Beyond the Hoop: Embroidery on Unusual Surfaces

When venturing into the world of hand embroidery, the sky’s the limit. If you are inventive then you can be as experimental as you like — there is no need to stick to traditional methods or fabrics. We look at which different types of materials you can apply your sewing skills too.

Here are some creative surfaces for you to try stitching into or to simply inspire your next embroidery project!

origami style embroidery onto white egg shells

Photo via Britta Matzat


Why not super size your embroidery and your materials, like Sarah Greaves, has done with her artwork below. Mapping out a design and predrilled holes in its shape will allow you to stitch into this natural surface. Why not play around with contrasting textures? Experiment with natural and synthetic fibers to see what the different results could be!

Wooden door with the words 'The End' embroidered into it

Photo via Sarah Greaves


Metal smith and jewelry designer Lynette Andreasen combines hard, industrial metal with softer, domestic threads. I love the contrast between the typically masculine metal with the traditionally feminine embroidery technique and threads. We may not all possess the amazing skills Lynette has, but don’t let that put you off. Experiment with softer metals, such as the aluminum you find in soda cans!

Embroidered thumb print into metal ash tray

Photo via Lynette Andreasen


Food, glorious food! Make embroidery that would be good enough to eat by stitching into your supper. I know I know, we were always told not to play with our food, but this banana has convinced us otherwise. Sarah has also stitched into bread and chocolate. Which food would you choose to don your embroidery floss?

Embroidered banana peel with the word 'good' in embroidery Sarah-Greaves-8

Photos via Sarah Greaves


This beautiful white work paper embroidery by Karen creates the illusion of delicate lace. Simple hand techniques on great quality paper can look so beautiful in the right frame, ideal for wedding or christening gifts. Don’t be afraid to use color though! Why not mix and match your medium: Paint your paper and use different weights and textures of thread!

white embroidery on white paper

Photo via Karen Ruane

Egg shells

You would think I was yolking if I told you, but it’s true, you can embroider into egg shells! If you have got a delicate hand, these creations would make beautiful gifts. Traditional and contemporary designs both look very effective — if you want to give it a whirl check out this brilliant step-by-step egg shell embroidery tutorial from Design Sponge!

embroidered alphabet into egg shells

Photo via Britta Matzat

Plastic / Perspex

We use so much plastic in our daily lives and often it gets put in the trash. Why not turn it into something beautiful with your embroidery skills! Transparency of certain plastics can also work in your favor, as it can have a glass like appearance without the fragility!

embroidred perspex with veins and artieries in thread

Photo via Leigh Bowser


Contrasting hard and soft textures are a reoccurring theme here and another juxtaposing pair is ceramic and embroidery threads. The holes for stitching through must be preplanned and pierced a little larger than required, due to the clay’s shrinkage in the kiln. If you don’t have access to a kiln, why not try air or oven dry clay?

white embroidery into porcelain ceramic

Photo via Leigh Bowser

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Build up your repertoire of hand and machine embroidery skills with our Bluprint embroidery classes! Get your feet wet with a FREE mini-class, Machine Embroidered Classics, taught by renowned sewing instructor Yvonne Menear!


Which material will you be stitching into?

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