An embroidered quilt label tutorial from Pen to Thread

RST is thrilled to welcome Cloud 9 fabric designer and illustrator Sarah Watson back today for a guest post! Sarah has just released her book, Pen to Thread (Interweave Press), with more than 750 hand-drawn embroidery designs and instructions on how to create your own stitchy projects. Here’s Sarah, with a fun tutorial for the quilting crowd!

Hello there! It’s me, Sarah Watson, coming to you with a fun embroidery tutorial, plus free motif from my new hand embroidery book, Pen to Thread. The book is chock full of fun, imaginative, sophisticated, masculine, and silly motifs. Something for everyone, really!

I love embroidery because it is a simple hobby that, with little practice and a few materials, can yield wonderful, lasting results. If you use high-quality materials, your embroidery can be passed from generation to generation. Because you lovely readers at Right Sides Together are mostly quilters, the project I’ve prepared for you today is a quilt label (good idea, huh?).

An embroidered quilt label tutorial from Pen to Thread! | Right Sides Together

An embroidered quilt label tutorial from Pen to Thread! | Right Sides Together


  • Scissors
  • Fabric
  • A needle (an embroidery needle, or any sharp needle that you are comfortable using and able to thread)
  • Thread. If you are a beginner, try DMC threads; they are widely available and come in a beautiful range of colors. If, like me, you already have a messy stash of threads, choose a heavy weight for the envelope border, medium weight for buttons and words, and a lighter weight for the running stitch.
  • Pen to Thread and your motif! I’ve provided the motif for you here today, but if you are interested in more projects, trust me, this book is a ton of fun.
  • A pencil, pen, or other tracing utensil (I recommend pencil)

The Stitches

Here are excerpts from the book, as well as illustrations, on backstitch and satin stitch:

An embroidered quilt label tutorial from Pen to Thread! | Right Sides Together

The backstitch is a great simple stitch. It can be done in a smooth motion that keeps your stitching going quickly, but if you have trouble with it at first, don’t feel bad about breaking the motion into individual steps. Often when I am working around edges or curves, I break my backstitch down into single movements.

Insert needle at A (Fig. 12), and pull thread through. Reinsert needle at B, and one stitch length past, back out at C (Fig. 13). Make sure your needle exits along the pattern line you are working on. After pulling your needle and thread completely through, you’ll see that you will now have to go “back” to finish your stitch, hence the name ‘back stitch’.  Insert needle at B (Fig. 14). Continue in this manner, coming up again at a new A (Fig. 15). Backstitch can be used as an outline stitch, or a wonderful filling stitch when lined up closely in rows.

An embroidered quilt label tutorial from Pen to Thread! | Right Sides Together

Satin stitch is an elegant, professional-looking stitch. It might take a little practice to get it perfectly smooth, but keep at it: it’s worth it. For beginners, it is easier to start with satin stitch in small areas so that you can get the feel of how the thread will sit on top of your fabric once it is finished. After you have a good feel for how the stitch works, start experimenting with it in larger areas. If you are having a hard time lining up the edges of your satin stitch, do a quick back stitch or satin stitch around the outline of your motif first, to help guide you around the edges. Stitch on the outside of this outline.

Bring needle up at A (Fig. 16). Bring needle down at B (Fig. 17). Just behind where you came up at A, bring your needle up again, following your pattern (Fig. 18). Continue in this fashion along your desired shape (Fig. 19). 



An embroidered quilt label tutorial from Pen to Thread! | Right Sides Together

Print out the envelope motif at 100% (do not scale, unless you’d like to). If you can, use the back side of already used paper. I used white fabric, so could easily see the motif through the paper. It’s helpful to tape your printed motif to the back of your fabric, so that it doesn’t shift while you are tracing. I used pencil, because even with the best intentions to cover all of my traced lines with threads, we sometimes make mistakes. You can remove the paper motif after you’ve traced it, and save it for another use (color it in, make a card out of it, save it to trace on another project).

After I traced the motif provided, I added in my personal touch. I’m not sure who this quilt label will go to yet, but I do know that I will be the maker. So I hand wrote my name and the date on the ‘From’ line. I read a post a while back about a woman who found an amazing quilt in a thrift shop and was able to trace back the maker’s heritage using the name on the label. I think this is amazing, but no one better send the quilts I give them to thrift shops!

Time to start stitching! Start with the outline of the envelope, which is a rectangle, plus the flap on the left side. I used a backstitch for this. The photo below shows the directions that I stitched in, to minimize carried threads on the back of the project.

An embroidered quilt label tutorial from Pen to Thread! | Right Sides Together


An embroidered quilt label tutorial from Pen to Thread! | Right Sides Together

After you’ve finished the envelope outline, start on the buttons. I used a version of a satin stitch here. To create a smooth rounded button, make one full length stitch (from the outside of the button to the inside hole of the button), and then a half length stitch (from the outside of the button halfway to the inside hole of the button. Continue around the circle until you have completed it. If you want to make a simpler button, you can use a backstitch with this, too.


An embroidered quilt label tutorial from Pen to Thread! | Right Sides Together

The address lines are in a lighter grey backstitch, and the string to close the envelope is in a lighter teal backstitch. If you use a color similar to the grey I used, and white fabric, don’t carry your thread on the back of the embroidery from line to line. Once you’ve finished stitching a line, knot off or stitch your tail to secure it, and start new with the next line.


An embroidered quilt label tutorial from Pen to Thread! | Right Sides Together

Next are the words, which are probably the most time consuming, but really easy if you have a little patience (and reading glasses if your sight isn’t that great). I used a backstitch, but with teeny tiny short stitches where the letters are curved, such as o’s and s’s. Be patient, and again, make sure not to carry your thread from word to word if you are using dark thread and light colored fabric.

An embroidered quilt label tutorial from Pen to Thread! | Right Sides Together

Then, look at that, you’re done! Already! Or are you? I finished the embroidery, and decided I wanted a little more color, so used my fine wool thread and a straight stitch to add some color.

An embroidered quilt label tutorial from Pen to Thread! | Right Sides Together

When you’re done, lightly press your embroidery on the back with a cool iron, and add it to a cherished gift, a pillow, quilt or bag. Whoever receives it is a lucky duck!


An embroidered quilt label tutorial from Pen to Thread! | Right Sides Together

As a note on the threads: I’ve used four kinds here, which I chose based on color. I used pearl cotton for the letters, thick tapestry thread for the border of the mailer, a fun Genziana wool blend thread for the running stitches, and Sajou French cotton thread. I tend to not worry about spending a little more money on a specialty thread or quality fabric. When I embroider, I know I’m putting a certain amount of time into the project, so want to make sure it looks great and is going to stay that way for years to come.

Check out #PentoThread on social media for more projects, and please post your work too. I hope you loved the project as much as I did. Happy stitching!

37 Comments on An embroidered quilt label tutorial from Pen to Thread

  1. Mary Brown
    March 24, 2016 at 9:47 am (6 years ago)

    I have several quilts just waiting to have their history documented. The idea of having a unique label for each enhances the fun and beauty of each of them. I’m so excited about this new book! Thanks for publishing a tool to help me flush out the ideas needed. Whoop whoop!

  2. Doris McCarty
    March 24, 2016 at 11:37 am (6 years ago)

    I love it when quilts get finished with their stories attached. Thank you!

  3. Pip
    March 24, 2016 at 1:29 pm (6 years ago)

    This book sounds as if it has plenty of inspiration in it. Love the stitched label idea, it would be great to make a few of them to have ready for quilts. I wasn’t going to comment as I live in Australia and therefore I’m not eligible, if it is simply a matter of postage perhaps Interweave could consider providing a digital copy of the book for international winners.

  4. Amanda
    March 24, 2016 at 2:07 pm (6 years ago)

    I would make some labels for quilts I have already made!

  5. Vicki H
    March 24, 2016 at 8:31 pm (6 years ago)

    I bet some of the designs would be great on zippy pouches.

  6. Debby
    March 24, 2016 at 10:29 pm (6 years ago)

    I am just starting to do some hand embroidery and grabbed some embroidery hoops at the local Goodwill. I would love to use the book to learn from and be inspired.

  7. Louise M.
    March 25, 2016 at 5:54 am (6 years ago)

    I would embroider the top edge of an otherwise plain tote bag.

  8. Cat
    March 25, 2016 at 10:23 am (6 years ago)

    I’d thoroughly enjoy it for sure!!!! And thank you!!!! If I don’t win I’m going to request it from the library!!!!

  9. Shelley
    March 25, 2016 at 2:58 pm (6 years ago)

    What a great book and a wonderful tutorial…thank you for sharing! I love small motifs and I love to sew totes so I’d probably add a few stitcheries to the next bag I make-perhaps crafty motifs like the box of crayons on the cover to make a tote to carry my art supplies.

  10. Judy
    March 25, 2016 at 3:24 pm (6 years ago)

    This is a great idea. The book looks great, I would like to make something for mother’s day with this.

  11. Laura from OH
    March 25, 2016 at 4:20 pm (6 years ago)

    One of my goals this year is to explore embroidery. I love the idea of making labels for my quilts.

  12. Shea Werner
    March 25, 2016 at 5:59 pm (6 years ago)

    This book would be so helpful! I often get frustrated when it comes to labels for quilts.
    Hand stitched just looks good too. Hope to be the pick here, but would buy this book if not picked!!

  13. Debbie Chenoweth
    March 25, 2016 at 7:35 pm (6 years ago)

    I would use it for suggestions for good old fashion embroidery.

  14. Julie
    March 25, 2016 at 8:32 pm (6 years ago)

    I am experimenting with combining quilting and embroidery so I will learn from this book! Thanks for the chance to win.

  15. Diane B
    March 26, 2016 at 7:14 am (6 years ago)

    Right on time, as thoughts and sketches are in my head to design my own quilt label. Broke out my old embroidery hoop and some floss to practice recently and finished two dish towels:) Of course I’d keep this book for me and stitch up gifts too. Thank you so much.

  16. Cindy
    March 26, 2016 at 10:19 am (6 years ago)

    Can’t wait to try some of your fantastic ideas in the book! So inspiring! Thank you for the chance to win!

  17. Cheryl Robinson
    March 26, 2016 at 12:08 pm (6 years ago)

    Being a visual crafter, your book would help me create beautiful Hand made labels for my quilts or gift tags for special people. Love your envelope tutorial!

  18. Katelyn
    March 26, 2016 at 12:15 pm (6 years ago)

    Thank you for the lovely tutorial! I would use the book to improve my fledgling embroidery skills, and get lots of visual inspiration for future projects!

  19. Pam
    March 26, 2016 at 4:31 pm (6 years ago)

    This book looks like it would be great for making custom quilt labels for those special quilt gifts.

  20. Holly Fitzpatrick
    March 26, 2016 at 5:28 pm (6 years ago)

    Great idea and my embroidery skills could use some refinements.

  21. Chris
    March 26, 2016 at 9:01 pm (6 years ago)

    I would love to win a copy. I need a refresher course before I start my snowmen. Good idea with the label.

  22. Lauren
    March 26, 2016 at 9:22 pm (6 years ago)

    Would love to broswe through the pictures. Quilt labels are a great idea.

  23. Margo
    March 27, 2016 at 10:58 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks for the great tutorial! I have never done an embroidered label. I think that it’s the way I’m going to go! Thanks for the chance to win!

  24. Charlene Cuhaciyan
    March 28, 2016 at 3:51 am (6 years ago)

    Pen to Thread-Thread to Pen; I love it. What a marvelous way to explain how you use thread to “write”. I would love to be able to write a story about each quilt, and why it goes to the person of my choosing (maybe a poem). It would be beautiful.

  25. Angie Hofmann
    March 28, 2016 at 10:55 am (6 years ago)

    I’d love to do some tea towels. I’ve got a couple of cardigans I want to put some fun motifs on as well. This is a handy book, I saw it a couple weeks ago in a fabric store and I didn’t get it then, now I wish I had.

  26. sarah
    March 28, 2016 at 11:13 am (6 years ago)

    I would love to make gifts! Tea towels, wall hangings , my wheels are turning!!

  27. Nancy
    March 28, 2016 at 11:16 am (6 years ago)

    I would use these for quilt labeling and gift embellishments.

  28. Charli stagg
    March 28, 2016 at 11:21 am (6 years ago)

    I am hand making all the gifts for my bridesmaids this June! This is perfect inspiration for that added personal touch ☺️

    • admin
      March 29, 2016 at 4:44 pm (6 years ago)

      Yay, Charli! Congratulations on both counts! I’ll shoot you an e-mail to get your mailing address. Thanks to everyone who entered! generated number

  29. Natalie Huffman
    March 28, 2016 at 11:28 am (6 years ago)

    I just saw this book at my local book store and added it to my wish list. I love all the quirky drawings and I looked very informative in terms of which stitch to use where. I have been wanting to learn embroidery but haven’t found patterns that really appeal to me …until now! I hope to win a copy but if not, I’ll still buy one. Thanks.

  30. Mary on Lake Pulaski
    March 28, 2016 at 11:34 am (6 years ago)

    Can’t wait to embroider my own quilt labels!

  31. Holly S
    March 28, 2016 at 2:03 pm (6 years ago)

    I would love some new embroidery patterns! I have not thought to make quilt labels using embroidery…I usually hand write and iron on my labels. I have not seen this book but definitely a adding it to my list of must have books because I love hand drawn patterns!!

  32. Kylie
    March 28, 2016 at 3:51 pm (6 years ago)

    I would love to use this to make wall decor for our new homeschool room with my daughter! She made her first embroidery project recently (a purple tree LOL) and would absolutely adore this. Her 5th birthday is coming up too!

  33. Katie
    March 28, 2016 at 3:55 pm (6 years ago)

    I love the idea of an embroidered quilt label. And I need a handwork project that I can travel with.

  34. June G
    March 28, 2016 at 10:58 pm (6 years ago)

    This is a fun idea. I should make a label too.

  35. Ana Paula Miyagi
    March 29, 2016 at 7:22 am (6 years ago)

    Not a USA resident. But have a friend that lives there. So she can send me… Met Sarah here in Brazil and love her work!

  36. Shasta
    April 1, 2016 at 5:37 am (6 years ago)

    This looks like a great book. Thanks for the tutorial.