Introducing this month's embroidery challenge: the buttonhole stitch. Perfect for edging, outlining and filling, here it's been used to create shimmering scales that subtly curve to give the illusion of movement. Satin thread also adds a hint of shine, while the six-strand provides a solid filling for the mermaids' flowing locks and sweet little fishes.
- Fabric: white cotton, 19cm x 110cm; blue patterned, 31cm x 110cm
- DMC Perle Cotton, one skein, purple (4215)
- DMC Satin, one skein, turquoise (S943), blue (S995)
- Six-stranded embroidery thread, one skein of each: orange, tangerine, peach, pale peach, black, green, rose pink, turquoise blue, golden yellow
- Elastic, 12mm x 55cm
- Blue ric rac braid, 1.1m
- Erasable pen
- Embroidery needle
- Embroidery hoop
- Age 7-8 years
Draw a shape using an erasable marker, then outline in backstitch. To make the first row, push the needle up through the fabric on the lefthand edge of the outline, near the top, then down through the fabric on the upper edge.
Bring it out a stitch length below, taking the tip of the needle under the loop of thread. Take the needle up through the loop and pull to tighten; the vertical thread is now held by a small horizontal bar below. Continue along the top of the shape.
Make a second row, taking the needle down through the fabric just above the bar of the stitch above, to link the rows. Continue, working odd-numbered rows from left to right and even-numbered rows from right to left.
Embroider the design
Download and print the template at sewmag.co.uk. Fold white cotton in half to find the centre, then place it flat on a surface and trace the mermaid design in the centre. Position it 3cm from the top edge to allow for a seam allowance, and 5.5cm from the lower edge to make room for the hem.
Place a section of the cotton in an embroidery hoop, then outline the mermaid tails in backstitch using perle thread. Fill in the tails following the buttonhole step-by-step, varying the width and length of the stitches to create curved lines.The fluke on the ends should be embroidered with rows of backstitch using perle thread.
Fill in the bra shapes using two strands of satin thread with satin stitch. With two strands of pale peach, complete the bodies, arms and faces using rows of split stitch. Using one strand of green, outline the bodies and arms in backstitch.
Colour the hair using two strands of thread in split stitch: peach for one, orange for the other. Using one strand of thread, fill in the iris of the eyes using turquoise blue, then outline the eyes and embroider eyebrows and nostrils using black thread and backstitch. Add mouths in pink with a line of black separating the lips.
Using two strands of thread in satin stitch, sew with tangerine for the bodies and golden yellow for the heads, tails and fins. Once you’ve finished, immerse the fabric in cool water to remove all pen lines. Leave to dry, then press on the wrong side.
Make the skirt
Join the top edge of the embroidered fabric to one long edge of the patterned fabric, leaving a 1cm seam. Press the seam towards the patterned fabric, then topstitch 2mm from the seam line. Sew the two short ends together to form the back seam.
On the top edge of the skirt, fold 1cm to the wrong side, then a further 3cm. Stitch 2-3mm from both edges of this waistband to create a channel, leaving a small gap for inserting elastic.
Thread the elastic through the channel using a safety pin. Stitch the ends of the elastic together and sew the gap in the waistband closed. Finish the lower edge of the skirt with a narrow hem. Do this by folding 8mm to the wrong side, then a further 1cm, and sew. Pin the length of ric rac braid over the stitch line on the right side and sew in place.