Some crafts are just easy to do, and inexpensive to get into.  Embroidery is one of those things.  Some of my favorite pieces of vintage linens were embroidered by a loving hand.  A piece or two look suspiciously like a child was doing it to learn the craft.  These are pieces I just will not part with.

To do embroidery, you need a hoop, needles, pattern, thread and a pair of scissors.  Hoops come in a variety of sizes, but I have found that I like working in the more medium range.  The small, 2” to 3” hoops are good for small pieces, but I find I usually pull out my hoops that are about 5” in diameter.  They are just easier to work with, even if I do have to move them around a larger pattern.  I also purchase needles designed for embroidery, as they tend to have a bit sharper point.  Depending on the size of your thread or yarn, embroidery needles have a size to fit.  I prefer DNC thread, and you can get a wide range of colors for around forty-cents a skein.  The best part is that most stores run frequent sales on thread, so you can get it cheaper.  I love hitting an Estate or Garage sale with a room piled high with craft items.  For a little less than $10.00, you can walk away with box loads of items to help support your habit.  For $2.00, I once hauled away a box that was filled with various sized hoops, needles, thread, patterns and partially completed works.

As to patterns – I have worked with both the iron-on type and freestyle.  The project I am currently working on requires me to freehand the work, as there is no pre-printed pattern out there.  So, I use tailor’s chalk to draw it on the fabric.  In some ways, I prefer this method.  I have a tendency to get an idea in my head and am usually unable to duplicate it on a store shelf.  In other ways, those Aunt Martha patterns are a blessing, as I am just not that good of an artist.

Embroidery is a versatile craft.  You can go from primitive to elegant, all with a needle and thread.  Have you ever seen dishtowels or other items done in straight red stitching?  That is called redwork.  It dates back to around 1870, and is named after an embroidery thread called ‘Turkey Red’.  I was cheaper than the silk threads that had been commonly used, and colorfast, to boot.  Coverlets were a popular item to embroidery, and if you can find a true antique coverlet done in redwork, you will find yourself paying a small fortune for ownership.  The best part is that redwork is making a comeback, and it’s a good thing, too.  It is beautiful when well done.  If It isn’t, you can gain almost instant forgiveness by giving it a more primitive lean. 

Embroidery can also dress up store bought items.  Got a plain white shirt?  Embroider some small flowers across the pocket and on the points of the collar for an instant one-of-a kind item.  Buy a few inexpensive dishtowels and embroider fruit, chickens or other pattern across the bottom and you have a great gift.  Design your own pattern for an even more personal item. 

To get started, there are over 78 million entries on the Internet and shelves of books you can reference.  Don’t want to buy the books?  Head over to your local library.  By the time the books are due, you will be well on your way to mastering the craft.

Want to learn a new craft?  Do you have a frugal heart?  Then, by all means, embroidery may just be the ticket you are looking for.  And speaking of gifts, I still have two more I have to finish, and Christmas is rolling our way at a fast clip.  Happy Simply Living Monday – and don’t forget to share your thoughts, ideas and projects with everyone here at The Farm Wife!


Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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