Embroidered Portrait--a la Jenny Hart

August 27, 2009
Although it’s not part of the 42, I thought you’d like to see what else I’m up to. This is an embroidered portrait of my daughter and the snapshot I used to create it. It’s pretty easy to do this despite how impressive it looks!

Here’s what I did…
I printed the photo 8x10 and traced it on 11x14 tracing paper. I call this line drawing a cartoon. Using a light box, I traced the cartoon onto light fabric with a pencil. Then I embroidered with a variety of stitches with any color that suited my mood at the time. See? No big talent required other than tracing abilities and determination to see it through. (The stitching alone took 27 hours!)

This is heavily influenced by Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching. I can’t take credit for anything but the tracing of the photo and the stitching. The artistic style is stolen from her. If you search on flicker, lots of people are making similar portraits—many are of the strangest people—Abe Vigoda, William Shatner! It’s a fun little piece of embroidery sub-culture!

Rezlo, the cat, is long gone—he took off this summer, so I’m glad he’s immortalized forever here! Note that I didn’t put braces on Elle—that was her request!

Things I learned during those 27 hours
Eyes are everything. Make sure your subject has bright, open eyes. Your embroidery will be only as good as the original photo. And not all photos work. Sometimes the prettiest picture makes a ho-hum cartoon. You have to experiment.

Don’t trace every little line from your cartoon onto the fabric. I found that I wanted to improvise occasionally—especially in the hair. Once those lines are on the fabric, they aren’t coming off. I have tons of unstitched pencil lines all over this. Good thing you can’t see it close up!

Everyone freaks out about stitching the eyes, but for me, it was the lips that were hardest. I re-did hers about 3 times before I got them semi-good. (moral: don’t be afraid to rip out and start again!)

Make sure you have clean hands when stitching. This is so dirty. Yuk.

To finish, I hemmed three sides and made a pocket sleeve at the top. I used a chain stitch to hide the machine stitching, being careful not to close up the sleeve. It’s hung with a dowel rod. I will probably frame it once I make a portrait of my other two kids. It’s too delicate unframed.


  1. You did a really nice job on this. I agree that eyes and mouths are critical!

  2. I think it's lovely. I use Picasa3 photo program to change my photos to Pencil sketch then use the darkest lines (I print out on cheap paper towel like you find in the WalMart bathroom (there is a YUK for you!)) for my template. I can put it in a hoop and stitch over it, tear away like stabilizer. Quick and easy. Just be careful when printing that the cheap paper towel doesn't shred in the printer!

  3. I do this all the time,but more intricate work, I have just started learning to quilt something I have wanted to do for a long time, my biggest problem is I never go for the easy stuff firstLOL!

  4. Cool idea! Have you ever tried Fabri-Solvy? If you have a scanner you can do your drawing in pencil and then scan it, print it out on the Fabri-Solvy, stick it onto your fabric and stitch away. No messy lines and you can dissolve it when you are done stitching. I'm totally obsessed with the stuff lately. I don't work for the company, I assure you! Your comment on the messy pencil lines made me think of it.


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