Next time you feel your embroidery is taking too long, remind yourself that embroidering is more of a marathon than a sprint. It requires a lot of training and several stages until you cross the finish line. I’ve outlined the timeline I followed for this fruit sampler—the whole run took me around 40 days!

Motif. I used a design I had created years before for block-printing. The clean lines and geometric shapes offered enough surface for practising and allowed to render each fruit freely in the stitch’s own language. Tip: Out of ideas? Check the patterns in your upholstered furniture, pillow covers, totes and see which ones you can use for embroidering.

Colour. I visited the Design Episodes exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago and immediately loved the colours of this bold teapot (Fleetline by Peter Shire for Memphis). I took a picture and kept it for my reference (I can’t resist a combination with blue, pink and neutrals). Tip: In my book Colour Confident Stitching you can find a step-by-step guide to capture and use colours from inspiring sources.

Stitch plan. Using an outline of the motif, I decided on the stitches I’d use in each section and the direction they’d take. I considered the texture each stitch brought into the composition and positioned them so as to get a balanced piece.

Tracing. I cut out the motifs from thick paper with a fine utility knife; I then use every cut piece as a stencil or template to trace the whole design (this helps to keep a clean line when tracing on fabric as compared to doing it freehand).

Stitch sequence. If I’m teaching, the order goes from easiest to most complex. For other cases, I start with flat stitches and leave more textured or delicate ones for the end or start with stitches from background shapes and move toward foreground elements.

Ready to go? See below how my students did with the sampler! Some of them finished almost in time while others took a slower pace. One of them complained that stranded and pearl cotton were too thin for her to see and stitch comfortably. So I suggested that she blew everything up: use wool yarn instead of embroidery floss and stitch the enlarged motifs on an open weave fabric (such as linen) so she could work at a totally different dimension. And it worked!





I’m so happy to finally announce that my first book Colour Confident Stitching is ready! It’s been loooong months of work so being able to actually touch it and browse through its pages feels like a dream come true.

Colour Confident Stitching will help you create beautiful colour palettes for your projects. It does not matter how many times you feel you have failed in the past when choosing colours. The good news is that colour is a skill that can be learned. We all have the potential to shine just by learning the process and putting it into practice. Although the focus here is embroidery, the theory and process of creating colour palettes has many potential applications beyond stitching.

Get started with this book that brings together tips on how to discover and dissect a world of colour and harmony into palettes, grids and stitches to build your own interpretation. Through a simple and yet thorough understanding of color theory, I share concepts, tools and explanations to recognise, understand and combine colours that can be applied to any kind of creative project. Colour Confident Stitching walks you through wonderful visual narratives that were conceived especially for this book. With my camera I take you on a trip around the streets, into the home and those small surprises that provide vivid examples of the core premise: anyone can train to capture and build their own colour palettes.

Colour Confident Stitching : How to Create Beautiful Colour Palettes
by Karen Barbé

Paperback, 128 pages
The Pimpernel Press
London, United Kingdom
Language: English

The publication date is March 2nd, 2017 but you can pre-order it now from these online shops:
Book Depository



Colour Confident Stitching is my first book and I have dedicated it to my niece Violeta because I love her so much and because I wanted to honour all the moments we’ve spent together colouring with pencils and recognising colours in things, flowers and animals. I’m not sure if she understands this now but this is my way of handing down to her my passion for colour and embroidery.


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BLOG / December 22 2016

Colour Confident | Palette Nº3

The days leading up to Christmas must be the time of the year I love the most: sunny and long days, warm evenings spent in a terrace drinking something, twinkling garlands everywhere. So I thought this palette should bring a bit of each thing: palette Nº3 tells about a relaxed celebration amongst the glitter of metallic threads, the freshness of a summer cocktail and the warmth of an evening shared with family and friends.

Have you already seen the tutorial of these cardboard stars?


Creo que el momento que más me gusta del año son los días previos a la Navidad: días soleados y largos, noches tibias en una terraza tomando algo, guirnaldas de lucecitas por todas partes. Así que pensé que esta paleta debiera tener un poco de todo eso: la paleta Nº3  cuenta sobre una celebración relajada en medio de los brillos de los hilos metálicos, la frescura de un cóctel refrescante de verano y la calidez de una tarde compartida con la familia y amigos.

¿Ya viste el tutorial para hacer estas estrellitas de cartón?



DMC E898 – Dark Oak (metallic)

DMC 433 – Brown Medium

DMC 3776 –  Mahogany Light

DMC E3821 – Light Gold (metallic)

DMC 964 – Sea Green Light

DMC 958 – Sea Green Dark

DMC E3849 – Aquamarine Blue (metallic)




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BLOG / December 14 2016

How-to | Christmas stars

I thought of making these quick and easy stars to add a hint of light to any Christmas gift, card, ornament, wreath… anywhere really! As usual, I’m working with my favourite material (cereal box cardboard) but you can choose any other cardboard you like.


• Make copies of the stars template. Download the file here.

• Cut a rough circle around each star in the printed paper. Cut the circles slightly larger than the star shape.

• Arrange and attach the circles on the cardboard using a small piece of double sided tape in the centre of the shape. Do this on the wrong side of your cardboard in order to avoid any damage on the cardboard once we remove the template (note that, as I used the brown side of the cereal box, I attached the circles on the right side).

• Using scissors and/or an utility knife, cut the star following the lines of the template. The piece of double sided tape will keep the template in place while you cut out the shape. Once you’ve cut all sides, carefully remove the paper template.

• Leaving a 8 cm/3″ tail on the back, start winding a length of knitting cotton yarn (I like this one because it builds a nice structure on the star but you can try any kind of yarn or thread) around the inner angles of the star. You can see the how to wind the yarn in this video. Once you’ve joined all the pairs of angles, tie a knot with both tails of yarn on the back side. Weave in the tails through the back using a large blunt needle; cut ends.

• You are ready now!


Se me ocurrió hacer estas estrellas rápidas y fáciles para darle un toque de luz a cualquier regalo de Navidad, tarjeta, adorno, corona… ¡lo que sea! Como siempre, estoy usando mi material favorito (cartón de caja de cereal) pero puedes ocupar el cartón que más te guste.


• Imprime la plantilla con las estrellas. El archivo lo puedes descargar aquí.

• Corta un círculo alrededor de cada estrella. Los círculos, que no tienen que ser perfectos, tienen que ser ligeramente más grandes que la estrella.

• Distribuye y pega los círculos sobre el cartón usando un pedacito de cinta doble faz en el centro de la figura. Tienes que pegar los círculos por el lado del revés del cartón en caso que al despegar las plantillas la cinta dañara el cartón (fíjate que, como he usado el lado marrón de la caja de cereal, he pegado los círculos por el lado derecho).

• Usando tijeras o una cuchilla fina para cartones, corta las estrellas siguiendo las líneas del papel. El pedacito de cinta adhesiva mantendrá la plantilla en su sitio mientras cortas las figuras. Una vez que hayas cortado todos los lados, despega el molde cuidadosamente.

• Deja una cola de hilo de 8 cm por el revés y empieza a devanar el hilo de algodón (aquí ocupé un algodón para tejer porque le da una buena estructura a la estrella pero puedes probar cualquier otro hilo o lana) alrededor de todas los ángulos internos de la estrella. En este video puedes ver cómo se hace. Una vez que hayas unido todos los pares de ángulos, haz un nudo por el revés con ambas colas de hilo. Enhebra estas colas en una aguja grande sin punta y pásala entremedio de los hilos del revés; corta las puntas.

• ¡Y estamos listos!


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BLOG / December 12 2016

Colour Confident | Palette Nº2

The palette Nº2 is the colour story of a serene spring afternoon making tea.

Last year I did the embroidered piece shown below (showing the wrong side) while I was at the Royal School of Needlework. I took this same main image as a reference and embroidered it on canvas employing different stitches. One of the requirements for that piece is that it rendered the image in a very realist fashion, presenting faithfully the shapes and their colours, highlights and shadows (something that, I confess, I don’t particularly enjoy from an aesthetic point of view). And well, to that end you had to use lots of colours and materials; in fact, the finished piece included cotton floss, wool yarn and metallic threads. However, the palette Nº2—by means of these eight shades (two blues, one yellow, two pinks and three beige/brown)—is focused more on expressing the fresh glow of that spring afternoon rather than portraying realistically the scene. The emphasis is placed on the pink tones but you can always adapt the palette to your own taste by using the blue or beige/brown shades as the main colour.


La paleta Nº2 es la historia de color de una tarde tranquila de primavera preparando té.

La pieza bordada que aparece abajo (mostrando el revés) la realicé el año pasado mientras estuve en el Royal School of Needlework. Tomé esta misma imagen principal como referencia y la bordé con diversos puntos sobre esterilla (cañamazo). El requerimiento para esa pieza es que fuera bastante realista en el sentido de representar fielmente las formas con sus colores, brillos y sombras (algo que, confieso, no me acomoda mucho desde un punto de vista estético). Y bueno, para lograr el efecto había que utilizar gran cantidad de colores y materiales; de hecho, la pieza terminada incluye hilos de algodón, lana e hilos metalizados. Sin embargo, la paleta Nº2 se encarga, más que de retratar realísticamente la escena, de expresar la frescura de esa tarde primaveral a través de ocho colores (dos azules, un amarillo, dos rosados y tres beige/marrón). El énfasis está puesto en los tonos rosa pero puedes adaptar la paleta a tu gusto dejando los tonos de azul o marrón como color dominante.



DMC 796 – Royal Blue Dark

DMC 797 – Royal Blue

DMC 973 – Canary Bright

DMC 3733 – Dusty Rose

DMC 963 – Dusty Rose Ultra very Light

DMC 842 – Beige Brown Very Light

DMC 840 – Beige Brown Medium

DMC 838 – Beige Brown Very Dark


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