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Whether done with thread, beads, lace or sequins, embellishment adds a luxe texture and dimension to garments or accessories. Are you an embroidery maven or just an admirer? Check out some gorgeous examples including garments by Mary Katrantzou and Oscar de la Renta, as well as loads of tips and how-tos so you can get started.

Prada caught my eye for Spring with Miuccia’s kooky banana prints, but it was this fantastic embroidery that really reeled me in.


Mary Katrantzou’s bold, graphic dresses stand on their own just fine, but when you get up close and see that some of the subtle details have been enhanced with embroidery and trim, it adds a whole new dimension to the beauty of her work.


British design duo Meadham Kirchoff are known for their signature “unfinished” look and added an ethnic vibe to their Fall 2011 collection with quirky embroidery in bright primary colors.


Speaking of ethnic flair, Oscar de la Renta is the king of gorgeous, culturally-influenced embellishment. Whether it’s embroidery inspired by South American textiles or intricate bead work reminiscent of chinoiserie, de la Renta knows how to enhance a pattern, graphic or silhouette with embellishment.


Florence Welch wore this stunning Givenchy Couture gown to the recent Grammy Awards ceremony. The embroidery and applique work is incredible, I can only image what this piece looks like up close.


Chanel’s expert seamstresses and artisans come together to make some of the most intricate and amazing couture pieces in the world. A few weeks ago I posted links to the documentary Signe Chanel and if you want a birds eye view of the painstaking process of creating couture, I definitely recommend carving out some time to watch this flick. It’s also interesting to note that an old superstition says if you weave a single strand of hair into the wedding dress you are embroidering, you will be married within the year.


From episode 4 of Signe Chanel, watch how quickly the embroiderers do their work! Amazing!

Embroidery is a great way to add a personal touch to garments you already own, or take ones you are making to the next level. Whether you’re just getting started or are well in the know, I’ve pulled together a few links to aid the process and maybe even teach you something new!

-If you’re just staring out, you’re probably going to want to know all the different types of embroidery and a few basic stitches.

-Once you’ve mastered the basics, head over to Sharon B’s amazingly comprehensive Stitch Dictionary filled with all the hand embroidery and needlework stitches you’ll ever need. Complete with pictures to guide you along, you’ll be a pro in no time!

-Did you know that there is an Embroiderer’s Guild of America? Check out their list of correspondence courses including German Schwalm and Italian Drawn Thread Embroidery.

- Fellow BurdaStyle members have even created some helpful guides including esewingworkshop’s Chain Stitch Embroidery Essentials video, mirela’s Free Hand Embroidery tutorial and handmadebyfreya’s instructions for how to applique an embroidered piece (in this case, embroidered lace) on to a garment.

- Alicia Paulson’s Embroidery Companion comes packed with 30 different patterns as well as guides and instructions for how to do decorative embroidery, counted cross-stitch and crewelwork.
Other great titles to check out:
Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches
The New Crewel
Yvette Stanton’s guides for both left-handed and right-handed embroiderers

-After you get the hang of embroidering with thread, take it to the next level by adding beads or sequins to your stitches. Learn what you need to get started as well as tips and techniques here. If you want to get more in depth, Yukiko Ogura and Stanley Levy both have books full of great information, pictures and guides for embroidering with beads and sequins.

-Looking for fun, modern stitch patterns? Sublime Stitching has what you need. As their tag line says, “This Ain’t Your Grandma’s Embroidery” and Sublime’s cute and quirky designs will add a fun kick to any of your projects, while their embroidery kits and great range of tools will help you get started fast.

-If you still can’t find the pattern you need, make your own! There are a few companies that make great software to guide you along including Creative DRAWings® 5 and Janome’s Artistic Sewing Suite which are both helpful tools for making your designs come to life.

-Have any of you ever used an embroidery machine? I test ran a model at a fabric store a few years ago and was thoroughly impressed. If you’re looking to take your embroidery to the next level, check out BERNINA’s 830LE or Viking’s Designer Ruby™.

How do you use embroidery in your projects? If you haven’t yet, how would you use needlework to enhance your work? Leave your answers in the comments below by Friday, March 4th and you could win one of three prize packs including a BurdaStyle Stitches tee and stitch kit!


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    Mar 5, 2011, 09.36 PMby bootycrewqueen

    Embroidery, knitting, sewing, crochet- we were taught these crafts as young girls and started with the tablecloths and pillowcases for our hope chests. I think it would be wonderful to start this tradition again so they do not become the lost arts. I always find it relaxing.

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    Mar 3, 2011, 06.22 AMby conniereed

    I have not as yet embroidered anything I have made. After reading this newsletter I am seriously considering doing so. (I recently purchased some silk ribbon for embroidery so I could learn to do that. so hopefully I pick that up fairly easily) I already know how to do simple embroidery, crewel embroidery and cross stitch. I really Like the inspiration pictures, they make me want to embelish something right now!

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    Mar 3, 2011, 01.24 AMby dj1

    the last time i embroider by hand was the lace at the bottom of my wedding dress .. i think i might try it on my tshirt i just cut out ….i love this site by the way .

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    Mar 2, 2011, 08.06 AMby mld

    Contact, for beautiful hand embroidery work. They do it for top notch Designers couture and pret’ collections.

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    Mar 2, 2011, 02.21 AMby uglybeat

    I don’t have much patience for embroidery but love it so much! I’m thinking it might be kinda cool to do some machine embroidery on some pockets…

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    Feb 28, 2011, 06.34 AMby luxihere

    I outsource my embroidery work to be done. I sketch designs and get it done! My Aunt was too good at all needle arts and had made a face of Swami Vivekananda through felting technique!

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    Feb 27, 2011, 09.05 PMby atariisoda

    I love adding a few glittery pieces to any garment. Like a plain grey t-shirt but with a small embroidery made with silver or gold thread or little beads, just to make it sparkle.

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    Feb 27, 2011, 04.24 PMby sewinl0ve

    Love this! Incredible designs! The Givenchy couture dress… There are just no words to describe such beauty! Amazing!

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    Feb 26, 2011, 06.57 PMby flosiepoos

    Great post! I’m going through a bit of an embroidery phase at the moment, I’m into upcycling charity shop finds and embroidery is a fantastic way of making something your own. Right now I’m working on a shop-bought dress/tunic which I’m embroidering with a Scandinavian design (marrying two of my current obsessions!).

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    Feb 26, 2011, 04.16 AMby tasallison

    thank-you thank-you thank-you! I loved the photos and the video was my particular favourite..i like Chanel but sometimes there’s too much importance put on the advertising and the logos and the name…but i love these glimpses of the ladies working together and pooling so much knowledge and creating so many beautiful masterpieces…how exciting it must be to see thoses thousands of white sequins or glass beads being turned into a 3d master work…i love the iinside workings of Chanel!

    thanks so much! I’m definately going to continue with tambour beading!

    and one day embroidery..

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    Feb 25, 2011, 09.08 PMby euma

    Actually I’m making a tote and I’m planning to embroider two lullabies, one on each side but on different positions. I just like embroidery and love to use it in every project.

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    Feb 25, 2011, 05.42 PMby wzrdreams

    I would LOVE to use embroidery more in my projects, but it is so time consuming and I am such a perfectionist that I rarely do it. I did some thread embroidery on my built by Wendy top.and I think the most likely way I will embellish in the future will be to add crochetted collars and trims to my sewing projects. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while.

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    Feb 25, 2011, 05.22 PMby prettyfascinated

    I have used machine freehand embroidery to make lace and designs for school art projects but never on my own wearable clothes. Maybe this will help me get inspired!

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    Feb 25, 2011, 04.36 PMby mury84

    Unfortunately I’m not able to do embriodery by hand and neither my machine does it.. : ( I love embroidery, it makes thinngs much more personal and unique. I have to learn.

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    Feb 25, 2011, 03.59 PMby leonx

    EMBROIDERY to be honest thats my favourite stage of sewing becouse thats when you really get creative i love to add bizzare and weird things in garments like beading clowns on or crosstiching skulls on really (and i mean really)girly clothes I LOVE EMBROIDERY!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Feb 25, 2011, 03.53 PMby ruthieburda

    I am in love with this post! The colors, the details, absolutely everything! LOVE IT!

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    Feb 25, 2011, 03.53 PMby Danielka Ta

    I am in love with that Meadham Kirchoffb collection!

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    Feb 25, 2011, 03.44 PMby bluewillow

    I have embroidered on projects for many years. I decorated my bell-bottom jeans in the 70s and my boyfriend’s T-shirts (now my husband). These days I embroider babies names on baptism cloths for my church. I embroider with beads on cardigan sweaters. I would like to go beyond a beginner and do more projects with beaded embroidery.

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    Feb 25, 2011, 03.30 PMby milkshake80

    I have never embroidered in my life but I would love to try. I would love to embellish the toddler skirts that I sew up for my nieces. Ooooo the ideas are rolling around in my head.

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    Feb 25, 2011, 03.25 PMby JacciJaye

    This is brilliant! I LOVE the contrasting colors and styles all blended together….I am now sooooo inspired! *grin

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    Feb 25, 2011, 02.59 PMby FabricUiPhoneApp

    So much embellishment can be done on the sewing machine. It’s all a matter of knowing what foot to use, using different threads…If you’re in Evanston, IL, there are free sewing demos on Mondays at Vogue Fabrics. You can learn about embellishment how-tos to the hilt!

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    Feb 25, 2011, 09.40 AMby popbabe7

    Fantastic post. It ties in well with the exhibition in New York (?) of Alexander McQueen’s work, one of the dress on display has got amazing Chinese style embroideries

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    Feb 25, 2011, 06.17 AMby Anita Merrill

    This was an amazing post, thank you for all the information and great links!

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    Feb 25, 2011, 12.33 AMby docpattie

    I tend to add a bit of hand embroidery to most of my fabric projects. Though I have been having a lot of fun by recycling the beautiful hand embroidery of the indigenous women in the State of Chiapas in Mexico into my new creations. Recycling and reusing their embroidery is not a new or ’of the moment" trend. Like cutting off buttons the women have for generations, cut out the handwork on worn out clothing, to reapply them to new clothes.

    Pattie ;)

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    Feb 25, 2011, 12.27 AMby tnjen

    Amazing work. The only embroidery I’ve ever tried was by hand. I winged with a “hoop and a prayer.” It was a fun experiment but I don’t think I’ve got the patience and skill to do it right.

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