Doodle Embroidery: Only as Inappropriate as You Make It

February 13, 2014 in Beth, Funny by Beth Woolsey

My grandma taught me to cross stitch right around 1980, and I was a rainbow-producing machine. Sometimes I even made my rainbows fancy with clouds at either end because, what can I say? I was a sewing prodigy.

Well, I have a new favorite pastime these days, inspired by Dame Judy Dench because that lady is classy and accomplished, and, also, she embroiders profane pillows.

I cannot adequately describe the timbre of my laughter or the depth of camaraderie I felt with Dame Dench upon discovering that delicious bit of news, because, of course, there is something both delightfully ridiculous and intensely freeing about using the art medium that is synonymous with docile femininity to be subversive. 


Right after I read the article about Dame Dench’s on-set art projects, I came across the book Doodle Stitching by Aimee Ray. As a former avid cross stitcher, pattern-follower, and occasional pattern off-roader, I was immediately enamored with Aimee’s free-form doodles. Now, they’re not totally my style – a tiny bit cutesy for my taste, although certainly in keeping with traditional embroidery – but this idea that you can doodle and sew anything? Anything at all? Big fan! Huge! So I splurged on Aimee’s book, and I’ve been creating my own, socially awkward dish towels ever since.

Here are three of my favorites:


1. For the home that’s welcoming to children,


Children Welcome Here
(the rest will be made into pies)


2. For my brother and sister-in-law for Christmas, a quote from the totally awesome kid with autism with whom my brother used to work. He’s known in our family for classics like, “I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my brain,” and the always popular phrase for a kid proactively working on learning social cues,


“May I sniff you?”


3. And , for my parents for Christmas, a favorite and extremely frequently used phrase of my grandfather‘s,


“Oh shit, oh dear.”


Simple. Creative. Expressive. Individualized. I’m in love with doodle embroidery.

If you’d like to doodle embroider, I do highly recommend Doodle Stitching.* It’s a comprehensive guide with complete instructions for different types of stitches, lists of materials and hundreds of design ideas. 

Briefly, though, here’s what I use:


  • Material of your choice – I prefer dish towels because they’re both useful and temporary. I don’t want someone sitting around with an Oh Shit, Oh Dear pillow 10 years from now wishing they could throw it out but afraid of hurting my feelings. With a dish towel you get to use it to death and then toss it, guilt free!
  • Embroidery floss – I picked colors from my cross stitch stash, and I LOVED picking whatever colors I liked instead of matching up numbers and realizing I don’t have enough 3371 to finish a project.
  • 6″ embroidery hoop
  • Needles
  • Scissors
  • Embroidery transfer pen – use to doodle directly on the fabric, freehand or tracing, and erase with a damp cloth.

Here’s what a project looks like when I’ve drawn but not finished sewing it:


And here’s a preview of my current project, barely started:


P.S. I make these while sitting in church. 😀 You can pray for my people.

*P.P.S. Aimee Ray is not affiliated with this site. She doesn’t know I’m promoting her book. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she’d be horrified to see what I’ve done with it. I think that’s only fair.