so it wouldn’t fray as readily.

01.18.11 | sweater embroidery tutorial

Enjoy sporting your newly embroidered sweater! Below are a handful of compilation websites for free embroidery patterns:

Here are some other vintage embroidery motifs that caught my eye as great sweater-embroidery possibilities:

January 18, 2011 · 72 lovely thoughts
posted in tutorials · tags: , ,

Marie January 18, 2011 at 06:22

I think that’s so adorable!! You’ve done such a neat job of it too.

Zohar January 18, 2011 at 06:25

wow Casey that is awesome! you amaze me everytime with your lovely creations – it’s such a sweet embroidery piece and it’s great how you photoed all the steps because for a sewing dummy like me, tha helps alot :)

Casey January 18, 2011 at 16:38

While I was doing this I kept wondering if this would be too easy to make into a tutorial. So I’m excited to hear that you found it helpful! :)

♥ Casey

Debi January 18, 2011 at 06:45

Casey–I absolutely ADORE this! I’ve never known how to transfer an embroidery found online to a knit garment—so this is PERFECT! oh…I love it so much! Great job!

Sam January 18, 2011 at 06:49

Hey Casey! Love the dog! It is summer here in Australia so your previous post was exciting for me. Most blogs I follow are in the Northern Hemisphere so seasonally are the complete opposite. But this is so cute it might even make me hunt down my cardies and embroider them in prep for this years winter… Or maybe I will sew another skirt ;-)

Love your blog,

Sam xox

Nathalie January 18, 2011 at 07:25

Oh, I love that, it’s so cute! You can also add small cross stitch motifs to clothes this way, although there’s a special piece of Aida that you put on the bottom to keep the look of cross stitch… This is so cute though, loved that you showed all the steps!

Casey January 18, 2011 at 17:10

I like the idea of using cross stitch to embellish too! :)

♥ Casey

Kristin January 18, 2011 at 07:33

So cute! Thanks for the links for free embroidery patterns. I’ve been doing a lot of embroidery lately, because it’s a lot of fun and one of the few forms of crafting that I can do while watching movies. =) I’ve been wondering where I could find some cute, free patterns!


Aislinn January 18, 2011 at 07:33

Love it! I was looking on Sunday at the rather boring plain sweaters in Primark, thinking they would be good for work…. now i can jazz them up with pretty patterns… thining black sweater…pink poodle.. classic! x

Uta January 18, 2011 at 07:46

So cute! Your blog is always a joy to read.

Marmielu January 18, 2011 at 08:03

Cute, cute, cute!!! I just love it! This is something I would love to try myself (in my “spare” time!). My little creative wheels are running. Why is it that when things are so jumping in life, the creative stuff pours into your mind? Can’t wait to see this one in person.

Rosy January 18, 2011 at 08:03

Absolutely adorable, you get a touch of luxury to any outfit and makes it look so easy ….. Great!

my best friend jules January 18, 2011 at 08:04

What a great little tutorial! Love it :) I think I’m going to do some embellishment on my old winter coat – a cute pattern for the pockets! Thanks for the brilliant idea!!
xxx mervi

Ps. We have a cute little vintage giveaway (70s glass mosaic ring) in our blog, and I think it could be right up your alley!

Jenny @ Kerrfect! January 18, 2011 at 08:05

That is so cute! My crafty friends always mock me for doing hand embroidery because what it takes me an hour or more to do, they can push out in less than 5 minutes on their machines. I get treated like the “poor girl” because I didn’t see any reason to drop 2 grand on a machine when I can do it by hand. lol oh well.

Casey January 18, 2011 at 17:13

I have to tell you a secret: I much prefer the look of hand embroidery! Both because the process is so fun and relaxing to do, and also the finished look is more in tune with my style. Plus, like you said those embroidery machines are quite pricey! ;)

♥ Casey

Mia January 18, 2011 at 08:08

Embroidery is my first crafting love. I’ve been meaning to do a sweater but haven’t yet. I adore the design you chose!

Carys January 18, 2011 at 08:22

It’s so adorable, what a great idea!!
From Carys of La Ville Inconnue

Moeno January 18, 2011 at 08:42

How adorably cute! Proof that you can’t possibly have too many cardigans. Thanks for the inspiration Casey!

janine January 18, 2011 at 08:51

this is great! so helpful! and i love that you posted all those links to browse for images. thanks casey!


Megan January 18, 2011 at 08:58

This tutorial made my day!! I cannot wait to go home and get started on a hand me down sweater I have in my closet!! Fabulous work – thanks for sharing!

Alli January 18, 2011 at 09:23

How cute! You’ve done such a beautiful job. I want one! lol :)

Amanda January 18, 2011 at 09:51

How cute is this! Loved seeing the technique. I took an embroidery class last year and have wondered how you would embroider a traced pattern to a garment so you’ve solved that mystery! This would be fun on tote bags — I’m thinking a little beach umbrella scene for a beach bag would jazz up a light blue fabric I have in my stash.

Casey January 18, 2011 at 17:14

Oooh! I love the idea for beach-motif embroidery! :) So cute!

♥ Casey

Corinne January 18, 2011 at 09:52

What a thoughtful person you are! Taking sympathy on those of us in icicle-ville! Your sweater is absolutely adorable! Scotty-dogs are a perfect theme for the 40-50-60′s era as well. And, of course the iconic Poodle! What a great idea you have given me, thanks so much for the links too!

Kelly January 18, 2011 at 10:06

What an amazing job!! I am having fun looking through all the patterns!

Tasha January 18, 2011 at 10:12

That is super cute! I started a similar project last year but stalled out. I think I was getting frustrated at embroidering on a knitted fabric, when I’m used to something more like kitchen linen. I didn’t try the tracing paper on top, which I think would have helped me for a bit more stability, plus would have helped my lines since I was also embroidering on black and my marks kept rubbing away, so I was having to eyeball some of it. I will definitely try that tip next time!

Casey January 18, 2011 at 17:15

I’ve done embroidery on knits without stabilizer/tracing paper before and know how frustrating it is! This definitely revolutionized things for me when I thought to add it! ;)

♥ Casey

Tina Sutherland January 18, 2011 at 10:27

I am headed out to get some stabilizer and new needles, thanks so much!

Virginiia January 18, 2011 at 10:59

Lovely!! Suggestion – rather than using tracing paper what about using a wash away stabilizer for the pattern, saves from having to pick out all those tiny pieces.

Casey January 18, 2011 at 17:16

I thought about using wash-away stabilizer, but opted not to. Firstly because I didn’t have any on hand (this was one of those “I have the time to do it right now type projects!) and I was also concerned about any possibly agitation that might happen when submerging the sweater in water and removing the stabilizer. I didn’t want the design area to felt or get fuzzy! But I may have to try that with a later project…

♥ Casey

Gertie January 18, 2011 at 11:13

Oh, I love it! I also like to do hand embroidery, but I usually do small wall hangings. I need to try a garment myself! Thanks for the inspiration and tips!

Lauren January 18, 2011 at 11:38

I love love love this!!
So darling!

Emily January 18, 2011 at 11:38

This is so cute! This is looks exactly like my dog!

Sarah Ann January 18, 2011 at 11:41

Casey you always have the best posts! I love this! Now to find a sweater to put something on…

sarah January 18, 2011 at 11:42

thats really sweet!!! :)

Sally January 18, 2011 at 12:08

Oh my gosh – how DARLING!

kate January 18, 2011 at 12:08

oh man, i totally love this! i must try.

Victoria / Justice Pirate January 18, 2011 at 12:56

oh my gosh this is so pretty and adorable and looks so fun too!!! Great job.

The Cupcake Goddess January 18, 2011 at 12:58

Totally darling! Embroidery is something I haven’t done in a long time! I used to spend hours and hours embroidering. It’s so relaxing, though it did take some time getting my fingers all calloused up. I love the dog and what a fun way to brighten up a sweater and beat some winter blues. Great tutorial!

jadestar January 18, 2011 at 13:44

So cute! I always wondered how you were supposed to ransfer embroidery designs. Very informative for someone who has always wanted to have a go. Thanks!

Kitten January 18, 2011 at 13:45

How cute! Thank you for sharing this, it really got me inspired to doing something similar. :)

Lisa January 18, 2011 at 14:59

BEAUTIFUL!!! A side note for your readers… While DMC is USUALLY colorfast, if you are embroidering on a lighter color sweater, it is best to pre-wash the DMC. The best way I have found to do this is to wrap the floss onto a small piece of plastic – an old prescription bottle works great – just leave the ends in the cap to secure. Air dry after washing.

Casey January 18, 2011 at 17:24

Oh my gosh, Lisa! You just cleared up a years-long question I had about embroidery floss and wondering if I could prewash it! Yay! I shall have to see if I have any old bottles that will work… Thank you for sharing that!

♥ Casey

Mel January 18, 2011 at 15:19

Omgosh thank you Casey so much for posting this! I’ve been dying to try some hand embroidery but didn’t know where or how to start! I love all the extra designs you added and I definitely want to try one of the nautical ones soon! Thanks again!

Portia January 18, 2011 at 15:27

Awww! So cute! I’ve got sooo many thrifted cardigans I am sooo gonna give thisa go. I tried my hand at embroidery on some “Christmas Aprons” and really enjoyed it. I’ve got all the bits so I’m well up for this. Thanks Casey.

Jenni January 18, 2011 at 16:05

This is adorable. I love embroidery–it’s good for instant crafting gratification!

Amanda January 18, 2011 at 16:10

Love it! Thanks for the great post!

Minnietheminks January 18, 2011 at 17:06

So sweet. Thanks for all the links at the end too, I know some one who with love the poodles.

Ruth January 18, 2011 at 18:53

Just adorable!a cute tip to makeover an old boring cardigan!Love it, love it!Good work Casey :)

Seth January 18, 2011 at 19:08

Very Cute , I love poodles. Thanks

Abigail Buzbee January 18, 2011 at 20:17

Oh, I love this!
I have so many lack-luster sweaters and cardigans in my closet, and this cute embroidery might be just the thing they need!
I have never tried to embroider knits, but I am in the process of trying to sew lace pieces around the collar of a sweater…do you know of a good technique for sewing on lace to fabric? Or a tutorial I could follow? Any help would be great!

Casey January 19, 2011 at 06:50

I don’t know of any particular techniques off-hand (but then again, I haven’t finished my cup of tea yet this morning, so the ol’ brain isn’t fully functioning yet!), but I have usually just used a small zig-zag stitch on my machine to stitch lace to knits. Sometimes I hand baste them in place first and then machine stitch, so everything stays put while sewing. Generally, I prefer machine stitching on knits for that sort of thing, since knots used in handsewing have a tendency to “pop” through the right side of the material and come loose.

♥ Casey

Abigail Buzbee January 25, 2011 at 10:07

Thanks so much for the info!
Yes, I know how it is without that morning cuppa tea…I have to have my Earl Grey before I can even function: )

Roxanne January 18, 2011 at 20:47

Oh my, it’s like you’re reading my mind. I have been searching and searching for embroidery instructions and patterns for cardigans for the last two weeks. I love your little 1950s Scottie.

eyeliah January 18, 2011 at 21:40

Great post, so detailed and the sweater is so cute!

Bettsi January 19, 2011 at 01:51

Casey, I’m enjoying your blog so much! I don’t want to embarass you, but you are so pretty and talented! This sweater idea is adorable and I can’t wait to make one for myself! Thank you!

Paunnet January 19, 2011 at 03:53

This is a great idea and this design is sooo lovely. I feel the urge to embroider something cute, now! Thank you so much for the inspiration and for the links!

Esz January 19, 2011 at 05:39

This post couldn’t have come at a better time! Now that I’ve started making my own clothes, I’ve realised my favourite thing when buying vintage has always been pretty embroidery. Guess I better start learning. Thanks for the informative post! :-D

Jojo January 19, 2011 at 07:56

I’d love to do that, but unfortunately I only have one simple black cardigan, because I hate to spend much money on things which are so simple, although I need them.

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