Archive for October, 2012

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Burlap Pencil Case

burlap pencil case pouch opener Burlap Pencil Case

If you’ve been following my blog you’re know that I’ve been embroidery burlap pencil cases that I picked up at Target in the one dollar bin. What concerned me was that as cute as those pencil cases you might be disappointed because you can’t find the pencil cases any longer at Target. I have to say I was bummed the other day when I checked my Target and realized they were all sold out.

So I set about determining how to make a pencil case that you could use for embroidery. Starting out you’ll need:

  • Burlap fabric (approx. 10 x 9)

- 8 inch black zipper – ideally an open ended one

- Fabric stabilizer –  I used blank Craft Fuse

- Black cotton thread (I also used some cotton that matched the fabric color)

- Sewing machine

- Pins, scissors etc..

- Iron

Start by ironing the fabric stabilizer to the back of a piece of burlap. My burlap was slightly smaller than the stabilizer which worked pretty well as it meant that it was completely covered.

Make your own burlap pencil case pouch step1 Burlap Pencil Case

Then cut a 9-3/4 by 8-3/4 inch piece out of the burlap. I was able to use an edge as part of my design but it doesn’t matter if you can’t.

Make your own burlap pencil case pouch step2 Burlap Pencil Case


Then on the short edge fold under a 1/2 inch seam and iron. Do this on both sides of the piece as this is where the zipper will go.

I found it useful to tack along that line with some matching thread which I’d intended to pull out but in actual fact as it was left in. Tacking this edge makes it easier for you to apply the zipper.

Pull the zipper apart into its two pieces and pin it so one piece is under each of the folded edges. (If you don’t have an open ended zipper – and yours won’t split in two, then see the tip below)

Make your own burlap pencil case pouch step3 Burlap Pencil Case

Machine sew in place.


Make your own burlap pencil case pouch step4 Burlap Pencil Case

Once you have the two pieces of the zipper in place you can reattach the zipper to itself. You’ll do this with the pencil pouch inside out. Just slot the base of the zipper into position and pull the zipper pull a couple of cogs forward, don’t fully zip it up because you’ll need to use this opening to turn it.

Pin the side seams together sew with machine stitching.


Make your own burlap pencil case pouch step5 Burlap Pencil Case


When you’re done turn the piece inside out pushing into the corners to make a good rectangular shape and iron to finish.


Make your own burlap pencil case pouch step6 Burlap Pencil Case


The result is a functional burlap pencil case that’s nice and stable with a good inside surface.

Now that you have your burlap pencil case you can go ahead and embroider it. While it’s not a one dollar project it still is a fairly inexpensive project and dead easy (and dare I say it?) fun to make.



If you don’t have an open ended zipper then you’ll need to cut the burlap into two pieces, attach the zip and sew an additional seam along the base of the piece. It’ll work just as well but it is an additional step.


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Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Cover a Mead notebook

cover a mead notebook Cover a Mead notebook

I love the potential of a Mead notebook – they are simply awesome to work with. For this one I painted it black to begin with then painted the sky blue and wiped bits off so there were mixed bits of black and blue. Then I pasted some papers over the bottom of the book to make the hills and painted them green. I pained on some white clouds too.

I added some simple hand drawn style illustrations of the Eiffel Tower and other buildings. Over the top I added a white chipboard flower and leaf and marked around them with a Sharpie marker and drew the plant stem in with a Sharpie.

Finally I glued on a watch face – so it always tells the time and added a piece of elastic I had left over from some other project.

The project makes a great journal to take on a trip and the added bonus for me is that because I never carry a watch with me my journal always tells the time.

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Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Cool Hand Drawn Frames for your Blog

photoshop frames1 Cool Hand Drawn Frames for your Blog

One cute idea that I’m seeing on the web right now is hand drawn frames used for blog posts. For example, design doyen Jenny Doh uses it over at her blog.

I just loved the idea so much that my trusty assistant and I got drawing and made a few sets of hand drawn doodle style frames for you. You’ll find them here at - the frames cost less than your morning cup of coffee – in fact if you drink coffee like I do then you could buy all the sets and still have change from your day’s Starbucks bill.

The frames include hand drawn scroll-like frames, some Zentangle inspired frames, some floral frames and lots of others to give your blog posts a lift.

photoshop frames2 Cool Hand Drawn Frames for your Blog

Also included in each of the packs – which by the way contain at least ten hand drawn frames in each .99 cent pack – are instructions for using the frames to frame your photos in Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and the Gimp.

I know you’ll find there is something for everyone and now you  have no excuse for boring old blog posts anymore.

In fact you’ll see I have already grabbed one or two of those frames to use in my own blog posts.

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Saturday, October 20th, 2012

Burlap pencil cases – just demanding embroidery

embroider burlap pencil case fish2 Burlap pencil cases   just demanding embroidery

I love the $1 boxes inside the door at Target. There is seldom that a trip to Target doesn’t result in some crafting item jumping into my basket there. One day it might be ribbon, sometimes a felt basket and one day recently it was burlap pencil cases. I bought 7 of them – they were just too good to go past – the colors were awesome – burlap and black, or burlap and cream and I just knew I would find inspiration in them.

Turns out inspiration was just around the corner. I have been embroidering a lot lately so it seemed that embroidering the pencil cases was a gimme since burlap is a great surface to use. I started out by embroidering stitches around the zipper – if anything wasn’t going to hold out for the long term I thought it would be the zipper so I ran a row of stitches around and then got to work on the rest. On this case I embroidered fish. One fish on the front and then three top to tail on the back. I used black buttons for the eyes – the ones you get at Joanns for the small fish and just a standard black button for the large one.

The large fish is embroidered using backstitch to make the outline and then a ‘U’ shape stitch to fill it. For this, come out of the fabric and then go in about 1/4 in away and then out between these two stitches a bit below at the same time catching the thread with a tiny stitch. It is really a fly stitch and if you don’t pull it all too tight you get more of a ‘U’ shape rather than a ‘V’. Continue across the row making stitches side by side and then continue to fill the fish with it.


embroider burlap pencil case fish Burlap pencil cases   just demanding embroidery

On the back here, the fish are again backstitched. One is filled with cross stitch, one with Fly stitch and the other with a sort of woven stitch. Black button eyes finish off the fish.

I am working on one in brown now … will have that to show soon.

In the meantime I’ve found some others on the web who have done things with these burlap pencil cases. Check them out:

Here Leah, owner of BlueBird Chic LLC,  at her blog has painted the pencil case with a paint dabber and added some tags to the finished product.

Here, Kim, from Plumberry Pie has used Sharpie markers to personalise her pencil cases.

Here they are stenciled with a mustache, and here is another stenciled version and again here, Sarah at Sweet life creative used them as invitations having stenciled a letter using craft paint on them.

So, have you found anything super cool at Target lately and what did you make from it?

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Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Embroidery stitches 101 – Cretan stitch

Embroidery cretan stitch step3 Embroidery stitches 101   Cretan stitch

Cretan stitch is kind of like a blanket stitch but it’s done up and down. Depending on how long the stems are  you can get angled bars between the up and down portions or straight ones. In the above example the stitch is almost entirely horizontal because the up and down stitches both end in the same position and it is used over the join between two pieces of felt.

Embroidery cretan stitch opener Embroidery stitches 101   Cretan stitch

The bars in the Cretan stitch above (the red thread) are very angled – this is a very traditional version of the stitch and it is done by making the up and down stitches  shortish so they don’t end up in the same place. The more the ends of the stitch are offset the more the stitch is angled.

In this example, again sewn in red the Cretan Stitch is straighter:

Embroidery cretan stitch secondexample1 Embroidery stitches 101   Cretan stitch


Here’s how to do the Cretan stitch with very straight bars – imagine three horizontal lines. The first stitch should be from under the fabric coming out at the middle line. Then make  a stitch down on the top line and up on the middle line keeping the thread under the needle as it comes out of the fabric.

Embroidery cretan stitch step1 Embroidery stitches 101   Cretan stitch


Then make a stitch going in at the bottom-most of the three lines and again out at the middle line – keep the thread under the needle as it comes out of the fabric. Continue going from top to middle and bottom to middle across the join or across the fabric if you are using it as a decorative stitch.


Embroidery cretan stitch step2 Embroidery stitches 101   Cretan stitch



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Friday, October 12th, 2012

Felt circle embroidery #12 – The magic of Purple and Gold

embroidery on felt stitches wool DMC 12 Felt circle embroidery #12   The magic of Purple and Gold

There is a school in Melbourne – Wesley – which has as its school colors a sort of gold and purple so this is my tribute to those colors. Here I have three shades of purple wool felt and one of gold/sand color – the purples are the smaller areas of color and the gold is the largest – this circle worked out amazingly and along the way you will see I have experimented with some two color stitches.

The bead is sewed on with long stitches in pairs to make a different pattern to usual.

Row 1 – this is a Closed Blanket Stitch worked around the edge of the smallest dark crimson/purple piece. It ends up looking like a triangle stitch but it is from the blanket stitch family.

Row 2 This is part Herringbone Ladder Filling Stitch – the outside edge and the inside edge is a whipped or laced running stitch. Done in two colors the effect is a bit of a steampunk like edging stitch.

Row 3 – ZigZag Couching Stitch – done in two colors you have one thread you just lay in place and another one you use to tie it down. It is cute stitch and pretty easy to do.

Row 4 – On the outside edge is a row of running stitch.


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Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Felt Circles #11 Warmth in dusky pink and green grey

embroidery on felt stitches wool DMC 11 Felt Circles #11 Warmth in dusky pink and green grey

The colors in this piece were selected for me. They are winter warm colors and the mix of dusky pink, blue and green and the dark crimson felt with one of the last of the green beads all work really well together.  Green beads are in short supply – I will miss them when they are gone. I love this piece and the seed stitch looks awesome on it.

Row 1: straight stitch on an angle – does that make it angle stitch, I wonder?

The bead is stitched on with long stitches and these are finished with a twisted loop stitch.

Row 2: Running stitch – it is simple but there is a lot to love about this stitch and it’s not easy to do evenly.

Row 3: this is a sort of modified fern stitch with only two stitches instead of three. I put one stitch over the edge between the two circles and the other one on the outside.

In between rows 2 and 3 is a seed stitch – since I worked out how to do this stitch I really love doing it.

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Monday, October 8th, 2012

Felt Embroidery #10 – filling with chains

20120915 111652 Felt Embroidery #10   filling with chains

This color scheme is one I love, a mix of pale blue, sand, blue grey and grey. I think I love grey because our school uniforms were grey when we were growing up and I learned to love its possibilities – it’s a soft and warm color for me and this wool felt is beautiful to sew – the dark grey color felt is very textured with light fibres in it – like the wool hasn’t taken the dye so it has more interest than just plain felt.

Here I sewed a wheel of stitches to fix the bead – each was finished with a french knot.

Row 1: This is (I think) blanket stitch done not on the edge but stretching over the edge and arranged so the ‘bar’ is n the middle. Well, I think it is this but I’ll have to try it again to see if I can duplicate it. If it is not that, then it is probably Open Cretan Stitch – need to sort this one…

Row 2: Blanket stitch – an old standby stitch which never loses its attraction – though I did read a post recently which suggests you use it on bigger pieces and not on small ones because it doesn’t do sharp corners very well – a plain straight stitch is actually better around corners – I think I agree, but here it works just fine.

From here I added some chain stitching as a filler. I think it’s nice and in future I will probably do one with more chain stitching still in varied colors and perhaps even lace it.

Row 3: This is feather stitch, arranged so most of the stitch is on the outside with only one of the stitches catching the inside piece. I haven’t used Feather stitch much as it isn’t technically a stitch you would use to join two pieces of fabric butI think it makes a nice edge stitch here.

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Sunday, October 7th, 2012

DIY Kitchen towels from Fingertip Towels

kitchen towel from fingertip towels diy opener DIY Kitchen towels from Fingertip Towels

I love the $1 section at Target there is usually something that can be used in the studio or repurposed and the other day there were some fingertip towels with cute designs on them. One set was green with apples and the other set purple with owls.

While I was tempted to buy them they’re not the sort of towels that we would typically use but, on the other hand, we did need towels for the kitchen. I want some towels that can hang on the stove handle and that I can use to dry my hands. I saw the potential in the Target towels so I bought two sets of the towels – two towels for $1 – not bad.

I also bought some ribbon in the same $1 area because coincidentally it matched the towels, there was some green ribbon with apples and some other ribbon with owls – so far so good.

Back home I plundered my fabric stash to find some fabrics that would go with the towels. I found some assorted red fabrics to go with the green towel and a yellow fabric to go with the purple.

To turn the towels into kitchen towels I made a template that was around 4 inches wide at the base and about 6 inches long. I drew it on paper, cut it out and tested it over the stove handle to make sure it would work (I’ve learned my lesson there!).

To gather the towels I started out by cutting off the top of each of the towels and I then ran a set of long running stitches through each of them. I pulled the thread to gather the fabric and knotted it so the towels were gathered to around 4 inches wide.

I then took pieces of fabric that were around 12 to 14 inches long and wide enough and folded them in two to use for the towel tops. I turned under one bottom edge of the fabric and pinned it to the front of the towel so that both front sides were facing the same way. I machine stitched along this line to not only anchor the towel to the fabric but also to hold the gathers in place.

kitchen towel from fingertip towels diy step1 DIY Kitchen towels from Fingertip Towels

Then with the fabric right sides together and the pattern pinned on top of the fabric I stitched around the outside of the pattern. I kind of like making paper patterns like this because you can use them as a stitching guide and then reuse them over and over again.

kitchen towel from fingertip towels diy step2 DIY Kitchen towels from Fingertip Towels

Once I’d stitched outside the design I unpinned the pattern, trimmed the fabric to shape and then cut small darts into the stitching line around the curves so that they would fold correctly.

kitchen towel from fingertip towels diy step3 DIY Kitchen towels from Fingertip Towels

With three sides stitched I turned the fabric topper inside out so that the right sides faced  outwards and so it fitted over the front of the towel with the towel securely contained inside.

Then I pinned around all the sides and machine stitched around the top of the towel. I find this row of stitches helps keep the top of the towel flat later on when it’s being washed and it won’t twist and you won’t have to iron it.

kitchen towel from fingertip towels diy step4 DIY Kitchen towels from Fingertip Towels

Across the bottom of the fabric topper the stitches secure the towel yet again.

To finish off I hand sewed a piece of ribbon over the stitching line to hide it.

I ironed a small piece of adhesive Velcro to the inside of the towel topper so it would attach to itself over the stove handle and I sewed a small button on the front of the towel to use as a faux embellishment. The towel isn’t actually held in place with the button but it looks like it is.

kitchen towel step5 DIY Kitchen towels from Fingertip Towels

I didn’t have enough of the same red fabric for both towels so I used a different fabric and a plain ribbon from the one dollar pack for the second green towel. For the purple towels I did exactly the same thing this time using the owl ribbon from the ribbon pack and affixing some wooden buttons ( from JHB to the front.

kitchen towel from fingertip towels diy step6 DIY Kitchen towels from Fingertip Towels

I’ve already put the lot through the wash and they’ve held up really well. The result is some highly useable kitchen towels and my sole investment was time, some scrap fabric and some buttons from my stash.

It’s a cute project and the towels look just great hanging in the kitchen. You could use the same process to turn any inexpensive towels into kitchen towels.

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Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Felt circles #9 – Red and Green

20120914 185711 Felt circles #9   Red and Green

When I was growing up we learned that “red and green should never be seen”- it just wasn’t done to combine the colors – in fact they go together quite well as you can see here. Usually I will combine similar values of red and green – with Christmas like results – here the combination is deep red with a pale green and added yellow and tan to the mix. It’s a fun and interesting color scheme.

The bead is sewn on using a woven circle – to do this you must have an odd number of ‘spokes’ to the wheel or it fails!

Row 1 – individual lazy daisy stitches interspersed with french knots – I am really liking doing french knots – the more you practice with them the easier they get.

Row 2 – running stitch on an angle or straight stitch? what to call this – it’s simple and fun and a change to do something easy.

Row 3 – blanket stitch all around with some of the bars in the stitch enhanced with lazy daisy stitches to make faux flowers – it’s a great way to ‘fill’ a large area with some decorative element.

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