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Zen Stitching – How to Embroider a Mandala with No Pattern

Zen Stitching - How to Embroider a Mandala with No Pattern (Shiny Happy World)

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This is one of my favorite kinds of stitching.

Stitching with no pattern.

If regular embroidery is coloring in slow motion, this is doodling in slow motion.

Doodling with a needle and thread. I love it!

When you get into the right frame of mind, it’s the most wonderful, absorbing way to embroider.

Do you think something like that mandala is way too complicated to stitch without a pattern? Or that you don’t have the skills?

Think again!

It’s almost all simple straight stitches, with just a few lazy daisies and French knots thrown in for fun. And I’m going to show you right now how to build the pattern. If you can connect dots you can do this.

One warning here – this isn’t speed stitching.

It’s sloooooow stitching.

It’s enjoy-the-process stitching.

It’s savor-the-moment stitching.

Have fun with it!

Step 1 Start with some circles of felt.

Zen Stitching - How to Embroider a Mandala with No Pattern (Shiny Happy World)These are small – they’re in a 3 inch hoop. I like to work small when I do this – large can be overwhelming.

I centered them by eye. This doesn’t have to be perfect, but I was pretty careful.

Time to start stitching. The key is to start in the center and work my way out.

Zen Stitching - How to Embroider a Mandala with No Pattern (Shiny Happy World)Step 2 I started with those green spokes. Come up in the center and stitch to the north, south, east and west points. These are going to be your guides for all the rest of your stitching, so take your time and get them nice and straight. You can stitch a plus sign, right?

Step 3 I stitched in between those spokes to add northeast, southeast, southwest and northwest spokes.

Woo hoo! I have guiding marks for the rest of my stitching!

Step 4 I filled in the wedges created by those spokes. Each wedge got a French knot, a lazy daisy, and a little straight stitch – all centered between the spokes on either side.

You don’t have to do these stitches. Do whatever strikes your fancy! Just try to keep whatever you do centered in the wedge.

Then I moved out to the next ring.

Zen Stitching - How to Embroider a Mandala with No Pattern (Shiny Happy World)Step 5 I started with the pink triangles. I stitched a straight stitch from the yellow stitch at the end of each lazy daisy (A) to a point in line with the green spokes, halfway across the grey felt ring (B). If you need to see the image bigger you can click on it.

See how I used the stitches that were already there (the green spokes and the yellow dashes) as guides? That keeps everything even and lined up and helps you build a complex-looking pattern very simply.

Step 6 After I worked the pink triangles all around, I added the purple spokes that go from the yellow dash (A) to the edge of the grey ring (C).

Step 7 I liked the look of the pink zigzags, so I worked purple zigzags all the way around, stitching from the ends of those long spokes I made in Step 6 (C) to the top of each pink triangle (B).

I just keep filling in the space, working from points already created. It’s just connecting the dots and filling in the spaces created when I connect the dots. I never plan the next step until I’m ready to stitch it.

Step 8 I created those yellow spokes, stitching from the center of each pink triangle (where the yellow French knots are) to the edge of the grey ring (D).

Step 9 Everything was looking a little stick-like at that point, so I added the French knots inside each pink triangle to change up the texture a bit.

Time to move out to the last ring.

Zen Stitching - How to Embroider a Mandala with No Pattern (Shiny Happy World)This time points C and D were my main markers, because they’re the ones that go all the way to the edge of the grey ring.

Step 10 I started with the point at the tip of the purple zigzag (C) and stitched a spoke to the edge of the pink ring. I did it in two stitches because it was a wider ring – which gave me the idea to stitch a lazy daisy coming leaf coming out of each side of that spoke/stem.

Step 11 I stitched a couple more straight stitches from just past the end of each lazy daisy to a point straight out from the yellow spokes in the grey ring (E).

Step 12 I stitched the little yellow bursts from the end of each yellow spoke (D), kind of filling in the space in those green points I created in Step 11.

Step 13 I liked those yellow bursts, so I added some little yellow rays coming out of where the lazy daisy stitches joined the spoke/stems from Step 10.

Step 14 I was still liking the pop of the yellow bursts, so I added smaller bursts at the top of each green stem/spoke.

I was almost done – I just wanted to add a bit more color and more French knots to change the texture again.

Step 15 I added blue French knots at the base of the yellow bursts created in Step 12.

Step 16 I had purple felt in the center and purple stitching in the middle ring. I felt like it needed more dark purple in the last ring, so I added French knots all around the edge, one on each side of the green points.

Done! Just take it one step at a time, work your way all the way around each ring, then build up the next level. As long as you stay lined up with your original points – those green spokes in the center – everything will line up and you’ll end up with a very complex-looking pattern.

Zen Stitching - How to Embroider a Mandala with No Pattern (Shiny Happy World)

What do you think? Anyone else want to try this kind of stitching? Do you want more info or to see more sample ideas? I’d love to share!

I hope you liked this tutorial. Want more? Sign up for the Shiny Happy News! I’ll keep you up to date about all the new tutorials here and also give you early access to any sales!

Happy stitching!



  1. I love mindless doodling whether it’s embroidery or zentangling on paper. My question is, how did you secure the circles of felt to each other/the background fabric before you started stitching? Do you use the ‘real stuff’ which is a bit stickier?

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I didn’t do anything! The felt tends to cling to itself and since the very first stitch went through all the layers it didn’t need any securing after that. Easy peasy! 🙂

  2. This is beautiful, Wendi! I like the slow doodle stitch too, I have a meandering flower piece I keep adding to when I have the urge to just play, someday it’ll be a pretty garden. 🙂

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      That sounds beautiful!

      • Joyce SAYS...

        Hi Wendi I love your site and I like the look of the mandella. Do you just leave it in the hoop or take it out and put a backing on it? I have not done a project with felt but would like to try it. Thank you
        Joyce Gronenthal

        • wendigratz SAYS...

          I just leave it in the hoop. If someone wants to see the back of my work, I’m ok with that. I hardly ever put a backing on. 🙂

  3. peggy hendrick SAYS...

    Love it…I have just the right size hoops too… What kind/size thread did you use? Size needle? Thanks.

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I used my Sulky 12 wt. cotton petites – one strand of that (what I used) is the same thickness as two strands of regular 6-strand floss. And I used a size #8 embroidery needle. I usually use #5 for everything, but this is a little more delicate than my usual work and sometimes the larger holes from a larger needle are visible in felt, so I opted for a smaller needle than usual. I just added needle packs that have a range of size 5-10 to the shop since I’ll be doing more felt work this year.

  4. Lesley SAYS...

    I love that. I happen to have some 3inch hoops too. i’m not too confident in my embroidery ability, but maybe will give it a try

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Try it – it’s really fun! And remember you don’t have to be fancy at all with your stitches – you could do the whole thing with straight stitches and it would be lovely. Just play around and experiment!

  5. TheGrouchyCairn SAYS...

    Lovely. You are very inspiring (and encouraging!)

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Thanks so much! 🙂

  6. Beth W. SAYS...

    Looks like fun…might have to give it a go! Great job. 🙂

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  8. Beautiful. On my “really want to make list”.

    • wendigratz SAYS...


  9. Jo SAYS...

    and now what do you do with this piece?

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I just hang it on the wall right in the hoop. 🙂

  10. Uvi SAYS...

    I can’t believe it – I was looking for the new stitching project and was intrigued with mandalas for a long time, so I started to think about stitching a mandala just like you described but didn’t have the guts to try 🙂 now I just have to do it!

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Do it! It’s fun! 🙂

  11. Lacey SAYS...

    Just love this, Wendi! I am a member of the Embroidery Guild of America. We meet once a month. I am set to teach this fall and I was looking for something totally out of the box and just flat fun! I will be teaching your wonderful lesson here, if you are okay with that! LOVE your creativity!

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Of course! It sounds like a fun class. 🙂

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  15. Lori M SAYS...

    Very pretty…and doodles is what some of my family members enjoy doing….Thank you for the lovely pattern…the tutorial was great…..

  16. Laura SAYS...

    I love this, it is creative and relaxing and really pretty.

  17. Cindy SAYS...

    This looks like a lot of fun, and so pretty. Thanks for the post!

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  19. Bobbi SAYS...

    Ooh. I just love this and am happy to have found this site!

  20. Pia SAYS...

    Love your website. I am from the UK and have downloaded your patterns recently although I have never embroidered apart from Cross stitch Tapestry. I can do French knots back stitch though. Being left handed is hard though. Can I use Anchor Perle size 8 as two strands of this I think equals 6 strands of floss. Also can it be done on just plain white embroidery cloth as I have no felt.
    Many Thanks

    • Yes – you can use any thread and any fabric you like.

  21. Pixiewithdocs SAYS...

    Hi Wendi- amazing tutorial! I love that it’s so based in feeling how to make it flow and balancing colours and stitches as you feel. I’m definitely going to try a little one- I’m a rubbish freehand draw-er so can’t do pencil mandalas but this is perfect speed and ease of straight lines! Was also thinking how you could go ring by ring like applique and build up the layers until you have something really big!

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  25. karen sielaff SAYS...

    what colors of the felt blend did you use for this mandala?

    • Periwinkle, Ruby Red Slippers, Smoky Marble, and Grape Jelly.

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