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How-To: Embroidering a Tiny Face

by Jenny Hart

Stitching up facial features, especially when they are small is intimidating at best.

I'm going to show you how I tackle these tiny features in a few smooth moves. We don't want her looking all weird! Here's how I do it: 


STITCHES SHOWN: Back StitchStem StitchFrench Knot • Isolated Chain (first part of this tutorial)
PATTERN: from Pinups by Gil Elvgren
FABRIC USED: Most Awesome Tea Towel (same for Demi Towel, Tote Bag, Throw Pillow and Half Apron)

FLOSS: Sublime Floss in Portrait and Fruit Salad. All stitches are worked in either 3 or 4 strands ("ply"). The number of ply means I've stripped the six-strand floss down to only 3 or 4 strands for finer detail. There is a tutorial on Floss Stripping and Conditioning here and you can watch a funny 5-second video of how I separate my floss right here!


• BOW •
I like shortcuts. So, instead of trying to actually stitch the outline of the tiny bow, I've combined three types of stitches to make what I call a Lazy Bow: 2 isolated chain stitches for the loops, 2 straight stitches for the ends, and 1 French knot in the middle. Laziness is the mother of invention with me.


• EYES • 
The eyes are the window to the soul of your project. For the eyelashes, I used only a total of 3 straight stitches in 3 ply. There are only 2 stitches on the left eye for the lashes, and 1 on the right. Notice that I stitched them before I did the French knots for the eyes. You want your French knots to sit on top of these stitches. The French knots eyes are worked in 3 ply, and if you'll notice that the center dimple of the knot looks a bit like a pupil. Keeping the coil of your knot tightly wound around your needle as you make your French knot is the key to its success, so here's my French Knot tutorial if you need a refresher. The eyebrows, again, are only 3 straight stitches in 3 ply. The left eyebrow is 2 stitches that meet end-to-end at the arch.

• HAIR • 
Hair is always my favorite part to stitch. I just want to point out that in this example I go back and forth between using a stem stitch and a back stitch for the hair. I think it looks best primarily worked in a stem stitch, but I switched to a back stitch in spots where space was tight, so the detail wouldn't be lost in those strawberry curls.


• MOUTH • 
Even more than the eyes, I think mouths are extra tricky. Her upper lip is worked in only 3 straight stitches in 3 ply: 2 on the left worked like a stem stitch, and 1 on the right worked as a back stitch meeting at the indent. Her lower lip is 1 straight stitch pulled down with a securing stitch in the center to make it swoop down a little and give it some shape. Make sense? Another shortcut!


• NOSE • Okay, maybe I spoke too soon. I think the nose is the most challenging part. Less is more. You just need to hint that a nose is there. The tip of the nose is nothing more than 2 straight stitches in 3 ply, with the stitch for the outer tip slightly overlapping the nostril. This one may take a little practice.


MOST IMPORTANTLY...don't agonize over it too much. If you stare and stare at it, your work will look off to you no matter how well you're doing. So if you think it's not working, or you get frustrated, walk away from it and come back with fresh eyes. You'll probably say "Oh! That doesn't look as bad as I thought!" I think so, too. xo Jenny