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“Looking Sharp!” Cactus Embroidery

For this embroidery project we’re staying simple, mastering the split stitch – perfect for outlines and writing – and the French knot, used everywhere you need a dot.

This project was created and written by our Sewing Ambassador, Charlotte Newland.

  • Sewing
  • 1-2 hours
  • Beginner

You Will Need:

  • Embroidery Threads
  • Embroidery Needles
  • 6” Wooden Embroidery Hoop
  • Plain Cotton Fabric (I used white quilting cotton)
  • Water-Erasable Fine Tip Fabric Marker
  • Design Template printed at 100% Download Here
Cactus Embroidery


    Cactus Embroidery
  1. First, tape the paper copy of the cactus design to a window and transfer it onto your fabric using the water-erasable pen.

  2. Loosen the screw on your embroidery hoop, remove the outer ring, and place the fabric over the inner ring. Replace the outer ring and tighten the screw. You want your fabric to be drum tight in the hoop, so gently pull on the edges all the way around before the screw is fully tightened.

  3. Choose any colours you like to complete your design – that’s the fun of embroidery! I used black for my writing, but you can use anything you want. Embroidery threads are made up of six strands, but we only want to use three strands when sewing. Cut a length of thread and carefully split it into two pieces of three strands each.

  4. Cactus Embroidery
  5. The outlines and writing in the cactus design are all sewn using split stitch, which makes a nice solid line and is easy to work. First, sew a single stitch (top left), then bring the needle up through that stitch, about 1mm from the end (top right). Take the needle through the fabric to complete the stitch (bottom left), and continue to make a solid line (bottom right).

  6. When you get to the end of a section or near the end of your piece of thread, bring the needle to the back of the work and sew through one of the stitches on the back (but not the fabric itself). Make a loop in your working thread and sew through that as well. Pull tight to make a knot.

  7. Cactus Embroidery
  8. Once you have finished all the outlines, you can go back and dot the ‘i’ and the exclamation mark using French knots. First, bring the needle and thread through to the front of the work (top left), then wind the thread around the needle two or three times (top right). Pull on the thread so that the knot sits against the fabric and insert the needle through the fabric a couple of threads away from where you originally came up (bottom left). You should be left with a nice round knot (bottom right). French knots can be a bit tricky, so you may want to practise them on a spare piece of fabric first.

  9. Cactus Embroidery
  10. When you have finished stitching your whole design, you can remove the visible marker pen by simply spraying with water or dabbing with a damp sponge – it disappears like magic!

  11. Cactus Embroidery
  12. Once the fabric is dry, tighten up the screw on the hoop with a screwdriver and cut away the excess fabric from the back.