You have an image (or an idea), and want to embroider it. The simplest way would be to directly draw it onto the fabric at hand and get to stitching. For the less talented sketchers of the world, a pattern is a convenient bridge. Below I’ll detail how I make patterns, and give two options for each step: the low-tech and the “high”-tech.
Step One: Select an image
Any image can be used, however images with relatively high contrast and on a normal sheet of printer paper (as opposed to a photograph) will be easier to use. If you have a photo, consider printing a digital copy of it in black and white/greyscale to use as the basis for the pattern.
Step Two: Trace your image
You’ll need three things for this step:
(1) A piece of paper on which to make a pattern
✂︎ Low Tech — plain printer paper will work pretty well for this.
✂ High Tech — tracing paper will make this easier.
(2) A pencil
(3) A light source and flat surface
✂ Low Tech — a bright window works well (be sure to clean it first).
✂ High Tech — a tracing table or light allows you more flexibility.
Tape your image to the light source, and tape your blank paper over top of it. Use the pencil to trace the image.
Step Three: Finalize your pattern
Some minor editing is often needed after tracing an image. Remove the pattern from the light source and make any changes needed. Then trace over the pattern with a pen or fine marker. This will make sure the lines of your pattern are bold enough to use as a pattern going forward.
Be sure to erase the original pencil completely once you are done. This will prevent graphite from rubbing off on fabric when the pattern is used.
✂ Low Tech — the piece you’ve just created can be used as a pattern on its own.
✂ High Tech — if you plan to use the pattern repeatedly, or want to store it, there are a few options: (1) Scan the image you’ve created and save it digitally to print later. (2) Trace it onto sturdier paper and store separately; in the future this pattern can be traced (see step two above) and you’ll be able to keep an undamaged reference.
Now that your pattern is ready, you’re ready to get it onto your fabric!