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Free embroidery pattern from Pen to Thread by Sarah Watson!

We are thrilled that Sarah Watson is here on The Daily Stitch to share a tutorial for a pattern from her new book, Pen to Thread! This book just arrived in the shop and it’s gorgeous! Featuring more than 750 whimsical, imaginative motifs hand drawn by Sarah, it’s sheer delight for anyone who wields a needle. Take it away, Sarah!

Pen to Thread by Sarah Watson

Hi there, it’s me, Sarah Watson. Today I’m here to share with you a super great project using a motif and instructions from my new book Pen to Thread. It’s a really great book slam-jam packed with super cute and fancy embroidery motifs, great stitch instructions and lots of material inspiration and tips for creating. The motifs can be used anywhere, and one of my favorite ways to use them is on an embroidered napkin.

Embroidered napkin tutorial with Sarah Watson


Embroidery Thread Colors:

I like to use a variety of textures in my embroideries, so I used a linen thread, a wool thread, pearl cotton and traditional stranded cotton. The colors I’ve listed here correspond to the colors I’ve used, but aren’t the exact threads.

Teal: 3851
Lime: 166
Yellow: 444
White: Blanc
Fuschia: 917

Embroidered napkin tutorial with Sarah Watson


In my home we always use cloth napkins at meals. We’re only a family of three, but one of us is a little baby that loves to make a mess, so if we were using paper napkins we would be wasting a lot. They are so practical, and much more environmentally friendly. Cloth napkins make a great gift, and if made with care and the quality materials, will last generations. The napkin I’ll be showing is cocktail napkin size, although you can make whatever size you want. I plan to make a set of 4 to give as a gift! I started with a pre-washed 10 inch (sorry, my internet is slow, I can’t open the translation app, I assume you’ll want cm) square of medium weight fabric (I used Andover Black Chambray), and added binding from my latest fabric line, Garden Secrets from Cloud 9 Organic Fabrics. You can use a premade napkin, or make your own.

I chose to put this motif in the corner of the napkin, it looks great that way folded up and used as a coaster. You may choose to enlarge or shrink the motif, but I used it the size it was in the book. There is a CD that comes with the book that makes scaling the motifs a piece of cake.

Embroidered napkin tutorial with Sarah Watson

Just a few more things before we get going. I chose thread colors that were similar to coordinated with my binding fabric, so if you are doing the same, make sure to bring a swatch of that binding fabric with you to The Village Haberdashery so you can match your threads. I also used a dark ground, and it’s important to pick colors that are vibrant enough to stand out on a dark, textured fabric, so bring your base fabric along too. Lay a single thread on your fabric ground and step back a bit, to make sure it’s easily visible. Now you’ve got your napkin, and you’ve got your threads, let’s get going!

Step 1: Transfer your motif to the napkin.

Because I used a dark colored fabric for my napkin, I used the tracing paper transfer method. The size of the motif I chose was perfect for the napkin, so I didn’t need to resize it, just trace it on to tracing paper and tape it to my napkin, on the corner, not too close to the binding. For other tracing methods, check out the book. I like tracing paper because you simply embroider over it and tear it away when you finish.

Embroidered napkin tutorial with Sarah Watson

If you haven’t bought your copy of the book yet, here is the motif for you to print.

Embroidered napkin tutorial with Sarah Watson

Step 2: Start embroidering

When using a tissue paper transfer, you want to start with the smaller, or innermost details first. The holes you make with your needle will perforate the paper enough for it to tear out easily, which is great when you’re finished, but not as fun while you’re still working. Starting with the smaller, innermost elements helps keep the paper intact and in place until you finish.

Here are excerpts from the book, as well as illustrations, on back stitch and satin stitch:

Embroidered napkin tutorial with Sarah Watson

Embroidered napkin tutorial with Sarah Watson

The backstitch is another great simple stitch. It can be done in a smooth motion that keeps your stitching going quickly, but if you have trouble with it at first, don’t feel bad about breaking the motion into individual steps. Often when I am working around edges or curves, I break my backstitch down into single movements.

Insert needle at A (Fig. 11), and pull thread through. Reinsert needle at B, and one stitch length past, back out at C (Fig. 12). Make sure your needle exits along the pattern line you are working on. After pulling your needle and thread completely through, you’ll see that you will now have to go “back” to finish your stitch, hence the name ‘back stitch’. Insert needle at B (Fig. 13). Continue in this manner, coming up again at a new A (Fig. 14). Backstitch can be used as an outline stitch, or a wonderful filling stitch when lined up closely in rows.

Satin stitch is an elegant professional looking stitch. It might take a little practice to get it perfectly smooth, but keep at it, it’s worth it. For beginners, it is easier to start with satin stitch in small areas, so that you can get the feel of how the thread will sit on top of your fabric/design once it is finished. After you have a good feel for how the stitch works, start experimenting with it in larger areas. If you are having a hard time lining up the edges of your satin stitch, do a quick back stitch or satin stitch around the outline of your motif first, to help guide you around the edges. Stitch on the outside of this outline.
Bring needle up at A (Fig. 21). Bring needle down at B (Fig. 22). Just behind where you came up at A, bring your needle up again, following your pattern (Fig. 23). Continue in this fashion along your desired shape (Fig. 24).

I started with the green mint leaves. I used a satin stitch for the majority of the leaf, but add a straight stitch at each of the ends to make them nice and pointy. I use this technique with almost all the leaves I stitch.

Embroidered napkin tutorial with Sarah Watson

Next up I stitched the lemon, ice cubes and the sugarcane stick (a little slice of sugarcane makes for a natural sweet stir stick in drinks, and you can munch on it as you go, lots of international grocery stores carry sugarcane these days, and it’s readily available in tropical environments).

I then stitched the striped paper straw, using a satin stitch, and lastly, the glass jar using a back stitch.

Embroidered napkin tutorial with Sarah Watson

Start and finish your threads by pulling through, a technique of stitching your thread tails through the back side of your embroidery. Just like a quick backstitch with a sewing machine, stitching with your embroidery thread, by weaving it in and out of the last stitches you made on the back of your project, will keep it in place, without the use of a bulky knot.

Embroidered napkin tutorial with Sarah Watson

After I finished the embroidery I decided I wanted a little more color. I’m a sucker for satin stitch, and like to color in everything, so added a satin stitch to the lemon rind. That’s the great thing about embroidery. If you just have time to do an outline stitch, you can do that and have a beautiful project. But if in the future the urge hits to fill it in, you can do it little by little. Wonderful, wonderful embroidery!

Care: The best way to care for your napkins is to hand wash them and line dry, but if you take care to embroider well, the embroidery should stand up to machine washing. Line dry, reverse side up, if in the sun. Make sure to use the best quality fabrics and threads, so that your napkin will stand the test of time. Make sure you pre-wash your fabric, and use color-fast threads.


I love to see projects you’ve made from the book. Follow the hastag #PentoThread on Instagram to see other people’s projects and post your own.

Embroidered napkin tutorial with Sarah Watson

Thank you, Sarah!

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