How to make an embroidery portrait

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Hi Creative Mamas! I am super happy to share with you this step by step tutorial on how to create an embroidery portrait in combination with techniques such as applique, upcycling naturally dyed fabric scraps and eco printed fabric.

This is a super fun tutorial and a great way to:

  • Explore feeling
  • Explore emotions
  • Recreate and reflect on issues of identity
  • Play with different personality traits
  • Have fun and not take ourselves too seriously 🙂
  • Have fun with embroidery stitches and fabric scraps
embroidery portrait tutorial

Embroidery stitches for portrait

For this tutorial I am using different embroidery stitches such as:

  • Whipstitch
  • Blanket stitch
  • Running stitches
  • Backstitch

Fabric scraps for portrait

In this tutorial I have used different sources of fabric:

  • Upcycled woolen blanket using natural dyes
  • Little left over fabric pieces from previous projects
  • Wool yarn left overs
  • Wool felt from old projects

Materials and equipment

  • Base fabric for portrait
  • Fabric scraps for face and features
  • Wool yarn (optional)
  • Face templates (Download bt completing the form below)
  • Fabric scissors
  • Pins
  • Embroidery thread
  • Sewing machine (optional)
  • Paper scissors
  • Pencil

How do you embroider faces?

We start with a template and we work the portrait from there. We need to transfer the templates onto the different fabrics to start our embroidery portrait.

For this tutorial I am using my own drawings as templates. I have created a FREE Printable Face Template which you can download by completing the form below.

How do I embroider a picture?

I have taught this process several times in live workshops and I always ask my students to come to class with a picture of themselves to get the process started.

It doesn’t mean that you will copy the photo exactly, but it will give you that initial inspiration to focus on the emotion that you get from your own picture.

Once you can determine what emotion you want to embroider such as a happy, angry, doubtful or hesitant, you can start the process.

Embroidery portrait using upcycled fabric

Step1

  • Download the face templates (otherwise you can draw straight on the fabric)
  • Cut the template paper pieces
  • Place them on top of the different fabrics (you may choose red fabric for the lips, blue or brown fabric for the eyes, different colors for the hair, etc). you can pin them and cut around them or you can draw a line arounf the template using pencil.
  • Choose the background fabric for the portrait (I choose an cundle dyes wool fabric)
  • Choose the background fabric for the face (I choose cotton calico)
drawing a face on a piece of fabric to start the embroidered portrait

Step 2: Applique

Place the fabric and neck on top of the base fabric. Make sure the neck is under the face or just touching each other.

placing the fabric template on the base fabric of the embroidered portrait.

Sew around it using a whipstitch. Feel free to use whatever embroidery stitch you like.

Place the eyes and lips on the face and stitch around each item as well.

For the nose I made a few backstitches using a contrasting embroidery thread. Have fun adding long eyelashes, creating thick lips, making the mouth open or close, etc.

applique lips and eyes on face portrait

Using some contrasting fabric, add the hair. I am using a dyed woolen blanket for this and I am following the shape of the face and cutting as I go. You can get super creative with the hair!

applique hair on embroidered portrait

Step 3

The last step is to add some personality into the portrait. My portrait was a self portrait but I got inspiration from the older women in my family, so I created very thick red lips, I added feathers and a scarf. I also added a brooch as a final detail.

Dressing up this character is a fun process but a great way to explore different ways to dress, to communicate and to express ourselves.

putting the final touches on the embroidery portrait

Every time you change a color or add a new detail the whole portrait changes. You can really have fun creating some details with fabric manipulation techniques.

different embroidery portraits

I want to show you another embroidery portrait using different materials such as wool yarn for the hair.

Embroidery portrait using upcycled wool yarn

Once you applique the face and you are happy with the features and the look of it you can start having fun with different options for the hair. In the photos below I started playing around with a bunch of green left over wool yarn.

creating the hair from left over wool yarn

Place the yarn around the face covering the edges. For the next step you can use the sewing machine or you can do this by hand.

Sew the hair in place flattening the yarn with your fingers as you go.

sewing the wool hair on the fabric face

Make sure you sew the hair in different places all around the head.

sewing the wool hair on the fabric face in different places
result of applying wool hair on the fabric face in different places

Once you are happy with the look you can cut the yarn to your prefered length.

cutting the wool hair to finish the portrait

You can decorate further. I used applique flowers and an old piece of dyed wool fabric (blanket)

final result of the embroidered portrait using wool hair

Make sure it all looks great before you sew everything in place.

final result of the embroidered portrait using wool hair and applique flower
sewing the wool hat onto the embroidered portrait

This is the final result. Totally different look to the first portrait but using the same template.

final result of the embroidered portrait using wool hair, applique flower and upcycled wool hat

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial and that you are inspired to make your own self portrait 🙂

You may also be interested in checking out how to make a fabric collages by upcycling old fabrics or how to make fabric books as gifts from the heart using applique and embroidery as well.

embroidered portrait tutorial  using wool hair, applique flower and upcycled wool hat

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