Not content to have my children's actual faces upon which to gaze, or numerous photographs, I felt the need to create embroidered pillow portraits of them as well. They got a kick out of them as well so I decided it would make a nice gift for any family, and started making them for friends as well as selling them in my etsy shop. After making a few in probably the least efficient way possible, I discovered some shortcuts that make it surprisingly easy, and even eliminate the need for any great artistic talent. Anyone with basic sewing and embroidery skills & tools, as well as access to the internet and a printer, can make these! It helps to have a portrait artist's eye to make the portraits look just right, but I hope that, with the tips provided, you can make something you'll love even if you consider yourself lacking any talent in that area!
Here's what you'll need:
- The photograph you'd like to turn into an embroidered portrait, in jpeg form (preferably a high-resolution close-up of the face and neck, cropped to a square-ish shape) (Note on photo: ideal size is between 400kb and 1.5mb as anything smaller will result in not enough detail and anything larger will not upload)
- 1 fat quarter of fabric (I use Amy Butler's Full Moon Polka Dots)
(Note on fabric: Any solid or printed fabric you like will do for the border and back of the pillow. You might even like to combine a few. I, however, think too busy a print or prints takes focus away from the portrait, and recommend choosing something fairly simple with 2 colors at most.)
- Coordinating thread
- 1 7"x7" piece of white cotton quilting fabric (I use Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton Solid Fabric in Snow)
- Black embroidery floss (I use DMC 310 Black Six Strand Floss)
- Pillow stuffing (I use polyester fiberfill) -- about 8 oz. should be more than sufficient
- Computer with internet access & printer
- Access to a window that lets in some daylight
- Scotch tape or masking tape
- Regular pencil
- Embroidery hoop (6" diameter is ideal)
- Embroidery needle (I use a chenille needle)
- Embroidery scissors (I use Victorian Embroidery Scissors by Tool Tron)
- Fabric shears and ruler, or rotary cutter and self-healing mat, for cutting fabric
- Sewing machine
Here are the instructions:
Step 1: Turn your Photograph into an Embroidery Pattern Using a Free Online Tool
There are a number of websites that enable you to turn photographs into coloring pages, which are basically equivalent to embroidery patterns, and then print the results. My favorite is www.reallycolor.com, which is quite user-friendly. It makes it so easy and quick that even though I actually am a portrait artist, I now almost always use this method instead! The only time I don't is when the photograph for some reason (usually because the resolution isn't high enough or there isn't enough contrast) doesn't come out well this way. It really works well with most crisp photographs, though. All you do is as follows:
Go to www.reallycolor.com and click on "Get Started."
Click on "Upload Image" and select your photo.
Voila! Your photo is now a coloring page! You will probably want to tweak it, however, so that it includes just enough detail to show a good resemblance without looking too "marked up."
Using your mouse to scroll up and down, choose one of the 8 available versions of your coloring page. Err on the side of too much detail if none seems perfect, as you can still adjust it on the next page. Click "Continue" when you've made your choice.
On the next page you can make further adjustments by clicking on the "More Detail" and "Less Detail" buttons at the base of your image. Experiment until it is just right and then click "Continue."
On the next page you can experiment with thicker and thinner lines, and also use the editing tools on the right to make any touch-ups. For instance, I used the eraser to erase most of the shirt from my drawing. When you like what you see, click "Continue."
Now all you need to do is register at the free membership level and you'll be able to download your awesome, ready-to-go portrait embroidery pattern!