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Embroidery Journal Basics: What It Is & How to Start One!

Learn what an embroidery journal is as well as how to start one of your own!

It’s a simple, stress-free, and inexpensive hobby, and also a great way to learn hand embroidery.

Even if you’re a complete beginner with zero embroidery or sewing experience, you can do an embroidery journal!

How to start an embroidery journal!

Embroidery Journal Basics: What It Is & How to Start One!

I would like to point one thing out before we begin: I am not an embroiderer, cross-stitcher, or sewer.

So if you’re like me and are a total beginner, you can make an embroidery journal too!

Newbies unite! :)

What Is an Embroidery Journal?

An embroidery journal is just what it sounds like: a journal created using hand embroidery.

Instead of writing in a journal to document your life or feelings, you use thread stitched onto fabric.

Icons or words are added every day (or as often as you’d like), and at the end of the year, you have a completed handmade keepsake documenting that stage of your life…

…aaaaand tangible proof of your amazing DIY maker skills that you can proudly show off and humble-brag over.

Even cooler: it’s a great no-pressure way to learn hand embroidery and practice a new skill!

You work at your own pace without the pressure of following a structured kit and wanting it to look exactly like what the much more experienced artist designed.

And who doesn’t love a low-key, no stress, work-at-your-own-pace hobby?

Why I Decided to Start an Embroidery Journal

Before starting this embroidery journal on New Year’s Day, I knew nothing about fabrics, threads, needles, hoops or any of the stuff in that avoided-with-wonderment craft department.

However, since I’m a crafty gal (ahem, I do have a DIY blog, after all), I’m always on the hunt for a fun new hobby or skill to learn.

After seeing this article last fall, I knew that finally giving hand embroidery a try was my next pursuit!

I’ve had this embroidery starter kit for literally years and it’s just been taking up space in my WorkBox 3.0 craft cabinet, so I might as well finally put it to use.

Also, my step-mother-in-law (SMIL) is a lot like me (i.e. huge into crafting, especially embroidery and sewing…check out her craftiness!), and ever since I mentioned to her that I was thinking about starting this project, she’s been my biggest cheerleader.

And the fact that she sent me a giant gift box full of her favorite supplies and is never more than a text away to offer encouragement or answer my questions doesn’t hurt either. :)

How Do You Do an Embroidery Journal?

How much previous experience do you need with embroidery and/or sewing to start an embroidery journal?

NONE!

How many supplies are needed to start an embroidery journal?

NOT MANY AND THEY’RE INEXPENSIVE!

How structured or rule-based is making an embroidery journal (i.e. do I need to be perfect)?

NOT AT ALL!

And that’s the best part: the only rule when making an embroidery journal is THERE ARE NO RULES.

Or another easier way to think of this is that YOU MAKE YOUR OWN RULES.

  • If you want to stitch a new icon everyday, awesome!
  • If daily stitching is too much and you’d rather knock out all of the icons from the previous week over the weekend, wonderful!
  • Maybe you’re not up for embroidering 365 icons and want a more journal-as-you-feel-like-it thing, no problem!

To sum it up: it is totally customizable and there’s ZERO pressure.

YOU make it whatever YOU want it to be and do whatever YOU want to do.

Reasons to Start an Embroidery Journal

Doing an embroidery journal can help you:

  • Learn a new skill with no-pressure daily (or whenever) exercises
  • Commit to regular practice of:
    • Different stitches using various types of floss/thread as well as the number of strands
    • Using embellishments like adding beads
    • Embroidering both text and images
    • Being creative
    • Documenting your life
  • Start journaling and create a fun handmade keepsake to look back on (especially in these strange times!)
  • Have a set moment of each day/week to relax and get lost in a creative pursuit

When to Start an Embroidery Journal

The new year is of course the perfect time to try something new, and hobby resolutions are the best kind to start, right?

But the new year isn’t the only time you can start an embroidery journal.

Nope…any time is a good time to start!

  • New Years
  • Birthday (document that trip around the sun!)
  • First year of marriage, college, retirement, new job, in a new house, etc.
  • Baby’s first year
  • Book tracker
  • Any special time in your life
  • Whenever you want to give hand embroidery a go

What Supplies Do I Need to Start an Embroidery Journal?

Here are the basic supplies that you’ll need to start an embroidery journal.

They can be found at any craft store, Walmart, or online.

  • Embroidery hoop
    • I’m using this 12-inch hoop, and I wouldn’t recommend going smaller than a 10-inch one
  • Fabric
    • Basic cotton works great…even an old shirt, pillowcase, or bedsheet would be fine!
    • Depending on the type of fabric you’re using, you may first need to add some interfacing to the back (more on this below)
  • Embroidery floss
  • Needle
  • Scissors
  • Pen or pencil
Embroidery journal supplies.

The following items aren’t absolutely necessary, but they make life sooo much easier and/or add some really fun decorative elements to your embroidery journal.

I would recommend getting these nice-to-have items if you can:

Fun extra supplies for an embroidery journal.

How To Embroidery Journal

As I said earlier, anyone can start an embroidery journal!

Here are the easy steps to get going!

Step 1: Decide on Hoop Size & Journal Design

The first thing you need to do is decide on your hoop size.

I’m using a 12-inch plastic hoop and recommend that you don’t go much smaller than that since you’ll need to fit a lot of small icons, plus all the other parts of your design.

Your fingers and eyes will thank you for going bigger. :)

If you already have a smaller embroidery hoop, you could of course use it and just move the fabric around in your hoop as you work through the months/sections.

Once your hoop size is set, you need to decide how you want your journal to be designed or laid out.

I’m using what is probably the most common embroidery journal design: a pie template divided into twelve monthly sections with the year in the center.

Here are some other design ideas for embroidery journals instead of a pie template (this is by no means all-inclusive…let your creativity run wild!):

  • This is a fun collection of different journal ideas
  • A book journal like this
  • Quarterly sections with one for each of the four seasons
  • Specific themes (i.e. floral/nature icons added daily)
Embroidery journal pie template and hoop.

Step 2: Prep Journal Fabric (and Possibly Hoop)

Once your hoop and design are decided, you need to prep your fabric.

I would do a quick wash of your fabric, iron out any wrinkles, and if it’s a delicate and/or stretchy fabric, add some interfacing to the back.

If your hoop doesn’t get clamp-tight and the fabric gets loose easily, or if you just want it to be decorated (me!), now would be the time to bind your hoop with some fabric scraps or ribbon.

I wrapped mine in a single long strand of ribbon, gluing the ends to the hoop.

Then you’ll need to get your design on your fabric.

The easiest method for accomplishing this is tracing it, but you could always freehand it and just draw it without a template, or if you wanna get super fancy, sketch it onto your fabric using a Silhouette or Cricut.

In order to transfer the design onto my fabric, I printed my template out on two pieces of paper then trimmed and taped them together so it was the correct size for my 12-inch hoop.

I then traced over the design with this marker and eraser set (it’s truly like magic!).

Other options are a light box, using an iPad or projector, or taping the template to a backlit window, then tracing the design onto your fabric.

Tracing journal pie template design onto fabric.

Step 3: Embroider Template Design

Once your design is drawn on your fabric, it’s time to start embroidering!

Woot!

This is a great time to practice different stitches on the divider lines and also the year and months.

You can make your journal design as simple or as complicated as you want, such as abbreviating the names of the months and/or leaving out the divider lines.

It’s totally up to you.

Stitching embroidery journal pie template design onto fabric.

You can find help with learning how to make different embroidery stitches via YouTube and online tutorials, of course.

I’ve been using this handy book my SMIL sent me, along with various Skillshare classes, especially this beginner course as well as this one for learning how to bind an embroidery hoop.

I mean I had so much fun and success with drawing my home as a gingerbread house cookie that I’m now a Skillshare diehard for all the crafty learning.

DIY gingerbread house cookie drawing!

Step 4: Add Icons and (if desired) Daily High/Low Temps

Once your design elements are stitched, it’s time to get journaling!

I’m adding one icon or word everyday to document something special or memorable that happened, as well as each day’s high and low temperatures.

My very first icon was a slice of cheesecake with strawberry lime sauce in honor of my first bake of the new year. :)

As you can see, my stitches are far from perfect, but I don’t give a hoot!

I’m enjoying the process and allowing myself to learn.

Embroidery journal daily icons being stitched by hand!

Here’s how my embroidery journal looked halfway through January.

Those tiny colorful dots moving up the inside of the wedge are the daily high (on the left) and low (the right) temperatures.

They’ve been a great way to practice those pesky French knots.

Embroidery journal monthly icons added halfway through January.

And here’s how January wrapped up.

It’s certainly not a masterpiece but it’s not too shabby either!

My favorite icon from this month just might be the day I got bangs (and I already hate ’em). :)

I love how it’s turning out so far!

I chose to go with a black-and-white theme for the pie design and ribbon around my hoop so the colorful daily icons POP and are the stars of the show.

And one day I’ll finally get around to stitching all the names of the months…

See, I told ya this is a “go with the flow” project. :)

One month down, eleven to go…let’s do this!

Embroidery journal basics and how to start one!

Things I’ve Noticed Since Starting My Embroidery Journal

Here are some things I’ve noticed since starting my embroidery journal at the beginning of this year:

  • I really enjoy hand embroidery! New hobby FTW!
  • My skills are already improving (so my confidence is too)
  • It’s helping me be less of a perfectionist and accept the learning curve
  • Keeping a journal and being able to look back at the daily icons is so fun and special already, and I’m only a month in!
  • It’s soooo relaxing and I “get in the zone” with my needle and thread
  • It helps me read more books since I can listen to audiobooks while embroidering…talk about hobby multi-tasking!
Enjoying the view while creating in my craft room.
This is me, literally kicked back in my craft room, enjoying the lovely natural light along with my kitties as I do that day’s embroidery icon and temperatures.

I’ll be updating this post throughout the year to share my progress, so check back here often!

Thanks so much for stopping by! Happy journaling!

Where The Smiles Have Been | Crafts. DIY. Home. Mom Life.