How to Hand Embroider Names

    by Kate Lee

    About the Author

    Kate Lee's how-to articles have been published in "Sew Simple," "Craft Stylish" and "Soft Dolls & Animals" magazines. She has been sewing for more than 20 years and has a master's degree in technical writing.


    Embroidering names adds a personal touch to quilts, tote bags, clothing and more. To embroider by hand, you’ll need a few tools such as embroidery floss, an embroidery needle and an embroidery hoop. Floss is much thicker than sewing thread and comes in a variety of colors. An embroidery needle has a large eye to accommodate the multistrand thread, and an embroidery hoop helps keep the fabric taut while you stitch so your work comes out smooth. Although there are number of embroidery stitches you could use to embroider a name, using one like the split stitch or backstitch makes a smooth, continuous line of stitches with no gaps in between.

    Things You'll Need

    • Fabric
    • Fine-tipped pen or dressmaker’s chalk
    • Embroidery hoop
    • Embroidery floss
    • Needle with a large eye
    • Scissors

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    Write the name on the fabric in the size and style you want. Keep in mind that fairly large, block-style letters will be easier to embroider than tiny cursive ones. If you prefer, embroider the name freehand.

    Loosen the screw on the embroidery hoop and separate the two hoops. Place the lower hoop under the fabric, so the area you want to start stitching is completely encircled. Place the upper hoop on top of the fabric, fitting it over the lower hoop. Make sure the fabric is smooth, then tighten the screw to secure the two hoops.

    Cut a piece of floss about 15 inches long. Decide how many strands of floss you want to use. For a thick embroidery stitch, use all six strands. For narrower embroidery stitches, separate the floss and use two to four strands.

    Moisten the ends of the floss to hold them together, then insert the floss through the eye of the needle. Pull the end of the floss until the end is at least several inches below the end of the needle, so that it doesn’t accidentally come unthreaded.

    Poke the needle through the underside of the fabric where you want the first letter of the name to start. Pull the needle until there are 2 to 3 inches of floss on the underside of the fabric.

    Insert the needle down through the top of the fabric, no more than 1/8 inch from the first stitch. For the next stitch, poke the needle up through the underside of the fabric through the middle of the first stitch (this forms the split stitch), then insert the needle down through the fabric a short distance away.

    Continue stitching this way, following the shape of the letter.

    Complete the piece by working the needle under the stitches on the back of the piece for about 1 inch. Cut off the extra floss.

    • The fine-tipped pen markings should get covered up by embroidery stitches, but you can use dressmaker’s chalk or a pencilif you want to make sure the marks are removable.
    • Write the name on tissue paper and use graphite transfer paper to add the pattern to the fabric, if you prefer.
    • Embroider names with the stem or outline stitch if you prefer.
    • Check your floss for colorfastness by placing leftover floss in water to make sure the color doesn't bleed before washing your embroidered item.

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