Journaling for Embroidery

Embroidery Journal

When I first started embroidering, one tip I often read was to keep a record of details as they relate to embroidery design stitch outs.

I thought this was supposed to be fun. A lab manual; what's the use? You just press a button and stitch, right?

I didn't see the importance then, but have since changed my mind. I'm not talking about a "Dear Diary" type of journal (although you can certainly do that if you like), but more of an outline or project overview.

Whether you use a notebook, index cards, scrapbook, database program, the comment section of your embroidery cataloging program, or a Pinterest board, the advantages are the same.

Benefits of an Embroidery Journal

Like a recipe, designs beg to be tweaked. If it is not something we make every day, the ingredients and processes are not embedded in our memory. It is the same with machine embroidery.

I have multiple projects in various stages of completion from designing and planning to finished product. By keeping track of details, it is easy to pick back up mid-project or maintain the same consistency when recreating items (as we embroiderers often do when creating gifts for the masses).

As with many artistic endeavors, trial and error produces shortcuts, tips, and tricks. Here are some suggestions:

Photos or Test Stitch Outs

  • This is especially important for identifying design placement and color. With digital cameras and phones, it's easy to preserve images for posterity. Otherwise, attach the sample stitch out or slip it in a plastic zip bag or page protector and add it to your journal.

Design Name/Location

  • Include the full name, the folder/CD/media where it is stored, manufacturer, size, and stitch count. Having an "address" saves a lot of time when trying to find the design again. Even better, print out the stitch/color sequence and add to it.

Threads Used

  • Note thread manufacturer, color number, name, and the item it stitched (i.e. flower middle, bird beak, etc.) Sometimes, it doesn't matter what shade of pink you use. Other times, when matching embroidery to fabrics (such as creating quilt blocks), it makes a big difference.
  • If there is a particular thread color you like to use in a design and you can't replace it because it is no longer available (or it's 10:30 p.m. and you've run out), you can match it to another manufacturer's thread using industry color conversion charts.

Stabilizers Used

  • There are so many stabilizers available today, it's hard to keep track. If you have brands that are tried and true, stick to them. Certain designs and fabrics play best with certain stabilizers. Keeping a record helps avoid the dreaded stabilizer malfunction.

Fabrics Used

  • Clip a swatch of fabric used and include it in your journal. Note where you purchased it, the manufacturer, and the SKU or item number. Then, if you want to buy more, you can easily do so in store or online.
  • If you are in love with fabric used in your project, buy mass quantities right away. I found out the hard way that, although they are not perishable, fabrics do have a shelf life. Manufactured for a limited time, when they are gone, they are gone.

Any Other Details

  • Add other notes pertaining to finishing, changing color or stitching sequences, batting used, ideas you would like to try the next time, needle size, or anything that will help you create the project (or a similar item) again.


This kind of note taking is much more fun than it was in school!

Debbie SewBlest



Comments (2) -

This is one EXCELLENT BLOG!  Every word is true and when you start your journal, you will wonder how you got along without it.

Remembering details is hard enough in this insane world, make embroidery your soft place to land with notes that make you more confident!!!

Debbie - this is a great blog.  

Pat, The Avid Embroiderer

Thanks, Pat. I know I need all the help I can get, and if my embroidery becomes too much of a chore, it isn't fun anymore.

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