Taking on an embroidery journal is a bit daunting, but it is truly such an enjoyable and relaxing project once you get into it. One of the biggest reasons that I’ve seen people oppose starting their own embroidery journal, is because they feel that they don’t live an exciting enough life or may just have trouble coming up with an icon for 365 days of the year. I promise you that it is quite a lot of work, but once you get past the challenge of coming up with a unique icon everyday, you’ll fall in love with the project.
In order to make taking on an embroidery journal a little bit easier, I’ve put together a guide on how I decide on what to stitch each day, whether I have an idea of what direction I’d like to go in or if I am in need of a bit of inspiration.
If you’re looking for additional posts on how to set up your own embroidery journal, then I have exactly what you’re looking for! I’ve written multiple posts on the topic. I’ve also put together an in-depth embroidery journal guide. Available now on Etsy.
How I Design my Icons
I don’t view myself as being an artsy, creative person. I do however design the majority of my icons myself and it’s something that I take pride in. If you decide to take this approach, I really recommend having a sheet of paper nearby so you can do a couple of quick drafts of what you want your icon to look like. On the days where I may be having trouble coming up with an icon, I will use Google images in order to get a reference but still aim to make an original icon.
My icons vary in size greatly from one to the next. My larger icons are around 2×2 cm and I struggled to find many icons bigger than that. On the other hand, my smallest icons are around .05x.05 cm. A healthy journal will have a variety of sized icons. As said in a previous post on spacing out your icons, I like to start off with some large icons at the beginning of the month and fill in the gaps with smaller icons.
A Starting Point
I usually try to stitch the biggest event of the day, or something out of the ordinary. For example, say I went to the doctor’s office, I might embroider a stethoscope, a shot, or a thermometer. Maybe I baked chocolate chip cookies, I may embroider a cookie, a whisk, an apron, etc. A bit more unusual, maybe I had an interview for a job. In this case I might embroider the Zoom logo, a microphone, a brief case, or something else along those lines. There are so many ways that you can interpret a single event, it’s up to you to figure out what the best course of action is for you.
I have several categories of types of icons that I tend to stitch. These vary widely and cover a large range of events. As most things go, this is not a complete list – there are so many different things that you could add to your journal that I’ve never even thought of.
- Food – Honestly, if you take a quick glance at my journal, I’m certain that one of the first things you’ll notice is the sheer amount of stitches relating to food. It’s a great thing to gravitate towards when you’re unsure of what to stitch.
- Phrases – I personally try not to use too many words in my journal, but sometimes they are the best thing to stitch on a given day. The trick here is aiming not to make your writing too large or else it might take up a bit too much space. I’ll normally sketch out the word or phrase I’m aiming to stitch and try to condense it even more as I stitch.
- Current Events – I typically keep my journal focused on what I personally have experienced throughout the year. Occasionally, I will stitch something related to a current event, this is quite rare for me though. However, this is a project that you can mold to you and your experiences. If you want to only stitch current events, you could do that too!
- Rest days – On slow days, I usually stitch something that I watched, something I read, something that I ate, or even something I saw (like a squirrel in the backyard).
- Monotonous work days – These are some of the toughest ones to figure out! I like to do something along the lines of a gear, a briefcase, a stick figure running around, etc. My previous position was as a housekeeping manager, so my stitches are very much related to work: mop and bucket, a broom, a broken house, guest interactions, I think you get the vibe. If anything at all unique happened, that’s typically what I would aim to stitch.
- Something that persists for multiple days – For something like this, I tend to break it up into multiple parts – For example, last Summer I had some treatment for a medical issue that essentially became my life for a couple of months. I ended up breaking up what was going on and embroidering individual things – An X-Ray, an IV drip, a pill bottle, so on and so forth. If you look back on my 2020 journal, you can pretty quickly spot that period due to a collection of medical based icons. I also managed to group all of these stitches together so you could easily see that there was a theme.
- Media – Say that nothing else unique happens on a specific day, but I do manage to finish a book or a TV show. I may go ahead and stitch an icon representing that piece of media! For example, this year I’ve turned into quite an avid reader so I have stitches representing the books Malibu Rising, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Eleanor & Park, and many more. I also have stitches from this year representing the shows and films Luca, I May Destroy You, Julie & Julia, and Fleabag.
- If you’re having a tough time coming up with an icon to stitch, open google and search “______ icon”, so maybe “medical icon” or “Halloween icon” or even “cleaning icon”. You can be as simple or as complex as you like, 9 times out of 10 this works like a charm to bring up suitable results. This is a good way to strike inspiration when you’re stuck on what to stitch for a certain day.
- I’ve seen some others online that are making their own embroidery journals swear by books that are just filled with icons for any which scenario you make encounter. This has never suited me, I’ve always prefered to come up with my own unique icons, but this may work for you.
- Personally, I don’t like to repeat icons. It does occasionally happen on accident, but this is a rule I try to follow. For yourself though, you may feel the need to repeat an icon multiple times! It’s up to you, this is your project and you can set the rules as you deem fit.
While these are just some ideas for icons that are a great starting off point, there are so many more things you could stitch on your journal.
If you plan on starting your own embroidery journal in 2022, please tag me in your photos! I love to see how they come along throughout the year.