1. Start with some good old research
Pinterest is really useful to get inspiration, but don’t limit yourself to that. Research can help you identify a tradition or style you like. Eastern European embroidery is very different from, say, the South American one. There’s a lot you can learn and find out that will widen your horizons and help you work out your taste.
2. Think about where you’d like your design
Now that you have chosen the general style you’re going for, it’s time to think about where you’re going to place your embroidery. If it’s going to be on a recycled garment like I hope, it’s good to try and visualise the best place for your embroidery. Do you want it to be on the front or the back? Perhaps on the sleeves it might look great too! Or just on the cuffs? Do you want it centred, asymmetrical? How big is it going to be? If you’re in doubt about the best location, again, looking back at your research might give you an idea of what types of design looks best where. That is until you’re a pro and you simply don’t care, because you have your own style and it rocks.
3. Always draft a drawing of you design
It will help you avoid hating the design later, or going wonky. If it goes wonky I’m sure there’s something you can do to fix it. But to sketch a few ideas on some scrap paper will definitely make you feel more confident. If you are somewhat an indecisive type, I hear you: you can sketch and sketch and constantly change your mind. Perhaps in this case another human’s opinion might help you with your selection. But there’s two ways you can go about it: if you’re a confident sketcher, then just draw very basic shapes, so that you get a sense of whether or not the composition is balanced (to your eyes and taste, of course); if on the other hand, you’re slightly more insecure or a natural perfectionist, then fair enough! Draw your whole design until you like it, colour and all if you fancy and then admire your beautiful work! There’s no right way to sketch but yours, I’m highly confident you can come up with a great personal embroidery that will instantly make your finished project worth your time and patience. Finally, if you’re more of a beginner, why don’t you colour parts of your designs with lines that helps you understand the direction of your stitches. This is particularly useful when thinking about satin stitching everything. You might regret a wonderful shape later, if you needle and thread don’t succeed where your hand and your pencil did.
4. Think about how much time you have at your disposal
Duh! But actually I have more than once started huge projects that I’d hoped to be finished within unrealistic deadlines, like, a whole embroidered lingerie gown in a weekend? It won’t happen. No matter how little you sleep or how much coffee you drink (don’t drink coffee!!). Keep it simple to begin with and get to a level where you have a good sense of how long you take with your needlework otherwise you’ll be disappointed or get bored or even get anxious, but embroidery is NOT meant to be a competition against time. Please don’t forget that! There’s so much enjoyment to get from your work!
5. Think about yout colour palette and threads
Whether you’re working from your design and prefer to choose your threads based on it or whether you’re someone who likes to look at the beautiful threads and come up with an embroidered design from that, I can guarantee there are some colours that don’t work as well together. It’s good to avoid waste though, so when I end up with some random leftovers I put them all in a plastic bag for rainy days. The challenge of coming up with a/multiple design/s with those shouldn’t intimidate you: perhaps a good time to go abstract or why not do some automatic embroidery (like writing, but with needle and thread!).
You’d be surprised by what can come out of it.
6. Get started!
If you’re transferring a design, and depending on the method you’re using, give yourself plenty of time to begin. Don’t rush. Trasferring is easy, but it requires a little attention. My favourite method is with tissue paper. Call me old-fashioned, but it always works. A bit messy though…