© 2017 Anna Hultin



One of the biggest things that separates amateur stitchers from experienced stitchers is whether your finished product is warped and wrinkled or flat and smooth. For my first year or so of stitching I worked diligently to try my absolute best to keep my fabric smooth, but still somehow ended up with occasional wrinkles in my hoops. After much trial and error, I am happily sharing with you three incredibly simple and (somewhat) fail-proof methods to keep that fabric smooth (and they involve absotutely no ironing).

Tip #1: The "No-brainer"

Keep the fabric inside your hoop as tight as humanly possible while you stitch. Do this by pulling it tight and then tighten your brass hardware to keep it in place. Make sure to keep a close eye on your fabric and readjust by pulling it tight as it (inevitably) loosens and bunches on you as you stitch. I typically pull my fabric tight every time I switch threads or stitches.

Tip #2: The "Keep it Loose"

Don’t over tighten your stitches!! I used to think that I wanted my stitches to be pulled as tight as possible; well I was WRONG. You want them to be taut not tight. When you over tighten them it bunches the fabric and even the best of stitchers can’t make that go away. Be especially mindful with long stitches as even the slightest tightness makes this happen.

Tip #3: The "Best Kept Secret"

This is my all time favorite embroidery tip I'll ever share with you. After about 2 years of embroidering I discovered this and now I do it to every single hoop I make. Once you are done stitching and you’ve cinched your hoop fabric in the back (but before you back with felt, if you’re doing that), run your water and get it as hot as possible. Then run your hoop under the water for about 5 seconds making sure to get all of the fabric equally wet. Set it to dry sitting upright on top of a clean towel. This not only removes that pesky water soluble marker (goodbye random blue stains) but it sort of shrinks your fabric making it tight, smooth and beautiful inside your hoop.

Updated: Jan 24

Can you briefly describe what your studio practice looks like? Walk us through what goes into making a single piece.

I'm a fiber artist, and I create embroidered pieces that simulate woven and textured creations. I started my journey as a fiber artist some years ago exploring loom weaving and then ventured into embroidery. I loved the volume and organic textures you can achieve through weaving on a loom, but felt a little creatively staggered, just because when you weave you usually have to go row by row, so you have to plan ahead. I then tried embroidery but felt textures were too flat. So I decided to mix the two techniques together and try to recreate a woven piece's volume by the way of embroidering, and that's how I came about my style and craft.

When I make a new piece, I usually start with an idea in mind, sometimes it’s a texture that inspired me or a color scheme that I imagined. I do a very light sketch, just to figure out proportions and the general movement of the piece. After I’ve selected the materials (usually more than I’ll use) I start playing with them over the canvas to see how they mix and blend. Once I like the combination, I’ll start on one side of the canvas, with the most dominant feature of my design or the texture that I’m most certain about. Then I jump from side to side embroidering different parts, and trying to figure out the composition. That’s just how ideas come to my mind, the freedom of the technique is what makes me more creative. The fact that I don’t have a set of steps I have to follow, is what makes my process very flexible, changing and modifying things as I go. Then I’ll keep on working and embroidering using different stitches to create interesting textures. I usually stop several times in the process to look at the piece from afar to check proportions and overall design.

Can you tell us about a piece that didn’t go according to plan and how you handled it?

I’ve had a couple of pieces that didn’t go according to plan. I always start with an idea, a sketch or concept in my mind, but they don't always translate to reality the way I envisioned them. Especially when you are working with fibers and textiles, you are not only creating composition and color, but you have to have in mind texture and volume as well. Sometimes a texture overpowers the whole composition, so you have to take out.

In those situations I just take everything down and start over with the parts of the piece that I liked. The good thing about my craft, is that if you make a mistake or want to change something you can do it at any time in the process without having to through everything away. I’ve even had several pieces that I’ve completely finished and then redone entirely.

What is your favorite part of your artistic process?

I think my favorite part of the whole process would be when I’m imagining a new piece. I daydream of creating textures and forms and start building a concept in my mind, where everything is possible. Also selecting the materials I’ll use in the piece, I love touching and feeling the materials and let them talk to me. And of course, I love the manual process of making the piece. Working the materials on the canvas is so soothing and relaxing. I tend to favor the artistic process over the administration side of my trade, to the point that I have to make myself to set a piece aside and concentrate on some computer work.

What is your least favorite part of your artistic process?

I would say the least favorite part of my artistic process is sketching. I usually only do a very vague sketch, with a black pen and no color. I try to sketch general feel and movement of the piece, they work almost like a guide. I usually get too excited to start working on the actual piece that I never completely finish a sketch

What do you consider your most successful work and why?

I think success is very subjective, it can mean a lot of things, the meaning changes depending on the perspective. To me, the most successful work that I create, are the pieces that I think look the best, the ones that I want to keep on staring at. I prefer to think of the pieces that made me the proudest, the pieces that entailed more dedication, the work that made me get out of my comfort zone. That to me is a success, because you not only create something new, but you learned in the process.

Lately, the piece that I've felt the proudest about is a hand-tufted rug I created for an interior design exhibition. It was the first time using a hand tufting gun and creating a piece with it. I learned a lot about the technique and the rug came out beautiful!

Find more of Mariana's work here:

IG/Facebook: @LivingFibers

Website: www.livingfibersart.com

Now that we've walked through the basic idea of setting a price window for yourself and how to find your target audience... now what? How do you decide on an actual price for your work of art (or product, workshop, print, pattern etc)? My favorite method is to take a giant step back and look at your entire year. How much do you hope to make this year from your creative endeavor? These are the steps I use to come up with my prices:

STEP 1: Come Up with Annual Income Goal

How much do you need to make from your business this year? When you’re thinking of this, don’t belittle yourself or your work. Be bold. Set a number that is going to not only let you keep this business going, but keep it sustainable to you personally and financially. Then on the flipside (here comes our “price window” concept again), what is the least you can make from this endeavor this year? When I first started I told myself, “If I make $500 from my Etsy shop this year, I’ll keep it going.” It felt like a personal safety net to me to know that I was going to watch out for myself, and if I didn’t get what I thought I needed, I could find another avenue. Keep in mind that you can have lots of different sources for this income. For example, I don’t just sell my embroidery, I also teach workshops, sell prints, and create downloadable PDF patterns.

STEP 2: Calculate the Hours a Week You Spend Working

Is this a side project or are you taking the full time leap? For me personally, I need it to be a bulky side income to complement my husband’s salary. I take into account that I’m

staying home with my kids and therefore cannot spend all hours of the day working; meaning while my kids are at home, this is a part time job that creates a side income. I usually spend 3 hours a day working, but because embroidering is also my form of relaxation, I usually end up working 7 days a week making it a 20(ish) hour work week.

STEP 3: Estimate How Many Pieces Can Make in a Month

Once you figure out how many hours you are working a week, you should be able to estimate how many pieces you’ll be able to make in a month (it may be how many workshops you can teach, patterns you can make... you get the idea). Let’s just focus on one thing for the sake of this example. Let’s say you figure out you can create 5 pieces of art a month (this is a lot by the way). This will be vastly different for each person and each business and can even vary from year to year or month to month. When I began it took me three times as long to stitch a hoop compared to what I am able to do now. So just remember: this is an estimate.

STEP 4: Calculate Your Prices

Lets say your goal is $10k a year and you know you can get 5 pieces done a month. That means you’ll make (5 pieces X 12 months) 60 pieces a year. Therefore, the average price per piece needs to be about $166. Voila! You now have at least a ballpark of what you need to set your price at. Alas, here comes the age old question: Will your audience actually be able/willing to pay that price for what you’re making? So from here you will need to use your knowledge of your target audience and work with your pricing window to decide on your price. Please remember that if you are surprised by how expensive your price ended up being, don't second guess yourself! Your work is worth it!