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One stitch at a time: embroidery

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On the weekend, a dear friend asked me about the embroidery technique I had used in some recent pictures I posted to Facebook.

Luckily, I had run a tutorial on embroidery some years ago for a Brown Owl’s session, so had already done a tutorial sheet, which I will happily share with you.

Image of an embroidery of a ship

The image I posted to facebook













Let me just point out here that I pretty much taught myself to embroider, and I am sure that if an embroidery elder saw my work, she (or he, I guess) would probably have a fit!  I like my embroidery to be fairly fluid, freehand and I am not too worried if the fabric puckers, or the patterns shows through the stitching. I enjoy the process.

Usually my designs are in block colours and fairly simple, with very few details or small areas (although I am getting better at that). I usually free hand my design using a normal fineline, black art pen or a non-fading fabric pen (keep in mind you might want to wash the final product, so you have to use something that won’t run….much). I find the non-fading types are the best as you might take months to complete your embroidery, and you don’t want your design to fade halfway through. The other method I use is to sketch the design on paper, then use some transfer paper from Sublime Stitching (they have white transfer paper too, so you can use dark fabric). By the way, these guys are fantastic! they have the radest patterns (their tag is ‘this ain’t your Gramma’s embroidery’!) and the most beautiful threads and accessories. Definitely worth checking out, especially if you are not so confident at drawing/designing and you don’t want to contemplate the complete yawn-fest of designs at spotlight and lincraft.


I know there are special embroidery fabrics out there, but they seem to cost a fortune. I usually go for something light, cotton or linen, with a reasonably large weave. Seems to work just fine.


I use a size 6 embroidery needle. But experiement. That might not work for you.

Fabric onto hoop

You will need a hoop. I go for the good old fashioned cane ones, as they are cheap and you can usually find them at the op shop.

–       Separate the two sections of hoop

–       Position fabric over smaller section of hoop and place larger hoop over top

–       Tighten screw half way

–       Pull fabric so that fabric has no creases

–       Tighten screw all the way so that fabric won’t move as you are sewing.

If tightening that ridiculous metal screw on the embroidery hoop is too much for your fingers, get one of those rubber page turner things that secretaries use, turn it inside out, place it over the screw and the little rubber bumps will turn it for you.


Embroidery thread (sometimes called ‘floss’) is made up of lots of individual strands. Depending on what kind of stitch, or thickness you need, one or more can be threaded. I use one strand doubled over for most of my work. Check out markets and op shops too. Sometimes people get rid of their old thread.

– To help separate the threads, pat the top of your length, the threads will part making it easier to separate.

– To get one thread out, simply grab the thread you want in your fingers with one hand and use the other hand to pull the other threads down. Do it slowly and it helps not to have a super long length.

– Don’t forget to knot the thread.

Time to stitch!

There are heaps of complicated stitches out there. If your are only wanting to fill in a design, with no fancy raised bits, these stitches will get you there.

Split Stitch

Is pretty much all I use! its fast. And sexy.

BAck Stitch

Satin Stitch

Check out YouTube- there are so many instructional videos on there it isn’t funny! Sublime Stitching also has a delicious range of books.

Some Tips:

  • Don’t drink red wine and embroider. Drink white, it doesn’t stain.
  • Be super OCD about your threads. If you get serious, you will end up with ton and keeping them in containers or bags will mean they won’t get tangled
  • Be kind to your eyes, especially if you embroider at night. A good lamp is the best.
  • Be prepared to stuff up. knotted threads, lame designs, paw prints on your fabric are all apart of the journey- go with it!
  • Find a good framer. If you create something amazing, you’ll want to preserve it. (I use these guys)


Photo of embroider

Example of an Embroidery Elder’s work- my great Grandmother did this… by candle light


Please share! If you are an Embroidery Elder, I would LOVE to hear from you!






I wear bows. Because Bows are cool

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I brought myself a sewing machine a couple of weeks ago and I though I would (belatedly) celebrate by sharing one of my favorite sewing projects. Its a great way to use up scraps of fabric and ribbon and makes a great gift!

How to make a fabric hair bow

What you will need:

Materials ready to go

  • approximately  28×11 cm of fabric (cotton is best)
  • a piece of ribbon, 4-7 cm long and at least 1.5 cm wide
  • scissors
  • needle and thread
  • sewing machine (you can hand sew if you don’t have one)
  • hot glue gun or fabric glue
  • bobby pin or finger curl clip (or brooch pin)
  • a scrap of felt
  • iron

Step one: Fold your fabric so that the printed side faces in pin and sew down long edge (about 1 cm in from the edge – or whatever you are comfortable with). Turn inside out and arrange so that the seam is running down the middle of the fabric, not at the edge, like this

seam down the middle

Step Two: Iron fabric. Then, fold your fabric in half and mark the centre with a pin. Now fold the two ends into the centre  and pin. At  this point you can start to get a feel for the proportions of your bow. If you feel that its going to be too big and floppy, trim and equal amount off each end and re-pin

fold and pin








Step Three: Next, run a line of running stitch down the edge of your fabric end (making sure you get ALL of the fabric!). Try not to make your stitches too tight or small. Then pull the thread so that the fabric gathers. Pass the needle back through the gathered fabric so that the gathering stays bunched up, and secure with a few stitches and a knot.

Running stitch















Step Four: Now we are going to create the centre of the bow. Stitch one end of your ribbon to the middle of the back of your bow (or front – whatever will make it look nice!). The stitches don’t have to be perfect, just strong enough to hold the ribbon to the fabric (you can hot-glue gun this step if you want).

stitch ribbon to back








Step Five: Fold your ribbon around the front of the bow so that it meets up and overlaps at the back. Pin. Check the proportions of the ribbon and bow- you don’t want it too tight or too loose. Trim and sew the ribbon (again, don’t stress if the stitching isn’t perfect, you are going to cover all of this over!).

fold ribbon around to back so it overlaps









Step Six: Cut a small piece of felt that is big enough to cover all your stitching, but can’t been seen from the front. Next, stitch your bobby pin or finger curl pin on to the felt.  Make sure it can’t slip off. (Alternatively, you could use a brooch pin for this step- or why not both?!)

stitch pin to felt








Step Seven: Glue the felt to the back of your bow.

Step Eight: You’re done! enjoy!


Insanity and the bookcase

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I haven’t posted for a while now and there is a very good reason for that…. University, and lots of it. The assignments are flying thick and fast, not the mention the lectures, readings and general stress that comes with a Master’s degree.

In the middle of all this madness I come up with the awesome idea of downsizing my collection of craft/art supplies and tools and relocating them to the bookcase/ study and transforming the studio into a library/wine nook/ general de-stressing zone (I was envisioning LOTS of Dr. Who posters as well!). Great idea? Yes!

Then came to the actual doing.  And the severe psychological harm of down sizing a room that essentially has been a haven of hoarding for the past three years. Did I really think I was going to reuse all of those egg cartons? and bits of bias binding rescued from the op shop? Of Course! But I think once the stress of throwing things that I previously thought I couldn’t live without and paring my art/craft practice down to the bare minimum will be a good excercise for the brain and soul. And we will gain a space in the house that is devoted to relaxation and free of electronics and TV.

Bring it on I say!

Organised deliciousness. My plan for the new and improved art/craft storage space. Recycled cardboard boxes covered with fabric. Spray adhesive has been my saviour here, so quick and easy and relatively clean.


Chaos! all of the contents of the book-case and studio in transit. I can’t seem to produce the fabric covered boxes quick enough! Patience is the key here, I think.