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8 Common Embroidery Mistakes You’re Probably Making

These 8 common embroidery mistakes are ones that almost everybody makes. Improve your embroidery by fixing them and avoiding them in the future!

If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for ways to improve the way your embroidery looks. Embroidery, like any other skill or art form, takes time to learn. There is a lot of trial and error involved when it comes to finding the right materials and perfecting different techniques and stitches.

Mistakes are unavoidable and part of everyone’s learning journey, but I wanted to share with you some of the most common ones I see (and have also made myself) to help you out.

All of the mistakes I’ll be sharing in this post are actually relatively easy ones that you can fix today. Once you know how to fix them it can make a BIG difference in your work!

image of embroidery with mistakes that were made pointed out: gaps between stitches, leaves have uneven edges, irregular/overlapping stitches, uneven chain stitches
An example of an embroidery I made years ago with many mistakes pointed out.

Common Embroidery Mistakes

Using The Wrong Size Needle

The first common mistake is using too small or too large of a needle.

A needle with too small of an eye makes it hard to pull the needle and thread through the fabric. The eye of the needle should make a large enough hole so that the thread can easily be pulled through without snagging the fabric.

A needle that has too large of an eye will leave visible holes in the fabric. It can also make it difficult to make stitches close to one another which may leave visible space in between stitches.

You should choose your needle size based on how many strands of thread you are working with. DMC has a great needle size chart here.

Choice Of Fabric

When I was beginning my embroidery journey, I used to embroider on whatever fabric I had laying around. While embroidery is doable on pretty much any fabric you can pull a needle and thread through, some materials are harder to work with and won’t give you the finished result you are looking for.

Avoid stretchy or thin fabrics, especially when you are first starting out. An example of this would be T-shirt material, which is a bit challenging to work with!

Another material that isn’t ideal for surface embroidery is Aida fabric. This fabric is often available in the needlecraft section of any craft store, but it works better for cross stitch, blackwork, or geometric designs. It has larger, more visible holes in it, which may prevent surface embroidery stitches from looking smooth and freeform.

My two favorite fabrics to use are Kona cotton (available on Amazon) or linen. These natural, evenly woven fabrics are sturdy and tightly woven, making them very easy to stitch on.

Check out this post about choosing embroidery fabric if you’re curious to learn more.

Stitch Direction

The direction of your stitches can be the difference between a neat or messy looking embroidery.

Focus on keeping stitches even and parallel, (especially satin stitch and long and short stitch). This will keep the appearance of your embroidery smooth and neat. It will also make it easier to blend different shades of color together.

There may, however, be times when you want to make your stitches face in all different directions to add a unique style or texture to your work.

Ultimately, being intentional and consistent with whatever way you choose makes the biggest difference.

Irregular Borders Or Edges

If you’re having trouble making the edges and shapes neat, here are a few tips that will help:

  • use evenly woven fabrics
  • slow down and take your time stitching
  • choose an appropriately sized needle
  • have a clear plan and pattern
  • back stitch the outline of a shape before going over it with a satin stitch

Stitch Length

Carrying satin stitches over too large of an area can cause your stitches to sag or to gather the fabric. Choose a similar stitch to fill in large areas such as the long and short stitch.

Certain outline stitches, such as the back stitch or chain stitch, look best when the stitch length is mostly even and consistent throughout.

Sometimes making stitches too long makes them look awkward and sloppy.

When in doubt, make the stitches shorter rather than longer!

picture of embroidered herbs with embroidery mistakes pointed out: long, awkward stitches, visible holes in the fabric, leaves have uneven edges
Another embroidery with mistakes identified.

Not Starting With A Good Embroidery Pattern

Like many things in life, things tend to turn out better when a plan is in place!

When you create embroidery designs, you’ll want to keep in mind any stitches and colors you would like to utilize. It also helps to do a sketch and a color study to see how things will look before you commit to stitching.

Make sure you have a solid design that you can transfer to the fabric before you get started stitching.

If you’d like to learn more about how to plan out an embroidery, check out this post all about creating embroidery patterns.

Using Too Many Strands Of Floss

While there are times when it’s appropriate to use all 6 strands of floss, there are other times when using less strands of floss will help you achieve the embroidery look you want!

Using less strands of floss can make it easier to stitch intricate details, make your stitches look smoother, as well as blend colors together more subtly.

Poor Lighting

Adequate lighting is a must when you are embroidering! Using poor lighting is a surefire way for you to miss small details, make mistakes, and even use the wrong colors.

I personally use an LED ring light that clamps to a desk and has a moveable arm. (Similar one available on Amazon)

Whatever lighting you decide to use, make sure that you aren’t using dim or warm light. Daylight bulbs are the best to use because they will allow you to see thread colors accurately.

I hope you have learned from the many embroidery mistakes I have made over the years! Happy stitching!