Monograms reveal a lot about a person. Bold, block letters on a shirt cuff command attention, while delicate, intertwined initials on the edge of a pillowcase seem to connote comfort and sensitivity. And an artful monogram embossed on stationery can communicate as much about the individual as the actual correspondence.

Martha visits Andrew Marlay, of Penn & Fletcher, a New York City custom embroidery house, to discuss the design and execution of a new monogram: her initials surrounded by an elegant, neoclassical wreath found in a favorite gardening book. Andrew and his partner, Ernest Smith, use modern technology to facilitate the age-old art of embroidery, scanning Martha's clear, camera-ready images into a computer. The computer then creates a pattern and plotting points that embroiderers follow when executing the complicated design on embroidery machines.

Andrew also demonstrates how to create a simple monogram pattern for hand-embroidery work at home, embossing the pattern on colored fabrics with talcum powder. To transfer patterns onto white fabrics, he uses tailor's chalk that has been grated into fine dust with a nutmeg grater.

Tools and Materials

  • Medium-weight tracing paper
  • Sewing-machine needle
  • Mechanical-pencil base
  • Embroidery weight or filled aluminum cans
  • Fine-grade sandpaper
  • Linen hemstitched napkin
  • Felt-tip marker or pencil
  • Talcum powder or tailor's chalk
  • Cotton ball
  • Hairspray
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery needle
  • Embroidery floss

Monogram How-To

1. Choose a letter you would like to monogram on a napkin. Trace the letter on tracing paper. Secure the sewing-machine needle in the mechanical-pencil base. Weight one side of the tracing with cans to keep the paper from sliding. Working on a padded surface, pierce around outline of the letter in 1/8-inch intervals.

2. Turn the pierced tracing over, and gently sand the back to smooth the paper's surface. Position the tracing on the napkin, and weight both sides. With the felt-tip marker or pencil, mark the napkin's edges on the tracing to ensure the same positioning on other napkins. Weight the tracing on two sides to secure.

3. Sprinkle talcum powder on a small plate. Dip a cotton ball into the powder, and rub it evenly over the punched pattern. Carefully remove the pattern. Fix the powder by spraying it with a light coating of hairspray.

4. Set napkin in embroidery hoop, and embroider design. Wash before using to remove talcum and hairspray residue.


Tailor's chalk and embroidery supplies are available at sewing and craft stores. To learn more about Penn & Fletcher, visit


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