If you are interested in contemporary embroidery and spend any time on Pinterest or Etsy, you have likely seen many beautiful embroidery patterns available for purchase online. If you are like me, you are probably already a bit creative and have probably thought “is it worth it?” and hesitated to buy a PDF pattern… even if you really love it.
6 reasons to buy that artist’s online embroidery pattern:
1. The cost per pattern is more reasonable than you might realize.
Sometimes, the cost of $5 – $15 for a single pattern can be off putting – after all, you can purchase any one of the great embroidery books out there for a little more and have 15-20 patterns as a result. Having purchased quite a few embroidery books, I can certainly say that this is a benefit to buying a book.
While some books just speak to you and align perfectly in their overall vision, the main downside to books (for me) is that a lot of them focus mostly on either projects or techniques and I may only make 1 or 2 designs in the end. If you purchase a book for $20 and you complete only 2 projects, you’ve essentially bought 2 patterns for $10 each… this is quite comparable to some of the more quality online Etsy patterns.
2. You are not “less creative” if you follow someone else’s pattern.
I felt awkward buying another artist’s embroidery pattern seeing as I’m also an artist. I reasoned that I should come up with something that met my aesthetic and interest in subject. As snobby as this may sound, when you go to art school for 10 years (and will be paying student loans until you die) the impetus to really validate that time and money by relying on yourself becomes considerable.
However (as an artist) I also know that even the most creative individuals struggle to come up with ideas from time to time. This can be particularly difficult when learning a new medium or trying to work on upping your skill level with a given material.
Although I didn’t consider myself a novice when I recently returned to embroidery after a 10 year hiatus, I quickly discovered that the muscle memory and mental archive of stitch options had greatly diminished. When I tried to come up with my own designs my stitch choices didn’t marry and I struggled to make decisions (and then started to feel disenchanted). I needed a little relief.
3. Buying one pattern at a time helps you gain focus!
After I gave up the idea that I was somehow betraying my art education by relying on other people’s tried and true creative efforts (eye roll at myself), I began to work with more success. As explored in my previous post, Embroidery Renaissance, I started by finding inspiration from embroidery books and finally, a few PDF patterns purchased on Etsy.
Working with books wasn’t really my cup of coffee but I did find some that I loved. Books often separate pattern and instruction into different sections and this is both good and bad. The instruction provided in books is generally basic info that can be applicable to all patterns in the book and the info is rarely tailored to each specific project. This requires a lot of flipping back and forth and making educated guesses as to what is intended to achieve similar results for a given pattern. This was taxing for me and took additional time to work out.
Individual patterns, on the other hand, are almost always sold as comprehensive units that contain everything you need to know all in one place and in relationship with the exact pattern you’re working on. This means that there is far less confusion about how a stitch is applicable to the shape you are attempting and if the result will look the same as the picture. Desired outcomes are much easier to achieve with the personalized instruction on a one-of pattern, in my opinion. While not all online embroidery patterns will provide the same types of overview, they almost all attempt to provide the same experience for you.
4. Using a single pattern can help you learn how stitches, materials, and imagery work together.
When you first learn basic stitches, it is easy to focus on the technical creation of the stitch and later have trouble seeing how it might be applicable in a given situation.
When working from a book, the stitches and material suggestions are often provided separately and you are left to make the choice yourself in the recreation of a given pattern without first knowing that it will work out like you think. You may like the pattern a project has presented on a canvas tote bag, however, when you apply that same motif to the pocket of your cotton/poly dress shirt you may get completely different results. Some books to a better job of explaining this than others.
When you buy an individual pattern that has been crafted by an artist, the handful of stitches used is clear and there will be specific instruction about fabric choices and materials that also support your exact image. In the end, you have a clearer picture of how these factors all relate and support one another. Later on, you will be able to intuitively rely on the catalog of such experiences when making your own decisions and will likely find that your own outcomes are more successful.
I’m proud to say that I’ve just finished my 5th pattern by artist, Sarah K. Benning. I really enjoy her aesthetic and imagery and find that her patterns are exceptionally presented and very comprehensive while still providing a lot of room for personal exploration. Although some of the more expensive patterns on Etsy, they’re well worth it, personally.
I began with Benning’s Advanced November 2017 pattern of a Hope Philodendron (seen below) and after 2 months of additional practice, returned to this same pattern and completed it a second time. The progress I made in a rather short amount of time was really encouraging to me.
Benning’s patterns share great photo tutorials of critical steps, include stitch guides, and also help inspire ways to make the pattern your own without risking your overall success in the process. I was happy with an experiment to apply Benning’s January 2018 pattern (seen above) to a Target clearance bag made of fake leather and, in the process, began to really consider the important role that tension plays not only in the appearance of a stitch but also the fabric around it.
Two moth patterns – one by Lauren Holton, a.k.a. Lark Rising, the other by Liz, a.k.a, Cozy Blue – enabled me to play with different ways of filling larger areas and encouraged me to tackle the challenge of working on a darker background fabric.
It was also great to experience the different ways that contemporary pattern makers introduce their work and help stitchers achieve positive results. Both artists create good quality instructions but the stitch guide and explanations provided by Lark Rising were particularly effective.
Throughout these adventures I’ve gained confidence in my understanding of embroidery techniques and materials and enjoyed the learning process more when I wasn’t worried with matching the finished product to the idea in my head.
5. Contemporary embroidery artists don’t just send you a PDF pattern of their work, they provide you a key to a larger online community and shared experience.
I’ve discovered a larger stitching community online as s result of purchasing embroidery patterns by artists and feel that this provides a different level of interaction than a book of patterns is able to accomplish.
I’m a little addicted to completing contemporary artist’s patterns now so I do not expect to keep going only with my own designs. There is much joy in engaging with these artists and finding new people online who share the love of embroidery. With the social media engagement that many contemporary embroidery artists encourage in the completion of their patterns it is easy to make connections.
Online contemporary artists engage their patrons in a unique ways: Lark Rising donates a portion of her profits on certain patterns to charities each month and has amazing VIDEO tutorials to help guide you, Cozy Blue offers great easy PDF tutorials online, and each week Sarah K. Benning shares information about new fiber artists in her Craft With Conscious series and hosts workshops all over the world.
All in all – there are so many reasons to support some of the amazing contemporary embroidery artists out their by purchasing their patterns on Etsy (or elsewhere) that any qualms you may have about doing so will likely be banished with your first digital download. Give it a shot – and, if you’re still feeling a little hesitant, try out some freebies online (links below) to get a taste of the benefits of choosing a specific pattern that you know you’re sure to love.
6. Your purchase supports the actual artist you admire!
If you are really inspired by an artist and admire their creations, support them and help them continue to make the things we all love (and also earn a living).
There are literally hundreds of reasons to support an artist and handmade marketplace but plain and simple: when you buy an artist’s pattern directly from them online you are directly supporting them. You are helping them pay their rent, buy food, raise their kids… no middle man. And, you get to own a piece of their work at a very affordable price.
Most contemporary embroidery artists like the ones I’ve mentioned above are working artists whose primary source of income is the sale of their personal work.
Sometimes an artist will get noticed and it leads to a lot of internet press, magazine features, or even books, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re rolling in the dough (or even making an actual living). Just because their work is prolifically featured in a Pinterest search doesn’t mean an artist doesn’t need your financial patronage to make ends meet.
If you’ve thought to yourself “but I can basically just recreate their design on my own” you need to stop… like right now… just stop. If you copy their embroidery pattern from a picture online, you’re stealing. It doesn’t matter if you don’t sell the piece you create or try to claim their work as your own. Your creative theft prevents that artist from earning justified monetary compensation for their time and creative effort towards making that pattern. (Sorry if that comes off a little harsh but this issues is really too important to sugar coat.)
Unlike products that might be published through a bigger company, there are no hidden cost when you buy handmade so the price you pay is often exceptionally reasonable and fair. And, as a bonus, buying handmade helps promote the continued lineage of handmade craft.
Still not sure about taking the plunge?
Here are some links to some free patterns by some contemporary embroidery artists. The paid versions that you find are MUCH more comprehensive (and in my personal opinion, worth the additional cost) however, be sure you read the seller reviews and check out their details carefully to make sure you know what you’re getting for your purchase.
A few Free Contemporary Embroidery Patterns Online:
- Free patterns by Cozy Blue
- Geninne Zlatkis offers a cute pattern of one of her iconic birds
- Geometric Stellar pattern at For the Makers
- Succulent Terrarium pattern at The Spruce
- DMC offers a LOT of free patterns, some of which partner with contemporary artists like Thread Honey and Sew and Saunders. You can even enter search perimeters by skill level.
Contemporary Embroidery Artist’s Etsy Shops mentioned in article:
I am not sponsored by anyone and do not use affiliate links. I am not friends with any of the artists I have shared in this post. I assure you, the views expressed are my own and are based on my personal experiences and preferences. I try to remain unbiased and fair in my review of items that may be mentioned while maintaining an honest evaluation.