embroidered blossom pouch
(Makes 1 small purse)
Embroidery supplies are inexpensive and easy to transport, making hand-stitching an excellent zen-out hobby for a long road trip or flight. Using simple stitches such as straight and chain stitch, you can create beautiful embroidery. Depending on the threads, the colors, and your design, the variations are endless. Here, we choose a plum blossom motif to celebrate the early blooming season in Japan.
1/4 yard medium weight linen fabric, pre-washed (outer fabric)
1/4 yard (or fat quarter) of woven cotton or linen, pre-washed (lining fabric)
#8 pearl cotton (twisted) embroidery thread and/or 6-strand cotton embroidery floss in colors of your choice (we used DMC 938 brown & 781 gold)
straw silk for flowers (or substitute embroidery floss if not available to you) - we used Silk Road Fibers in Flamingo, Garnet, Breaking Dawn
spool of sewing thread to match linen
3/8” brown grosgrain ribbon - 9” length (we used a leather strap, but stitching it takes leather working tools)
7” x 9” of lightweight fusible stabilizer (use if your fabric is wiggly at all)
Dressmakers transfer paper
small embroidery scissors (pointed)
fabric scissors or wheel cutter
water soluble fabric marking pen
embroidery needle(s) - with eye sized appropriately for your threads
5” embroidery hoop
FOR SPECIFIC STITCH TIPS - See details here.
Cut an 8”x10” rectangle of the fabric for embroidery. Since this design has no straight lines, it’s not necessary to line up the fabric grain with the embroidery stitching, but it is a good practice to pull threads in linen fabric to ensure that the fabric pieces have been cut on the grain. Do this by pulling out a single thread and then cut along the line it leaves behind.
Transfer (or sketch) your design onto the center front of the fabric, leaving at least 1” blank at each edge. When transferring the design onto fabric, start with the branches, then add leaves, followed by flower petals. Stitch in this same order. If your fabric needs structure, iron a piece of lightweight stabilizer to the backside of it before proceeding. It is also a good idea to tape or stitch the edges of your fabric so that they don’t fray while you embroider.
Secure fabric in embroidery hoop, centering the hoop on the first branch to be stitched. Cut a 15” length of brown thread and thread needle with it. If using 6-strand floss, see Stitch Tip for how to separate 2 strands for use. Stitch the branches using a chainstitch.
Instructions for Chain Stitch: To work the chain stitch, bring the needle up through the fabric at your starting point. Insert the needle down again at the starting point and bring the tip up through the fabric a short distance away (1). Place the working thread under the needle and pull the needle through the loop (2). Repeat the process to make additional chainstitches, in either a straight line or a curve (3). End by making a small, anchoring straight stitch at the end of the final chain loop to secure it in place (4).
When you have completed the branches, change out your thread color and move on to the leaves. Again, use 2 strands from a 6-strand floss, or a single #8 pearl cotton. To make a leaf, first chainstitch an outline to establish the shape.
To make a sharp tip of a leaf, end the stitch as seen in Step 4 to capture your chain link, then come up again inside it and continue on in the new direction (5). When your outline is established, fill in the leaf with chainstitch. Complete all the leaves.
The real fun starts when you add the blossoms. We chose to use 3 different colors of straw silk to add flowers with highlights and lowlights. The variations in the dyed silks give each flower unique shading, and the flatness of the straw silk provides a nice petal width. Alternately, you can use all six strands of embroidery floss, or a heavier weight pearl cotton thread.
Using a straight stitch to add each of the five petals is simple and pleasing. Bring the needle up in the flower center and stitch a petal, then bring the needle up back in the center, continuing until you have 5 petals. Sometimes stitching over the branch and sometimes near it, we started with a peachy color, then added some darker plum and then a few light pink flowers, again overlapping at times for depth. You can follow our pattern or just put the colors and flowers where you want them.
Once the embroidery is complete, use the pouch pattern to cut out 2 lining pieces, 1 outer back piece, and the embroidered front piece. When cutting the embroidered piece, be careful to center the pattern piece over the design, tracing it in fabric marking pen before cutting.
With right sides together, use a backstitch (seen above) to sew sides and bottom of the two outer pieces together. Repeat with the lining pieces. If you have an iron available, turn down 1/2” of the top edges of pouch outer piece and press raw edges toward wrong side of fabric. If you don’t have an iron, just finger press the crease. Repeat for the lining. Next, turn the pouch outer right side out and place the lining inside, matching up the side seams. Pin the creased top edge of both pieces together.
Before hand-stitching the top edges together, prepare the grosgrain ribbon. At 1” away from ribbon end, machine stitch a 3/4” buttonhole or cut a 3/4” slot in the length direction of the ribbon and hand stitch a buttonhole using a blanket/buttonhole stitch. (Tips on technique found here.) When buttonhole is complete, insert 1/2” of the opposite end of the grosgrain ribbon between the pinned lining and outer fabrics at top edge of the pouch. Do this at the opposite side seam from where button will be sewn. Pin in place. Use a whipstitch to sew the top lining edge to the top outer edge. Then, use a running stitch to go around the pouch opening again, 1/8” from top edge. Take a few extra stitches over where the grosgrain ribbon is inserted, for strength.
Finally, sew the button onto the front of your pouch, locating it where shown on the pattern. Button the strap on and your pouch is complete.
We like to imagine this as a perfect passport pouch for when we someday take that trip to Japan to soak up the early Spring blossoms in person. Where you take your beautiful pouch is up to you.