10 Ways to Be a More Creative Stitcher

Crescent-stitch border experimentation

Some recent noodling as I worked out a crescent stitch border.

I don’t know if the search for creativity is really on the rise or if I recently tapped into a vein of creativity teachers online, but everywhere I turn, I see courses and newsletters and clubs geared toward enabling and encouraging creative pursuits. Currently in my Inbox: “Creating Better Ideas,” “5-Day Creative Getaway,” “Cre8Time,” “Creativity Kickstart.”

Yay! I think that’s wonderful!

Having all the symptoms of chronic creativity, I tend to approach my embroidery with a deliberate view to doing something different with it. It’s what keeps me interested. Since others seem to be looking for ways to be creative, I thought I’d put on the old thinking cap and identify some ways I attempt to be creative with my stitching. If this piques your interest, stop for a moment and come up with your own list before reading mine.

10 Ways to Be a More Creative Stitcher

1. DIY

A composite stitch for embroidery

A composite stitch. Let’s call it a variation of the dove’s eye. I look forward to adding to it.


I don’t mean just DIY needlework, as in choosing your own colors and doing your own framing or piecing or pillow making; I mean DIY in any and every way you can. Change the oil in your car. Learn to cook Thai food. Build your own patio retreat.

The more you do for yourself, the more skills you develop, which will come in handy in ways you can’t yet imagine, and the more you will automatically look for creative approaches and solutions. Creativity begets creativity. And, yes, I think you can tie anything to embroidery, even changing the oil in your car.

2. Make Do

Instead of going out and buying the perfect materials for a project (or dinner tonight), make do with what you have on hand. This will force you to find substitutions, and that, my crafty friend, is being creative.

3. Set Limits

You might think that maximum creativity comes from having maximum possibilities, but limits are a great way to push creativity. Give yourself a time limit to create something. Allow only two colors. Convey a message in a small space or without words.

4. Make a mash-up

Combine two or more patterns, using elements from each in a single piece.

5. Noodle

Create needlework doodles. Just sit down and stitch. No judging allowed.

6. Create composite stitches

Begin with a single stitch. Maybe it’s a new one from a stitch guide; maybe it’s a simple cross stitch. Add something to it, a seed stitch, a French knot, another cross, or a lazy daisy. Keep going until you’ve added 5–10 things to your original stitch.

7. Add embroidery to a non-embroidery object

Like a kitchen utensil, your tv, or your car. Or a paperclip.

Cross stitch and embroidered paperclips

Add embroidery to non-embroidery things. Stitched paperclips. Or clip bookmarks.

8. Marry two different ideas

Puzzles and embroidery, for instance. Okay, that’s my thing, I know.

Well, say you’re interested in martial arts as well as embroidery. Or political activism. Or archaeology. What would the marriage of those two ideas produce?

9. Add a non-embroidery object to your embroidery

Find a way to use bottle caps, pinecones, ephemera, and other random objects in your embroidery.

10. Marry two crafts

Combine embroidery with another craft, such as pottery, woodworking, wirework, sculpture, clay, or something else.

How do you add your own brand of creativity to your embroidery? Tell us; we want to know!

The Story Behind the Stitchery: The Wild Life

There are a number of stories behind the cross stitch pattern, Portraits of the Wild Life. A somewhat sad one is how I wasn’t able to use an image of the real finished piece on the cover of the pattern. That broke my heart. I was so disappointed.

I love the model: It’s bright and beautiful. It lives at Talkeetna Gifts & Collectables, a souvenir shop in Talkeetna, Alaska, and I haven’t seen the piece in years.

A pieced wall hanging with the 12 cross stitched animal portraits.

The cover model in real life before being Photoshopped.

I only recently found this picture of it. The picture is from our booth at the very first trade show we attended. Read more

What’s the Story, Stitchers?

Aside: Does the name “Wishbone” mean anything to anyone else?

The Funk & Weber tagline is “Embellish your life.” It’s in the upper right hand corner of this page. See it? Part of that concept is that our embroidery decorates our lives just as it decorates our walls, wrists, books, etc. Our embroidery also records, tells, and embellishes the story of us. That is, your embroidery tells the story of you; my embroidery tells the story of me. As Madame Defarge secretly records names of aristocrats in her knitting, so we record (in a much less spiteful and morbid way, I hope) bits of information about ourselves in our embroidery. We do this in several ways.

Subject Matter

Dall sheep in Alaska

The Dall sheep model for Portraits of the Wild Life. There’s a story behind that stitchery.

The subject matter and themes of our needlework demonstrate our interests. It’s no coincidence that so many Funk & Weber patterns depict outdoor scenes. We’re outdoors people. It’s no coincidence that we use bookmark patterns to raise money for literacy nonprofits. After food, shelter, and healthcare, I wish for literacy for all humankind. Funk & Weber patterns tell the story of who Mike and I are. Read more

Starting Threads by Piercing

Let’s continue our thread of starting threads in hand embroidery by talking about piercing the working thread. If there’s a standard name for this, I don’t know it.

Piercing the thread is an alternative for the pinhead stitch and is a good technique for small, isolated motifs.

The idea is simply to anchor the working thread by piercing it or splitting it with itself. You’ve probably done this accidentally and considered it a mistake. Or maybe you’re thinking, “Oh, that’s just split stitch.” Right on both counts! Read more

Free American Flag Cross Stitch Pattern

It’s that green, black, and yellow time of year again. You know, the Fourth of July . . . Revolutionary War . . . Declaration of Independence . . . Old Glory. And you also know, around here it’s always the time of year for puzzles, illusions, cross stitch, and bookmarks. Naturally, we’re going to put them all together.

Oh, say, can you see two flags?

Free cross stitch pattern: American Flag Illusion, from Funk & Weber Designs

Stare at the black knot in the center for 30 - 60 seconds, then look at something white: a wall, a piece of paper, a blank screen. You should see an afterimage of this flag in red, white, and blue.

This is an afterimage optical illusion. When you stare at the tiny dot on the image, you exhaust (or bore) the photoreceptors in your eyes that detect green, black, and yellow. They say, “Yeah, yeah . . . we see it. Move along now.” When you don’t move along, because you’re counting slowly to 60 to make sure the experiment works, the bored photoreceptors kick back and take it easy. “Fool us for 5 seconds, shame on you; fool us for 60 seconds, shame on us.” Then, when you finally stop staring and look at a white surface, an afterimage remains, but because the green, black, and yellow receptors are ignoring you, only the attentive red, white, and blue ones respond.

That, of course, is a highly scientific explanation. If it’s over your head, you might check out this explanation of color aftereffects.

Would you like a copy of the pattern so you can make one? Read more