This freehand embroidery design can be worked in multiple ways: as a pendant suspended from a necklace or keychain, a small fabric patch, or a motif sewn directly onto bags and clothing. You can even hang it on the wall inside a small embroidery hoop or frame!
This tiny piece is great for using up scraps and suits a variety of embroidery stitches. Even better, it only takes a few hours to stitch up!
This tutorial does not demonstrate the stitches I used in making these pieces. Many embroidery stitches can be used, depending on your skills and preference. You can stitch the stems in backstitch or stem stitch instead of split stitch, for example, or the leaves in satin stitch instead of inset chain stitches. At a minimum, you’ll need one filling and one line stitch.
The stitches I used for embroidery include:
I divided my circles into five spokes for the woven-wheel flowers, but you may prefer three or seven instead.
The stitches I used for mounting and finishing include:
As my examples were made at different points of the pattern-development process, they aren’t identical.
All forms of this design require:
- A pattern print out or tracing
- Five colours of embroidery floss
- Sharp embroidery needles
- An embroidery hoop
- A pen (see below)
You can stitch this on a 15 cm / 6 inch hoop, but larger the embroidery hoop, the larger the piece of fabric needed and the greater the fabric waste. I wouldn’t stitch this on anything larger than a 10 cm / 4 inch hoop (cream hoop, above) if avoidable, and I prefer my 7.5 cm / 3 inch hoop (black and white hoop, above). While chain craft stores like Lincraft stock plastic 10 cm hoops, 7.5 cm hoops are less easy to find outside of mini cross-stitch or embroidery kits.
The interfacing needs to be thin/perforated enough for your ink to bleed onto the fabric beneath. Many types of interfacing have a heat-activated adhesive on one side, as they’re meant to be ironed onto fabric. The glue makes for bumpier, less-even pen strokes and is best avoided. Adhesive-free interfacing is cheaper and better for tracing; Lincraft sells an interfacing that’s listed as tracing paper.
(If you’re purchasing in person, run your hand over both sides of the interfacing. The adhesive feels like grains or scales of hot glue attached to the fibres.)
You can stitch this design on a variety of non-stretch fabrics: I’ve been using quilting cottons and cotton drill left from mask-making. This design is great for using scraps and salvaged sections from damaged items, like fabric from a stained pillowcase or a worn-out shirt. A single fat quarter (a pre-cut section of quilting cotton) provides enough fabric for multiple pendants/patches.
If you don’t care about lines peeking out from beneath your stitching (as shown on my aromantic/cream fabric pendant), any pen or fine-tipped marker should work. If you think pen marks are the devil, you’ll need an erasable pen or marker. The most common variants are heat erasable (ink turns clear under heat), water erasable (ink washes out) and air erasable (ink fades over time). Heat and water-erasable inks last indefinitely, giving you plenty of time to work; air-erasable ink doesn’t require washing or ironing after stitching.
If you’re using dark fabric, you’ll need a white erasable marker.
To create the pendant, you’ll also need:
- a miniature oval embroidery frame (see below)
- sewing thread or scrap embroidery floss
- a jump ring matching your frame’s hardware
- a cord/chain and clasps or a pre-made necklace chain
- stuffing / polyfill (optional)
- glue (not shown)
My pendant frames came in a two-pack (one small, one large) for $2 AUD from Spotlight. Similar miniature frames are available on eBay. This pattern fits the largest at 65 mm high x 35 mm across; adjustments may need to be made if using a smaller or larger frame. Please note that you can’t use the mini frame as a working hoop for stitching: they have flat wooden inserts around which you’ll gather your fabric.
The size of your jump ring will depend on the thickness of both the nut fastening your frame and your necklace cord or chain. I used a 6 mm jump ring on both my pendants, but while the ring fits both nut and narrow nylon cord on the aromantic pendant, it struggles to hold both nut and my thicker floss cord on the abro pendant. I’d use a larger jump ring if I had any available to me!
Because I used to make stim/fidget jewellery, I already had nylon cord and safety/breakaway clasps. As I find them more comfortable to wear, I used them here, but most folks will prefer a conventional necklace chain. Pre-made chains and cords–with clasps attached–are available at craft chains like Spotlight and Lincraft as well as many dollar shops. If you want to make your own, you can also find cords, chains and findings at the aforementioned locations.
I place a small amount of toy/pillow stuffing between the fabric and the wooden oval upon which it’s mounted, as I think this pillowed, cameo-type effect looks nicer than a flat pendant. (It also conceals any reverse-side lumpiness!) If using dark fabric, you can stuff this gap with saved thread offcuts.
To create the patch as shown above, you’ll also need:
- Embroidery floss in an additional colour
- A second piece of fabric
- Matching sewing thread
- A narrow, thin tool for turning out your patch
I use a plastic needle tool with an angled end as a combination unpicking/piercing/turning-out-corners tool. I’ve seen them sold for scrapbooking, clay and sewing, but I found mine in the general craft section of my local dollar shop. The thin, angled point makes it easy to turn out seams and corners on small, narrow items. The end of a thin paintbrush also works … and if push comes to shove, you can carefully use a small pair of rounded-point scissors.
Tracing Your Pattern
First, transfer the pattern to paper.
I’ve provided a scale to enable you to print at the correct size. Alternatively, you can display the image on your phone or tablet, turn up the screen brightness and trace the pattern onto tracing or baking paper. This is best done if you have a screen protector, in case your pen scratches the glass.
(Do not trace directly from screen to interfacing unless you want an inky screen!)
Trace the pattern onto the interfacing by laying the interfacing over the paper pattern. Use the pen with which you’ll transfer the pattern onto your fabric. If you use a regular or heat-erasable pen to trace from paper to interfacing but an air-erasable pen from interfacing to fabric, you can get a mix of both inks on the fabric after the second tracing. If you use a water or heat erasable pen, you can reuse this piece of interfacing; if you use an air-erasable pen, you’ll need to redraw it twice each time.
I tape my interfacing to the fabric and my desk when tracing the second time, as I have shaky hands prone to moving the layers beneath as I work. My cheap masking tape doesn’t have much stick, so it doesn’t damage or leave residue on my fabric, but I’d first check this on a spare scrap. The tape will, however, permanently adhere to the interfacing!
The ink seeped clearly through the interfacing with my Pilot Frixion pen, but my Birch air-erasable pen (shown above) needed a second going-over for visibility.
Once you’ve traced the design from interfacing to fabric, you’ll have three copies of the pattern: one on paper, one on interfacing and one on fabric.
If you have a good eye and a confident hand, you may prefer to freehand the pattern onto your fabric. If you’re making a patch or setting the pattern into a larger hoop for wall art, you needn’t be exact (and may like to modify, adjust or extend the design). I do not have this ability, so I prefer the tracing method!
If using an air-erasable pen, as I did in the photos above, keep in mind the length of time your ink remains visible. My Birch pen is meant to last 24-48 hours, and it is (just) visible after a day. I only get a workable degree of visibility, however, for a couple of hours after tracing. After that, the ink becomes extremely faint:
The rapid fade of my air-erasable ink means that I must stitch immediately after tracing. (I screwed up the “A” above because the ink had faded enough that I couldn’t see where to end my satin stitch–hence my awkward-looking split stitch stem.) Test your air-erasable pen on scrap fabric at least a day before to learn how quickly it fades and how much time you’ll have to work. My pen is useless for anything but ultra-quick projects, and you don’t want to have to go through the tracing process only to repeat it later!
If you’re using a heat-erasable pen, you’ll need an iron, oven or hairdryer to turn the ink clear, while a water-erasable pen will need to be washed after stitching. Always test your fabric and floss to ensure it tolerates your heating or rinsing methods before sewing. Be aware that unbranded floss may leach dyes; it may not even be cotton (meaning it can melt, frizz, warp or scorch under heat). Using 100% cotton floss and fabric is safest if you must iron after sewing, and you should wash both fabric and floss before stitching if you know that you’ll need to wash out pen marks.
(The bands on Sullivans and DMC stranded cotton contain washing and ironing symbols. If you buy your fabric at a chain store like Lincraft, the receipt should include care instructions.)
Making Your Patch (With a Backing)
There many ways to make a fabric patch. I wanted something clean-finished but a little different from my cross-stitch patches, so I made my patch from two layers of fabric, enclosing the raw edges inside before trimming it with blanket stitch. You can also leave the edges to fray, turn them under and sew the patch directly onto your garment, sew on an edging or binding, treat them with fabric stiffener or enclose them inside a buttonhole stitch … among sundry other possibilities.
First, take your piece of embroidered fabric and a second piece of fabric for the back. It needn’t be the same colour as the front, but I used matching scraps of green cotton drill left over from handmade masks.
Stack your fabric pieces with the good/front sides facing towards each other. I place the embroidered piece on top, so the back of the embroidery faces me. This makes it easier to sketch the desired shape around the embroidered section. (I drew an oval shape, akin to the pendant frame, but a rectangle is easier to sketch, cut and turn out.) By hand or with a machine, sew along this line most of the way around the patch, leaving a gap of about two thumbs’ width on one side. As I suffered a bout of unsteady hands, I backstitched my line twice for surety, but a single line is sufficient for most sewists.
I used white polyester sewing thread as it’s more visible in photos, but ordinarily I would have matched the thread to my fabric. While the seam isn’t visible after blanket stitching along the patch’s edge, my backstitching did peek out between the layers of fabric before I placed my edging stitch. If you plan to call the patch done after turning it out, you should use matching thread.
Once you’ve sewn your line, trim away any excess fabric, leaving a couple of centimetres’ seam allowance. Clip (make small cuts in the fabric ending close to but before the seam) this allowance around curves and corners, as this enables a neater, smoother edge. For an oval patch, this means clipping all the way around the seam.
Turning out a small patch is fiddly. Ease a small amount of the inside fabric out through the gap in your seam and slowly roll this out over the seam until you can push the remainder of the patch through the gap and tease it out the other side. A small, thin tool (like my clay/needle combo tool) inserted inside the gap will let you press down corners and smooth/flatten the turned-out seams. Take your time: rushing this is likely to get you stuck.
You should then have a clean-edged patch with two flaps of raw fabric poking out on one side:
To finish, fold and tuck the fabric flaps so they sit inside the patch, taking care to align the folds with the seam above and below. I used a ladder stitch in matching thread to sew the seam closed before finishing the patch with a blanket stitch edging, but you can omit the ladder stitch: just use the blanket stitch to fasten the folded flaps. You can also omit the ladder stitch and use another decorative edging stitch–or an over or running stitch–beside or around the patch’s outside edge. The ladder stitch adds security, but if your seam allowance is wide enough and you keep your stitches small, the edging stitch will hold your tucked-in flaps of fabric.
If you are sewing an edging stitch, it’s a good idea to press your patch after turning it out (in other words: before stitching). I didn’t, which worsened my patch’s creases. (I have not yet mastered the art of tension in freehand embroidery, hence the creases!) I’m planning to attach mine to a bag in a location where it’ll only get more creased, so it isn’t a problem, but your patch will look nicer if you do.
If you want to add a safety pin to make a fabric badge, this double-layer technique creates a sturdier, more-durable badge–especially if using a thicker cotton (like drill or homespun) or inserting a layer of stiffer fabric.
Making Your Pendant (or Keychain)
As shown in the materials photo above, the pendant frames I used comprise five parts: two balsa wood inserts plus the outer frame and a nut and bolt for fastening. I use one oval to mount the fabric and glue on the second as a backing, resulting in a clean-finished pendant on both sides. While I find that my bolt and nut tighten the frame securely around the mounted insert, you may wish to glue the mounted front in place inside the frame. Choose a glue that bonds wood to wood and fabric/thread to wood as well as being thick and/or fast-drying enough that it doesn’t seep around the edges of the mounted fabric.
To begin, take your embroidered fabric and cover the embroidered section with one of the oval inserts so that no part of your stitching is visible. Trim the fabric so you have at least 1.5 cm (a little over half an inch) protruding past the oval on all sides:
Sew a loose running stitch around the edge of your fabric. If you don’t intend to place stuffing between the front of the fabric and the wood, rest the oval inside and pull your thread taut so the fabric gathers around the wood. If you do, place a small amount of stuffing between the wood and fabric before pulling the thread to form a loose gather. This lets you slide a finger or a small tool (like a paintbrush or my clay/needle tool) underneath to add or remove stuffing or adjust the oval’s placement. I tacked down one end of my fabric to keep it from slipping off the wood while I adjusted my stuffing:
Once you are happy with the front of the pendant, pull the fabric taut. A few folds may sit along the edge of the mounted fabric (as visible at the top and bottom of my green fabric) so you’ll need to smooth these out on the back by running a stitch through the surrounding fabric and anchoring it to another section. Finish by sewing multiple criss-crossing stitches across the back of the wood, until the fabric is pulled tight and no wrinkles show along the edges:
You can then either glue the second insert onto the back of the mounted embroidery and set both inside the frame or set the mounted embroidery inside the frame and then glue the second insert to the back. The first method means not having to bother with an attached cord while gluing; the second lets you glue both the mounted fabric and insert to the frame for additional security.
Because I only had small jump rings and the space left for attachments is not big, I found it easiest to thread my cord through the jump ring and then thread the ring onto the bolt. With larger jump rings, it may be easier to first thread them onto the bolt and open them up with pliers to add the cord or chain.
If you hang your pendant from a piece of cord, plastic breakaway or safety clasps offer the easiest way to fasten it (short of tying a knot). A piece of chain can be fastened with magnetic, screw or lobster clasps.
A custom hand-twisted cord is easy to make from embroidery floss. Cut pieces of floss twice as long as desired plus a little extra for knots. Keep in mind that your finished cord is made from doubled-over floss, so the more lengths you cut, the thicker your cord will become. Bundle your threads, tie a knot at one end and pin or clip this knot to a heavy object that won’t move.
(I use a foldover/binder or bulldog clip to clamp mine to my desk!)
To create the twist, start at the knot and roll/turn the threads in one direction. Continue twisting in that direction, as tight as your hands and patience allow, down the full length of the thread. (As your twisting puts tension on the threads, a heavy, stationary anchor is vital.) If you need to take a break or untangle the loose ends of the threads, pinch the twisted section in your fingers without letting go: otherwise, the thread will untwist.
Once you reach the end of your threads, pinch the rolled end in your fingers and bring it up to reach the knot … and let the two halves twist themselves, in opposing directions, around each other. The cord really does twist itself! Free the knotted end from your clamp and tie both ends together with a second knot. If there’s any kinks or bumps, you can gently untwist and twist those sections until the cord lies smooth. Finish by threading jump rings and clasps over the cord’s unknotted end, before knotting this end and trimming both to fit inside the clasps.
If you want to create a keychain, you’ll need a split ring, lanyard clip or dog clip. A swivelling dog clip, like the one I used below, can be threaded directly onto the bolt to make a quick, easy keychain. A split ring should be first attached to a jump ring, which you’ll thread through the bolt like the necklaces above. This lets your keychain lie flat! You can also attach the bolt via a chain, cord or pieces of embroidery floss to the split ring/clip if you want a dangling keychain. I like to cobra stitch (the knotting technique used for paracord bracelets) a couple of strands of cord for this as a single loop may fray over time.
And that, finally, brings us to the end! These techniques for making patches, pendants and keychains suit all sorts of small embroidery patterns, so you needn’t (and shouldn’t) feel confined to my simple pattern. There’s no limit to the pride accessories you can create with fabric, embroidery floss, jewellery findings and a few pendant-sized frames!