Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Felt Embroidered PaperMache Ornament

embroidered ornament Felt Embroidered PaperMache Ornament

Turn a Paper Mache Ornament into a Felt Embroidery

One of my recent embroidery projects started out simple and certainly didn’t end that way! I had a cute papermache Christmas ornament blank that was curved on the top and squarish on the base. I planned to cover it with felt embroidery so I made patterns for the base and top – four pieces in each and cut them from wool felt – I cut two pink tops and bottoms and the same in blue so they could be alternated. I then cut out some small paisley shapes in the same pink and blue and some dark blue felt – there were two sizes of paisleys so they stack.

So, with pieces in hand I embroidered the paisleys and stitched them to each piece. I also added some small glass beads with silver lining which I had recovered from a sweater I bought from St Vincent de Paul.

Then I sewed up the bottoms using more beads on the edges and I did the same for the tops. I put them over the basic shape, added some fiberfill padding between the paper mache and the felt and sewed the two halves together over the papermache shape.

It ended up being a huge project – something simple just took off and grew and grew and grew! Then it got more glittery and more over the top with the beads. The thread I used for some of the embroidery was variegated color so that made it look more colorful too.

It was a fun project and the result is pretty cute, if well over the top.

If you find paper mache shapes in the shops before Christmas – check them out – as a base for embroidery they are a great idea. Make them simple or go for broke, just have fun!




Sunday, July 26th, 2015

Woven / Whipped Running Stitch Embroidery

woven stitch embroidery Woven / Whipped Running Stitch Embroidery


Weave thread to add depth and interest to running stitches

It’s been a while since I posted some of my felt circles. I love sewing these because they are small enough that you finish them pretty quickly and you can assemble them into other things like needle books and use them to embellish small pouches.

This one is layers of brown and blue felt and brown and blue threads. I always use wool felt or a blend that has a high proportion of wool and DMC Pearl Cotton thread because of its great handle and its lustre.

Here I stitched a simple blanket stitch on the inside, chain stitch in pale blue thread and then multiple rows of woven running stitch. So here’s the low down on weaving stitches – if you do it as I have and thread through each stitch the same direction it doesn’t matter whether you have an even or odd number of stitches to thread through. If you do a full loop type of stitch in a full circle then you have to have an even number of stitches which means you need to count – for me that is so NOT happening!

So, to get this awesome result, plan to thread your second thread the same way through each stitch, such as come down from the top and you get a lovely even weave and it works the same on even and odd numbers of stitches.

This is the woven stitch I use – it doesn’t need any special stitch count:

how to do a woven stitch Woven / Whipped Running Stitch Embroidery

This form of woven running stitch requires an even number of stitches for it to be used around a shape:

woven stitch v2 Woven / Whipped Running Stitch Embroidery


Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Reverse Applique Embroidered Heart

149 reverse applique heart 2 Reverse Applique Embroidered Heart

See how to sew a reversed applique embroidered heart

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of reverse applique for some time now. I just hadn’t ever tried it so a while ago I gave it a try.

I got out a small embroidery hoop and some cotton fabric. I chose a colorful floral and a piece of navy spotted fabric. It’s a good idea to choose highly contrasting fabrics so you can ‘see’ the design clearly. This is particularly the case when the project is small like this one is.

I placed the navy fabric face down on the back of the floral fabric. This too is important – both pieces of fabric need to face in the same direction because you’re going to cut a heart shape out of the floral fabric so you can “see” the navy fabric through it – so you want to be seeing the right side not the wrong side!

I cut a simple hand drawn heart template. I do this by folding a piece of paper in half and drawing half a heart across the fold. Then cut the shape out and unfold the paper and you have a perfect heart shape.

I pinned the heart to the floral fabric and measured it all against the embroidery hoop that I planned to frame it in. I checked to make sure it would all fit comfortably and that there would be room around the heart for some stitching to show and that it wouldn’t all be too close to the edge.

Then I threaded a needle with navy blue thread to match the navy polka dot and I stitched a heart in chain stitch about 1/4 inch outside the edge of the template area. I stitched through both pieces of fabric so they were both sewn together.

Then I took a small pair of very sharp  scissors and using the template and the stitching line as a guide I cut a heart shape out of just the top piece of floral fabric.

You have to be very careful doing this – you need to cut through the floral fabric but not touch the polka dot fabric which is sewn to it! You also need to leave around 1/4 inch of floral fabric showing inside your fancy stitching line. Cut the fabric in a very neat line – it needs to be smooth and neat.

Then I took some regular navy thread (I use Clover silk thread) and sewed really tiny stitches around the cut edge of the floral fabric – I went though both pieces of fabric so the edge is very neat and tidy. You now see the polka dot fabric heart through the floral fabric.

I finished off by stitching the finished piece to another larger piece of fabric because it was all too small to fit easily in the hoop – my fault for using too small a piece of fabric (or too big a hoop!).

Once it was backed with a large enough piece of fabric I put it all in a hoop stretching it nicely.

Then I flipped it all over and finished it off with a piece of matt board cut a bit smaller than the inside of the hoop. I pressed it into place – the excess fabric is enough to keep it all nicely in place.


Sunday, July 12th, 2015

Mini Cloud Embroidery with Beads

felt clouds 2 Mini Cloud Embroidery with Beads

Multi Layer Felt Cloud with Beaded Accents

This is the second cloud embroidery piece I have done lately. In this one, I layered four felt clouds one on top of the other and sewed them with embroidery stitches. The smallest felt cloud is cream, then it was dusty blue, crimson red and grey. I used running stitch on the smallest three clouds and blanket stitch on the outer one. If you’re not sure how to do blanket stitch I’ve included a small “how to” below that will show you how it is done.

I added a series of seed beads in similar colors as the ‘rain’. The beads are threaded onto very light wire and, at the end of each is a small teardrop shape bead.

The embroidery is on grey linen and uses DMC Pearl Cotton and I used wool blend felt. I like working in natural materials like linen and wool felt – wool felt in particular because it is stronger than the plastic stuff and it doesn’t disintegrate when cut in small pieces. Pearl Cotton has a wonderful luster which adds just the right amount of shine to the embroidery. The piece is small – just 4″ in size.


cloud embroidery felt Mini Cloud Embroidery with Beads

If you want to make this yourself, here is a free pattern. You just need to print it at the desired size and then cut out the felt fabric pieces.

free multi layer felt cloud template Mini Cloud Embroidery with Beads

And, here is how to do blanket stitch. It can be done with the thread on the outside or the inside, this is the outside version.

zoom 2 Mini Cloud Embroidery with Beads

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Cloud Embroidery with Beads

embroidery 11 Cloud Embroidery with Beads

felt cloud, embroidery stitches and beads

Felt cloud with embroidery stitches and beads

I’ve been playing around with some different embroidery projects lately and combining felt with embroidery. It’s a great idea because it lets you get a lot of color without having to do a lot of sewing. Here I’ve used rows of colored stitches including a row of chain stitch, and 3 rows of back stitch. When you mix the colors over felt you get lots of wonderful dimension.

For the rain drops I’ve used a series of wired beads. You can make these yourself using a very light wire and glass beads. I used pieces from an ornament I pulled apart. I am always on the lookout for things I can pull apart when I shop post Christmas at the craft stores and at Cost Plus. I prefer Cost Plus because it is a great source of things when you look past the item itself and look to what you can get when you break it into little pieces. These beads came in longer strings, all I needed to do is to open up the wired loops using pliers and pull them apart into ‘right size’ lengths. Then I sewed them in under the edge of the cloud.

The embroidery is done on linen fabric which I find at Joann’s. I love sewing on linen and this one is a great dark grey color with a narrow cream stripe. It gives projects just the right amount of sophistication. I also prefer to use DMC Pearl Cotton – it is a thickish embroidery thread and it is nice and soft to work with. Since it is a single thread and not designed to be pulled apart, it has a great luster which makes your project look awesome.

embroidery 12 Cloud Embroidery with Beads




Monday, June 8th, 2015

Sewing Felt Oranges and Lemons

oranges and lemons in felt 4 Sewing Felt Oranges and Lemons

Learn to cut & sew felt oranges, lemons and limes

Citrus shapes are shapes you see around a lot. I think it is the color – the combination of yummy orange, yellow or green with the white of the fruit’s pith is a great contrast. The colors and shapes of a sliced piece of fruit lends itself to be rendered in felt. These projects are quick and simple enough for the beginner to sew which is great because you get a lot of dash for a minimal expenditure of time and learning. They also don’t take up a lot of product so you get quite a bit of sewing from just a couple of sheets of felt.

Now I like to use wool felt or at least felt with a high proportion of wool in it when I sew. It’s important that you use good quality felt for this project because the pieces are so small and you really need to be able to cut them neatly and to ensure when you sew them that the felt doesn’t pull away from the stitches. Cheap felt tends to fall apart when it is cut into small pieces and when you have to sew close to the edges. Good quality felt will stand up to being cut into small pieces and being sewn using small stitches.

Start by making a pattern by drawing a set of concentric circles. I find it easiest to draw the pattern on paper and then use the pattern as a template for cutting the felt. I start by drawing and cutting the outer piece, then I cut it a bit smaller each time until I arrive at the middle piece. I call this a lossy pattern because the pattern gets destroyed in the process but it’s easy to do. I’ve given you a template here that you can use if you need to do so – just copy it at the size you want it to be.

citrus pattern1 Sewing Felt Oranges and Lemons

When cutting the smallest pieces – gently round the edges so they aren’t pointy – they look better rounded and they are easier to sew this way.

I like to glue the felt pieces together using a fabric glue stick – it helps stabilize everything while I sew and saves having to use a lot of pins. I hate using pins because they always seem to stick into me so I end up feeling like a human pincushion.

Then start sewing – I use white thread on the white pieces and a matching thread on the color pieces – sometimes the color thread I use is a bit lighter or darker – I find that a difference in shade matters less than getting the wrong color. Get the wrong orange or the wrong green and it looks bad. Get a lighter or darker version of the same color and it all looks just fine.

oranges and lemons felt emboidery 2 Sewing Felt Oranges and Lemons

Here I’ve sewn split stitch around the lemon pieces and around the edges in the orange. In the orange segments I stitched a very simple seed stitch with the stitches all going in pretty much the same direction.


oranges and lemons in felt 2 Sewing Felt Oranges and Lemons

Here the felt pieces have been sewn to a backing fabric and embroidered with blanket stitch, running stitch, seed stitch and split stitch.

oranges and lemons in felt 3 Sewing Felt Oranges and Lemons

And then the finished piece is assembled into a flexi hoop – I love these cute hoops which I get from an Etsy seller – these hoops are faux wood (although they also come in red, pink and white). You just put the embroidery over the backing ring and then push the flexible outer ring on top. Everything gets held in place nice and securely.

oranges and lemons in felt 5 Sewing Felt Oranges and Lemons

I finished this one off with a piece of matt board cut into a small circle – it was small enough to fit inside the inner part of the hoop but large enough to fit securely so it stays in place. It’s a very simple finishing technique – I don’t usually do this but it certainly worked well for this piece.

oranges and lemons in felt 1 Sewing Felt Oranges and Lemons

Another option is to cut the inverse out and design the citrus from there. Then fill the inner bits with your embroidery.


oranges and lemons felt emboidery 1 Sewing Felt Oranges and Lemons

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

two sided insertion stitch example Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

How to make this cute elongated star shaped stitch

There is a lot of confusion about what this stitch is actually called and many instructions for making it are somewhat unclear. So, to help out, because it is such a wonderful stitch, here’s how to make it:

You should work this stitch over a grid of 9 x 6 threads or some multiple of this – in the photos I used an 18 x 12 grid because the linen is so fine.

The first step is the left side of the star – the first long stitch:

double insertion stitch step1 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

double insertion stitch steps 01 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

Next you make part of the left point of the star, coming up at 3, down at 4 (and then heading back up to come out again at 3):

double insertion stitch step2 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

double insertion stitch steps 02 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

Next the bar across the star:
double insertion stitch step3 e1424045770900 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch
Now back to make the long right side of the star shape, it is always fun to do this side as you know you’re about half way through the stitch:
double insertion stitch step4 e1424045894746 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch
double insertion stitch steps 03 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

Next we’re back in the middle of the star finishing off the final point:

double insertion stitch step5 e1424045925943 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

double insertion stitch steps 04 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

Now we’re headed away from this first star and onto the next one:

double insertion stitch steps 05 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

double insertion stitch step6 e1424045949146 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

double insertion stitch steps 06 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

Since we are now just repeating the previous steps, let’s switch to just photos:double insertion stitch steps 07 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

double insertion stitch steps 08 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

double insertion stitch steps 09 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

double insertion stitch steps 10 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

One of the wonderful parts of this stitch is that the back of your embroidery looks as good as the front – the stitch makes this lovely grid format (it’s also a way to know you’ve been doing it right!):
double insertion stitch steps 11 Double Insertion Stitch aka Two Sided Insertion Stitch

Monday, January 19th, 2015

What to do when your yarn is discontinued

Screen Shot 2015 01 17 at 5.47.06 PM What to do when your yarn is discontinued

What yarn can I substitute in a knitting or crochet pattern?

I recently got a book called Knit Your Own Dog chock full of cute dogs to knit. I went through it oohing and aaahhhing over the dogs and finally picked a couple that I wanted to make. Yeah! Now to buy the yarn.

Fail! Major Fail!

The yarn recommended in the book was discontinued, just about every single one was unavailable. Yikes! What to do? Well the solution was complex, challenging and interesting enough to prompt a blog post. So here’s what to do when a yarn you want to buy simply isn’t available any longer.

1 First stop eBay

It might not be your favorite place to shop but sometimes eBay is your friend for discontinued yarn. Search by yarn manufacturer and type and browse the results. I found one of my discontinued woolen yarns here – but it was in the UK. Right now I am waiting to hear from the seller if they will ship to the US and what it will cost.

Pros: You can use Buy it now to snag your yarn. Generally inexpensive.

Cons: You don’t know where it has been (think pets, smokers and moth balls)

Screen Shot 2015 01 18 at 10.47.20 AM What to do when your yarn is discontinued

2 Find the Manufacturer’s recommended substitute yarn

If you can’t find the original yarn then you will need a substitute. At this point it will help to make a document. I use Word and make a list of the yarn(s) I need from the pattern. I note the weight or yardage or however it is measured and the yarn manufacturer, yarn name and all the color information. This means I have a single place to record all the information I need about the yarn that is no longer manufactured.

Turns out that most yarns can be substituted with a currently available yarn. That’s the good news. But how do you find the yarn to substitute it with? Turns out there are a couple of options.

First of all visit the website for your yarn manufacturer. I was looking for some Rowan wools so I went to Knitrowan.com – the manufacturer’s web site.
Screen Shot 2015 01 18 at 10.43.19 AM What to do when your yarn is discontinued


At that site you can click to search by yarn type – including Discontinued yarns. When you find your yarn there is plenty of good information here such as the mix in the yarn (wool, cashmere, nylon etc) and the weight and yardage. I either type this information into my document or take a quick screen shot to record these details. 

Screen Shot 2015 01 18 at 10.43.50 AM e1421607146374 What to do when your yarn is discontinued


Here too I found a color chart. This is gold! Grab it. You see one of my discontinued yarns was called Country 170 – yep! Country 170. Just what color do you think that is – blue, brown, green? There are two problems when you are looking for a discontinued yarn – the actual brand and yarn type to substitute it with and often also you will need to match the color. I want to knit an Afghan hound so I need afghan hound type colors – color is important so I need to know approximately what Country 170 looks like so I can match it in any substitute yarn I choose. For me that turned out to be a light brown – pretty important to get that right when knitting the dog – if I want a dog colored dog.

Screen Shot 2015 01 18 at 10.56.31 AM What to do when your yarn is discontinued

Now at Knitrowan.com I also found a yarn substitution chart – it is a downloadable PDF that lists the discontinued yarns and currently available yarns in groups – so you can see what can be substituted for what. This gives you some options to look at for replacing the missing yarn.

Screen Shot 2015 01 18 at 10.58.16 AM What to do when your yarn is discontinued

Not all other sites are so useful though! Needless to say, your options may not be this simple – so roll on the next option.

Pros: Depending on the manufacturer the info can be really useful. It is quick.

Cons: Not all manufacturers provide detailed help for discontinued yarns. Sometimes even good sites have out of date information. Yarn substitution recommendations are limited to the manufacturer’s own yarn types.

3 Yarn Substitution websites

Yarnsub.com is dedicated to helping you find yarns to substitute for other yarns. You can search by brand and yarn type and this site shows you a comprehensive list of yarns you can substitute for the discontinued yarn. These are listed by % match so you can see if it is an excellent replacement or a pretty good one.

One downside of this site is that some of the recommended  yarns are themselves discontinued so you can go round in circles a bit (make that quite a bit).

If your discontinued yarn is listed here you will find plenty of replacement options and these won’t be limited to one manufacturer so there will be lots of scope to find a replacement. In addition the description of replacement yarns will tell you the amount of the new yarn to buy to match the original quantities which is really useful.


Pros: Really good information on discontinued yarns. Good info on possible yarns to substitute. Recommended yarns are rated by quality of match.

Cons: Many replacement suggestions are themselves discontinued. No color information.
Screen Shot 2015 01 18 at 10.44.26 AM What to do when your yarn is discontinued

You can also try the knitting and all things yarn site Ravelry.com. Search for your discontinued yarn to learn more about it. While Ravelry is good for yarn information it isn’t so good with color or recommended replacement option. There are generally lots of photos of the yarn but they are haphazardly arranged and they aren’t generally complete. Now if you go to Ravelry.com you have to sign in to get to the wonderful information but if you use Google (eg. search for Ravelry and then the fiber name) you get to the site as a guest by passing the need to join up (although it is such a great site you will probably want to sign up).


Pros: Good information on discontinued yarns.

Cons: No really useful color information and no replacement yarn recommendations.

Screen Shot 2015 01 18 at 11.03.53 AM e1421607877566 What to do when your yarn is discontinued

Yarndex is a very thorough database of yarn information. Not only does it have valuable information about the yarn which is discontinued but it also has great color charts which are invaluable. One problem with the site, however, is the search tool. One of the yarns I wanted to find a substitute for was Rowan Tapestry – so I searched for Rowan Tapestry at Yarndex – the search turned up nothing. However, when I searched for Tapestry it was in the search results list. So, be aware, searching wider rather than narrower on this site might turn up better results.

In my opinion Yarndex is the first stop to make for color information which this site really scores on.


Pros: Great site for information on discontinued yarns. Great historical color information.

Cons: Site wide search is not great. No information on replacement yarns.

Screen Shot 2015 01 17 at 6.27.52 PM e1421608016959 What to do when your yarn is discontinued

4 Google is your friend

Google is a great resource once you know what yarns you are looking for to replace a discontinued yarn and it is also great for color swatches. For example typing “rowan tapestry color chart” and clicking Images will get you a range of color swatches – admittedly not all Rowan Tapestry wool but a quick look will turn up the one you want. Sometimes this is actually the easier way to find resources at Yarndex than using the site’s own search engine.

Google is also a great source of online sites which stock the type of wool/yarn you want to buy to substitute for the discontinued yarn.

5 Final thoughts

In my search for substitute yarns I have found some useful sites. Here they are:

Sweet Georgia Yarn Substitution things to think about when looking for a substitute yarn including texture, gauge and handle.

Lion Brand’s information on how to choose a substitute yarn.

Substituting Yarns

Field Guide to yarn substitution

Gauge and Yarn Substitutions

Craftsy – How to substitute yarn

Screen Shot 2015 01 18 at 10.42.04 AM1 What to do when your yarn is discontinued






Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Tree house doodle

treehouse Tree house doodle

Doodle a tree of houses

This is literally a tree house doodle, here I’ve drawn a series of my row houses up the trunk of a tree.

One of the nice things about houses that are stacked on top of each other is that you get to draw fun accents like stairs and ladders – because the designs are fanciful they don’t actually have to be serious so you can drape your stairs in loops and waves and your houses don’t have to be engineered to actually sit where they are – just sketch your houses and wrap the tree around them. In my drawing you’ll see a set of windows inside the tree making this a tree house as well.


Saturday, December 27th, 2014

Drawing – Log Cabins

cabins Drawing   Log Cabins

Drawing Log Cabins and wood houses

So, most of the time my drawings are pretty clean and they aren’t textured.  However I found a few photos on the web of wooden houses that looked like they were from Norway or one of the Scandinavian countries. I fell in love with the look so I had a shot at sketching them. I left the windows unshaded but everywhere that there are planks of wood, I drew lines.

The plus here is that old wooden houses tend to be a bit warped and uneven so that’s the effect I’ve achieved here – an old rickety style wooden house. Basically the shapes are simple – particularly those below – but the texture really sets them apart from my standard drawing style.

It’s good to mix things up a bit. Until you try a style you won’t know if you like it and if it’s something you want to include in your skill set.

I’m thinking that these might be cute rendered as sketches in Photoshop too – there’s a skill involved in creating pattern fills that are organic like this so they look hand drawn. But, for now, here are some wooden houses for you to enjoy and, perhaps draw yourself too.


cabins2 Drawing   Log Cabins


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