Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tutorial: How to Choose and Lay Out Text for Stitching

My Favourite Tutorial - post header

Stitching Text Mosaic

One of my very favorite things to stitch is text - there's no end to the wonderful quotes, song lyrics, and sayings that would make wonderful embroideries. I get asked quite often how I design my text-based embroideries, so today I'll show you how to do it!

The basic idea is to simply lay out a piece of text in software like Microsoft Word, Mac's Pages, Open Office, Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, Gimp or Inkscape - any software you feel comfortable using that allows manipulation of text. But first you'll have to pick a font that works best for your project.

I admit it, I'm a bit of a font nerd. I'm happy to spend time sifting through fonts online, just for the fun of admiring them. So finding the right font for a project is a natural part of the process for me.

If you're not used to doing this, visiting a website called Font Squirrel is a great place to start. Font Squirrel collect free fonts for download - if you plan to sell your finished project, you should always double-check to make sure the font you choose includes a free license for commercial products, but Font Squirrel aims to collect only fonts that allow this.

To choose a font for your project, first think about what style you're looking for. What what do you want your text to convey? Maybe you'd like a dainty script for a sweet quote, or a crisp, bold look for something funny. On the right side of Font Squirrel's homepage, you'll find a menu of font style categories:

Tutorial: How to Choose and Layout Text for Stitching

For stitching, you'll probably want either a script font or a simple sans-serif font. Most other font types, very generally speaking, will have a bit too much detail to be able to stitch neatly.


Script fonts are a great choice for embroidery because they often flow from one letter to the next, creating a wonderfully stitchable continuous line. And if you are looking for a sweet or an elegant style, you probably want a script font. But don't assume all script fonts will be easy to stitch! You'll still want to pick one that is just right for your text -- and just right for your stitching!

As you narrow down your font choice, the most important thing to think about is how you will embroider your words. What stitches will you use? How many strands of embroidery floss? How large will your lettering be? Font Squirrel (and most font-downloading or purchasing websites) allows you to Test Drive your font before downloading, so you can see exactly what your text will look like. Here's a couple of examples:

Tutorial: How to Choose and Layout Text for Stitching

Here is a font called Sofia, a nicely rounded, slightly retro script font. This would look great in a chain stitch or split stitch.

Tutorial: How to Choose and Layout Text for Stitching

This one is called Dancing Script. It's more italicized, and would work really well with a split / chain stitch combo to show off the varied thickness in the script.


I suggest sans-serif fonts for stitching because they are cleaner and will generally be less fiddly to stitch. Fonts like Quicksand:

Tutorial: How to Choose and Layout Text for Stitching

will look great in a chunky backstitch or a thick thread couched down with contrast stitches. These fonts are great for a bold, clean look and quick stitching.


Display fonts are, generally speaking, fonts that will look great as a feature - the header on a blog, the title of a movie poster, etc. They are often quite detailed and thus don't work well in small sizes, so for our purposes, they won't be as useful. However! Let's say you are stitching a single letter or word, boldly - or you are working on a large scale. A display font could work really well - check out this example with the font Foglihten:

Tutorial: How to Choose and Layout Text for Stitching

This font wouldn't work well at all on a small scale, but with fairly large words, it would look amazing stitched in a simple backstitch - look at all those perfectly stitchy lines, it makes me want to grab a needle just looking at it!

Tutorial: How to Choose and Layout Text for Stitching

Laying out your text is the simple part. Download and install your chosen font (here's how to do that on a Windows computer or on a Mac) and then, with whatever software you feel most comfortable using (I'm using Open Office today), type your words and apply your font to it, same as you would with any other text. If you've ever typed and formatted anything on a computer, you already know how to do this - it's no different than anything else!

Next you'll choose a size and alignment - again, you'll have to think about the finished piece of embroidery. Will it be finished in a hoop? If so, you'll probably want it centered and in a size to fill up the hoop, so you'll need to decide on the hoop size first. All software that lays out text will have the ability to show rulers, so you can check your sizing as you work. Maybe you'd like to stitch on a piece of vintage lace or a very special piece of fabric, so you might want the text aligned to the right or left to work around a feature in the fabric. Take the time to think about how your text will work with your fabric before you lay it out, it's worth it.

Your last step is the same as any other embroidery pattern: print your text and transfer it to your fabric with your preferred method - then just stitch away!

If you try this out and stitch some text, please share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!


  1. Thank you for the font site, I haven't seen that one. Always looking for fonts to embroider or use in graphic design.

  2. Thank you. What a helpful tutorial! I usually use my own handwriting to make things more personal, & avoid copyright issues.


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