Wednesday, February 23, 2011

{Embroidery Week} How to Monogram

You will need:
  • An article to monogram - anything from a handkerchief to a shirt pocket to your undies! The embroidery transfer packets I posted yesterday show lots of ways of using monograms.
  • Your design: an iron-on transfer, or a design on paper plus either carbon transfer paper or a disappearing ink pen
  • Thread. I used pure silk sewing thread; embroidery floss or regular cotton thread would also be fine.
  • A needle (obviously)
  • Embroidery hoop. You can do it without one, but they're pretty cheap and help keep the fabric taut.
Designing the Monogram

The basic three letter styling of monograms has not been changed much since the late 19th century to the early 20th century and are still the most commonly used today. Before then, however, monograms consisted of usually one initial, that being the first initial of the last name. Royalty would commonly use this form of monogram with an elaborate family crest intertwined throughout. Single letter monograms are still used today but usually in the monogramming of linens.

Monograms can be in single letter, two-letter or three-letter designs. The traditional format since the late Victorian period is for three-letter monograms with the first and middle initials on either side of the last initial, which is often given more prominence by a larger size. In this format, the monogram for double-barrelled names would have two last initials in the centre.

Monogram transfer showing traditional style, 1940 (from LaCaprice)
Traditional style embroidery font, 1913 (source)

For a more steamlined, Art Deco look, try designing your monogram in a geometric motif:

I took inspiration from this 1950s pattern envelope and decided to go for a two-letter monogram on the breast of a silk blouse I got from a charity shop.

I had originally intended to use an embroidery transfer, but ended up creating my own design. I just played around with different script fonts (there are lots of free fonts on in my graphics program until I found an effect that pleased me.

Stitching the Monogram

Though monograms can be worked in almost any of the standard embroidery stitches, they are traditionally done in satin stitch.

I printed the graphic at the size I wanted, cut it out, pinned it to the inside of the blouse and traced it (badly) using a disappearing ink pen. Another way to transfer the design would be to use carbon paper - you can get dressmaker's transfer sheets in light colours, which would be useful if you are embroidering on dark fabric. I actually tried these first, but the substance didn't seem to adhere to the silk (it worked fine on paper when I tested it; it would probably work on cotton).

Because the disappearing ink would, well, disappear, I first backstitched the entire outline. I'm using pure silk thread in a lovely 1940s shade of deep salmon pink.

To give the finished monogram a 'puffy' appearance (important for making the design more prominent if you are embroidering tone-on-tone, like a lot of vintage linens and handkerchiefs were) I decide to use padded satin stitch. To pad the letter you make long stitches lengthwise along the letter to fill it in, before satin stitching over the top. Padding has the added benefit of extra coverage of the base fabric, helping disguise any small gaps in the satin stitch.

Now I'm ready to start satin stitching. For the padding stitches and the actual satin stitching I'm using a double thickness of thread.

Getting there! With the C nearly completed, I feel like I'm getting into the swing of the satin stitch. You can see the raised finish from the padding. I'm super excited to see how it'll look when it's all done.

Update: The stitching is finished! Photos here.


  1. excellent :) I love doing monograms I have done a few for friends and family :) a good website for differnt ones is


  2. i have that blouse pattern and already made two blouses from it, i should really monogram one...

  3. ~ * ♥ * ~

    Ooo, it is looking amazing so far Charlotte ~ I am keen to try this myself; although it will have to wait until I get back home. Too bad, because this looks like just the nifty sort of project I could do with very little supplies.

    Unfortunately I simply have nothing I need on hand! Oh well, another project for the to~do list. : D

    bonita of Depict This!
    ~ * ♥ * ~

  4. Thanks for posting! There's actually enough time to do some monogramming before Christmas!

  5. This is an oldish post, so you may well have come across this suggestion by now, but when I embroidered some hankies for a friend's birthday last year I traced the designs onto pattern tissue (a bit thinner than tracing paper) and pinned that directly to the hankies, then stitched the outline right through the paper. I did a few extra needle-pricks along the outline for every actual stitch, so that by the time I was done, the whole thing was perforated and came away quite easily (I used pointy tweezers to pick out the odd bits that got stuck under my stitches). It's probably no more or less work than this, but may be useful if you're embroidering something you don't want to risk using the pen on.


I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Related Posts with Thumbnails