Tuesday, September 2, 2014

DIY Embroidered Mandala Tutorial

Since I was a kid, I've loved to draw these mandala doodles. I just start with a dot, then a few circles, then continue to add layers of doodles. I think this translates really well to embroidery, and it's a great first embroidery project because you can try several different stitches.

You can do this project even if you've never held a needle and thread before. You'll need a small embroidery hoop (mine is 4",) a full skein of embroidery floss, an embroidery needle, and something to stitch on. I think felt is the easiest to work with because there is no grain to work around like with fabric. And use the best quality felt you can find. The more dense your material, the more tiny stitches you can fit into it without making big ugly holes. I love Felt on the Fly. 100% pure merino luxury!

With a felt-tip pin, lightly trace around the edge of the smaller hoop. Start with a length of thread about 18" long. Separate the strands. This takes practice to do without tangling, so don't get frustrated if it doesn't go smoothly the first time. With a single strand, thread the needle and make big basting stitches all around the circle you just drew. This helps you know where to stop stitching and keeps you centered. Make the side without the pen mark the right side of your work, where the stitching will show.

Now we're going to make a french knot for the center of the mandala with two strands of thread. Knot one end and thread your needle. Here are the four steps to making a french knot:
1. Insert the needle through the back of the work and pull up the thread through the front until the knot reaches the back.
2. Wrap the thread around the needle clockwise.
3. Insert the needle back into the front of the work as close as you can to where the needle came through.
4. With the thread held taught and the wrap resting on the felt, pull the needle through the front out the back, letting go of the thread when there is only about an inch left.

Now make a few circles of varying sizes around the knot with a backstitch. I like to faintly draw my first one before I stitch it.

To backstitch, come up through the back of the work and make one small stitch to the right. Come up through the back of the work again one stitch length to the left and insert the needle down into the beginning of the first stitch. Keep working from left to right around the circle.

When you need to start a new piece of thread, finish off the old one by running it through only the topmost layer of the back of the felt. Before pulling the thread all the way through, check the front to make sure the needle isn't showing.

Make a few more circles of varying sizes. Switch to a single strand of thread and make tiny vertical stitches from bottom to top between two of the circles. Switch back to two strands and make another circle.

To make scalloped stitches, pull the needle up from the back of the work through the front at the edge of the outermost circle. Insert the needle back down through the front of the work about an eighth of an inch away to the left. Pull the needle through the back but leave a small loop of thread on the front. Come back up through the front of the work in the center of the loop about an eighth of an inch away from the circle. Pull the loop of thread until it makes a rounded scallop, not tight enough to make it pointy. Secure the loop by inserting the needle back down through the front of the work as close as you can to where the needle came up through the front. For the next scallop, begin again an eighth of an inch to the left. Work left to right all the way around the circle.

Make tiny single-strand stitches in the center of each scallop:

Continue doodling around and around, making each layer different and alternating between single and double strands of thread. You are literally drawing with thread, making it up as you go along. The teardrop shapes are made the same way as the scallops, except you don't move an eighth of an inch away before securing the loop.
 Here are the layers I did on mine:

When your mandala is about a half inch from the basting stitches, finish it off with one last round. Remove the basting stitches, set the felt into the hoop between the inner and outer rings, tighten the screw, and trim the back.

Let me know if you have any questions!

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