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Sarah Watson is a popular fabric designer with Cloud 9 Fabrics, and author of the new Pen To Thread: 750+ Hand-Drawn Embroidery Designs to Inspire Your Stitches!

From the publisher:

    Attention lovers of needles and thread! From the creative pen of illustrator and fabric designer Sarah Watson comes a positively delightful collection of embroidery ideas to tickle your imagination in Pen to Thread. Feast your eyes on over 750 charming, whimsical motifs sure to inspire your embroidery stitches.

    If you’re new to stitching, have no fear, Sarah has you covered. Pen to Thread starts with a comprehensive guide to basic techniques including step by step illustrations for a variety of embroidery stitches and tips for choosing colors. The motifs you’ll stitch range from everyday objects like bird cages and backpacks to sophisticated poodles, playful mermaids, and punchy piñatas, each pattern is more charming than the next. All the motifs and alphabets are included on a handy CD-rom for easy resizing. Any motif can be made distinctly yours with Sarah’s easy-to-follow instructions.

    Your finished projects will make perfect gifts—but you won’t want to give them away. With pattern chapters like School Days, In the Kitchen, The Great Outdoors, and By the Sea, there’s no limit to where Pen to Thread can take you!

Sarah has a new project to share with you, to give you a glimpse into her beautiful illustration style and the fun ideas in the book. Learn how to make a butterfly wall hanging (or maybe it’s a moth?!) with yarn or embroidery thread. You’ll be hooked with this first project and you’ll definitely need your own copy of the book!

We’re giving away one copy of Pen To Thread! (US/Canada/UK addresses only for hard copy, eBook for all other international locations.) Leave a comment and you’re entered for a chance to win. Tell us the best thing about your week, or share your love of Sarah’s work…

Hi, World! Sarah Watson here to share with you a project from my new embroidery motif book, Pen To Thread: 750+ Hand-Drawn Embroidery Designs to Inspire Your Stitches! The book is an amazing resource to embroiderers, especially beginners. There are great borders, useful alphabets, a variety of themes and clearly written stitch instructions and project ideas. Today’s project is super sweet with a really professional outcome. The project here is a butterfly (perhaps it’s a moth– don’t quote me, as it’s from my imagination), but if you’re looking for a different motif you can choose any from the book and follow the instructions here. Pen to Thread is full of artwork that would look wonderful displayed like the project I’ll be going over here, so take your pick from the book, gather your tools and let’s embroider!

The butterfly I chose is from page 120 in the book, if you’re following along from your own copy at home. I’ve enlarged the motif 275%, which was just about enough to fill a regular sized piece of printer paper, and can be resized easily with the CD of motifs included with the book. The motif I’ve provided here with Sew Mama Sew is already at the correct size; just download the Butterfly Image (right click and choose “download”) and make sure to print at 100% scale in your printing options page.


  • A piece of heavyweight fabric (Canvas, linen or felt is great, use a stabilizer if it has a very loose weave so your stitches don’t show through from the back.)
  • A sturdy, medium-weight twisted yarn. Since we’ll be pulling the thread in and out of the fabric quite a bit, do a test with your yarn first to make sure it can hold up, and won’t thin and break or fray. I’m using cotton crochet yarn.
  • A tapestry needle large enough to accommodate the weight of your yarn

Optional Materials:

  • A sewing machine for finishing the edges, although this can be done by hand, or with pinking shears if you’re using felt
  • A dowel or rod for hanging
  • Yarn for making decorative tassels, fringes or decorations

Gather all your materials. Beautiful. Isn’t fabric fun? And thread? Okay, but now… Cut your fabric 10″ x 14″. As you can see, my remnant piece was a little oddly shaped, so I left it as big as it was and trimmed it down later. Transfer your motif to the fabric by taping the printed motif to the back of your fabric, and then taping the fabric to a window (you want the sun to be on the other side of the window from the fabric, or use a light box if you have access to one). If you are new to embroidery, make sure you trace using an pen that will disappear. Chalk pens are great, as well as embroidery transfer pens. I used permanent ink so do as I say, not as I do. Because my fabric is very loosely woven, I backed with with felt, which makes it very easy to pull the thick thread through. I basted the layers together to keep it in line while I embroidered.

Time to start embroidering! Thread your needle, and start with a straight stitch around the outlines. This is where I used my yarn as-is, “chunky.” Here are excerpts from the book, as well as illustrations, on back stitch and satin stitch.

The backstitch is a great simple stitch. It can be done in a smooth motion that keeps your stitching going quickly, but if you have trouble with it at first, don’t feel bad about breaking the motion into individual steps. Often when I am working around edges or curves, I break my backstitch down into single movements. Insert needle at A (Fig. 11), and pull thread through. Reinsert needle at B, and one stitch length past, back out at C (Fig. 12). Make sure your needle exits along the pattern line you are working on. After pulling your needle and thread completely through, you’ll see that you will now have to go back to finish your stitch, hence the name “back stitch.” Insert needle at B (Fig. 13). Continue in this manner, coming up again at a new A (Fig. 14). Backstitch can be used as an outline stitch, or a wonderful filling stitch when lined up closely in rows.

Satin stitch is an elegant, professional looking stitch. It might take a little practice to get it perfectly smooth, but keep at it, it’s worth it. For beginners, it is easier to start with satin stitch in small areas, so you get the feel of how the thread will sit on top of your fabric/design once it is finished. After you have a good feel for how the stitch works, start experimenting with it in larger areas. If you’re having a hard time lining up the edges of your satin stitch, do a quick back stitch or satin stitch around the outline of your motif first, to help guide you around the edges. Stitch on the outside of this outline. Bring needle up at A (Fig. 21). Bring needle down at B (Fig. 22). Just behind where you came up at A, bring your needle up again, following your pattern (Fig. 23). Continue in this fashion along your desired shape (Fig. 24).

I embroidered the outlines of the body of the butterfly, the veins and outline of the wings and the antennae with the chunky thread. I used satin stitch for the eyes, which was really simple because the yarn was so thick.

Next I divided my yarn– just as you would split regular embroidery floss– in half (my yarn was four strands, so I used two for the details). If you can’t divide your thread, you can double it for the chunky parts. I used a single stitch for the details, making the stitches about ¼” to 1/5″ long. These details can seem a little daunting, but remember that this motif is hand drawn, so if you feel like you made a mistake or missed a stitch– perhaps added a stitch here or there– trust me, no one will notice. Always remember that you are making this beautiful work by hand, and you don’t want it to look like it was made by a machine.

The last detail of the stitching is the detail in the body (if you’re a scientist maybe you’d call it a thorax) of the butterfly. I honestly didn’t follow the illustration exactly, because of the thickness of my yarn it would have totally filled the body. Instead I made a few long stitches, the width of the body, completing all of one direction first. I then went in the other direction and wove my needle in and out of the stitches to make a nice texture. It might take a little time, but all good things take time! And then look at that, you’re done with an amazing embroidery that you did. You! Go you! If you’d rather a pillow or framed artwork embroidery, you can finish it that way. For me I thought I’d make a little banner.

To finish my edges I trimmed the felt back down to 11″ x 13″, then folded my linen over the back and stitched it down with a sewing machine. I left the bottom raw, and am going to let it fray with time, but did add a stitch at the edge of the felt so that it won’t fray all the way up to the butterfly.

I cut natural colored webbing in two 4″ lengths, folded them in half, and stitched them to the back of my artwork, 1/5″ away from the outer edges. I slid my dowel through those loops, and tied a string to the ends of the dowel. And then I sat back and admired my work. Congratulations! I hope you’re doing the same! You can find the book here: Pen to Thread: 750+ Hand-Drawn Embroidery Designs to Inspire Your Stitches! and here on Amazon.

I love to see projects you’ve made from the book. I found one the other day that I couldn’t stop grinning at, so please, share with me; it makes me so happy to see your work. Follow the hashtag #PentoThread on Instagram to see mine and other people’s projects, and to post your own.