As a serial crafter, I have a tendency to want to learn any cool looking craft I see. So, when I started to see amazing 3D embroidery (aka stumpwork) pieces pop up in my feed, you know I was interested! So, I decided to learn how to do stumpwork embroidery and, of course, went in search of the best online courses, kits, and other resources to help me learn. In this post I share some of my favorite kits, books, and online courses, as well as a few that I’ve been tempted by, but haven’t been able to try yet.
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What is Stumpwork Embroidery?
Today, the word “stumpwork” is used for just about any raised embroidery. This can range from pieces that use padding or three-dimensional stitches to fully freestanding double-sided works. So, to learn how to do stumpwork embroidery you need to learn a variety of different techniques.
Materials for Stumpwork Embroidery
In addition to the usual supplies generally used in stump work embroidery, there are a few things you should have on hand. These materials provide the support necessary to create the 3D effects stump work is known for.
Wings, petals and other mostly detached elements need wire to lift them from the surface of the embroidery. I like to use covered floral or sugar work wire. The covering, usually cotton or paper, can be colored with markers if necessary and it’s easier than plain wire to stitch over because it’s less slippery. I use size 32 generally, but if you’re planning on making something wearable or that will be handled start with something thicker like size 26.
For raised elements that aren’t detached, you’ll want to have some felt on hand. This felt will be attached to your sewing surface, then usually you’ll embroider over top of it. While you can use polyester craft felt in a pinch, I find it easier to work with wool felt. Wool felt tends to be a bit less springy, so it holds its shape better. I recommend getting a few different colors. The color of your felt doesn’t have to perfectly match the color of the thread you’ll be embroidering with, but having something similar is nice, especially if you accidentally leave a gap!
If you’ve been around here a while, you know that I love a good kit. Having someone else source materials can save a lot of time and headaches. And I love to be able to physically experience what good quality supplies are like, so that it’s easier to make good choices when I start to shop for my self directed projects. When it comes to stumpwork, I’ve found this to be especially important because some supplies, like wire, aren’t typically stocked in big box craft stores. Luckily, there are some really nice kits out there.
Fly Agaric Mushroom Kit
I’d admired Lemon Pepper Studios Pippa Haynes’ detailed and realistic 3D embroidered mushrooms for a long time, so I was really excited when she came out with her Fly Agaric Stumpwork Kit. With a detailed instruction booklet and well curated set of supplies, she walks you through how to make one of her signature pieces. The kit lets you practice wiring, embroidering on felt, thread painting, French knots, and bullion knots. I loved working this kit!
Shan Butterfly Kit
I love seeing Shan Xu’s beautiful 3D embroidery whenever it pops up on my IG feed, so I was really excited to see that she has a kit on Etsy. This one is on my “want” list because it uses a low-twist silk thread instead of the the DMC cotton found in most other kits. The kit is really reasonably priced as well, the kit and the instructions are bought separately, but the total is only 29$. Shipping was less than 4$ for me, making this a really good deal.
Online Courses that Teach You How to Do Stumpwork Embroidery
When I started learning stumpwork, I found it really helped to see experienced artists work. There are subtle things, like how they handle the thread and how careful or casual they are with certain aspects of the work that are really only captured through video. I found it much easier to learn how to do stumpwork embroidery when I started taking online classes.
One of the standout classes on Craftsy is Celeste Chalasani’s Stumpwork: Raised Embroidery Essentials. In the class, you work through one project that teaches a variety of raised stitches, padding techniques, and wired slips. I really enjoyed creating the project and was able to improvise a bit to use mostly materials I already had without too much issue. The only thing I didn’t have in my stash was wire, and that was easily ordered from Etsy.
I’m only part way through watching Stumpwork Embroidery: Create 3D Ornaments but I’m already glad I bought it. Like the butterfly kit above, this class is taught by the embroidery artist Shan Xu. This video class is great because she really gets into the details of how she embroiders. She also approaches the long and short stitch slightly differently than in the Craftsy class above, which is very much the sort of thing I watch these classes for.
Royal School of Needlework
oI have yet to try any of the online classes from the Royal School of Needlework, but I’ve been very tempted. While some of the courses are pre-recorded, this is one of the few places I’ve found that also offers real-time classes with a live instructor. So if you’re looking for feedback and a live instructor, this may be a good fit for your. Because they’re live, availability is limited, so it’s worth checking back periodically to see what’s being offered. You’ll also want to plan in advance, because most of the classes come with kits and can take some time to arrive. Additionally, they also offer several books. I’ve got the Book of Embroidery (BS/AZ) but there are many others, all of which look like excellent resources.
So far, those are the best resources I’ve found for learning how to do stumpwork embroidery. Let me know in the comments below or over on Instagram if you know of anything great that I’ve missed!