Stitching Heirloom Embroidery: Tips for Realistic Results

Heirloom embroidery is so beautiful and these tips help to make the time-honored style even more traditional.

One of the reasons I like heirloom embroidery so much is because of the history and the beauty of the handwork. Fortunately, modern embroidery machines make it so easy for us to replicate that nostalgia. These tips will help make your heirloom designs look the part.


Silk dupioni has a gorgeous sheen and is an elegant background for Pamelas Joy Quilt Blocks from Graceful Embroidery.

Old linens are another wonderful item to embroider. This single-letter monogram, part of the Heirloom Alphabet by Artistic Designs, was stitched on a Damask napkin.

Linen is another traditional heirloom fabric. Whether it is 100 percent linen or a linen blend, such as this one behind Crazy Quilt Hearts Part 1 by Molly Mine, the look is pure heirloom.


Thread also plays a role in heirloom embroidery in both color, type, and weight.

Monotone designs, like Blue Onion Decor by Ace Points Embroidery, take the form of bluework, redwork, whitework, blackwork, and goldwork.

When not stitched in a single color, most heirloom designs are typically pastel colors as in Arabella Bullion 2 from Graceful Embroidery.

Poly, rayon, and silk are beautiful for floral designs like Potpourri from Enigma Embroidery.

For a traditional redwork design, like Redwork Flowers 5 from Dainty Stitches, a heavier weight thread, like 30 wt. or 12 wt., makes the machine design look more like traditional hand embroidery.

When stitching with a finer thread, 60 wt. or 100 wt., a smaller needle will keep designs more delicate. With heavier weight threads, a larger needle will work best.

How do you prefer to stitch heirloom designs?