I like to embroider Scripture. It’s fun and doesn’t take a lot of talent. By the time I finish a piece, I’ve got the Scripture memorized and I’ve meditated a lot on its meaning. Then I can frame and hang it so that it becomes not just a daily reminder of the passage, but a conversation piece for guests.
Last year I finally finished a large needlework that had taken years to complete. I wanted to try some smaller, faster pieces. I sketched some ideas for Psalm 71:14. But that was right about when artist Karla Dornacher joined author Pam Farrel and me in creating the book, Discovering Hope in the Psalms. She created bookmarks that people could trace or cut out. I realized these would be perfect small projects!
I hoped to finish all of them before the book came out, but that didn’t happen. I’m working on the third bookmark now, so here I’ll explain how to embroider Scripture from two of the book’s eight bookmarks. I’ll also explain the symbolism I used. I hope this inspires you in your own creative endeavors, whether or not you choose to embroider Scripture.
How to Transfer Bookmarks to Fabric
The bookmarks I used are on page 223 of Discovering Hope in the Psalms. Mine differs a tiny bit because I used Karla’s early illustrations, before she created the page with four bookmarks.
If you have an all-in-one printer that can scan and copy, the easiest way to transfer the bookmarks is to scan and print or copy the page on printable fabric. I scanned and printed the bookmarks on EQ Printables Inkjet Cotton Lawn Fabric Sheets that I loaded into my HP Inkjet.
If you don’t have access to an all-in-one printer, big box office stores can print on fabric. Or you can go low-tech and trace the bookmarks onto your fabric with a sharp, pale fabric pencil.
Optional: Add a Colored Background to the Fabric
I used Adobe Photoshop to add a semi-transparent gradient background to each bookmark before I printed.
How to Prepare Fabric to Embroider Scripture
If you’re using printable fabric, follow the instructions that come with it for removing excess ink. When it’s dry, sew 4” strips of scrap fabric to all sides, enlarging the 8.5” x 11” original to 16.5” x 19” so it can fit into a 13” diameter embroidery hoop.
- Prepared fabric (see above)
- Embroidery hoop at least 13″ across
- Embroidery needles
- Needle threader
- Embroidery scissors
- Magnifying lamp (I use the Carson DeskBrite)
- Embroidery thread (see below)
How to Embroider Scripture: Psalm 30:11-12
I love Psalm 30. The first stanza always reminds me of how God delivered and saved me: “You restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.” So the butterfly Karla put on the bookmark is perfect because a butterfly symbolizes being born again. I changed the bunting around “into” and “me with” to a vine to represent Jesus is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:4).
Paul used a seed “dying” in the ground before springing to new life as a metaphor for our earthly bodies dying before Christ raises us in new, resurrected bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-44). In my mind, then, the flower stands for the resurrection. The last line of Psalm 30 is “I will give thanks to you forever,” which speaks to me of the resurrection. I changed the scallops at the top and bottom into tiny flowers to represent friends and family who will resurrect as well.
Light orange is my main color because it’s such a happy color, making it perfect for a verse about dancing and gladness. The pale blue background complements the orange. The butterfly and flower seemed a perfect way to practice needle painting. I had to adjust the shape of the flower a bit and left off some internal lines.
Downloads and Links
Here’s How to Embroider Scripture Psalm 30:11-12 in a downloadable PDF. It lists the DNC thread colors and stitches I used. For more on needle painting (including more on preparing and protecting fabric), see Needle Painting Embroidery by Trish Burr. For more on selecting color schemes, see Colour Confidence in Embroidery by the same author.
How to Embroider Scripture: Psalm 73:26
The choirmaster Asaph wrote Psalm 73 about how God kept his feet from slipping when envy of the wicked nearly destroyed his faith. The white and gray flowers represent how we see some truths clearly and others dimly until heaven.
“GOD” is white to represent that he is light. I used a padded stitch to look like light radiating. The white didn’t stand out enough from the background so I added a scarlet border to represent the blood of Jesus, the means to bringing us to God.
“STRENGTH” is steel gray to represent the strength of steel, but it’s on a soft, padded background to represent God’s tenderness. He strongly but tenderly binds our broken hearts.
The word “heart” is scarlet, the color of a human heart physically. “Forever” is silver to give the feel of stars sparkling, which reminds me of eternity.
“Portion” is interesting. The first layer is white to represent being filled with the Holy Spirit. I added scarlet lines and dots to represent being filled in another way, through the blood of Jesus. It turned out messy looking and I considered pulling it out, but I decided the Cross was messy. So I left it to remind me of the great pains God took to bring us to him.
The leaves are variegated green because gray would have blended them in with the flowers too much and black would have distracted from the words. It’s purely utilitarian, though I suppose green could represent new life!
I used whitework techniques here. Whitework is typically done on a solid white background, but I didn’t choose the technique until after I’d printed the fabric. I couldn’t keep the Scripture reference where it was and so far don’t see a good place to add it. I’ll probably put it on the ribbon backing I’ll add later.