What You Should Know Before Starting an Embroidery Journal

Tips From the Creator of That Viral TikTok, The Stir-Crazy Crafter

Embroidery journal showing complete 2020 journal

Sophie O'Neill / The Stir-Crazy Crafter

In the lead-up to 2022, we’re all starting to think about our resolutions for the coming year. If you’re considering adding journaling into your daily routine but find the thought of sitting down to write a daily entry or starting a bullet journal overwhelming, you’re not alone. Fortunately, writing isn’t your only option for recording your memories of the year.

With more than 2.6 million views at the time of publication, the embroidery journal tutorial posted by TikTok user @thestircrazycrafter has captured some major attention, proving embroidery as a method of visually capturing your memories of the year is a great alternative to writing, particularly if you’re already handy with a needle and thread.

We reached out to the woman behind the video, Sophie O’Neill, to get all her best tricks and tips for starting an embroidery journal in 2022, as well as other ideas for crafty 2022 journals. 

What is an embroidery journal?

Sophie O’Neill: An embroidery journal is a form of daily journaling in which once a day, I add an icon to my embroidery. This icon will be in some shape or form related to my day. It may be something I did, how I was feeling, somewhere I went, or even something I ate that day. Basically, it can be anything I want it to be as long as it relates to my day. It’s a project that is quite close to my heart and really gives an overview of who I am as a person.

Embroidery journaling close-up

Sophie O'Neill / The Stir-Crazy Crafter

How did you come up with the idea to start an embroidery journal?

SO: As much as I would love to take credit for this project, I first saw Sam Gillespie (on Instagram @threesixfivestitches) create an embroidery journal in 2019. As soon as I saw theirs, I knew I needed to make one of my own! Theirs is a little bit different than my own, but both are unique.

Embroidery journaling with a few months' progress (October 2021 update with scissors)

Sophie O'Neill / The Stir-Crazy Crafter

Is 2021 your first embroidery journal?

SO: This is actually my second year making an embroidery journal. My first one was created throughout 2020, and I definitely picked quite the year to pick up a daily journaling habit! My journal saw it all.

Embroidery journaling with a few months' progress (November 2021 update)

Sophie O'Neill / The Stir-Crazy Crafter

What skill level would you say this requires for someone who is into embroidery? 

SO: An embroidery journal isn’t as complicated as it may seem—I’d say it’s a beginner project. I actually started my first embroidery piece in October 2019, then in January 2020 I started my own embroidery journal. So I would say that with a couple of months of practice, the average person would be ready to start their own journal.

Embroidery journaling set-up with sketchbook

Sophie O'Neill / The Stir-Crazy Crafter

What are your top tips for someone who wants to create their own embroidery journal?

SO: If you don’t have the time to update your journal daily, don’t worry about it. Just focus on updating it when you can. I only update mine about twice a week. 

Get a notebook to jot down what you do throughout your day and a rough sketch of each icon that you stitch. After a few months of working on your journal, you’ll be thankful to be able to look back and remind yourself of what each icon represents.

Try not to take the project too seriously. This is supposed to be fun and shouldn’t seem like a chore.

Embroidery journaling set-up with frames and thread

Sophie O'Neill / The Stir-Crazy Crafter

Have you made any mistakes during the process that felt like they couldn’t be fixed?

SO: I’ve definitely made some mistakes along the way! I always like to think that’s half the fun of it, though. I actually enjoy leaving my mistakes in my journal, I feel like it shows me for who I was at the time of my errors. Some icons may be a bit funky-looking or not as perfect as I would have liked, but it just gives my embroidery journal a bit more character.

I have a couple of small rules for myself when it comes to my journal; one of which being to not repeat any icons during the year. This is just a small thing that I do to make sure I don’t have 17 donuts on my journal or something silly. However, over the course of a year it may take a while to realize that I’ve stitched the same icon twice. Usually it takes me ages to notice! For example, my 2021 journal has two Animal Crossing gold star coins, while 2020 has two cameras and two ghosts.

Embroidery journaling with a few months' progress (June 2021 update)

Sophie O'Neill / The Stir-Crazy Crafter

What has this project taught you?

SO: This project has really allowed me to reflect on the individual days that I’ve experienced throughout 2021. I’ve found that you can make any day stand out, regardless of how quiet of a day it was. 

Embroidery journaling with a few months' progress (May 2021 update with computer in background)

Sophie O'Neill / The Stir-Crazy Crafter

Which icon on the journal is your favorite, and which icon represents your favorite day?

SO: My favourite icons tend to be the ones with a good story behind them, but I have a few favorites: 

2020: The director’s clapboard in October. This signified my first day back at work after being furloughed from my hotel in March. I went back to a slightly different job, but it was exciting regardless!

2021: The Union Jack in August. While being a nice looking stitch, it was a big day for me that represented the day that I moved to the U.K. from California. I’ve now been in the U.K. for a bit over three months now and I’ve loved every minute of it!

Do you think you’ll do one for 2022 and beyond?

SO: Yes! I absolutely will be creating another journal in 2022. I’ve loved the process so far, and for the time being, I can’t imagine not sitting down and adding to my journal on a regular basis; it’s definitely turned into a way for me to unwind.

Embroidery journaling with a few months' progress (May 2021 update)

Sophie O'Neill / The Stir-Crazy Crafter

Any ideas for other creative, crafty ways to journal?

SO: I’ve seen loads of amazing other ways people journal online. I’ve always enjoyed seeing temperature blankets and scarves, where each day has a row of stitches that represent the average temperature of the day for a year. 

Any top tips for people who would like to begin embroidery but don’t know where to start?

SO: If you’re intimidated by embroidery, don’t be! It’s such an amazing hobby that is filled with so much potential. My best tip, though, is to check out Etsy and find a starter embroidery kit. You can find all sorts of kits online that come with anything and everything that you would need to pick up the hobby: fabric, needle, hoops, embroidery floss, pattern, etc. It’s just an easy one-stop-shop to get started. Plus, it’s always great to support small businesses. 

If you already have the supplies but need some help learning the basics, go on YouTube and look up some beginner stitches, like backstitch, french knots, satin stitch, lazy daisies, and split stitch. These are all pretty common embroidery stitches that will make starting your own journal or embroidery piece a lot easier.

Along with her embroidery journal, you can find other stunning crafting ideas over on O’Neill’s site, The Stir-Crazy Crafter.