step 1: format your word
this can be done with any word processing software, including the default "rich text format" document program that's embedded in windows! size the word to fit your project--i would not suggest going much smaller than about an inch tall, but then you want it to be a FEATURE, so big is good! :) pick a couple of fonts that coordinate with your design, so you'll have a few choices. simple lines will be faster to stitch; lots of curves mean LOTS of stitches!
step 2: print your template
this can be done on any paper, but using an inkjet transparency allows you to "preview" your design on your project before you commit to stitching. (plus it can be saved and reused!)
step 3: place your design
this is why i love using a transparency, you can see exactly what you're going to get; if the word is too big or too small or too... anything... you can still change your mind, BEFORE you've done any stitching!
step 4: punch holes
like alton brown, i rarely purchase "uni-tasking" tools, but there is seriously nothing else that works nearly as well as a paper piercer* for this step. and yes, for the record, you definitely NEED the holes! if you don't believe me, try (on a piece of scrap!) punching through with just a needle and thread... how far did you get before the paper wrinkled horribly and then tore? not very far, am i right? as you punch your holes, be sure to leave an eighth inch or so between each one, to avoid ripping.
(a quick but IMPORTANT note about paper: you want to be using something that is cardstock weight, to avoid tearing. if your desired paper is too light, don't worry... just glue it to a bit of cardstock before you begin! whenever possible, i like to work on a separate panel that gets attached to my card or layout at the end of the embroidery process.)
step 5: embroider the word
i nearly always use back stitch and all six strands of dmc floss in a size 24 tapestry needle, but you can use any technique you prefer. (the holbein stitch is also nice, especially if the back of your work is going to be visible.) hold your paper firmly and pull the needle through as smoothly-- and as straight-- as possible. remember that paper doesn't have the flexibility of fabric, so try not to bend your paper. if your paper rips, don't panic! turn the work over, reinforce the torn area with a couple of layers of scotch tape, re-punch a hole or two if necessary, and keep going. worse case scenario for one or two small blow-outs: patch the area on the back and use a fine tipped permanent marker to add a couple of "faux" stitches; i promise, everyone will be soooooo fascinated with the stitching they will not notice a few tiny mistakes!
(as with anything else in life, this gets easier the more you practice; if you've NEVER embroidered before, you might like to have a go on some scrap cardstock before planning an ambitious project with a short deadline!!!)
step 6: secure the floss
you can run the needle through your work as in traditional embroidery, but since paper IS a lot less flexible than fabric, i usually secure each end with a little piece of scotch tape on the back of my work. speaking of the back: remember that the embroidery floss will create a little word-shaped lump on the reverse side of your work, so consider this when you go to attach the panel to your card or layout. foam tape will compensate for the bulk... or you can machine stitch the panel. if you really want it to lay FLAT, plan to keep your stitching as close to the center of your card as possible, use PLENTY of adhesive at the edges, and a couple strips of doublestick tape placed (gently!) right behind your word will not go amiss!
step 7: high five!
you've just made a unique multi-media project that's guaranteed to impress everyone who sees it, so take a bow, rockstar!!!
optional extra ideas:
use the same technique with clip art or simple line drawings to add pictures instead of words
instead of a computer-generated template, use rubber stamps to place a design on your project, then pierce and stitch as above; or try a coloring book or iron-on pattern for lots more simple designs
make a transparency template and punch a few "guideline" holes, then use the sewing machine instead of hand stitching, or use a combination of machine AND hand stitches
stitch your design on fabric and then sew or glue it to your project
add french knots or other decorative stitches for even more texture and interest
use ribbon, yarn, or metallic thread instead of embroidery floss
experiment and have fun!