Embroidering with Botanica Yarn Festival


Here is a wee summary of my talk for Botanica Yarn Festival on Saturday 1st May! 

What is embroidery?

According to my dictionary, embroidery is:

  • decorative needlework usually on cloth or canvas; or
  • the act of adding imaginary details to a story.

I like to think that it’s a bit of both: using stitches to tell a story.


Types of embroidery

First, there are counted thread techniques where stitches are a consistent size such as cross stitch (onto even-weave fabric e.g. binca cloth), or blackwork, or drawn thread work. Then, there is freestyle embroidery which follows a particular design and stitches, and includes crewelwork (using wool on fabric), embroidered appliqué (stitching a fabric shape onto another fabric), patchwork (joining two fabrics together), and more! Thirdly, there is canvas work which has consistent sized stitches covering the whole canvas. 

There are many other techniques from different cultures such as sashiko (Japanese decorative running stitches to reinforce fabric) or Chinese silk embroidery or Kogin (a Japanese counted thread technique).

I love freestyle techniques, taking a variety of yarns or threads and a variety of different stitch types to decorate a fabric to tell a story!

Materials to use for embroidering


Crewel – sharp & slender, useful for stitches that split your yarn, e.g. fill stitches

Chenille – sharp points with a larger eye than crewel and wider, useful for most stitches

Tapestry – wide eye and blunt points, thus good for weaving stitches

Darning – for repair work usually on wool fabrics to create a woven-like patch

Sashiko – long Japanese needles to gather fabric onto needle

 Yarns & Threads

Traditionally, wool, cotton, linen, silk or metallic threads but you can use anything!


Traditionally linen, canvas or silk but you can use knitted or woven wool, denim or anything else!


Useful equipment

A stitch threader to help thread a small-eyed needle

Embroidery hoops to keep fabric stretched and secure

Small scissors



My two favourite books are:

“Mending Life” by Nina and Sonya Montenegro, Sasquatch Books; and

“The Embroidery Stitch Bible” by Betty Barnden, Search Press



Beyond Measure - Haberdashery, tools & gifts for makers 

Linladan - Linen embroidery threads

Be Inspired Fibres - Needles, hoops and other sundry items

Fabric Focus - Sewing supplies


Places to Learn in Person

Wemyss School of Needlework

Royal School of Needlework

Stitch School


Instagram Accounts to Follow












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