Playing in Embroidery

Zuill Badbird

Had some fun playing with my TruEmbroidery digitizing software to create my own (single use not for sale) design of a Badbird hand embroidery pattern (legally obtained, sorry for all the quid pro quos but many folks think they can grab an image from the web that doesn’t belong to them and digitize it – no no!). Andrea Zuill has fun original images and sells her imagery on Etsy (I’ve told her she should get someone – not me – to digitize her stuff so she could sell her images as embroidery designs – I’m sure they’d sell like hotcakes).

I started in auto create and cleaned it up – and just for me it was easier to stitch and trim than correct the myriad of trim and overlapping jumps the program auto digitized into it. A good digitizer who is selling designs would work in the program to clean it all up for you. But, it’s faster to have a scissors and tweezer in hand then to completely fix it if you’re only stitching something once or twice. I love that it is rough with texture, tried some other line designs and set everything to the same stitch – they’re nice with a flatter look (if you’re using crayons or fabric painting – that can be a good thing).

Checkbook front

For the checkbook cover, I edited (again my personal use copy) a Five Star Fonts checkbook design. And, again, rough looking ok – I’d just edited < cut > the stipple design where I didn’t want it but could have flipped it to have rounded closed edges at the center of the design and the edges with simply stopped lines off the design and therefor hidden in seams. Will do that if I’m tackling something neat. Really pleased with both. 🙂

UC Master Gardener Conference Marketplace

Dig Plants

The Master Gardener statewide conference has a Marketplace where counties can sell to fundraise for their group and its projects. My group was pretty busy when the sign-ups came out, so I volunteered to “just do it” and make all items plus run a table (yes, I am a bit nuts). It’s been a few months of nose to the sewing machine when I’m not working.

Embroidered Avant Gardener apron

I’m posting this a tad backwards – this week I’ll have more detailed posts on making the items – but my Sundays in My City friends will appreciate simply seeing the end results and being spared all the bloody details.

Turquoise Crazy mug rug

I’d been stitching up mug mats / mouse pads with a garden theme …

Black and white canvas Cafe Apron

Cafe aprons that are great for farmer’s markets and plant sales with their nice deep pockets …

Black and white cafe apron

Binding their pockets ..

mg beginning to look organized

Crafting earrings and ornaments from machine stitched lace and tatting plus beads, then carefully packaging..

MG FSL Lace Ornaments

and stitching more ornaments (the off-kilter loops were fixed) ..

MG fall fruits apron lined pocket

Lining apron pockets and matching designs ..

Embroidered Tree Hugger Bag

Of course, stitching only my favorite designs (so having a green tote/grocery bag for me with this one!) ..

MG Buttons on floral cotton apron

Adding buttons to hide where the ties connect to the apron …

Machine embroidered cupcake mug rugs

Creating more mug rugs for a cupcake theme silent auction basket ..

mg cupcake apron

And finishing pot holder and stitched matching towel to adorn the cupcake apron in that silent auction basket ..

mg I dig plants embroidered apron

Finishing the canvas aprons (oops, did trim that thread after the photo) …

mg Embroidered Avant Gardener tote

Finishing the canvas totes, getting everything packed and to the conference …

MG Marketplace table Front

Making signs, snapping a few pics mid set-up ..

MG Reception at Tenaya

And then mustering the energy to enjoy our wonderful reception with my fellow Master Gardeners at the Tenaya Lodge ..

UC Master Gardener Conference Yosemite

Joining 650 other California Master Gardeners for informative sessions over 3 days..

Heims at UC Master Gardener Conference

And make it all the way to the closing Horticultural Humor presentation, plus demanding drive home through circuitous mountain roads. Believe it or not, I am happy I did it. Haven’t challenged myself craft wise other than the annual mad Christmas push. Raised oodles and oodles of money for my group – a lot of their funding goes to the school gardens they run across our county. And, finally – best of all- I had a fantastic time at the conference itself.

Be sure to stop by Sundays in My City to see what kinds of things that global group spend their time doing.

Sewing Machine Needle Storage – Quick Project

boxes 14 decoupage

When working any craft, I prefer things visible and in arm’s reach.  Those who don’t sew may not realize that there are specific sewing machine needles for a variety of tasks – embroidery, knits (ballpoint), denim, double needles, universal, sharps and more – each with their own choice of a few sizes. I like to keep mine in the case they come in for easy identification.

boxes 1 to decoupage

Did you know that most cracker boxes are the perfect size for storing your needle collection?

boxes 2

Peel open the ends and cut your box lengthwise. I just used scissors (not the fabric ones, I have a craft pair).

boxes 3 papers

Pick out some papers – you can find decorative paper at the craft stores by the sheet or in pads, buy it online, print it on your printer or paint / color your own. I used the 12 by 12 size, purchased at Michaels to make this one of my speediest projects ever.

boxes 4 mediums

Choose your medium – Turned out, I was able to use my really old Mod Podge Gloss Finish after running the lid under some hot water and loosening it’s edge with a knife so I could unscrew it.The stuff in the jar – although old, was fine. You could also use gesso or gel medium.

boxes 6 top done

Regular old newsprint protects the work surface. I have a bag of bottle lids handy in case I need to raise something up (If you’re afraid of gluing your item to the newsprint, also not needed this time around). Painted the Mod Podge on the box and smoothed my paper onto it. I have a brayer (small roller) but never had to use it for this project – my hands worked just fine.

boxes 5 top done

Flip your box over and glue down the edges. True confessions – I just wipe the Mod Podge onto the paper with my finger as I’m working close to a sink and can walk over and rinse it off easily.

boxes 7 weights

Weight the whole thing down (I put an open box – aka Priority mail as I always have a few handy – on top of my project then some pretty full detergent jugs on that). Let dry for a bit (doesn’t have to dry fully – just start setting, so 30 minutes to an hour).

boxes 8 tabs

Next we’re gluing down what was the top of the box – the part we cut – to the sides. Smear Mod Podge on it.

boxes 9 tabe

Turn it over, weight it down (you can see how it wants to raise up and needs weight along it’s length – thus the laundry detergent jug necessity. The small jars don’t cut it).

boxes 10 sides

Do both long sides.

boxes 11 part done

It’s ready for the lining paper. Grab your sponge brush, slabber on some Mod Podge to the inside of the box and smooth your lining on. It doesn’t cover the box ends all the way and that’s ok (I like a bit of cardboard to cardboard contact for gluing the ends directly).

boxes 12 ends

Then, make a few slits on the paper at the ends so you can fold your ends back up and glue them shut with Mod Podge. The laundry jugs keep the box nice and upright and strong clips keep the ends closed while drying.

boxes 13 end

Cut pieces to cover your box ends. If I were really fancy, I would have cut cardboard from another cracker box to the size of the end and covered it with all paper edges folded over to one side, then used that to glue to the end so there would be no paper edges. But, I decided this would be good enough for this project. Oh, and can you tell I’m a fan of Schmetz Gold Titanium Embroidery Needles?

boxes 14 end

Brush the box end inside and out with Mod Podge and press your paper on. I find it much easier to brush the box, if you brush the paper, it isn’t quite as easy to handle. Put the clips back on while it dries. Then, place needles in and you are set to go. I’ll probably paint Mod Podge over the box to give the paper a better chance of standing up to wear and tear. Since I’d forgotten how easy decoupage is, I can hit that when I tackle the few other quick fixes I’ve lined up to neaten my desk and sewing table.

boxes 16 decoupage

Spent needles go in an empty vitamin bottle I keep in the back of my box. For machine embroiderers, yes – you can see Coats and Clark thread in the box. I mostly embroider with Sulky rayon 40 but for thick thread designs,  use Coats and Clark 30 weight. I’m lucky (and so thrilled) that my machine isn’t as finicky about threads as do hear the horror stories from others about temperamental machines shredding thread. If I ever get a few gifts in the mail and delivered, I’ll post a project with this thread.

This post is participating in Unknown Mami’s Sundays in My City.

Tackling Reality

Dream Catcher shirt

When it comes to crafting, I’m like a kid in a candy store; a very young kid with the blissful ignorance of limitations in the candy store. I see things; I’m sure my eyes light up; I think ‘ooooohhhhh’ and I stockpile the stuff necessary to complete the treasured project. But, like that kid who can’t taste everything without hitting the wall, I can’t seem to finish everything that in the moment I think I’ll just whip out. In reality, I work amidst piles (and piles) of unfinished projects. However, I’ve managed to finish a few things (woohoo!) to share.

The two T-shirts are for someone who signed up for the 2013 Creative Pay it Forward. The recipient does cancer walks and has mentioned she’d like a shirt with a checkbox that says “other” (the non-pink cancer survivors are “other” when they register). Teal is for ovarian cancer.   Purple ribbons are for Alzheimers.

Other items are a little pouch that holds coffee filters on the wall right by the coffee machine; a reader case front (tree), back (it was a dark and stormy night) and pocket (tudor wildlife design); wine charm earrings for a neighbor who pours at the winery; an owl and a dream catcher on denim shirts and an “in progress” Poe phrase raven that I’m planning to incorporate in a laptop case. You can click on any of the photos for a larger view in slideshow.

The details for crafters (non-crafters skip this paragraph): Thin fabrics don’t support dense embroidery designs well. There are many ways around this, for wearables I like to use something like Light and Soft Fuse-On.  

  • Determine your design size and placement
  • Cut a piece of the fuse on a few inches larger all around then your design
  • Follow their directions and iron it on to the inside of your garment

The Light and Soft Fuse-On drapes well with your fabric. A heavier stabilizer doesn’t drape and can look odd. With the T-shirts and blue shirts, I then hoop them with a light/medium tear away and stitch my design (these were Pellon Stitch n Tear). The embroidery designs are from Embroidery Library (Celebrate Life – my glitch on the “C”, Awareness Rose, Dark and Stormy Night, Quill and Paper, Tudor Wildlife, Retro Coffee, Dream Catcher and Owl) and Urban Threads (Poe Raven and Tree).

The glitch on the “C” happened because for that small ribbon design near the neck, I used Sulky Sticky+ – an adhesive tear-off stabilizer in the hoop. Hooping with part of the neck in the hoop, part out, part of the seams in the hoop, part out would have been a mess. You just press the design area of your shirt to the sticky part in the hoop. But, with sticky stabilizers, or even if you use a lot of adhesive spray, you need to use a larger needle. The needle pokes a hole and the thread goes down and up. If the poked hole is tiny, the thread rubs against the stickiness, get gummy, bunches up, and if you’re lucky it breaks, if you’re not lucky things might get more stuck. I forgot to put in a bigger needle until after the thread on the “C” bunched up and broke. The T-shirts took multiple hoopings, three for the Alzheimer’s rose, with a 6 x 10 hoop. You can still see the hoop marks, but those come right off these fabrics. The shirts are deliberately big, loose and comfy. In the photos the designs might not look centered, because if you wear a shirt too big part of the design would end up scrunched by the armpits. I placed the designs a bit more towards center. If I were to do it over, I would have more space between the celebrate life ribbon and the checkbox and the text on that shirt would be white.

 All phrases on these pieces were done with the fonts available on my machine (SanFran for the reader case Go Paperless, Art Deco for the “other”, Bremen for the “I wear purple..”. The reader pouch was hooped with cutaway stabilizer, Warm and Natural batting and linen, and then stitched. Its inner pocket is linen with cutaway stabilizer.  All embroidery was stitched with Sulky 40 weight rayon embroidery thread. I should add that I get zip, nada, zilch for mentioning specific brands, but they are something machine embroiderer’s get excited about.

The next big order of the day is deciding what to tackle first amid the piles of “things I could do”.

This post is participating in Unknownmami’s Sundays in My City and the Gallery of Favorites put on by a Alea of Pre-Meditated Leftovers and April  at 21st Century Housewife.

Stitchin for the Kitchen

Finally mailed off a packet of gifts and it’s been received – so sharing with you won’t ruin any surprises. Two different styles – like me, the recipient avoids kitchen curtains to maintain a wide open view of the world beyond. With neutral walls and cabinets, you can simply change the color of a few items to have a completely fresh look. Next up – this Salt and Pepper for me, I just love it.

For both sets, it’s purchased placemats.

  • Designs are Embroidery Library Vintage Salt and Pepper shakers.
  • Napkins are hemstitch from Napkins Online at eBay. 100% cotton, best to iron them damp from the dryer. I have some friends and family who prefer polyester for this reason. I’m a fan of the cotton or linen, but never gift them without checking if the recipient would actually iron napkins first. At least with all the new front loaders – things come out of the dryer wrinkly.
  • Yellow fabric from JoAnn as is the Sulky rayon 40 weight embroidery threads.
  • Placemats from Bed Bath and Beyond.
  • Light design, so used a medium weight tear away stabilizer under the towels and napkins.
  • Rectangle border that anchors the yellow fabric was created in 4D Embroidery – I made a solid rectangle actual size in PowerPoint, saved as a picture and set my embroidery program to satin stitch outline the shape (might be an easier way to do it – this worked for me).  
  • A bit of spray adhesive made it easier to hoop the towel plus fabric.
  • Once stitched, I trimmed the fabric leaving a bit less than half an inch all around
  • Frayed the edge of the yellow fabric
  • Napkins – first iron and starch
  • Then, note borders are not precise – for placement of the salt & pepper shakers, I just iron an X corner to corner on the napkin for my vertical placement line, then measure up from the hemstitch for my perpendicular cross line that marks the center of the design.


My machine sometimes hiccups in two places. One, with purchased pre-wound embroidery threads, you’ll find when starting a new one it will sometimes not feed smoothly – unwinding about a yard long piece of thread from the bobbin usually fixes this. Two, the machine doesn’t always pick up the bobbin thread with good tension at the very beginning of a design.  When this happens, I grab a long piece of bobbin thread plus the top thread and hold onto each with the machine set to slow or medium speed to start the stitching of the design (tricky when then finding a spare finger to hit the go button). When you get that nesting of threads as above, cut all the threads from the bottom then pull them out with tweezers, and start that section over. A piece of sticky stabilizer stuck to the stabilizer already hooped on the bottom of the hoop will aide not punching through the fabric in that spot.

  • Designs are Embroidery Library 3 inch Floral Heirloom Letter H and Grape Bunch –Sheer  (colors edited on both designs)
  • Sulky rayon 40 weight embroidery threads
  • Light design again, tear away stabilizer
  • Napkins –always iron and starch first
  • Placement of the design – same as above

Light designs stitch up so much faster -I always pause before tackling densely stitched embroidery. Before buying my machine, noted that an article on Martha Stewart  stated “this pillow takes about 6 hours to stitch out” – huh? It wasn’t a solid 10 by 10inch – it was a medallion. So, I knew what I was getting into.  It’s best for your pricey little machine that you’re always in easy earshot – if it does have a problem (like the nesting above) it won’t overheat and you can shut it down and remedy the issue. Additionally, many of the densely stitched designs require 25 or more thread color changes (done by hand, the machine stops – you go thread the new color and start it again). If you’re out of earshot, you won’t know when to re-thread. I do LOVE having the machine, but have been buying up more of the ‘quick stitch’ light patterns so I can complete projects even though I hold down a job (and have a garden, and friends, and family and things to do …). Densely stitched designs are beautiful – they’re all I purchased when I first got the machine. I’ve quite a few gorgeous ones on the ‘to do’ pile that I will get to. First up is something for me, the beautiful Art Nouveau Nativity I stitched up for my sister last year. Not today though.

Skipped a cute border on the towels – she needed something to really use every day for drying and cute cotton borders can require a hit with the iron to look good. Embroidery Library has all sorts of flourish designs that go with the floral letters and I came very close to adding a border, but omitted it here. The placemats will also wash up well (much better than the black will, no spaghetti for hubby on the black). Maroon matches the living room (quite visible from the table), grapes match an image by her stove and she also likes a hit of yellow on things. Trés parfait.

I don’t go into detail here as Embroidery Library does have free fantastic instructions to follow for hooping, stabilizer, needle choice and more.

This post is participating in the Gallery of favorites hosted by April at The 21st Century Housewife and Alea of Premeditated Leftovers. Also, Seasonal Sundays at the Tablescaper and Sundae Scoop at I Heart Naptime. and Skip to My Lou’s Made it Monday.

Handmade Christmas Victorian Santa Stockings

More Victorian – My sister’s town does a Dickens Christmas event (which I think must be so cool!). Used their “proper names” to go along with the times. I might try to make the exact same set for myself for next year – Love them!

Osnaburg (poor man’s linen, a sturdy 100% cotton) is the base, heavy duty cut away is the stabilizer, Sulky embroidery the threads. Stitching the fabric to stabilizer around the design before embroidering (on my machine it’s “fix”) is something I highly recommend.  You remove the basting stitch when it’s done. The designs are from Embroidery Library  (Victorian Santa and Victorian reindeer 1); the lettering for the name is from my machine (Husqvarna Viking).

Pieces were stocking front and back, cuff, lining front and back. (There are oodles of free stocking patterns on the web if you need one). An upholstery weight micro suede (faux suede) is the cuff with a light Christmas cotton the lining (I didn’t want anything that might show through the osnaburg, light color and light design deliberate for the lining).

Using both red and burgundy lets them tie together their new home color and their existing holiday reds. You’ll note I didn’t want a seam along the “front” stocking edge of the cuff, but used one long piece to wrap around.

Stitched the top inside edge of both the stocking (right sides together) and lining (right sides together), then stitched the cuff (right sides together) to the lining and the cuff to the stocking (right sides together).

Fold lengthwise with right sides together and stitch all the way around, leaving a gap large enough for your hand on one of the lining sides. You can see my gap on the calf back.

Pull the stocking through the gap to get it right side out. (Stitchers – are you admiring my collection of embroidery threads in their handy, closable (read dust proof) cases that I pick up on sale (or with coupon) at Joann you get a glimpse of in hte background?)

Then push the lining down into the stocking and allow the cuff to fold  a bit into the lining side as well.

I leave the heavy duty stabilizer in so they’ll hand nicely when empty. I also didn’t stitch the gap in the lining closed – it might be easier a few years from now to press them inside out. If these were for children, I would’ve stitched the gap closed. Next time I’d flare out the stitching for the cuff a tad.

Finger smooth and press the cuff, use an iron to smooth and lightly press the stocking now that it’s right side out. Wrap.

Hoping you’re all having a lovely holiday season! A free stocking pattern is here at Moda Bakeshop. This post is participating in Made by You Monday at Skip to My Lou and Metamorphis Monday.

Handcrafted Christmas – Printed Linen Towels

It’s crunch time for crafters and bakers. Have my elf hat on and been busily working and creating these past few weeks – just haven’t written about it here. Packages must arrive and be opened before I can post about them. 🙂  First up – decorated holiday towels. I love my embroidery, but some images can take as long as 6 to 8 hours to stitch out (egads), printing to fabric goes much faster. It’s not quite as durable in the long run – but for decorative items will last years (and if you’re wanting to print on a shirt for your child – well, one season with washing plus their growth isn’t bad).

1.    Grab some linen or linen blend fabric, preshrink.

2.   Hem for a towel. (See Loving Linen post for measurements, suppliers, complete details plus care of linen information).

3.   Sew a decorative stitch at hem.

4.   Select an image (web search for copyright free images or check out what folks are posting at Pinterest). I manipulate my images plus text in PowerPoint to place on an 8 ½ X 11 page as I work in PowerPoint a great deal. This particular set used the June Taylor prepared for printing fabric but I have used others.

5.   Print to prepared fabric sheet

6.   Fix image per directions (iron a lot, wet, iron some more).

    a.   Had one sheet run at the wet stage, they all bleed a bit. I iron and let sit overnight before the wet step now.

7.   Stitch your image to the towel.

8.   Create a Merry Christmas patch, fringe around patch and stitch patch to towel. Actually, I glued the patches on with Aleene’s Ok to Wash it Glue and I’m a tad worried as I’ve noticed a few items I glued with this came apart shortly after. Will stitch in the future.

9.   Wrap and send to a lucky gift recipient – isn’t this the cutest addition to a Victorian themed Christmas kitchen?

This post is participating in Sundays in My City. Most posters there are incredible photographers, it’s a fun Linky to visit. I’m also sharing at Rednesday, Today’s Creative Blog, Tutorial Tuesday at Hope Studios, Linda at Coastal Charm, Beyond the Picket Fence