7 Amazing Embroidered Portraits to Inspire Your Stitching

Portraits have practically been the bread and butter of art for as far back as recorded history takes us. They’ve never gone out of fashion and there is certainly a resurgence in the desire for people to commission embroidered portraits.

marna lunt
Photo via Marna Lunt

Why portraits?

When someone shows us an old school class photograph what is the first thing we look for? Probably ourselves. Then we are most likely to look at our closest friends and then of course the mortifying haircuts and fashion!

But why do we desire pictures of ourselves, our loved ones or even strangers in our homes? I think there are many reasons so I’d like to explore a few of my current favorite portrait embroiderers and hope that some of my reasons resonate with your love of embroidered portrait work.

julie sarlouttePhoto via Julie Sarloutte 

Color and texture in portraits

My main draws are always things such as color and texture so I immediately gravitate towards strong images and the first artist that immediately jumps to mind (and she is my favorite because of this) is Julie Sarloutte.

julie sarloutte

Photo via Julie Sarloutte 

Her stunning and bold use of color and thick threads makes me want to delve further into the picture, to touch it and explore in more detail the tiny details and color combinations she has used. The clever depiction of color to imitate flesh enhances the qualities of her subject.

Folk-style portraits

Another embroidery artist that has a unique and very different style is the very talented Melodie from Maidolls whose simple folk style draws you to the subject. I find it quite entrancing how she uses a limited palette to create faces with such personality. I am the proud owner of one of her dolls and it makes me smile at all times, holding an infectious charm, but you can see this for yourself in her work below.


Photo via Maidolls

I have admired Sue Stone for some time. there is something gritty, a sense of family, past and home that resonates with me when I look at her work. I don’t know if I get this feeling because I am from England and her colors and materials are quite British, or it simply reminds me of my family’s roots. I love the mark making to create wonderful textures and forms that should make the work feel very flat with the lack of shading and deep tool work around the face. She picks out the main facial features and builds up the clothing and background with her beautifully thought out marks.

sue stone

Photo via Sue Stone

Art and embroidery

I found in my research of this subject that many of the artists producing needle portraits have come from a background of painting and fine art.

This is maybe why I am drawn to them and why I create portraits myself. We start from the sketchbook and look at a work as we would approach a painting. The needle is our brush and the thread our paint, we create our pieces exactly as we would when we paint in our own style. Our subject of people is the same yet we vary so greatly in our methods and outcomes and this thrills me.

gracies garden bizarre

Photo via Gracie’s Garden Bizarre 

Cassandra from Gracie’s Garden Bizarre has another very different look at portraiture. She uses embroidery to detail and enhance her paintings.

marna lunt portrait

Photo via Marna Lunt

I work on pieces of vintage linen and draw onto the linen with pencil and a water-soluble pen. I then get to painting. I choose my colors and arrange them as I would the paint on my palette, although creating a needle painting takes a lot more planning than true painting as mixing the colors and fixing mistakes isn’t as simple as with paint.

I hope I have shown you a nice broad spectrum of styles and artists to enjoy and explore. I feel they each bring something new and fresh to embroidery and hold a strong style that we can all learn from and enjoy.

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