Dolly Henry is a sewing and design blog for the creative wanderer, where style meets play and making is a lifestyle.

Hi, I'm Megan - owner, designer and writer at Dolly Henry! Join me here as I explore the ins and outs of creativity, dabble in dollmaking and raise my voice on issues facing creative entrepreneurs.

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Getting Started with Hand Embroidery

I have always loved the rhythm of stitching. My Grandmother was excellent at embroidery, and one year I received an exquisitely embroidered teddy bear for Christmas. I appreciate the work in it now far more than I did as a child. Growing up, I was given a few different stitchy projects - from long stitch kits to blanket stitching some chickens onto an apron. I don't think I ever finished the long stitch designs as I was always quite impatient (I still am!) and I preferred faster crafts.

However, as an adult life is so much busier and far more hectic. I now appreciate the slow stillness of sitting down with some hand work, whether it is needle and thread or a crochet hook and some yarn. It's nice to have a portable craft. Alongside sewing I have always enjoyed sketching and so I was really excited to bring these two together in the Mouse Manor Panel.

I respect Embroidery as an artform in itself, and it truly is magnificent when done by true masters of the craft. My approach to stitching is far more relaxed, I like the pretty threads and the colours. While I find intricate embroidery utterly amazing, I am inspired by the more modern approach of colouring in with thread. There is a growing trend of throwing off traditional embroidery stitches and techniques, instead many stitchers are blending them and diversifying into new stitches or simply painting with the thread.

When I designed the Mouse Manor panel and kit, it was with this approach in mind, however, those more experienced in the art of embroidery could definitely have no end of fun with this kit. I am quite busy with all my other projects, so to have something simple to sit down and embellish is incredibly appealing to me. I concentrate on a lot of creative stuff all day, so the best way for me to unwind and still enjoy doing something sewing or craft related is to let go and work in a far more casual way.

I also believe it is important to sometimes throw off restrictions and rules when it comes to craft and just DO IT without worrying about what the experts or books say about the topic. This really encourages your creativity to flourish and without having somebody else's ideas guiding you, you can really start to discover exactly who you are as a creative. You are making in a much more intuitive and childlike way. And we all know kids can produce some pretty amazing artwork!

While all this free-spirited stitching is incredibly good for your creativity and your mind, I also understand a 'blank canvas' can be quite daunting for some people. So I have put together this little guide to getting the most from your Mouse Manor embroidery panel, along with a few links and resources you might find helpful.

Preparation of the Panel

I've designed the panel to allow at least a 1/4in seam allowance around the outside edge should you wish to incorporate your finished piece into a bag, quilt or cushion. If you are leaving your panel as artwork, then you don't need to wash it. However as shrinkage can occur with cotton, I recommend washing your panel prior to use. The fabric is 100% cotton and has been printed digitally using eco-friendly inks. You will need to use a gentle and phosphate free detergent to avoid fading. Alternatively, you can simply handwash in a bucket for the first time.

Before you begin, press out any crinkles or creases using a warm iron.

For best results, I recommend purchasing an embroidery hoop that suits the design as you will achieve a nicer finish with the fabric stretched out over the hoop as you stitch versus if you stitch without it. It can also make your work easier to handle.

Organising and Using Your Threads

The threads provided with your kit allow you ample yardage so you can stitch as much or as little as you like on your panel. You should also have thread left over should you wish to create matching embroidery on other blocks or fabric if you are using the design in a quilt.

I stitch using 3 strands. As the threads provided are 6 strand cottons, you will need to split yours in half once you have cut a length from the skein. 

Organising your threads makes life a whole lot easier, and you will also use them more frequently if you have a nice tidy box of neatly carded threads. I certainly do since I tidied up my stash! I recommend writing the thread colour number on the little plastic spool once you have wound your thread onto it, so if you need to buy more you know what colour it is.

The cardboard/plastic spools and storage boxes are available from most big craft stores.

Colouring in with Thread

Depending on your style, you may approach your panel in a few different ways. Some people like to plan out what they do and others like to be a little bit more spontaneous, making decisions as they come to each part of the design. I am spontaneous and look at each element as I come to it. 

This panel is a great way to try out traditional stitches if you are still learning, without having to commit to a big schmancy entirely stitch design. I have popped some resources I find particularly handy below.

Because the Mouse Manor panel can stand alone as a piece of fabric, you can add as much detail to it as you wish. So if you really just feel like playing around with thread and would prefer to try some intuitive stitching then this panel is an ideal canvas for your creative magic.

Here are a few little stitches I have played around with, to help get your creative juices flowing!

Adding striped textures to the solid daisy flowers is simple and easy. To start, thread your needle with 3 strands of your chosen colour and knot the end. Come up through the back of your work and create a series of simple "stripes" using long horizontal stitches across one of the petals. Once your stripes are in place, take your needle back to the base of the now-stitched petal and slide it up underneath the stitches. Pull the thread through and take the needle back down at the opposite end of the petal. Repeat for all the remaining petals. This stitch is a fun way to add detail to your flowers quickly and easily.

Knots....I really love them and French Knots are no exception. This simple knobbly little stitch is such a great way to add texture to your work. I have used them on the panel to add little flower buds onto the various foliage and to create blooms on the flower crowns of the mouse and bear. Some people find Colonial knots are more secure than French knots, so prefer to use those instead. I would have to say I have found colonial knots to be a little less prone to coming apart then the french knot too, but sometimes I like to use a mixture of both! If I am worried about my french knots, sometimes I go back and do small stitches with ordinary sewing thread to make sure they are secure.

Traditionally a French knot was worked with just one wrap of the thread, however, these days, it is usually worked with a few more. Perhaps the extra wrapping of the thread has made the french knots less secure over time? Who knows! I must admit sometimes I get a bit excited with mine and create much larger knots from simply wrapping the thread over a few more times than I should.

To colour in the cheeks and noses on the bear and mouse, and the white spots of the mushroom, I used a simple little satin stitch. As shown above with Miss Mouse's blush, I stitched the outline of her cheek before filling in the cheek, stitching in across from line to line until her cheek was completely coloured in by the threads. On the tiny components of the design, I opted not to stitch the outline and just filled in the shapes with a few close together stitches.

Back Stitches are so simple yet can be so effective to fill in the stems on plants! I've used back stitch in quite a few places on my panel, particularly to go around the outline of the cactus, bear and mushroom to help the design 'pop'. This is quick and simple stitching that adds subtle detail allowing the print to shine. Don't worry about technicalities, simple 'strokes' with your thread are an easy but effective way to add texture to the many flowers and little leaves in the design. You really are just using your thread to colour in and outline the design. 

For example, I have embellished the little cactus flowers simply by stitching horizontal lines, spaced apart across the pink part. I have given the cactus a few 'spikes' by stitching random small stitches across the green.


I believe when something is fun and without restriction, you will go a lot further than getting all stressed out and caught up on the 'perfect' details. You can go further with your embroidery and learn the art properly if you wish. The purpose of this design is to allow you to have freedom and to create something whether you are learning to stitch or want to go all the way with the details.

I've tried out new fancy stitches on this panel, as a way of learning and teaching myself new skills on a project that will have a purpose. One of these was the Cast On Stitch Rose, which seemed difficult at first but upon picking up my needle I found to be really quite simple and fun! Working the thread in this way gave me such delight that I practiced the technique on a few of the flouncy rose-like flowers in the panel.

The book I used to learn this technique is one I highly recommend. This book is like an embroidery manual and contains the instructions and step-by-step colour photographs to learn so many stitches and techniques.

If you are like me and learn best while watching someone else, then Youtube can be your best friend. I have found Mary Corbet's videos to be wonderful, and they have helped me achieve many stitches I previously struggled with. 

The Mouse Manor Embroidery Kit is available here in my store,
it includes a 100% cotton fabric panel featuring my own original illustrations and design. The kit includes a rainbow of coordinating and matching DMC embroidery threads and a needle.


I hope I have inspired you to give the Mouse Manor panel a try, and expand your embroidery skills!



  1. I love seeing the different ideas that are inspired by your Mouse Manor panel Megan. It's quickly become one of my favourite embroideries! Larissa's embellishments are so pretty :) xo


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