Updated on July 31, 2022 by Sarina Tariq
All of us have a photo to which we have a little partiality. It may be that of your grandmother or that of a beautiful flower which you took as a fledgling photographer or your baby smiling. What if you could turn it into a work of art with your embroidery skills. It is easy enough to do that and very very rewarding.
First of all decide on the photo you wish to embroider. It should have enough details and broad outlines. Not too complicated if you are doing it for the first time. Do not make it a very big image , as you might get overwhelmed and discouraged. Do not choose others’ photographs without their permission. Do not use copyrighted images. All these are just commonsense, which I am simply reiterating to make sure that you remember
A beautiful recreation by Jaine Hollis-Watson .
Method 1 Manually trace the design
This is a tracing technique that uses a lightbox kind of method . Keep the photograph on a very thin glass. Keep a thin white paper on the glass – the kind you give kids to scribble on ; not the printer variety. You need to go outside where there is much sunlight – now you will be able to trace the outline of your photograph on your sheet with a pencil. Trace all the lines you can see. You can use a carbon sheet to transfer these to the fabric of your choice
Method 2 Use a computer program to get the design
You need to convert the photo into a line drawing that can be stitched. There are many options that turn your photographs into a line drawing with broad outlines. Photoshop is one option. My favourite is the online platform Befunky.com. It is free
How to use befunky.com to turn the photo into a broad outline
Go to befunky.com . Upload the photo onto befunky photoeditor
Choose the effects tool on the left handside interface
There are many premium options in befunky which are the best ( you have to pay extra for using them) but the free options work as well.
You can use the free effects like Stenciler and or Line Artopia to make the photo stitchable as shown in the picture below
Increase the brightness of the photo to make the outlines more detailed.Save to your computer.
Take a printout of this work.
Now trace the design onto the fabric . For this you need a tracing paper, carbon sheet and a tracing wheel.
- Keep the photo/printout you have on a work table
- Place the tracing paper on top of the photo
- Make the outline of the photo with a pencil
- Remove the tracing paper
- Keep it on top of the fabric where you want the embroidery to be. Keep the carbon sheet in between the tracing paper and the fabric, ink side down on the fabric
- Use a tracing wheel to run over the design. Or a sharp tool so that a faint outline is made on the fabric
You can use other methods of tracing the design on to the fabric – checkout the post on the 9 embroidery transfer methods for more details
Method 3 Transfer the photo using an iron-on transfer sheet
There are many methods to copy a photo as it is to the fabric. Check out this post 6 ways to transfer photos to fabric for more details on these methods.Read on for the easy transfer sheet method.
This is a method which is very easy if you have the iron on peel off transfer sheets. This is a special paper with which you can transfer designs onto fabric .
On one side of the iron-on transfer sheet is paper backing which can be peeled off and on one side you can print the design.
Steps on how to do transfer the photo with iron on transfer sheets
Step 1 –Select the photo.
Step 2 – Print the photo on the transfer sheets
Keep the iron on transfer sheet on your inkjet printer
Related post – Checkout the post on fabric Inkjet printing
You need a mirror image for this method to work. Flip the image to reverse / mirror image on the computer or on the inkjet printer settings
Change the printer settings to heavy paper
Print the design on the transfer sheet.
Cut out the design from the transfer sheet with a narrow margin all around
Step 3 – Heat press design onto fabric
Place the transfer paper on the fabric face down (printed surface down on the fabric)
You have to iron it onto the fabric meant for embroidery
Run a medium hot iron over the back of the paper for 25 seconds.Keep on moving the iron without stopping at any one place.
The image is transferred by heat to the fabric.After the design has cooled off (after about 2-3 minutes) peel off the paper backing from the transfer sheet very very carefully (without tearing)
Now you have a photo imprinted on the fabric. You can now embroider directly on top of th design. I would wash this fabric before embroidering. I don’t want (probable) inkbleed to destroy many hours of loving labour.
How to embroider the photo
You can use needle painting method or free motion embroidery or an embroidery sewing machine to stitch the photo and turn into an embroidered artwork.
Select a medium weight even weave fabric for embroidering your master piece. You also need a suitable stabilizer. Medium weight even weave fabric as well as medium weight iron-on tear-away stabilizers works the best for doing the stitching on your sewing machine whether as free motion embroidery or your embroidery machine.
Iron the stabilizer to the back of fabric before embroidering .If you have to use light weight fabric use a heavy water soluble stabilizer.
Ensure that you have hooped the fabric with the stabilizer, with proper tension without any wrinkles or folds.
Do the embroidery with subtle shading referring to the original photo and with dense closely packed stitches
Hand embroidering the design from a photo
Using a dark shade use an outline stitch to work the hard edges in your design. Back stitch is best for this .
Then following the contours of the design fill the inside portions. You can use a long and short stitch or split stitch as filling stitches
A shading effect can be given inside by combining shades of similar colours. You will need several shades of the same colour to get a shaded effect which will make your work look like the original photo or something closer.
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