How to become an embroidery designer – or: The Art of Failing

How to become an embroidery designer - the art of failing

Whenever I tell someone I’m an embroidery designer and teacher, the reactions are quite mixed. Most of the time I get a “Wow, that sounds interesting!” or a frowny face trying to hide the strong opinion, that this can’t be a “real job” followed by a “Hm.”. Oftentimes the next question is: “How do you become that?” (the other option is: “and you can live from that?” I won’t dive deeper in this kind of stuff today 😀 ).

So how do you become an embroidery designer/teacher?

There are very little official paths and I took none of them. The places where you can learn hand embroidery as a profession as a major are very rare in the western world.

My personal embroidery designer story started with studying Clothing Technologies in Berlin and I failed big time. What? Yes, I failed and got kicked out. Writing this down – I failed- is making me cringe and want to hide under my bed…

You see, I am the oldest of three siblings. I have always been “the smart” one, the one who brought in good grades so easily. The one who was focussed, who loved to learn languages, went to Japan as an exchange student and whom everyone had high hopes for to achieve great things. And I failed.

It did not come as a total surprise. I never got into the studying mood – learn – party – connect -repeat. When I started studying my son was 1 year old. The year before that I had spent before with my baby boy and all the personal changes that came with becoming a parent. This one year has changed the learning-mode Anne so much, that studying and good grades did not nearly matter as much as they did before. I became sloppy and lazy with my studies and there was this tiny voice in my heart: This is not what I want to do.

Failing big – take one

Although clothing technologies have to do with textiles it also includes technologies – something I have not much interest in. The feeling of the fabric in your hands, the needle, the thread, the cutting sound of huge scissors. The meditative movement of sewing by hand: up-down-up-down. Infusing your love of the work you do into the finely woven fabric to be worn by a loved one later. This was and still is what I love most about doing anything by hand.

Yes, you can have this feeling with a sewing machine, too, but clothing technologies are not about infusing anything. It’s about efficiency.

So it was only a matter of time that I failed 3 times in chemistry and got kicked out. That was after putting in 3 years of studying (including maternity leave with my daughter). I was s-h-a-t-t-e-r-e-d and then I was ok. Somehow the feeling grew stronger that I had to change things.

And then I made the next mistake:

I went to University to study Scandinavistic – that’s learning all about the Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland, including 2 languages. Yeah. I can tell you in brief how that went: I failed again, but this time I chose to leave.

It was at my father’s house. I was a wreck. A complaining nervous wreck. Complaining about the stupid assignments I had to do for the university. How dumb it was to write something out in 1000 variations to cover all possibilities someone could possibly understand my text different from what I meant. I was repeating: Such a waste of time! I like making things simpler not more difficult and complex so why on earth should I spread a one-page-information onto 5 pages???

Why don’t you just quit?

What? I was sitting at the table of my father’s home. My father’s friend did not know it then, but this simple question “if you hate it so much why don’t you just quit?” sunk into my head and opened the door that my heart was knocking on for 1 year now. The door had a label: You are allowed to do with your life what you want.

So I quit university (again) and jumped into self-employment fulltime. When I met my father’s friend again a year later she was surprised. She had just expressed her first thought, not thinking about it much and I could not thank her enough for it!

Failures open the room to play

Why am I telling you this? In retrospective, I realize that all of these failures were necessary to push me in the direction I am now. I would never ever been able to see this future I am living now in 2004 when I had to decide what to study! And yet every single stone in my way – the failures – the “mistakes” – were not there to mislead me, but to guide me. To help me stay on the right path and see the best I can do with it. Failures are never closing doors, they take away what you focus on most to open up the possibilities you were not able to see before. They pull you out of your hamster wheel and force you to get creative. Creative in your decisions, creative in your research, creative in your shifting point of view. It opens the room to play and experimentation.

Getting better at failing

I’m still failing every day today and there are times when the possibility to fail makes me want to hide in bed and delete my digital footprint. BUT from experience I know it’s worth to try! Every single time you will learn from failure. EVERY SINGLE TIME. So if you are in fear of failure – big or small – it’s ok. It’s ok to have this fear. Fear wants to protect us, but it’s your decision to make if you want failure to pull you down or help you learn and evolve.

Yes, it’s scary, but you know what? There is magic behind the borders of what we have already done. It’s your turn to go see 🙂

With this told, I encourage you to think about what you are afraid of trying out in embroidery. Is there a stitch you think looks too daunting? Or a pattern that looks too difficult but you really like? Give it a try! Even if you fail at it, what is the worst thing that can happen? Is your world being shattered by failing an embroidery stitch? Is the world going to hell if your embroidery does not look as perfect as the one in the pattern? – I thought so.

Let’s get learning – not despite, but with the help of failures.


PS: Thank you all for participating in the embroidery survey! You gave me so much nice feedback, thank you thank you THANK YOU!

The results are very interesting and help me a ton getting the right kind of content out for you.


  1. […] have happened that led me to this embroidery journey. Some of which you can read in my article How to become an embroidery designer – or the art of failing. As the title indicates, it has been a journey of ups and downs. It still is and most probably […]

  2. […] things have happened to get me on this embroidery journey. Some of which you can read in my article How to become an embroidery designer – or the art of failing. As the title indicates, it has been a journey of ups and downs and it still is – most […]

  3. Wonderful post! Funny coincidence – I also studied Swedish as my major at University! Except that I realized I don’t want to work with it only after graduation. Thanks God, I started hand embroidery and since then can’t stop 🙂

    • Hi Amina!
      It’s incredible how many people study things they don’t work in later. But in the end, everything happened for a reason (I hope for you, too).

  4. What a wonderful post! This wouldmake a good speech to give hugh school students! Congratulations on finding where you heart lies and following it. Lots of people never do. And I love your work!

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