Earlier this year, we featured artist, friend, and collaborator, Anna Maria Horner. As that week came to a close, we were inspired by Anna Maria’s elaborate needlepoint projects and decided we would experiment with more involved embroidery techniques ourselves. For our first project, the  Embroidered Flowers T-shirt, we mixed traditional embroidery stitch work with retro patterns using modern silhouettes. We adapted a vintage McCall’s pattern for the floral embroidery design and used the Alabama Chanin T-shirt pattern as the base. The result was relatively simple to complete.

For this project, our Garden Geometry Skirt, inspired by Anna Maria’s pattern of the same name (and available in Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook), we adapted our Swing Skirt, creating intricate embroidery designs on a larger scale. In her book, Anna Maria writes, “this is by far the most straightforward approach I have made toward the traditional way of creating a crewel design.” As she also mentions, the pattern lends itself to enlargement and experimentation. The result is a colorful expression of our experimentation. Make your own Garden Geometry Skirt using fabric and thread colors that suit your personal style. There are stitch and pattern diagrams available in Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook that can help direct your design.


To create the embroidered design:

Enlarge the stencils – Garden Geometry 1 and Garden Geometry 2 – by 50%. Anna Maria recommends transferring the stencil using the “prick and pounce” method. Begin by drawing your design on vellum paper, then prick around the outline of the design using an embroidery needle, poking tiny holes into the vellum about every 1/8” along the edges of the drawing. Arrange your design over the desired spot on your fabric and then “pounce” over the drawn lines, forcing a powder through the pricked holes and onto the fabric. Anna Maria uses chalk dust to line her drawing. (Make sure to brush off excess chalk dust when you are finished.) Peek to make sure your design was transferred onto the fabric, then remove the vellum. Once the vellum is removed, trace the design using a fine pencil or fabric marker.

The diamond shaped flower : for the smaller diamonds along the top of the design, we used a satin stitch for the center and chain stitches for the outside; the surrounding leaves were outlined with a stem stitch, then filled in using a seed stitch; the large center portion and the small leaves at the bottom were made with long and short stitches; the large leaves in the center were outlined with a stem stitch and filled in using a herringbone stitch; all stems were created using a stem stitch (of course).

The round flower: the small circles around the bottom of the design were made using a padded satin stitch; the flower’s stem and the smaller round flower were created using long and short stitches; the leaves on the stem are made using a herringbone stitch; the large flower was made using a buttonhole stitch; the small circular petals are made with an eyelet stitch.


For more information on each of these stitches, consult Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook or Elegant Stitches.

Once you have completed the embroidery on your skirt pieces, assemble using the instructions available in Alabama Stitch Book. The floral pattern will be perfect for any spring or summer event and pairs well with sandals, or bare feet.


Garment – Swing Skirt
Fabric weight – 100% organic lightweight cotton jersey, single layer
Fabric color – Leaf Green
Stencil – Anna Maria Horner’s Garden Geometry
Embroidery technique – Various embroidery stitches, described in Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook and Elegant Stitches
Button Craft thread – Dogwood #115
Seams – Outside Floating
Fold-Over Elastic – Leaf Green

Embroidery Thread – DMC colors 154, 159, 165, 367, 422, 471, 746, 807, 815, 819, 823, 3740, 3743, 3753, 3806, 3809, 3810, 4200


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Click to read 6 comments
  1. Donna

    I was wondering if you used an embroidery hoop for this. I may have overlooked where you said you did or didn’t. I love it! It reminds me of the 70’s when I embroidered just about every piece of clothes I owned.

    1. Alabama

      Hi Donna,
      We don’t use a hoop when embroidering on our cotton jersey, as it can stretch knit fabrics.

  2. Rhonda

    Hi Natalie, I couldn’t find anything in your blog about transferring patterns to card stock or something stronger to save your pattern pieces. But is there a video or something I can read “how to” do this and what to use? Is it in one of your books?

    Thank you so much for your help!

    1. Alabama

      You can have our patterns photocopied at your local printer then tape or spray mount the pieces to card stock, or you can trace around them onto the card stock. This way you keep the original patterns and have your pieces on a strong backing.

  3. Heather

    What do you stabilize the jersey with? I know you wouldn’t want to use a hoop, or the fabric would stretch, and after the embroidery was added, the finished product would be warped. Do you have a tutorial anywhere on how to prep jersey fabrics for elaborate embroidery? Maybe it’s in your books and I just haven’t read that part yet…