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1. What is embroidery?

What is embroidery? How to get started in 2024

Updated Jan 15 2024

In an era where digital content seems to reign supreme, the tactile allure of embroidery stands out as a refreshing contrast. This ancient art form, with roots that thread back thousands of years, is making a resurgent splash in the online marketplace. For entrepreneurs and artists, embroidery represents more than just stitched fabric; it's an opportunity to weave their creativity into tangible, wearable art pieces that customers crave. Whether you're a seasoned artisan or a newbie looking to turn your creative impulses into profitable ventures, 2024 is proving to be a pivotal time for online embroidered merchandise. Dive into the vibrant world of embroidery, learn its intricacies, and discover how you can create amazing products and sell them online without any hassle.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Embroidery is an ancient art form where fabric is decorated using thread/yarn applied with a needle. It can be enriched with beads, sequins, and more.

  • Embroidery has historical roots dating back to the Iron Age. Over centuries, it transformed from a domestic craft to a symbol of status. The 19th century introduced machine embroidery. By 2024, a blend of tradition and digital innovation will dominate the space.

  • For quality embroidery, tools like hoops, needles, threads, and stabilizers are crucial. Successful designs merge simplicity with trending colors. Feedback and trend awareness ensure products resonate with consumers.

  • Platforms like Etsy, Shopify, and WooCommerce facilitate online sales. Effective product presentation through quality photography is key.

  • Proper pricing considers both costs and market research. 2023's trending themes include abstract designs, upcycling, cultural fusion, celestial motifs, and mental health awareness.

  • Platforms like Gelato offer embroiderers a chance to globalize their brand, ensuring streamlined processes, quality assurance, and profitable ecommerce businesses. Leveraging such platforms can usher in a new era of scalable and efficient embroidery business operations.

What is embroidery?


Embroidery is the craft of decorating fabric or other materials using a needle to apply thread or yarn. Embellishments, such as pearls, beads, quills, and sequins, can also be incorporated. It can be seen in every culture worldwide, from China's delicate silks to Mexican textiles' vibrant patterns.

A brief history of embroidery

The art of embroidery dates back to the Iron Age, with its earliest surviving examples found in China from the 5th-3rd century BC. Over time, embroidery became not just a domestic craft but an art form, symbolizing status, wealth, and even beliefs.

The Middle Ages saw the rise of embroidered church vestments in Europe. By the Renaissance, it had become an essential skill for women of high social standing. The Industrial Revolution in the 19th century changed the landscape of embroidery with the invention of the sewing machine, making production faster and more accessible.

The significance of embroidery

Embroidery holds significance beyond being just an art or a craft. For many cultures, it tells stories, marks special occasions, or identifies a particular group or region. The patterns, basic embroidery stitches (chain stitch, cross stitch, satin stitch, blanket stitch, stem stitch, split stitch, running stitch, etc.), and colors can convey meanings and messages.

Embroidery is a vast and intricate art form, encompassing a myriad of styles and techniques. Different types of embroidery include surface embroidery, counted thread embroidery, whitework embroidery, crewel embroidery, and more.

Embroidery in the contemporary world

In 2024, the world of embroidery is a mix of tradition and innovation. While basic hand embroidery stitches remains a cherished skill, digital innovations like computerized embroidery machines and design software have transformed the landscape.

Fashion designers incorporate embroidery into haute couture and everyday wear. Contemporary artists are also utilizing embroidery as a medium for self-expression, pushing the boundaries of what's possible with needle and thread.

Essential tools and equipment for embroidery business


Embroidery, like any craft, requires specialized tools and equipment to produce high-quality work, especially when intending to sell online. As an entrepreneur or artist, investing in the right tools can make all the difference in the final product's quality and your workflow's efficiency.

  1. Embroidery hoops: These keep the fabric taut while stitching, ensuring precision and consistency. They come in various sizes to accommodate different project dimensions.

  2. Needles: Different fabrics and threads require specific needles. A good assortment, including ballpoint and sharp needles, is crucial.

  3. Threads: Invest in quality embroidery threads in various colors. Polyester and rayon are popular choices due to their sheen and strength.

  4. Stabilizers: These materials support your fabric, preventing puckering or distortion. They're available in various types, like cut-away, tear-away, and wash-away.

  5. Scissors: Precision scissors, specifically for embroidery, help trim threads close to the fabric without causing damage.

  6. Storage solutions: Organizing threads, needles, and other small accessories can make the embroidery process smoother and more efficient.

  7. Water-soluble markers or pencils will be your best friend in sketching out or transferring designs onto your chosen fabric.

Designing for your target audience

In the vast world of online merchandise, it's essential to ensure your embroidered creations resonate with your intended audience. Creating a design that appeals directly to your target market can be the difference between a sold-out product and an inventory that collects dust. Here's how you can align your embroidery designs with your target audience's interests and needs.

Identifying niche markets in the embroidery space

The beauty of embroidery lies in its versatility. From intricate floral designs to pop culture references, the possibilities are endless. Finding a niche can help your brand stand out:

  1. Pop culture and fandom: Movies, TV shows, books, and even memes provide rich inspiration. Crafting designs around popular characters or quotes can attract a passionate fanbase.

  2. Nature and wildlife: With growing ecological awareness, designs highlighting nature, animals, or sustainability can resonate with eco-conscious consumers.

  3. Personalized and customized: Offering personalized monograms, names, or dates can make your products giftable and special.

  4. Local and cultural: Highlighting local landmarks, traditions, or cultural symbols can appeal to those who cherish their heritage or love to travel.

Tips for creating compelling and sellable designs

Designing for sales involves more than just creativity. Here's how to ensure your designs aren't just beautiful but also marketable:

  1. Simplicity is key: Especially for beginners, less intricate designs can be quicker to produce and often resonate due to their minimalist appeal.

  2. Use vibrant and trendy colors: Stay updated on color trends. A contemporary palette can make a classic design feel modern.

  3. Quality over quantity: Rather than churning out multiple designs, focus on creating a few impeccable ones that can be your signature.

  4. Versatility: Ensure your designs can be adapted to various products, from apparel to tote bags, to expand your potential product range.

Incorporating feedback and trends to refine your offerings

Staying agile and responsive to feedback is key to long-term success:

  1. Engage with your audience: Use platforms like Instagram or Etsy to seek feedback. Polls, Q&A sessions, or comments can be invaluable.

  2. Stay updated on trends: Whether it's a trending color, pattern, or theme, being in the know can keep your designs relevant.

  3. Analyze sales data: Which designs sell the most? Which ones receive the best reviews? Use this data to refine your future offerings.

  4. Attend workshops and webinars: Continuously hone your skills and learn from other experts in the embroidery space. This will keep your work innovative and fresh.

Selling embroidered merchandise online


The online marketplace offers a global platform for artisans to showcase and sell their embroidered products. But with the vastness of the digital world comes the challenge of standing out and making sales. Here's a guide to successfully selling your embroidered merchandise online in today's competitive space.

Platforms to consider: Etsy, Shopify, WooCommerce, etc.

Selecting the right platform is like choosing a storefront for your business. Each has its unique advantages:

  1. Etsy: Tailored for handmade and unique items, Etsy has a ready audience that appreciates artistry and craftsmanship. Its user-friendly interface is ideal for beginners.

  2. Shopify: A dedicated ecommerce platform, Shopify offers robust tools for inventory management, marketing, and sales analytics. It's perfect for those aiming to scale up their embroidery business.

  3. WooCommerce: An open-source plugin for WordPress, WooCommerce provides flexibility for those who want to build and customize their online store. With its extensive features, it's suitable for both small and large businesses.

  4. Others: Platforms like Squarespace or Wix offer varying degrees of customization and functionality, depending on your needs.

Presentation and photography: Showcasing your art

Your online presentation can make or break a sale. Here's how to capture your art's essence:

  1. Natural lighting: Photograph your products in soft, natural light to highlight the embroidery's details and colors.

  2. Consistent aesthetics: Whether you opt for a minimalist white background or a thematic setup, ensure consistency across product photos for a cohesive shop look.

  3. Multiple angles: Showcase your embroidery from various angles, giving potential buyers a comprehensive view.

  4. Close-ups: Highlight the intricacy of your work with close-up shots, focusing on the stitches and patterns.

  5. Lifestyle shots: Display the product in real-life settings (e.g., an embroidered tote bag being used) to help customers visualize its use.

Pricing strategies for a competitive market

Pricing is a delicate balance of covering costs, ensuring profitability, and offering value:

  1. Cost analysis: Break down all costs involved – materials, tools, overheads, platform fees, shipping, and your time.

  2. Market research: Scout competitors' prices. Are you offering something unique that might warrant a premium price, or is a competitive price more strategic?

  3. Perceived value: Handcrafted items often have a higher perceived value due to their uniqueness and the artisan's skill. Don't undersell your work.

  4. Dynamic pricing: Occasionally offer discounts or bundle deals to attract more customers while ensuring it doesn't compromise your profit margins.

  5. Review and adjust: As your skills grow and the market evolves, revisit your pricing strategy to stay relevant and profitable.

Trending embroidery patterns and themes to sell in 2024

  1. Abstract and geometric designs: Moving away from traditional floral and fauna motifs, 2024 sees a surge in abstract patterns. Think bold geometric shapes, unconventional lines, and vibrant color blocks that capture the essence of modern art movements.

  2. Upcycling with embroidery: With sustainability in vogue, repurposing old clothes with fresh, embroidered designs is trending. It's all about adding personalized touches to worn-out garments, giving them new life, and reducing waste.

  3. Cultural fusion: As the world becomes more interconnected, embroiderers draw inspiration from cultures beyond their own. This melding of patterns, symbols, and embroidery techniques from different cultures creates designs that narrate global stories.

  4. Celestial themes: Moon phases, star clusters, and intricate zodiac signs are a hit this year. These ethereal patterns, often done in metallic or glow-in-the-dark threads, resonate with a universal curiosity about the cosmos.

  5. Mental health awareness: With an increasing global emphasis on mental health, embroiderers are crafting designs that spread awareness or express personal mental health journeys. This trend includes messages of hope, intricate brain patterns, or simple calming motifs like serene landscapes.

Leverage Gelato's global print on demand and embroidery platform

Gelato's embroidery platform revolutionizes the way creative entrepreneurs can expand their reach and sell products globally. By integrating advanced embroidery technology with a vast logistics network, Gelato enables sellers to offer custom-designed merchandise without the burdens of inventory management or international shipping. With just a design in hand, individuals and businesses can tap into a worldwide market, as Gelato handles the intricate aspects of production, quality assurance, and fulfillment.

Gelato has partnerships with over 100 print facilities in 34 countries. This massive network ensures that your products are produced closer to your customers, resulting in faster deliveries and reduced shipping costs. Additionally, Gelato offers various products that can be embroidered to your customer's liking, including t-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, sportswear, long sleeve shirts, and more. This flexibility lets businesses cater to diverse markets and customer preferences. Gelato's support team is always ready to assist with any queries or issues, ensuring smooth operations for your business.

Gelato offers a pathway to a global print on demand and embroidery platform so you can make your brand global. Sign up for Gelato today.


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