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A Stitch in Time With Embroidery Queen Diana Rupp

Feb 9, 2012

by Linzee McCray handmade and vintage goods

My years at Camp Northland for Girls provided plenty of rough ‘n’ tumble activities — canoe trips, cooking over an open fire, capture the flag. But all I remember one summer was the embroidery.

The women’s movement was in full bloom that year and we practically lived in our overalls and blue chambray shirts, sure that the rugged garments freed us to do any damn thing we pleased. Even so, the womanly arts had their say. We’d hang in the counselor room after our young campers had gone to bed, inhaling cigarettes (we’d just learned how) and talking tough, all the while stitching butterflies and flowers onto our overall bibs. A goofily grinning worm adorned one of my shirt’s pockets while an elaborate, embellished tree bloomed on the back. If I found a spare minute I stitched, and by summer’s end my tough-girl clothes were more maidenly than macho.

Though I left camp (and cigarettes) behind, my love for embroidery never waned. That’s why I was so pleased to learn that Diana Rupp has written Embroider Everything Workshop: The Beginner’s Guide to Embroidery, Cross-Stitch, Needlepoint, Beadwork, Appliqué, and More. The founder in 2002 of New York’s Make Workshop, Diana is a consummate educator and just the person, I thought, to bring new embroiderers into the fold. We chatted last October at Quilt Market, where Diana pulled project after project from her bag.

“Embroidery travels so easily and for many people it’s less intimidating than working with a machine,” she says.

Jim Franco

A sewing machine is something Diana uses regularly when she teaches students skills from zipper installation to dressmaking in her Make Workshop classes (and in her first book, SEW: Sew Everything Workshop). But she finds embroidery has a wider appeal. “There’s not the same expense as machine sewing,” she says. “You just need a hoop and a scrap of fabric and some thread.”

She appreciates the freedom of embroidery. As she says in her book, there’s no right or wrong, and no stress about whether something will fit, as there can be with garment sewing.

“When I’m teaching and something ‘bad’ happens, we figure out a solution and it ends up being an interesting design detail,” she says. “All sewing is very fluid, but embroidery is even more so. Your work can be perfect and exact or organic and messy and both are okay.”

That same flexibility is reflected in the projects in her book, which range from needlepoint done on canvas to smocking to simple stitching. “Depending on your mood, you might want to do something freeform or something more structured,” she says. “The stitches are basically the same, and you’ll get beautiful results either way.”

The variety is also reflected in the complexity of projects. “Embroidery is something you can complete in an afternoon or something you can work on over years,” she says. “You can make something you use every day, like a patch for your jacket, or something you keep and pass down to your grandkids, like an embroidered hanky to carry at your wedding.”

Jim Franco

While Diana loves to embroider, she especially loves to teach. She’s proud that newbies can learn stitches by poking a needle and thread in numerical sequence through the practice card she designed for the book. “I can’t teach everyone in person, so the card gives people a way to take it one step at a time and not get overwhelmed,” she says. The book also includes sidebars with tips and stitching history — did you know, for example, that archeologists have found needle artifacts dating back to 40,000 BCE? And that actress Grace Kelly and professional football player Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier were needlepoint fanatics?

Sharing knowledge comes naturally to Diana, who while earning her MFA in creative writing considered becoming a teacher. Then her interests turned to fashion, and she designed a line of knitwear. In the end, though, she is happiest helping other people learn to make things themselves. “It’s one thing to write a project book, and another to teach,” she says. “I’ve taught thousands of people over the years and that informs the way I put the book together. My hope is that people will get comfortable with the sense that embroidery is a work in progress; it’s just like when you cook something and first follow a recipe, and then you start improvising. My mission is to teach people and share my love of stitching.”

Feather-Stitched Scarf

Upgrade a plain wool scarf into something Maria might wear in The Sound of Music as she hikes, all ruddy-cheeked through the Alps. Here’s a project you can finish by the fireplace in an hour or two — especially if it’s snowing outside. The results look great from both sides of the scarf, so you don’t have to worry about how you wrap it. And it’s so easy and quick, you can whip up a batch for holiday gifts. Try embellishing a hat to coordinate. Then find the nearest mountaintop and start yodeling!

Jim Franco

You will need:

  • Woven wool scarf in grey
  • Anchor tapestry wool in dark brown 9666, bright red 8198 (2 skeins of each)
  • Size 22 chenille needle
  • Embroidery scissors
  • Sewing ruler
  • Air-solute fabric marker

Draw the Stitch Guides on the Scarf

1. Use the fabric marker and ruler to draw guidelines on the scarf. Draw a line 1/4″ from each long edge. Draw a second, parallel line 1/2″ from the first. If the ink disappears as you’re stitching, reapply the lines and continue to embroider.

Stitching the Scarf

2. Following the drawn lines, use 1 strand of dark brown tapestry wool and the chenille needle to embroider feather stitches along the long edges of the scarf. Note: If you want the feather stitches on both edges to run in the same direction, start stitching each edge from the same end of the scarf.

3. Finish the tops of the feather stitches with straight stitches made with 1 strand of bright red tapestry wool. The feather stitching on the back of the scarf will look like herringbone stitches.



For more embroidery projects, check out Diana Rupp’s Embroider Everything Workshop: The Beginner’s Guide to Embroidery, Cross-Stitch, Needlepoint, Beadwork, Appliqué, and More, available from Amazon or an independent bookstore near you.




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  • TheMillineryShop

    Marcia Lacher from TheMillineryShop said 6 years ago

    Great article, thanks! A LONG time ago, when I was in high school, I embroidered my jeans. So this teacher asked me to do a pair of hers and I will never forget it. She wanted a tennis racket on the back pocket and an EYE on the fly. I did it for her and she loved it but my mom was appalled. I don't do that anymore!

  • oldish

    oldish from oldish said 6 years ago

    So cool, wish I had more time...

  • thepressgang

    Leanne from thepressgang said 6 years ago

    So useful. Thanks! Will be sharing with my sister she loves sewing and embroidery :)

  • ThomasHaskettArtist

    Thomas Haskett from ThomasHaskettArtist said 6 years ago

    Love the luggage label/tag. :) Great set of instructions too..

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 6 years ago

    Love ;) Hand embroidery is just so beautiful!

  • heartdosheart

    heartdosheart from heartdosheart said 6 years ago

    great article hopefully i can start doin it

  • SeptemberHouse

    Corinne from SeptemberHouse said 6 years ago

    Wonderful article and a great project as well - thank you for sharing and inspiring :)

  • myvintagecrush

    Kathleen from myvintagecrush said 6 years ago

    Cute! Easy to follow instructions, fun project!

  • Gennikin

    Genevieve Turner from Gennikin said 6 years ago

    Thanks for the illustrated instructions, they're super clear! I'm going to try this out on an old button down shirt that needs refreshing!

  • studiokgraphicdesign

    studiokgraphicdesign from studiokgraphicdesign said 6 years ago

    Thanks for the ideas! I love projects like this :)

  • michaelhutton1

    Michael Hutton from CTheWritingOnTheWall said 6 years ago

    Beautiful art work! I used to try to embroidery years ago but just couldn't sit still to do it.

  • paramountvintage

    kristin from blackmoonsky said 6 years ago

    i love the sign language embroidery!

  • erinf115

    erinf115 from HarpandThistle said 6 years ago

    Yay embroidery!

  • L2Country

    L2Country from L2Country said 6 years ago

    Lovely Article about this FUN craft!

  • nicolenieweg

    Nicole Nieweg said 6 years ago

    The information in this article is wonderful! But, I'm really disappointed that you linked her book through amazon. Many independent booksellers are trying to make ends meet and just like etsy sellers, the hardest thing to beat is the price gouging box stores and for independent booksellers, amazon is the worst. It would be better to link through an independent online bookseller like Thanks!

  • blueridgewoodworking

    Gabe and Athena from BlueRidgeWoodworking said 6 years ago

    Great article. It seems that so many people do not appreciate such a beautiful art. My grandmother taught me to embroider when I was 5 and I still love it. She made each of her grand kids and great-grand kids, full sized blankets, all hand embroidered. That is love.

  • Beadhouseuk

    Inessa Williams from InessaWilliams said 6 years ago

    Wonderful article! I liked most Embroidered necklace. Unusual design and MUCH -much work. Thank you!

  • KKSimpleRegalJewelry

    Krista from TheBeadtriss said 6 years ago

    Very interesting! KK

  • blainedesign

    Karen Brown from blainedesign said 6 years ago

    Embroidery was my first craft experience and a HUGE part of my young life. My oldest art books are my embroidery books. Thanks, Linzee!

  • SherrySchatz

    Sherry Schatz from StartToFinishSewCo said 6 years ago

    I have such a love for embroidery. I giggle when my daughter who is the free spirit asked me if I had any of the clothes left that I wore when I was a freshman in high school. Really!! That was too long ago to remember, but fun to try.

  • VoleedeMoineaux

    Hillary De Moineaux from VoleedeMoineaux said 6 years ago

    very impressive!

  • SimplyCutebyKarin

    SimplyCutebyKarin from SimplyCutebyKarin said 6 years ago

    I love embroidery. I wish I had more time for it.

  • amysfunkyfibers

    Amy Gunderson from amysfunkyfibers said 6 years ago

    Sew fun!

  • SpinSpanSpun

    SpinSpanSpun from SpinSpanSpun said 6 years ago

    embroidery is my first love... thanks for this great article !

  • Waterrose

    Rose Waterrose from Waterrose said 6 years ago

    Always good to see embroidery highlighted!

  • PaperAltar

    PaperAltar from PaperAltar said 6 years ago

    Wonderful article - love the puppy portrait !

  • habbags

    Heather Bear from BahBahMadeinWales said 6 years ago

    YEP! You're absolutely right, a bit of hand stitching without a machine is so relaxing, a joy...

  • feathermar

    Heather from feathermar said 6 years ago

    I love it! I also love Diana Rupp, and have taken several classes at the MAKE workshop in NYC and loved every one of them! If anyone wants to learn sewing, knitting or crochet or other crafty stuff, I think she's a great teacher!

  • tamaraky

    tamaraky from tamaraky said 6 years ago

    I love embroidery. Puppy portrait is great!

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage said 6 years ago

    Always embroidered. That's what you did growing up in the 50's!

  • bellasparty

    bellasparty from bellasparty said 6 years ago

    How beautiful! Iove embroidery!

  • petaljewellery

    Petal Gifts from petalgifts said 6 years ago

    Lovely design!

  • codirodeo

    codirodeo said 6 years ago

    Hooray for embroidery! Great blog post!

  • gilstrapdesigns

    Debra Gilstrap from gilstrapdesigns said 6 years ago

    So pretty!

  • BlueMoonLights

    Alexandra Simons from BlueMoonLights said 6 years ago

    This is such a great post! I was just thinking about taking up embroidery again and this article got me pretty excited! Thanks!!

  • papernickle

    Brandy from BrandyCupcakesStudio said 6 years ago

    We love embroidery! :D

  • seule771

    Ainee Beland from seule771 said 6 years ago

    Hi, Have you heard of Hand Embroidery Network? As experience as you seem surely you must have. I have dabbled over time with stitching; not very good but it is a relaxing role and unfortunately the computer keeps me from enjoying more such a role. a stitch in time, may save nine; many a little will make a mickle.---English Astronomer Francis Baily That phrase made me think of author Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet and some of her other works to do with time; specifically like that of the internet mail. No physicist here. Kind regards, Ainee

  • pulpsushi

    Marilyn P Sushi from pulpsushi said 6 years ago

    I have a copy of this book and I absolutely love it! I'm still very new to embroidery. Learning to "draw with thread" has been really fun.

  • ThePaperdollPrincess

    Lisa from ThePaperdollPrincess said 6 years ago

    Thank-you for sharing this. I was taught to embroider at a young age by a family friend and have loved it ever since!

  • PattiTrostle

    Patti Trostle from PattiTrostle said 6 years ago

    Used to do that a long time ago. Miss having the time to do it now.

  • expressyourself

    Natalia Snemis from expressyourself said 6 years ago

    Awesome idea!

  • knitfitt

    Cate Fitt said 6 years ago

    Oh the hours I spent embroidering chambray shirts back in the early 1970s. I wish I had even one photo as a souvenir.

  • elleestpetite

    Donna Thai from PetiteCuisine said 6 years ago

    Really cute idea!

  • HandmadeIsAllAround

    HandmadeIsAllAround from iammieOWLshop said 6 years ago

    Interesting to try! Thanks for sharing!

  • WhisperingOak

    Quality Handmade Items from WhisperingOak said 6 years ago

    Great tutorial. Easy to follow

  • oversupplied

    MaryBeth Hatter from arsantiquus said 6 years ago

    I love it. Great instruction and that model is gorgeous!

  • driftforever

    Drift Forever from DriftForever said 6 years ago

    Love this!!!!!

  • ErikaPrice

    Erika from ErikaPrice said 6 years ago

    Thanks for the tutorial - this has inspired me to have a go at brightening up one of my scarves. I love embroidery but have never been very good at it - one of my early school reports sums it up: "Erika is not a born needlewoman". Ha! But I persevered, and my greatest achievement to date was making and embroidering my own wedding dress!

  • LuckyPawsCrafts

    LuckyPawsCrafts from LuckyPawsCrafts said 6 years ago

    Great article! Love the luggage tag ") Love embroidery!

  • Ainurcrochet

    Ainur KOKSAL from Ainurcrochet said 6 years ago

    so beautifull..I love it.

  • EwingRussell

    Ewing Russell said 6 years ago

    Lovely story.

  • peshka

    Peshka from Peshka said 6 years ago

    Wonderful article! thanks for sharing!

  • Decaldecor

    Decaldecor from Decaldecor said 6 years ago

    I must say, the sign language was my favorite. Good read!

  • kinderkraft

    Gill Sultan from kinderkraft said 6 years ago

    It's always lovely to read the stories behind the crafters! :)

  • LittleWrenPottery

    Victoria Baker from LittleWrenPottery said 6 years ago

    Great article, I like how you can add a more personal touch to the things you own through embroidery!

  • KathyGDesigns

    Kathy G from KathyGDesigns said 6 years ago

    Great article! It brought back many nice memories for me when I was involved with Girl Scouts and learned to embroider and sew. Thanks for sharing.

  • TheHickoryTree

    Linda from TheHickoryTree said 6 years ago

    Wonderful article. I love to embroider and use to embroider flowers on some of my young daughter's shirts where a stain was so she could still wear it,. I took a needlepoint class in high school and it was so much fun.

  • SiameseTwists

    Nik from SiameseTwists said 6 years ago

    Nice article! I've always wanted to try it on shirts and sweaters.

  • mikiheather

    Heather Butler from MikiandHeather said 6 years ago

    My Great Aunt taught me how to do embroidery, her and my Grandma were really good dressmakers and used to embroider green sequinned dragons and red foxes onto their dresses in the 1950s. It was great having someone so imaginative to teach you, and now the lessons really come in handy for my etsy shop!

  • totalradness

    totalradness from totalradness said 6 years ago

    wish I had more time to embroider. I love it - so relaxing and worth it :)

  • PoetryofObjects

    PoetryofObjects from PoetryofObjects said 6 years ago

    I have enjoyed creating in the medium of fiber arts over the past 40 years...since childhood. Embroidery is one thing I have never tried. Your great article makes me want to give this ancient art a try. It seems so meditative to sit with a hoop in your lap...taking one stitch at a time, watching this picture emerge before you. One of the things I love about knitting is that it can be so protable....embroidery falls into this great activity. An enjoyable and inspirational read...thankyou!

  • sugarbirdnotions

    Kim Rawls from sugarbirdnotions said 6 years ago

    What a wonderful article. The scarf idea is beautiful! I love the way embroidery, knitting, sewing and any type of hand crafted art really brings people together too. Even people from different parts of the world or different walks of life, people of different ages. Sewing and crafting is something that I've always treasured sharing with my grandmother, my great aunts, my mother, my aunt and now my daughter and her friends.

  • whiteberryvintage

    bonnie from blueberrypievintage said 6 years ago

    fun! something i will have to look into trying! :) thanks for the article

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 6 years ago

    Great article. I've taken up quilting, but this may be next.

  • WingedWorld

    Vickie Moore from WingedWorld said 6 years ago

    I'm glad people have found a way to keep embroidery fresh and fun. My grandmother was great at embroidery, but I don't think today's women are that interested in embroidering roses on pillow cases. Love the funny embroidered pet portrait!

  • bricolagelife

    bricolagelife from bricolagelife said 6 years ago

    lovely stitching!

  • brainfart

    brainfart from brainfart said 6 years ago

    Me gusta !! Thank you ! Hand embroidery is a true work of art .

  • scoutcuomo

    Scout Cuomo from scoutcuomo said 6 years ago

    THese are fantastic! Thanks for sharing.

  • junkgarden

    junkgarden from junkgarden said 6 years ago

    Love embroidery! Thanks for sharing.

  • sandstormcreations

    sandstormcreations from sandstormcreations said 6 years ago

    I love hand embroidery. It is one of my favorite crafts. Beautiful work Diana. Love the dog.

  • my2handsstudio

    Donna from my2handsstudio said 6 years ago

    Love your work Diana, I too love embroidery. thanks for sharing

  • LoveButtons

    Julia K Walton from FireHorseVintageHQ said 6 years ago

    The little dog portrait is so good, and the scarf looks very pretty :)

  • bstudio

    Bren from bstudio said 6 years ago

    Looks like a wonderfully fun book! I love that embroidery can run the gamut of traditional to contemporary styling!

  • leilalou

    Lesley from leilalou said 6 years ago

    Obviously, I love embroidery, while I experiment with other forms of sewing, I always come back to it, very theraputic indeed.

  • SockClub

    Olga from SockClub said 6 years ago

    I love embroidery. Thanks for the article!

  • TresChicNmodern

    TresChicNmodern from TresChicNmodern said 6 years ago


  • grandmae1

    Ellen said 6 years ago

    Fun article and great comments! I lived in California in the late 60's and loved to get paid to embroider clothes! My husband and I were not hippies and yet I loved the look of many of their outfits! (~.~) Ellen

  • HoneyBeeHolistics

    Melissa from HoneyBeeHolistics said 6 years ago

    Love it all! I still have the Vintage Tea Towels my Great Grandmother embriordered that I use in my kitchen now! What a wonderful way to make something plain a bit more interesting!

  • LittleLenny

    LittleLenny said 6 years ago

    I just ordered this book and I LOVE IT. Super clear instructions. I've been embroidering for a while & this book still teaching me a lot.

  • AntiquesAsh

    Ashley from AntiquesAsh said 6 years ago

    That is so pretty! Thank you for taking the time to share!

  • bobetsy

    bobetsy from bobetsy said 6 years ago

    oooh, i love the scarf project -- AND her embroidery of her dog! so lovely to find my unrequited hanky shown below the article, too... thank you!!

  • GourmetHandbags

    Sonya from GourmetHandbags said 6 years ago

    Great article and I love the scarf project! Such a beautiful talent!

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies from BanglewoodSupplies said 6 years ago

    I love the dog! OMG!

  • VeraReyniers

    Vera Reyniers from VeraReyniers said 6 years ago

    Hummm very nice ! It's true what they say about embroidery it makes you ZEN

  • GracefullyGirly

    Kimberlee from GracefullyGirly said 6 years ago

    Diana has a great teaching style! Hand embroidery is such a wonderful memory for me, remembering back to when my mom taught me. I haven't done it in quite some time (I have done all machine embroidery in recent years) but it sounds like such a fun thing to pick up and is much easier to travel than so many of my other projects!

  • leslieholz

    Leslie Holz from leslieholz said 6 years ago

    Such a sweet, practical and nostalgic skill. I think all of these wonderful "old school" skills are making a comeback and I, for one, am glad of it!! Thank you so much for the great illustrations too!! Great article!

  • carlossantiago

    park from carlossantiago said 6 years ago

    very pretty! i used to love doing that... but my interest shifted. But i still like beautiful stitches.

  • TheHolidayBowtique

    Andrea Keefe from TheHolidayBowtique said 6 years ago

    Love it!.... Maybe its time for me to try something new. Thanks for inspiring me!

  • motleymutton

    Nancy from motleymutton said 6 years ago

    I still treasure everything I own that has embroidery on it, much that was done by my grandmother and even my great grandmother. I made certain that my children learned how to embroider too!

  • JPaveyDesigns

    JPaveyDesigns from JPaveyDesigns said 6 years ago

    Embroidery, one of those things I have forgotten about. I did so much of it when I was younger. Hmmm, I should add that into my craft now. I think the two work well together.

  • RustandRose

    Angela from PrairieinBloom said 6 years ago

    Embroidery is one of the first crafts I learned to do. It's amazing how relaxing and meditative it can be... and I love all of the beautiful detail. I love delicate crochet and tatting too.

  • joclarkdesign

    Jo Clark from joclarkdesign said 6 years ago

    Such a beautiful delicate technique, gives simple elegance to that scarf. Truly stunning work!

  • NDMStudios

    Niamh from NDMStudios said 6 years ago

    Great post!

  • sharingsnips

    Amanda Mattison from sharingsnips said 6 years ago

    Can't wait to find some time to try this - I love embroidery.

  • pinkneondesign

    Sue from pinkneondesign said 6 years ago

    My Granny taught me to embroider when I was young and I taught both my son & daughter.It's lovely to see a revival of such an old craft.

  • LakotaCharm

    Cindi from LakotaCharm said 6 years ago

    Thank you for the tutorial. I have not done anything except jewelry making in a very long time. This will be nice. I ordered the book"Embroider Everything Workshop: The Beginner’s Guide to Embroidery, Cross-Stitch, Needlepoint, Beadwork, Appliqué, and More." I look forward to getting it. Thank you again.

  • JenCragen

    Jen Cragen from JenCragen said 6 years ago

    Wonderful article, well written tutorial. The sign language embroidery is exquisite. I love how needle arts can raise consciousness, while also being therpuetic and meditative. I often find myself repeating prayers, one word per stitch, while creating my projects. I've written a blog post on this concept of praying while you are stitching. It just makes so much sense to me.

  • Suzyscreations2

    Suzyb from Suzyscreations2 said 6 years ago

    I love this article! Embroidery is so relaxing! I try to do some every day!

  • metalicious

    Stephanie Maslow Blackman from metalicious said 6 years ago

    Gorgeous work, thanks for a great tutorial!

  • nicoahsmeem

    Valerie Augustine from PhatBabeeBlankets said 6 years ago

    I love the look of embroidery. I wished I had more time to learn how to get good at it. Great article too. Love the photos.

  • lauraprill

    Laura Prill from lauraprill said 6 years ago

    More posts like this, reminding many of us of stitches we learned when we were little:)

  • annagrace2010

    Lois Chang from annagrace2010 said 6 years ago

    Love to appreciate great embroidery work like yours even I am not good at it at all. Thanks for sharing your tutorial and insights on embroidery.

  • EmbroiderybyLinda

    Linda Rosenfeld from EmbroiderybyLinda said 6 years ago

    Embroidery keeps me in stitches!

  • redemptionart

    Connie Haskell from redemptionart said 6 years ago

    Wonderful article! I have been discovering that this is a craft that even my technology aged grandkids are connecting with. My autistic grandson loves to embroider! Thank you, makes me feel warm and fuzzy! Aloha

  • bel777

    Bel from BelsArt said 6 years ago

    Wow!!Love this article! Looks easy to fellow and fun. :-D

  • VintageAndSupply

    Marie from VintageAndSupply said 6 years ago

    truley inspiring! thanks for sharing. I will get supplies & try my hand. I am excited to try :)

  • JTandGGProductions

    Ginger Godfrey from JTandGGProductions said 6 years ago

    Great article, very inspiring makes me want to get back into embroiding again. Thank you for the article.


    VINTAGE NOW from ESTATENOW said 6 years ago

    Beautiful craft work..

  • jewelkingthai

    jewelkingthai from jewelkingthai said 6 years ago

    Great work

  • messinabella

    messinabella from BandBEstate said 6 years ago

    Love the dog portrait, great post!

  • 63artlove

    Diane from LaughingWaveDesigns said 6 years ago

    What a lovely article and really inspires me - I love embroidery more as I am older and there are so many ways of using this craft in modern day works..thanks for a wonderful reminder.

  • tomsgrossmami

    Tom's Grossmami from tomsgrossmami said 6 years ago

    Cute idea!

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