Introduction: Embroidered Patches From Photos
This tutorial describes how I made embroidered patches to memorialize my cat, Beatrice. My sweet kitty lived a long and adventure-filled 17 years, but recently passed away. You could use this technique to create an embroidered patch from any image, really. I’m going to walk you through the things that I did, but there’s a bunch of different tools you could use instead for each step to arrive at a similar result (like tracing directly from the computer screen like in my similar 2008 'ible).
For an excellent introduction to embroidery, try Jessy's free embroidery class.
Supplies and tools:
- Light colored fabric
- Embroidery floss
- Embroidery hoop
- Source image or artwork
- Computer with Photoshop
- Printer with paper
- Illuminated tracing pad
- Micron pen
- Water-soluble marking pen
- Embroidery needle
- Sewing machine (optional for finishing)
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Step 1: Posterize the Image
In Photoshop, I cropped down the photo I wanted to use and put it in grayscale mode. And then I increased the contrast and played with the levels so that the white were very light and the blacks were very dark, to bring out all of the detail when the image is simplified.
Go to Image -> Adjustments-> Posterize… this is going to reduce the number of colors in the image, which corresponds to the number of colors of floss you want to use in your embroidery. For me, that’s four, plus an accent color for my pretty kitty’s eyes.
Then I went to print it at different sizes on a piece of paper because I wasn’t sure exactly what size I wanted it to be, and found that if I reduced the opacity, it was easier for me to trace it later.
Step 2: Trace the Image
I used a small-tipped Micron pen to trace the different regions so that I could see them better when I put it on top of my light mat. That thing is awesome, by the way.
Then I chose a light colored fabric to place on top of the drawing and used my water soluble marking pen to trace the drawing again onto the fabric. The ink from this pen will disappear later when I spritz the whole thing with water.
I put the fabric in my embroidery hoop to prepare for stitching.
Step 3: Stitch
I used an embroidery stitch called the satin stitch, which is just many stitches right next to each other that fill up a whole field. I was a little bit loose about where the stitches started and ended, I just didn’t want any of them to be too long so that they would hang off the patch.
I repeated the process for several more images of my pretty kitty and printed them out at all different sizes to get a variety going. On the smaller ones I found that I only needed to use half of the strand of embroidery floss, otherwise the line was kinda too chunky for the overall size of the patch.
Step 4: Edge Finishing
At this point, it’s just a regular embroidery. You could stick it to a mat and frame it like this, but I wanted to cut it out and turn it into a patch. So I tried a couple different edge-finishing techniques, the first of which was just to do a binding stitch with the embroidery floss all around the edge. But that didn’t work out as well as I had hoped with the fabric being a little bit flexible and it sort of made the edges a little ruffly.
So then I switched to the sewing machine, and I would sew one straight line around and then a zigzag stitch, and then I’d cut it and do a zigzag stitch to capture that raw edge, and that sorta seemed to work the best for me. But I still wish I could have finished the whole thing by hand.
Step 5: Enjoy!
Embroidered patches go great on jackets, and bags, and hats, you know, anywhere. And you can pin it in place with safety pins or sew it in place permanently, or even glue it. I chose to sew this one onto my jean jacket.
For more stitches and other proper embroidery tutelage, try Jessy's free embroidery class!
These patches were a whole lot of fun to make, and I got to spend that time sort of reminiscing about my sweet kitty, and I think it’s a great way to memorialize a dear friend.
Thanks for reading and I'd love to see your patches and feedback in the comments!