Embroidered Little Bird

‘Inspirations’ is the name of an Australian Magazine which features the most desirable embroidery designs. I buy it from a UK supplier six times a year and each time it arrives there’s something that I can’t wait to make. I save all my copies and from time to time browse those gorgeous designs longing to get started on making something for myself as well as wanting to share the enjoyment with my friends.

Recently I made a little felt embroidered bird from issue 116 which was designed by Anna Mallah. The bird outlines and the tail and beak templates are included in the back of the printed magazine, or the digital pattern can be ordered and downloaded from the Inspirations Magazine website.

Here is a description of how to make the bird with fewer specifics about thread but a bit more detail about the embroidery stitches used. The hanging cord shown in the magazine has seed beads threaded on a fine thread.

So you need some white wool felt and small amounts of red felt for the tail and pale yellow felt for the beak. First cut two 6 inch squares of white felt and also cut two 4 inch squares of tearaway stabiliser. Copy all the lines of both sides of the bird onto the tearaway stabiliser pieces. Centre each stabiliser over the squares of felt and pin or tack in place. With contrasting sewing thread work running stitches around all the outlines pulling the stitches quite firmly and ensuring that the thread is secured at the beginning and the end. Work running stitches along the design lines keeping the stitches small and firm. Using a single strand of black cotton embroidery thread outline the birds eyes with very small split stitches.

Remove the tearaway stabiliser. Using the point of a big needle score along the lines of the running stitches and carefully pull the stabiliser away from the stitches. If it sticks snip into the edges of the stabiliser up to the stitching and pull it away. Score around the internal design lines and the eye and gently pull the stabiliser away. Remove the smallest pieces with tweezers.

Draw over the running stitches of the internal embroidery design. Use a removable marker pen and then unpick the running stitches and remove them. Leave the outer stitches intact for now. Place one side of the bird into a 4 inch hoop ready for the embroidery. The stitches used in the design are: split stitch, long & short stitch, satin stitch, detached chain, backstitch & couching. See images below.

  • using split stitch go around the top of the shape of the four petals
  • stitching from the top and over the split stitch start to fill the shape with long & short stitch in a light red
  • blend in a darker shade to fill the bottom of the petals with long & short stitch
  • use split stitch around the edge of the centre green circle then satin stitch to fill it
  • using a yellowy green add some little straight stitches in the middle and outline the circle with backstitch
  • using 3 strands of yellow couch around the edge of the petals. Thread one needle with 2 strands and another with a single strand and knot the ends of the thread. Bring both needles to the surface and lay the double strand around the edges of the petals while using the single strand to catch the double thread down. Fasten off all the threads on the wrong side
  • for the leaves fill with long & short stitch but using 2 colours of green. Couch around the edes of the leaves in the same way as the petals
  • use couching stitch along the stems.

For the second embroidered side I decided to use goldwork thread for the couching. The laid thread was a thicker 3-stranded type and the thread to catch it down was a single strand Japanese thread.

For the eyes work satin stitch across the eye with black thread and straight stitch for the eyelashes. Add highlights with small seed stitches in white thread.

Now for the tail and the beak:

  • trace the tail and beak onto firm tracing paper and cut out the shapes
  • use these shapes to cut 2 tails from red felt and beak from yellow
  • using 2 strands of red stranded cotton embroidery thread work detached chain stitches on the tail pieces to represent feathers
  • with wrong sides together join the tail pieces together around the outer edges with buttonhole stitch
  • now draw along the running stitch outline of both sides of the bird with a heat removable fabric marker, or other type of removable marker
  • remove the running stitches and cut out each side of the bird
  • to make a hanging cord cut a suitable length of fine thread and secure inside one half of the bird with a needle that will fit the thread but also go through the hole in the beads
  • thread the cord with the beads until it’s the right length for hanging up and then take the needle back through the beads for extra strength
  • alternatively use a thicker thread in a pretty yarn or a narrow ribbon
  • remove all marked lines with a gentle heat or method to suit your choice of fabric marker
  • with wrong sides together pin the two sides together leaving the hanging loop free
  • use two strands of thread buttonhole stitch the edges together all round but leaving the straight edges of the tail open
  • leave the needle and thread attached

Fill the birds body with toy stuffing until firm & smooth. Open the tail slit wide to slot in the end of the tail making sure the tail is facing the front of the bird and stitch the opening neatly closed. Secure 2 strands of yellow thread at the position for the beak (mine is a bit to low down). Centre the little yellow felt diamond over the seam and backstitch across the centre. Secure the thread behind the beak and pinch the 2 halves together.

Mine’s not perfect – you will do better.


It’s become quite common to display embroideries in the hoop used to do the stitching. But also other hoops are available now to display your finished work of art and some don’t have the screw at the top. So you can keep your favourite embroidery hoops to use over and over again as well as having a choice of others designed especially for display. The simple wooden display hoops can be cheaper than the ones with the screw and there’s a choice of sizes.

The one pictured below is a Nurge screwless wooden display hoop. Placing the embroidery into the hoop was easy and it didn’t matter which was the top of the design. When using a hoop with a screw of course it does matter which is the top and bottom of the design.

A different embroidery shown below is in a display hoop with a screw. It’s called a flexi display hoop and these are plastic and come in a range of colours, sizes and shapes. They are available on Etsy and Amazon and on the Nurge and other independent websites.

But before your work is hung it’s necessary to make the reverse of the embroidery neat and tidy and ready for display. For this you’ll need a circle of felt cut to the shape and size of the embroidery hoops’ inner ring. Also some strong thread such as Perle together with a needle which has an eye large enough for that thread to go through.

Your sewing kit with scissors, normal sewing thread and a matching sewing needle are needed too. Once the backing is finished of course you’ll need something to actually hang the completed article on to the wall such as a command strip or a small curtain ring perhaps. I used a small gold connecting or linking ring sewn on and shown here. These can be purchased really cheaply from a jewellery findings supplier in multiple packs.

This is what you do:

Once the embroidery is secured into the display hoop trim off the surplus fabric leaving about an inch or more around the perimeter at the back of the work. Take a long piece of strong thread like Perle and lace across the back of the work. Knot the thread firmly and go diagonally across the work taking a good stitch into the material on the opposite side. You’ll need a long thread and may extra several times. Ensure you pull the thread firmly across the back and secure each of the thread ends every time. Keep lacing diagonally across until all the excess fabric is caught neatly and strongly leaving about two inches space between each laced section. Fasten off securely.

Now take your circle of felt and pin on the reverse around the edges. Neatly stitch the edges of the felt close to the inner edge of the hoop.

Add your little ring and sew firmly ready to match a small hook on the wall. Or use your own choice of hanging method.

The design shown here is called Wildflowers and is from the Australian Inspirations Magazine. The other design above is a Lorna Bateman design. Both of them are to illustrate the joy and pleasure of surface embroidery together with ribbon embroidery.


Multiple Suffolk Puffs (or yo-yo’s):

Tiny yo-yos with beads

It’s fun to make petals for flowers with tiny circles of fabric gathered up into a small Suffolk Puffs (or yo-yos). This small piece of wall art took a lot of hours gathering and shaping the fabric into petals with sewing thread but was worth the effort when finished. A bead in the middle of each one added to the illusion of an hydrangea flower petal.

An important point: choose fabric that doesn’t fray easily so that when you gather the edges of the circles the gathering doesn’t come away as the thread is pulled up.

Cut squares of fabric larger than the circles that you want and draw the circles in the centre of these squares. Using good sewing thread put running stitches around the edge of a circle leaving a narrow seam and with the one end secured. Cut around the drawn line to release your circle. Pull up the thread, spread the gathers evenly and flatten the little yo-yo with your finger & thumb. Secure your thread on the gathered side then come up through the centre wrapping gently around the circle three times to form separate petals. With the thread still attached and secured at the centre add a tiny bead in the middle. Leaving the thread attached place the yo-yo aside. As shown in the photo, a strip of masking tape is useful for keeping them apart and untangled.

To begin making the hydrangea flower, take a piece of muslin larger than the size you want and sew the yo-yos on one at a time. Keep making more and continue until your flower is the size and shape that you want. Once you have enough and they’re secured to the muslin trim around the edge leaving a small seam to sew onto your background fabric.

For the leaves, I found an image on-line and copied it onto freezer paper. I ironed those freezer paper shapes onto green cotton then bonded it onto a second layer before cutting them out. The large stem is a bias cut strip of cotton, stitched along one long edge then turned in and pressed before machine stitching down. I hand embroidered smaller stems then machine stitched the larger leaves onto the background over the smaller hand embroidered stems.