If you’ve landed on this post, chances are you’ve realized how long it takes you to stitch and finish a project. Embroidery is a slow craft, one that teaches you a lot of patience and mindfulness. Talk to anyone who stitches and they’ll tell you that it’s a sometimes tedious but overall rewarding process. While I can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to stitch at lightning speed, the tips I’m sharing today will help you embroider a little bit faster by hand.
Have A Plan In Place Before You Start
The first and most important tip that I have is to have a good plan of action before you get started. I always like to start my embroidery with the following things:
- A finalized design to trace over to the fabric
- A color palette, or better yet, a color mockup
- A general idea of what stitches I plan to use and where
By having all of this planned out, you’ll save yourself from being indecisive and having to pause and problem solve mid stitch. Chances are, you’ll be happier with the finished result of your artwork. AND you’ll also avoid a lot of mistakes, which can tack on even more time to fix!
Tack Up Your Thread
You’d be surprised how much time you waste threading a needle only to use if for a couple of stitches. Instead of securing the thread and trashing the rest, consider having multiple embroidery needles available so you can pre-thread them and then tack up thread colors for later use.
An easy way to do this is to use a needle minder, which is a magnetic tool that you can place needles on. When you’re finished with a color, place the threaded needle on the needle minder until you’re ready to use that color again. Just be mindful that you keep the thread on the back away from where you’re stitching so it doesn’t get tangled!
An alternative method for doing this is to pull the thread through to the front of the fabric away from where you’re working. You won’t be able to keep the needle threaded but it will save you from having to cut and start with a new piece of thread.
Stab vs Sewing Technique
There are generally 2 methods for embroidering which are called stabbing and sewing.
There isn’t a right or wrong way, but there are some benefits to both techniques.
You can read an in depth explanation of these techniques here, but here is a quick overview:
Stabbing in embroidery is a method where you place the needle through the fabric and pull the thread all the way through to the back of the fabric. Then you place the needle up through the fabric and pull the needle and thread through.
I personally embroider using the stabbing technique for most stitches because I find it allows me finer control of where I’m placing my needle.
Sewing is a technique where the needle essentially grabs the fabric. This means the needle stays on the surface of the fabric, meaning you can work your stitches mostly from the front of the fabric.
The sewing technique can speed certain embroidery stitches up because you’re not having to move your hands from the front and back of your work. It’s not ideal for all kinds of stitches, but here are a few that it works well for:
- chain stitch
- lazy daisy
- stem stitch
- bullion knots
- fly stitch
Use More Strands Of Thread
Using more strands of floss will allow you to cover more of the fabric surface quicker. If you’re not concerned about adding in a lot of small details and you have a lot of area to cover, try using all 6 strands of floss at once. You could also choose a thicker fiber to use, such as crewel or tapestry yarn.
Choose Stitches That Cover An Area More Efficiently
Some stitches simply take longer to cover an area. If you’re looking to fill in a large area, be thoughtful in regards to the embroidery stitches that you choose. For example, French knots and turkey work both look great when they are used as a fill stitch, but they take a lot of time to complete.
A few stitches that fill in areas faster are:
- long and short stitch
- couching stitch – especially using thicker thread or yarn
- herringbone stitch
- satin stitch
I know you’ll probably hate to hear this one, but watching tv while you’re stitching will slow you down. There is nothing wrong with relaxing and enjoying yourself, but if you’re serious about getting a project done and you’re on a time crunch, try without it to see if it makes a difference.
When you’re able to keep your eyes on your work, you’ll be more focused and efficient with your time. And if you’re like me and you hate not being able to do two things at once, try listening to a podcast or audiobook instead!
Enjoy The Process Even If It Takes Awhile
I really hope these tips help you to speed up your stitching. But remember: don’t forget to enjoy the process of stitching! While it takes a lot of time, it’s a great way to decompress and relieve stress. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and certainly don’t try to rush. (Your work won’t be as neat, you’ll make mistakes, and ultimately become more frustrated.)
While it can be tedious at times, I like to try and remind myself that it can be a meditative process if you really focus on what you’re doing stitch by stitch. The end result of all your hard work is oh so rewarding. Happy stitching!
Amanda is a hand embroidery artist and teacher. With over 15 years of experience in the craft industry and embroidery, she owns and runs Crewel Ghoul, sharing tutorials and patterns to help inspire fellow crafters to get inspired and creative. In addition to running this website, she teaches on Skillshare and Youtube.