Cactus Love Embroidery (Download the Pattern)

Hello! Sarah of Sarah K. Benning Studios here to share a fun and (relatively) simple DIY embroidery project with you! I am a contemporary embroidery artist dedicated to creating original stitched works of art, writing monthly designs for my #SKBDIY Pattern Program, and sharing my knowledge through workshops and tutorials. I want to fill you in on my stitching philosophy: I believe embroidery—and really all DIY craft projects—should be fun and fulfilling. Seems pretty obvious. But embroidery is often entrenched in tradition, picky techniques and rules, and a perception that it is a musty old granny craft dedicated to dancing angels and stiff florals. SO NOT TRUE!

Embroidery is going through such a renaissance lately and is emerging as a vibrant and varied contemporary craft solidly situated in the 21st century due to updated imagery, social media, and the shucking of the stuffier rules and expectations.

So, I hope you can dive in, embrace the process, explore your creativity, and remember that if you are new to this, it all gets easier with a little patience and practice. I know that’s a cliché, but some things are clichés for a reason.

-Cactus Love Template
7-inch embroidery hoop
-9 x 9 inch piece of cotton fabric
Thread scissors
-Sharp fabric scissors
DMC embroidery floss (Colors: 3819, 704, 911, 699, 3826, 3820, 977, 729, 347, 304, 3831, 3350)
Craft glue

Of course, the first step is to get your design from paper or screen onto fabric. I like to keep things as low tech and simple as possible. Despite this transfer method’s name, you do not actually need a light box—and if you’ve selected a thin/light enough fabric, you probably don’t even need a bright window. The idea is to completely cover your under-drawing with stitches, so there is no real need to be fancy with special fabric pens or markers (though if you already have them and love them, use them!). Pencil is perfect for me.

Light Box Transfer Method:

1. Tape the printed pattern to a light-box, bright window or even your computer screen (no printing or tape needed!).

2. Front side down, hold your hoop + stretched fabric over the pattern, positioning the pattern in the center of the hoop.

3. Using a soft pencil, trace the design onto the fabric with as much or as little detail as you think you need.

4. Your tracing will now be on the inside of your hoop on the back of the fabric. Remove the outer hoop and fabric. Flip your fabric over and re-position with the transferred pattern on the front. Re-stretch your fabric and make sure none of your pencil lines overlap the edge of the inner hoop.    

Time to Stitch:

Step 1: Fill each heart with your chosen greens, creating parallel vertical stitches. Keep your stitches as close together as you can to create a flat area of green on top of which you can add some extra texture and pattern with the cactus prickles. This filling stitch is called satin stitch.

Step 2: Once your hearts have been filled, choose a contrasting color and create little ‘saddle stitches’ on top of your satin stitch. This stage is quite intuitive and you can let your design sensibilities run wild! Add tons of prickles densely packed together for a lot of texture, or keep things minimal with sparsely scattered details—this is your project, make it how you want to!

Step 3: Add the flowers and you’re finished with the stitching!

And in case you want a bit more instruction, here is a cactus stitching guide that may help.

Finishing Up:

1. Trim the excess fabric from around your hoop with sharp scissors, leaving about a 1/4 inch of cloth. 

2. Turn your hoop over and carefully run a bead of glue around the top edge of the inner hoop and press the remaining 1/4 inch of fabric down. Any fabric-friendly crafting glue is fine. When the glue is dry, your piece is ready to hang!

WOOHOO! You’ve completed all of the sewing and hopefully you enjoyed the process!

Remember, if anything is looking a little wonky, you can always cut the stitches out and try again. Unlike drawing or painting, very little in embroidery is irreversible and mistakes can always be fixed! Plus, the more you practice, the better you will be. Now the only thing left to do is share your work on Instagram with the hashtags #SKBdiy and #ABMcrafty! And of course, if you find yourself hungry for more contemporary embroidery projects, look no further than my monthly Pattern Program. Happy stitching! -Sarah

P.S. This is Sarah’s first contributing post with us (and boy, are we happy to have her!) if you’d like to learn more about Sarah and her work, go to or follow along on Instagram @sarahkbenning.

Credits // Author and Photography: Sarah K. Benning. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.