How To Make Your Own Embroidery Patterns (Failproof Methods)

Are you ready to take the leap from stitching ready-made patterns to making your own embroidery pattern? If you’ve ever wondered what goes into crafting your own embroidery designs, you’ve landed in the perfect spot. This tutorial is tailored to guide you through the process, demonstrating a few different ways you can make a great embroidery pattern with ease.

a hand holding a hand embroidery pattern surrounded by scissors and an embroidered needlebook

Engaging in this creative endeavor is not only fulfilling but also a source of immense pride when you complete your own designs and get to show off the finished piece! This post will provide valuable tips for any level of stitcher: you don’t have to be well-versed in illustration. Additionally, it will offer insights into selecting thread colors and embroidery stitches, empowering you to make informed choices for your design. You’ll gain the knowledge and skills needed to embark on your pattern-making journey. So let’s get started!

Disclaimer: This post has some affiliate links in it. I receive a small commission from purchases at no additional cost to the buyer. I only recommend products I would use and love and that are of good quality. All opinions are my own!

mood board featuring various photographs, tape, and scissors

Gather Inspiration

The world is your oyster! What do you plan to create? 

Begin by collecting inspiration from various sources like nature, art, and magazines. Collect colors, textures, and subject matter that appeal to you. 

To organize your ideas, consider creating a mood board or Pinterest board that serves as a visual reference for you throughout the design process. While saving images, be mindful that many images on the internet belong to other artists and photographers; it’s best to refrain from directly copying them unless it’s explicitly stated it is allowed. Utilize these images for brainstorming rather than using them as direct references. 

For additional reference photos that are free and usually under Creative Commons licenses, you can explore free resources like Pixabay and Unsplash or archives like Antique Pattern Library.

Methods For Creating Embroidery Designs

Depending on your skill level, designing the pattern may feel like the most daunting part of the embroidery process. The good news is that you don’t need to be a master illustrator to create stunning hand embroidery designs. Whether you prefer the charm of hand-drawn patterns, the convenience of online tools, or the precision of drawing software, there are a variety of options that will help you with the process.

Drawing By Hand

The first step in the design process is making a rough sketch of your idea. All you need is a drawing tablet or tracing paper and a light box.

how to sketch an embroidery design - drawing a chipmunk

How To Sketch Your Ideas

Start with rough sketches on paper. I like to start by making shapes using a pencil, making sure to keep the sketches loose and the marks light. Keeping things light and flowy in this initial phase of the design process will allow you to experiment with different motifs, layouts, and compositions.

Don’t be afraid to explore various shapes and sizes for your embroidery patterns. If the design you are stitching requires more detail, plan to make the design a bit larger.

If you’re planning to frame the finished design in an embroidery hoop, you may find it helpful to trace the embroidery hoop onto the paper so you know how much room you have available to work with. There is no “right” hoop size to use when you are stitching, but a general rule of thumb would be to choose an embroidery hoop that will allow at least a one-inch margin around the design. This way, the embroidery hoop won’t get in your way while you’re stitching.

Otherwise, work on a sheet of paper that’s the actual size of the piece of fabric you plan to use.

And remember, this is a rough draft, so don’t worry too much if the lines are messy and less defined.

tracing over embroidery designs

Referencing Embroidery Designs

Not super comfortable with drawing? Another easy method to draw embroidery designs by hand is by using tracing paper over reference material. Antique Pattern Library is a great resource to find embroidery designs that are free to use. Whether you’re looking for animals, floral motifs, or decorative borders, there’s a little bit of everything.

Place the design you’d like to reference underneath a sheet of tracing paper. Using a pencil, lightly trace over the shape or pattern. You can easily piece together different elements using this method. It’s a great starting point for developing a beautiful embroidery pattern.

reference photo of a French bulldog with embroidery design traced over it

Tracing A Reference Image

If you have a particular image you want to incorporate into your design, you can also directly reference it by tracing. This is a great option for when you want to be completely accurate with the proportions and likeness of a subject. It’s commonly used for thread painting realistically, which usually requires a more detailed pattern.

Trace the general shape and basic details of the image. Mark out any particular color changes, fur patterns, or defining characteristics that you feel are important to include.

If you’d like more detailed instructions and tutorials on thread painting and pet portraiture, check out my Patreon.

Embroidery Software


Procreate is an application available on the iPad that allows you to draw digital patterns. It has a ton of capabilities that make designing more convenient and easy.

While it is an investment, there are some advantages to drawing in the app:

  • You can import images, change the texture, style, and size of the brushes, and add layers while you’re sketching.
  • It has capabilities for drawing symmetrically and it also allows you to draw a perfectly straight line, square, or circle.
  • You can easily make color mockups and the color dropper tool allows you to easily match colors from a photo.
  • It gives you the capability to create a printable pattern, which is perfect when you want to print directly onto stick and stitch paper.

This is only scratching the surface! For a more in-depth tutorial, check out my post all about designing your own embroidery patterns in Procreate.

a simple floral bee design that was created in Canva
A simple floral bee design created in Canva.


Canva is an online design tool that has lots of shapes, photos, and fonts to choose from. While it’s not a perfect match to Photoshop, it is a great budget-friendly alternative. You can sign up for a free account and create a design directly in the app.

They have graphics, photos, and shapes to choose from in the “elements” section as well as hundreds of decorative fonts.

Check out this tutorial for generating fonts for a walkthrough of how to use it.

cross stitch pattern of an orange generated from a photo

Stitch Fiddle

Stitch Fiddle is an online cross stitch generator tool. If you’re looking to create a cross stitch design, you can easily import an image and convert it into a pattern. Or you can create your own design from scratch directly in the software. 

Even if you’re planning a surface embroidery project, this tool is also helpful for matching colors in a reference image, so if you have trouble selecting the right ones just by looking at them, this will surely be helpful.

This post about creating cross stitch patterns will show you how to use it.

Refine Your Designs

Choose the elements as well as the layout that you find most appealing from your initial sketches. If you’re drawing by hand, place another layer of tracing paper overtop of your initial sketch and begin to refine and add more detail.

Keep in mind how your design will be used to guide you while you’re embroidering. Do you plan to stitch along particular lines or fill in areas of the design? There is no right or wrong way to use a design, but it’s easiest to keep the design a bit simpler so the embroidery doesn’t become overly complicated to stitch. You can always go back in later and add more detail. 

final draft of a chipmunk embroidery design vs the finished embroidery

Create a Final Draft

Develop a clean and detailed final draft of your design. This can be a final line drawing using a black micron or felt tip marker. You can also scan your drawing and create a digital version in Photoshop.

Make sure the design is exactly the way you want it before you get started stitching it. Is there enough negative space between elements? Are the proportions accurate? Does anything look out of place?

To achieve the best results, I like to keep my final drawings as single-line designs, meaning I don’t fill them in or color them. Ensure the lines are clear and accurate so they will be easy to use for transferring the design to the fabric as well as following while you’re stitching.

Choose Embroidery Stitches

Now that you have a design, it’s time to consider how different stitches can enhance your design and how you plan to use them. What is the overall texture and visual impact you want to achieve?

Choose the embroidery stitches and techniques that best suit your design. For example:

  • For fine lines, you’ll want to choose an outline stitch.
  • To fill in an area, use fill stitches.
  • Want to make something look fuzzy? Utilize a stitch that has more 3-dimensional texture to it, such as turkey work.

Types of Stitches

Below are some examples of some basic stitches to choose from.

I’ve categorized these stitches into four distinct types, recognizing that there are multiple ways to group them. However, I find presenting them like this to be the most straightforward approach to understanding the various stitch types and their potential uses in your embroidery projects.

embroidered back stitch
Outline Stitches

Outline stitches are ideal for embroidering letters and words as well as outlining shapes. They make thinner lines which can be useful for fine details.

Some examples are:

embroidery fill stitches
Fill Stitches

These stitches are used most commonly for filling in a shape or area. Some have a smooth appearance and others appear more textured.

Common fill stitches:

French knot flowers

Knots come in different shapes and sizes. You can use them in a variety of ways: from filling in areas to adding a decorative touch. They can even be grouped to form little flowers.

Try using some of these:

woven wheel roses
Decorative Stitches

These are commonly used for decorative accents. Some of these stitches resemble flowers and leaves or create an interesting texture. Others can be chained together to form decorative borders.

Here are some examples:

a color mockup of an embroidery design

Choose A Color Palette

This step is one that many people tend to skip, but it is very important to plan out what colors you want to use first before you start stitching! It will save you time, help you avoid mistakes, and it will make your embroidery look more cohesive overall.

Start with 4 or 5 colors. Sometimes less is more, and you can always add more in.

If you have a hard time choosing colors that go together nicely, color generator sites like and are great resources to use.

Create a color mockup using the colors you select. An iPad or drawing tablet makes it easier to experiment with different color choices. But you can also use markers, paint, or colored pencils if you’re doing everything by hand.

Again, this mockup doesn’t have to look perfect, you mainly want to see how all of the colors you selected work together. Experiment with different color variations to add depth and interest. And don’t forget to incorporate the color of the fabric you want to use in the mockup! Colorful or dark fabric can make the design look entirely different.

Practice And Learn As You Go

And there you have it: you’ve successfully created your very own custom embroidery pattern…now you’re ready to put all of your hard work to the test and start stitching! Transfer your design over to the fabric using one of the following transfer methods and let the fun begin.

Creating your own patterns may feel like it has a bit of a steeper learning curve at first, but once you continue practicing and making new embroideries, you’ll learn what works well and what doesn’t. 

Try exploring new stitches, techniques, and styles as you go. And remember, being self-taught allows you the freedom to experiment and find your unique voice in the world of hand embroidery. 

Your design may not feel completely perfect all the time, but you should embrace the imperfections as they can contribute to the uniqueness of your handcrafted piece. Enjoy the process and allow yourself to tap into your creativity!


How can you draw your own embroidery designs?

You can draw embroidery designs by hand using a pencil and tracing paper or using a tablet that has digital drawing software on it such as Procreate. If you don’t know how to draw very well, another easy way to create them is by referencing embroidery designs or tracing reference photos. Just make sure the designs or images are allowed to be used and reproduced.

Where can I design my own embroidery pattern?

You can draw patterns by hand or use apps such as Procreate, Photoshop, or Canva.

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