How a Piece is Made

How a Piece is Made

This is the story of how one of my pieces is made, from start to finish! My hope is to provide clients with a snapshot of what to expect when they work with me. And, to peel back the (embroidered, ha) curtain behind their pricing and the materials, time, labor, and skill that goes into the creation of each piece. Hopefully, I can provide you with some insight into the care and attention to detail it takes to create each and every project. By choosing to work with me, you are not only investing in a timeless masterpiece, but you are investing in the memory of your beloved pet. And, you are making an investment in me.


A client named Laura reached out to me for a 9”, full color double portrait of her elder dog Ernie and his new “sibling”, Sansa. This was the biggest, most complex portrait I had taken on to date, and I was overjoyed when I saw the wonderful reference photos she sent! Laura wanted to capture Ernie’s elder grey hairs and soulful eyes, and her favorite photo of Sansa giving side-eye was an easy choice to capture her playful personality.


I drafted 2-3 digital sketches, and Lauren favorited this composition. We ended up removing Ernie’s foot bottom left, because it looked weird in the context of their portrait!

Next, I drafted an outline pattern to be printed onto fabric. With a combination of tracing and drawing, I create a sort of “paint-by-numbers” where I define the major features and areas of color that I can use as guideposts while I am stitching.

Then I create a color map! I fill in the outline pattern areas with the primary thread colors I anticipate using in that area. I have developed a system of color palates in my drawing app by translating my embroidery thread colors into hexadecimal codes, so the color map is pretty accurate. There is always way more blending and detail that goes into the actual stitching. But, this process helps me begin mentally translating the colors I see in images from my clients into the colors I have in thread. And, it provides me with a guide to follow as I stitch. There is a lot of visual translation and brainwork involved, and it takes me 3-4 hours, depending on the size.

I emailed the outline and color map to Laura for her feedback and I made tweaks based on her input. Once I start stitching, I cannot make any major changes to the composition or color palates, so it is very important to me that my clients are heavily involved in this phase of the project. I want every single client to be elated with their portrait. 

With the patterns complete and client approved, I moved on to transferring the digital pattern to fabric! I purchase all my fabric locally from a mom-and-pop fabric store in Ridgewood, Queens. I use unbleached cotton or linen in neutral hues for all my embroideries. 

With pieces that are 7” or smaller, I am able to print the patterns directly fabric using my home inkjet printer. With 8” pieces and larger, I use a lightbox to trace the pattern onto fabric using a very sharp pencil. It is very time consuming, taking me 1-2 hours minimum with breaks to avoid fatiguing my eyes. But I have yet to find a better way of transferring large patterns that does not involve rinsing off a sticky stabilizer, and I don’t like how that musses up the fine threads!

At last, the fabric is ready for a working hoop! The working hoop (or stretcher, in the case of a rectangular canvas) is always several inches larger than the dimesions of the piece. This allows me to “save” working threads along the edges of the hoop and any holes or dust marks left behind will be cut away once the piece is moved to a smaller, permanent hoop or stretcher.

The stitching begins! I like to start with the most critical and central parts - the eyes then nose, then move on to the mouth and areas around the mouth. Then chest, then forehead, then ears. I finalize all the blending and add additional layers for highlights and lowlights as needed. Lastly, whiskers and any other tiny details are added with the finest sewing thread.

The actual stitching takes anywhere from 3-8 months or more, depending on the size and complexity of the portrait. Clients can expect me to go a bit quiet during this stretch of time. Rest assured, I’m busily stitching away! I am often juggling several projects at once - this allows me to work on complex, mentally challenging areas when I feel resourced to do so, and more easeful repetitive areas when I’m depleted. There is usually a burst of focus on a particular piece when a project nears completion.

As I neared completion of Ernie and Sansa’s portrait, I reached out to Laura with framing options. When I first began stitching larger portraits, I couldn’t find a hardwood frame that was the quality I wanted for my portraits. I reached out to American Craft Making Solutions, and they were able to create a line of custom made hardwood shadowbox frames that I can now offer my clients. The shadowbox frames the embroidery with a spacer between the artwork and the acrylic cover. This protects the threads from dust and curious fingers, which can wear the threads over time. The frames can be easily opened up any time for their owner to inspect the work and it’s incredible three dimensional qualities up close. 

Approximately 6 months after we began, Ernie and Sansa’s portrait was finished and in its final hoop!

Each hoop is signed before being placed into its shadowbox frame.

I hope you have enjoyed Ernie and Sansa’s embroidery story! I fall in love with every portrait I create, and it is so rewarding to create something precious for my clients to adore. I hope this snapshot conveys how much I love creating these memorials to our beloved animal friends.

Could you have another artist create a pet portrait for a lower price point? Oh yes, absolutely! There are so many amazing artists out there creating beautiful and lifelike drawings, paintings, or digitally rendered pet portraits. But, if you are looking to invest in the ultimate pet portrait that is more intricate than you could imagine, obsessively rendered by hand in layers of single stranded thread over hours and hours of loving labor? Then I am your artist!

One of my favorite and most frequent reactions I get when folks see my work in person is, “This is Insane!”. Because yes! It is insane! But the precious and lifelike results are so, so worth it. If you are reading this, then you have read the whole story, and I sure do appreciate you. Thank you for your time and support.

If you have any further questions about my process, you can reach me via email at Please allow up to a week for me to respond - thank you!

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