I spend quite a lot of time each week on digitizing or tinkering with the website, but I also like to work on other crafts and projects. This page showcases mostly things I've been working on, though I do sometimes feature items made by my sisters. Most are embroidery-related, but some show other crafts and activities as well. Many of the items, though not all, are gift items for friends and siblings, mainly for Christmas, the biggest gift-giving time of the year in my family.

If any of these project ideas interest you, please let me know and I'll post some detailed instructions.

Latest Project

Large Applique Dragon Wall Art

Posted 11 June 2021

This week, thanks to the assistance I received from Jaret at That Sewing Place, I was able to get my machine going and finish up this large project that I started  more than a month ago. 

It's a beautiful dragon wall hanging for my sister-in-law's Christmas present. She's a fan of dragons, and her favourite colour is purple, so this fills the bill on both counts. (She doesn't follow the site, so I'm not spoiling her surprise).

For the main body I used a deep purple satin, with a lighter purple satin to line the wings. The ruff is a purple velour that I had in my stash, and I used the same velour for the backing. 

This is another design from Kreative Kiwi, and as you can see, it's just  gorgeous. (I'm not affiliated with her in any way; I just like her work). 

These "large applique" designs can be used like a conventional applique for large surfaces such as quilts, or you can use them as-is for a beautiful piece of wall art, which is what I intend my sister-in-law to do. 

To that end, I added three hanging loops to the back of the design, making them from purple fabric and attaching them along a seam using nylon filament (invisible) thread, so they are not noticeable from the front. I'll include three command hooks with it so she'll be able to hang it right away. 

I ended up making the largest size, which when finished is about two feet long and a foot and a half wide! I didn't fully appreciate how big that is til it was finished, despite having the measurements at hand. I must say as well that the detail on this thing is extraordinary. Check out these close-ups of the face and the wings: they're just beautiful!

I'm still relatively new to the large applique method, so there are a couple of small boo-boos in here. I'm hoping that they're the kind of thing that only I will notice, and that my sister-in-law will not see them. 

The instructions call for mylar on the wings, and that would indeed be beautiful, but I went with just the lighter satin fabric, which I think looks just as nice. 

I also opted for the same colour of thread (this grapey purple) for most of the dragon, with the exception of the staff and orb, which I stitched in gold and green.

I'm pleased with the overall effect and will be trying some more of these large applique projects over the next couple of months. 

Previous Projects

Change to the Big Frame

Posted 4 June 2021

Are you tired of getting this error message on your multi-needle Brother or Babylock embroidery machine? So was I!


That is, until Jaret told me how to fix it! Click here to learn the secret. 

 

Mr Piper Returns -- Again

Posted 28 May 2021


A couple of weeks ago I stitched a tee for my friend, featuring this logo. Then -- since I seem to be in ornament mode -- I thought I'd make an ornament based on the same image.

Click here to see how it turned out.


Baby's First Ornaments

Posted 21 May 2021

I've made several of these felt-and-applique ornaments for new babies over the past few years, and this year (so far) I've made three. It's interesting to see how a change in fabrics alters the look. 

Click here to see the latest ones, and to see how I brightened their little faces with a touch of crayon.


Mr Piper Embroidered T-Shirt

Posted 14 May 2021

If you recognize this guy, you'll want to see the shirt I embroidered for my friend's birthday! 


Click here to read about it and see the result.

Space Command "Special Envoy"Shirt Ornaments

Posted 7 May 2021

Have you ever wondered what other uniform colours Star Fleet might need? Me too!

Click here to see what I've come up with!

Matchbox-style Slider Boxes from Greeting Cards

Posted 30 April 2021

This week's project is just one of the reasons I save greeting cards. Click here to see what I've made!


Feeling the Bern

Posted 23 April 2021

My sister Nita, the freestyle crochet artist, was beseiged with requests for crocheted Bernie dolls after other people started posting theirs on line. And I made custom gift bags for them to travel in, using my redwork Bernie design -- the first time in years that she and I have collaborated on a project. (We live quite a distance apart, so don't have a chance to get together as often as we'd like). 



Click here to see both the dolls and the bags. 

(Almost) Free Parts Bins

Posted 16 April 2021

If you're anything like me, your craft/sewing room has lots of small bits and bobs that need to be corralled. If only there was an abundant source of inexpensive bins to help organize and store these little essentials . . .


Recently I've been using several sturdy cardboard bins that I made myself. Click here to find out how I made them from reclaimed cardboard boxes. 

More Specialty Gift Bags

Posted 9 April 2021

I'm still making gift bags, and lately have been going with some family themes, such as this caricature.




Click here to see the completed bags I've made for my brother and sister-in-law.

They're Back!

Posted 2 April 2021


They made such a hit last Christmas, they were booked for a return engagement . . . this time in a different guise.

 

Click here to find out what my freestyling crochet sister has done now.

Welcome to My Pad

Posted 26 March 2021

This little doodad may not look like much, but it can come  in mighty handy if you've got a vintage sewing machine that you keep in a cabinet. 



Click here to find out what it's for. 

Large Quilted Applique 

Posted 19 March 2021

I don't buy many embroidery designs anymore, but a few weeks ago I discovered the wonderful designs at Kreative Kiwi, and ended up purchasing several. 

I just finished my first of what I expect will be many projects from her designs. Click here to read more and see the complete wreath project. 




I'm not affiliated with Kreative Kiwi in any way; I just like her designs. 

Using Giant Thread Cones on a Serger

Posted 12 March 2021


This gigantic reel of synthetic thread was a huge bargain at the thrift store, but how on earth am I going to manage to use it on the serger??

Click here to see how I improvised a solution. 


Writing a Manual for a Mid-Century Zigzag Sewing Machine

Posted 05 March 2021

Mid-century Japanese sewing machines are often missing their instruction manuals, as several of mine are, so I decided to write up some of my own.


Click here to read a bit about how I went about that process. 

Another Cat Cardigan 

Posted 26 Feb 2021

The cat sweaters my sister made for Christmas (see my post for Jan 8th) were a huge hit. Now she's added another variant to the collection -- a sweater for her  young grandson, who loves cats too. 

I really like the peekaboo theme on this sweater -- two cats peeking out from pocket and placket, and another peering above the bottom ribbing on the back. I know her grandson is going to love this one. 

This sweater clearly coordinates with the other ones she made, but like each of them, it's got its own unique charm. I wonder what she'll work on next? 

Modify your Multi-Needle for Tangle-Free Stitching

Posted 19 Feb 2021

If you've been tearing your hair out over threads tangling on their way from spool to needle, and haven't yet seen this easy modification, you're going to want to read this! 

Click here to see how I eliminated this pesky problem on my Brother PR600. 

Lots More Mittens

Posted 12 Feb 2021

DH really liked the personalized mittens he received for Christmas, as did my friend, so I'll be adding mitts to nearly everyone's Christmas parcel next year.


Click here to see several of the new pairs I've been making lately. 

Animal Print Gift Bags

Posted 5 Feb 2021

I picked up a remnant of this fun animal print flannelette, and couldn't resist making some any-occasion gift bags . . .  and digitizing some new designs to go with.


Click here to see the finished products. 

Bahai Banner

Posted 29 Jan 2021

My friend loves banners, and I've made several for her over the years, including a lovely blue one that displays symbols and quotations of the Baha'i faith.  

Click here to see the finished banner. 

The symbol designs can be found on the Culture and Spirit page of the site; I haven't yet posted the sayings, though I'm planning to add them in a future update. 

Crowell's Totes

Posted 22 Jan 2021


After my sisters saw the gift bags I made using the store logo from our childhoods, they asked for tote bags with the same design.  

Click here to see the finished bags that everyone got for Christmas.


Scampers Ornament Collection

Posted 15 Jan 2021

Through his first Christmas season, it was difficult to keep Scampers out of the tree! But while I don't like him being there for real, I do kind of like the idea of his being on the tree in the form of personalized ornaments.


Click here to see baby Scampers immortalized in three different handmade ornaments.  

Hand-Knit Cat Cardigans

Posted 8 January 2021

My knitting sister spent the Covid-19 lockdown time making beautiful cat-themed cardigans for all of her sisters for Christmas. They are just gorgeous (the sweaters, that is -- and the sisters too), and they were a great hit with all of us. 


Click here to see her beautiful work. 

Crocheted Character Stockings

Posted 1 January 2021

We all got a host of lovely handmades for Christmas this year, but my sister really stole the show with her crocheted masterpieces. 

I've already written about the Yip-Yip stockings, but there was more, and they're great!

Click here to see what else she sent.

Fleece Mittens

Posted 18 December 2020

I've been making fully lined fleece mitts this past week, for both DH and my friend. I love how toasty-warm these are, and they can be embroidered for personalization.

Click here to see the finished mitts.


If you'd like to try your hand at these, you can find detailed pictorial instructions at this link showing how they're put together.  And here's another good one with detailed pattern and instructions, including variations. 

Gwen's Baubles

Posted 11 December 2020

Each year Gwen creates beautiful handmade ornaments. This year's lovely origami-style ornaments are made from luxurious papers, intricately folded and bejewelled. Her artist's eye and her deft fingers make each one a work of exquisite beauty. 


Click here to see a PDF of some of her beautiful creations. 

Yip Yep Yup Uh huh

Posted 4 December 2020

Remember these alien muppet characters from long ago on Sesame Street? This year my sister Nita decided to make her own versions as Christmas stockings for all the sibs and their spouses. 


Click here to see her finished product.

Da Vinci's Angel Ornaments

Posted 27 November 2020

I have always loved this angel detail from DaVinci's Madonna of the Rocks.

Recently I decided to turn this beloved image into two very different ornaments for my Christmas tree.

Click here to see how they turned out.


Silver Diamond Ornament

Posted 20 November 2020

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I finished up one of my origami diamond ornaments.

At the time I hadn't yet figured how I wanted to complete this sliver and white one.  Well, it's done now, in plenty of time for Christmas, and it looks lovely.

Click here to see the how it turned out.


Adapting a Design to an XL Tee

Posted 13 November 2020

When I'm stitching t-shirts, I can generally use the 5" size of a design, but occasionally I need something larger, as I did for the XL sized shirt I embroidered for a friend for Christmas. At right is the design I started with, but I altered it to better suit the tee. 

To see the changes I made, and the finished shirt, click here for a PDF of this project.

Shirts for Christmas

Posted 6 November 2020

As a guy gift, you pretty much can't go wrong with an embroidered shirt that reflects his interests or personality.

And the nice thing is that you know your gift will be appreciated and actually worn!

Click here to see some of the shirts I've made this year. 

Vintage-Style Rosette Ornament

Posted 30 October 2020


I love vintage-style ornaments, and recently decided to try making some of these book-page rosettes, like this one for my sewing room tree.   

Click here to learn more.

There are lots of instructions on line for making vintage rosette ornaments, including this video from Mark Montano. 


Repairing Piper Santa

Posted 23 October 2020


This Scottish Santa figurine invited himself home from the thrift store, on the understanding that I'd be able to repair his bagpipes. 

I love this kind of challenge, and I also liked his $4 price tag. To see the restored pipes,  click here.



Mask Pleating Update

Posted 16 October 2020


Like lots of sewists, I've been making face masks since March, starting with the basic 6x9" pleated rectangle. I've also been experimenting with variations to see if I could get a better fit. 

I think I've finally got one, and not only that, it's just as easy to make as the original style.

To see my version,  click here.


Atheists Love Christmas Too!

Posted 9 October 2020


Browsing on line, my sister spotted this irreverent Christmas stocking. She thought immediately of joke-gifting a friend who pretends to be a bit of a Scrooge about Christmas.

She was disappointed that the stockings themselves seem to be completely sold out everywhere they were listed, so she asked me if I could create something similar. I could, and I did.

To see my version,  click here


For more on how I construct my Christmas stockings, you can find a PDF at this link. It illustrates the making of a stocking other than this one, but the procedure I followed is the same in both cases.

Freak in the Room

Posted 2 October 2020

As a gift for Christmas, my brother requested a replacement for his much-loved "Freak in the Room" cap, which he finally wore out a while back.

He'll be pleased to find a new one under the tree, and I hope it will stay a surprise til Christmas. (He doesn't follow the site, so won't see it here).


To read more and to see the new hat, click here.

Diamond in the Rough

Posted 25 September 2020

A few months ago, I made this diamond-shaped origami ornament from a couple of Christmas cards. It's been hanging in my craft room for a while now because I couldn't quite decide how I was going to finish it off. 


This past week, while gathering cones for Christmas decor, I had an inspiration. 

To see the gorgeous finished ornament, click here for a PDF. 

Santa's Sack Stocking

Posted 18 September 2020

This project is a fun riff on the Christmas stocking tradition: a Santa with his toy sack, waiting to be filled.

To make it, I revisited a pattern that I first designed in the 1980s, but this time I added some machine embroidery that I think has made it even better. 

To learn more about my original Santa Sack stocking design and its newest iteration, click here to find my PDF

Thinking Pink

Posted 14 August 2020

This Pinkie is an oldie but goodie, made up from one of the toy patterns that I created some years ago. I decided to make one of these for my little nephew, who has become a fan after watching the vintage cartoons with his grandma. 


Read more about this project in this PDF

Greatest Hits

Posted 7 August 2020

A few years ago I had the inspiration to make a mini version of a favorite Christmas album as an ornament for my tree. I loved it so much that this year, I revisited this same idea for my friend's Ornament-of-the- Month series. 

Click here see the PDF of this fun ornament project. 

Bags of History

Posted 24 July 2020

The older I get, the more familiar landmarks of my youth that seem to melt into the mists of history. So with Jacobson's, the venerable ladies' wear emporium that stood in our downtown for nearly a century.

A fixture for all of us, it was extra special for my best friend, whose dad was manager there, and who worked there for a time herself.

How neat to be able to gift her with a custom memento of both our home town and of her dad, who passed away some years ago. 

Click here to read more about the gift and its context.  

Sweet Memories

Posted 17 July 2020

This chocolate bar from my childhood was a favorite, a bit of long-gone sweetness fondly remembered by all of my siblings. 



Click here to see how it became a nifty Christmas ornament. 

Can I Has Wreath?

Posted 10 July 2020

Two little girls and a hamster:  thereby hangs a tale . . .  and a new Memory ornament.

Click here to see the latest addition to my personal collection.


The little chenille/bead wreath that I used in this project is demonstrated on youtube by Lori (Happy Bird). She shows samples and explains exactly how to make them with two chenille stems and a length of fused beads.

Sharpie to the Rescue

Posted 3 July 2020

What to do when bobbin thread pulls to the right side of a design during stitch-out? 

This sometimes happens with machine embroidery, but happily there's a fairly easy fix. Click here to read more, and to see the finished Taz ornament.

Tightening Large Hoops

Posted 2020 June 26

My large hoops have springs only in two opposite corners, and it's difficult to keep them evenly tight all the way around.

It's tempting to over-tighten them in an attempt to keep the hooped fabric taut, but over-tightening can crack the hoop or damage the spring mechanism.

I have hit on a method for tightening the hoops that doesn't damage the hoops or interfere with the operation of the machine. To find out how, click here for a PDF document. 

Easy "Off-the-Wall" Looney Tune Mug Pen Holders

Posted 2020 June 12

I love the classic Looney Tunes, and these mugs add a whimsical touch to my sewing room! But they're a bit too big for the desktop, so I had the idea of putting them on the wall -- hopefully without damage either to the wall or to the mugs.


Click here for the PDF that explains how I did it. 

 Gift Bag Featuring Crowell's Logo

Posted 2020 June 5

When I was a kid, one of the most iconic places in our town was an old-fashioned upscale British-style haberdashery. It's long gone now, having been closed some 20 years ago, but it lives on in memory.

I recently decided to digitize the lettering and insignia from the front of this vintage store bag, thinking to make some gift bags for my sisters and a couple of friends who remember the place fondly.

Click here to find the PDF with the whole story, and a picture of the finished gift bag.

Home-made Thread Cone Holder

Posted 2020 May 29

Here's an idea for a quick, practically free holder that will allow you to use large cones of thread on your home sewing machine. It's at least as good as the rickety plastic ones that cost you a minimum of $5, and did I mention that you can make it with odds and ends you have lying around the house?


If the picture's not self-explanatory, click this link to find a PDF showing how I made these for all my machines.  

Three Tips from Jen's Embroidery Loft

Posted 2020 May 22

What am I doing in this picture?

Hint: it will save you loads of frustration if you have to thread a machine without an automated thread holder.

This tip *really* works, but I only discovered it recently, and I can't believe that I've never run across it before in more than 40 years of sewing! I shared it with my own sewing guru, Rob, and he's as asonished as I've been.


Click here to find a PDF featuring this goodie, plus two other handy sewing/embroidery room tips that I use all the time.  

Covid-19 Mask and Notice from Starfleet Command

Posted 2020 May 15

Like many others in the midst of this Covid 19 crisis, my sister Nita has been busy lately making masks for friends and family to wear.


When another sister sent along this image of a Trek-themed mask that she saw on line, Nita decided to make her own versions as a surprise for a couple of her Trekkie friends.  

She wasn't intending to take photos for the web page -- she took these snaps quickly with her tablet, just enough to show us what she'd made. But she gave me permission to use them in this post. 

She says she didn't want to perforate the mask by appliqueing the symbols, so she attached them with fusible bonding material and outlined them with fabric paint. 

Once the masks were finished, she packaged them up to mail out to her friends.

The masks themselves are cool, of course, but the best thing about this project might just be the "official" notification from Star Fleet Command, authored by Starfleet Admiral Jerry (my brother-in-law).

She tucked this into the package along with the masks, which she sent anonymously.  Word is that the friends got a huge kick out of the masks and message, and for some reason they immediately guessed who was behind the whole thing. Their masks have been a hit wherever they've worn them.

Refurbishing a Treadle Machine

Posted 2020 May 8

This Singer 127 treadle was completely frozen, and the cabinet was in need of refinishing. 

It was a good candidate for a re-do, because the Memphis decals were in very good shape, and the veneer on the cabinet was for the most part undamaged . . . unlike many treadles, which have been used for plant stands and suffered water damage.  

See the results of my efforts in this PDF

Applying Sequins by Machine

Posted 2020 May 1

I love adding sequins to Christmas decor items, and lately I've been stitching them in place with the sewing machine, using invisible (nylon) thread.  It's fairly straightforward once you know how, and the sequins stay in place better too. 


Click here for my PDF showing how I've been doing it.

Custom and Personalized Mugs 

Posted 2020 Apr 24

I turned this embroidery design -- and several others -- into a graphic that I had printed on custom mugs.  Combined with the Cape Breton tartan, it makes a very impressive mug in a wrap-around style. 

To see the mugs, and to view a few of the others I've created, click here to open a PDF.

A Childhood Memory Ornament

Posted 2020 Apr 17

As you'll know from my project postings, I love making Christmas ornaments, and I especially love capturing childhood memories to add to my own tree and those of my siblings.

When a friend sent along this poster image, I knew I had the makings of a terrific childhood memory ornament. 

When I was a child, one of the highlights of the whole year was the arrival of the traveling midway that visited our town for 10 days each July.

We called it the Circus, and throughout June, these colorful posters announced its imminent arrival from every store window. The Circus marked the end of the school year and the beginning of glorious summer, and for weeks no kid could speak of anything else. 

Although it was a summer entertainment, the Circus captures much of the excitement of being a kid, and this memory has earned a place on my Christmas tree. Click here to read more about the making of this ornament. 

A Christmas Tradition Preserved

Posted 2020 Apr 10

My sister's vintage Christmas stocking is looking a bit worse for wear, but she got a spiffy new machine-embroidered one, along with a matching door banner. 

Click here to see a PDF with the details.  

Tiny Boxy Zipper Bags

Posted 2020 Apr 3

Being confined to home isn't quite so bad when I can spend some of my time in the craft room . . . . and I've been taking the time to make up small gift items to help fill out Christmas stockings and birthday packages.

When cruising on youtube I came across these adorable tiny boxy bags, and I've made several using up materials I have at home. 

The finished bags are only about 4" long, but they're big enough to hold keys, a credit card, and a bit of cash, and they can be clipped to a key ring or wrist bracelet.

I'm definitely going to make some more, maybe in some additional tiny sizes to hold a lip balm or some bandaids.

These boxy bags are not my original idea, and there are lots of instructions on line for this very thing, but I'll direct you to the video that inspired me.  The actual instructions begin at about 4:12 in the video, and they're very clear.

You can find other examples by searching "mini boxy bags" on youtube.

Beaded Spiral Ornament

Posted 2020 Mar 27

This teeny Minnie/Mickey is too small (standing about 1.5" tall) to be an ornament on its own, but it's just the right size to be incorporated into one of my beaded spirals. 

They're easy and fun to make, and a great way to use up random beads from your stash. 


Click here to see a PDF with more details and a couple of other examples.

Wash Your Hands . . . and Wear a Mask

Posted 2020 Mar 13

With shortages of surgical masks in the stores, wouldn't it be nice if you could make your own? Oh, wait -- yes you can. 

These are simple to construct and take a minimum of fabric, so they're great scrap-busting projects. I'll be making them as stocking stuffers for everyone on my list! 


Click here to read more about the masks I made to help keep ourselves and others safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

99K Gets a Makeover

Posted 2020 Feb 21

I have a real soft spot for the Singer 99 and its "updated" version, the 185, and all told I own five or six of the various iterations of this mechanical marvel.

These little 3/4 machines are robust and reliable, and simple to maintain, and if you come across one that needs a bit of a makeover, it's well worth the effort. 

I got this little 99K from a friend who had hoped to restore it but never got around to doing so.

Click here to see a PDF of the Before & After.

Sewing Room Re-organization

Posted 2020 Feb 14

I'm lucky enough to have a large attic space for sewing, though my growing collection of vintage sewing machines recently necessitated a re-organization. This photo shows 8 machines on active duty, plus another 8 or so that are on standby in cases and cabinets.


Click this link to see a PDF of the new room arrangement.

Yards of Drawstrings for my Christmas Gift Bags

Posted 2020 Feb 07

As you'll know if you've been following my posts, I've recently become enamoured of making drawstring gift bags -- hubby loves them, and so does our best friend, and I've got a *lot* of remnants to use up . . . . 


But one of the challenges I've had is to find drawstrings that will work -- not too stiff, not too chunky, smooth enough to draw easily, and especially, not too expensive.


I think I have a workable solution that costs only a few pennies! Find out more in this PDF.


Add Personalization to an Embroidered Frame Ornament

Posted 2020 Jan 31

A customized frame ornament makes a great small gift.

Add a personalization to the back to make it even more special. (Scroll down on the page at this link to find the design.)

The challenge is in lining up the message on the back of the ornament with the frame outline on the front. Click here to see a PDF showing how I did it.

Joseph Gets a New Staff

Posted 2020 Jan 24

Unfortunately, when I was putting away my Nativity Scene this year, I saw that Joseph's staff, which had previously been repaired with glue,  had re-broken.  I knew it wouldn't hold up with another re-glue, so I decided to re-build the staff completely, starting with a wire core cut from a coat hanger.

See the details in this PDF.

Custom Patch for a Baseball  Cap

Posted 2020 Jan 10

Hubby has become such a fan of the vintage Australian TV show "Blue Heelers" that I thought it would be fun to digitize the badge to put on a cap for him.  

The design is very detailed, so it's too big for my hat hoop, but I managed to put it on a hat by creating it as a patch first.

Check out this PDF to see how I did it.

Kicking off Another Year of Ornaments

My friend so enjoyed her Ornament-of-the-Month gift last year that I decided to reprise it for 2020. I've still got quite a few designs up my sleeve that I know she'll enjoy.

The first in the series is a personalized geodesic ball, featuring family crests for her and her husband. I alternated the crests along the mid-section of the ball, then capped the top with a segment in their regional tartan. The bottom of the ornament is in the same shade of blue as the crests, with their first names printed in gold (pixilated for privacy in the image here, but clear on the actual ornament).

To make the ornament, I used 1.25" circles cut from 110lb card, which produce a sturdy finished ball of approximately 2.75" in diameter.

I printed the images for this ornament using my laser printer, but you can equally make a lovely ornament with images punched from Christmas cards. I generally use a 1.25" punch for the circles.

If you'd like to try making one of these yourself, you can find instructions at this link.  

My Sisters are So Talented!

Posted 2019 Dec 20

I'm fortunate to have several talented crafters in the family, and my sisters sent me several gorgeous handmade Christmas ornaments. I look forward each year to receiving some of their work. It's just so very beautiful!!


Click here to see a PDF with more details.

Luxurious Plush Specialty Stocking

Posted 2019 Dec 13

It may seem incongruous to give this kind of luxury treatment to a sports-themed stocking, but people in Rider Nation take their football *very* seriously!

What makes this stocking worth talking about is the fabric, because it shows just how luxurious a stocking can be when made with high-end materials. The fabric is a lovely upholstery plush -- it's got a nice hand and a soft velvety finish, and the color is rich and deep.

I made the main motif on a plain white insert, which shows up the embroidery very nicely and contrasts effectively with the green. I used a topping film when I embroidered the name and the date so that they wouldn't sink into the pile, then lined the stocking with satin fabric. (Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the inside before I sent it on its way!)

Although it's a little challenging to work with, the plush gives a beautiful weight and feel to the finished stocking.

I bought this yardage specifically to make stockings, but didn't really know how lovely the finished product would be til I had completed this one. (Fortunately the piece was a remnant, so I didn't have to pay the huge price that this fabric would normally command.)

Hubby was so taken with this beauty that he declared that he wants a plush stocking too. I don't blame him -- I've been thinking exactly the same thing myself.

Mini Santa Doll for the Tree

Posted 2019 Dec 06

I finished up my friend's 2019 Ornament of the Month series with this Mini Santa doll, a smaller version of a vintage doll design of my own, from back when I was an undergrad.

He's about 9.5" tall, and can perch on the tree, or lounge in a wicker sleigh that I found -- it's just his size. Read more about him in this PDF


Humorous Mason Jar Bank

Posted 2019 Nov 29

A customized savings jar makes a terrific stocking stuffer: it's inexpensive if you use a recycled jar, and it  adds a bit of humor to the gift opening festivities. I thought it was just the thing for my friend's twenty-something son's Christmas stocking!

This PDF provides details of how I made my version. 

Evening in Paris Mini Stocking

Posted 2019 Nov 22

When I was a girl, the lovely floral fragrance of Evening in Paris was everywhere. It's no exaggeration to say that every teenaged girl had at least one of the many gift sets that abounded at Christmas.

Because we so often received Evening in Paris at Christmas back in the day, its iconography will always be in part a Christmas memory for me.

Capturing that memory in one of my Mini Stocking designs has been in my mind for some time now, and here, finally, is the result.

Check out the details in this PDF.




If you'd like to make the Mini Stocking design, you can grab it from this page -- scroll down to find it.

My Christmas Includes Nostalgia

Posted 2019 Nov 15

It's another non-embroidered project this week: a Christmas ornament inspired by a piece of vintage yard art that I recall fondly from my youth.


See the details in PDF form at this link.






(If  you'd prefer to embroider him, there is also an Earl's Santa embroidery design inspired by the same image. Just scroll down the page to find him.)

The Teeniest of Christmas Stockings

Posted 2019 Nov 08

These stockings are just under an inch and a half tall  -- they're shown on a 1" grid in the photo. I'm always looking for tiny embellishment to use in making ornaments and other Christmas crafts. How fun that this project can answer both needs!

They are so darned cute that I'm going to make a bunch more for crafting. They're too small to actually hold anything much, but you sure could roll up a tiny note and tuck it inside. To see more about how to make them, check out this PDF.





And if you'd like to make some too, download the design here.

A Polymer Clay Character Ornament

Posted 2019 Nov 1

I'm not a dab hand with polymer clay, but I am a big Looney Tunes fan, and this year I decided to make this Michigan J Frog for hubby's Christmas sock. 


Want to see how I did it? Find the PDF here.


Crafting & Scrapbooking Embellishments

Posted 2019 Oct 25

I use tiny embellishments on some of my projects, but often I can't find exactly what I want in the stores, and I have to make it myself.

The embroidery machine offers extra possibilities, such as these 1" high lobsters that I used when I made these adorable matchbox ornaments. 

The teeny embellishments also make cute earrings, and I'm working on more to add to the site.



Find the designs at this page, or read more about them in this PDF.


Trekkie Badge Applique on a Jacket

Posted 2019 Oct 18

My sister-in-law is crazy for all things purple, so imagine my delight to find this casual knit jacket in her size.

As it happens, she's also a Star Trek fan, and this jacket is just the right style for the addition of a Star Trek badge to the lapel.

Unfortunately, I didn't think I could get a satisfactory result if I tried stitching the badge directly to the jacket, because the princess seaming is very bulky, and it passes right over the spot where the badge would have to go.

Instead, I decided to make a patch on black felt, then applique it in place using a regular sewing machine.

At left is a close-up of the design I used. I made it in 2" size for appliqueing to the lapel. Because she's an IT specialist, I chose the science version of the badge.

Before sewing the badge in place, I applied a bit of fabric glue, and then stitched around around twice with invisible thread to ensure it will stay in place when she launders the jacket.

You may recall that I've used this same design --  in a larger size --to make the Trek Christmas stocking  further down the page.

Another Christmas Stocking, with Instructions

Posted 2019 Oct 11

I make a lot of Christmas stockings, but I rarely have to do the same one twice, as I did in this case.

I made this stocking and mailed it to the new baby's mom back in the summer, only to have it go missing in the mail. It never did reach its destination, and in the meantime I broke my arm so I couldn't make another until now. 

I like to line my stockings, producing a clean finish with no raw edges visible on the inside. Lining also it helps protect the back of the embroidery from abrasion as items are inserted and removed, and when it's properly attached, it will also help the stocking keep its shape.

You can't tell from the photo, but the lining of this stocking is stitched in place and will not pull out during use -- a flaw of many of the on-line instructions for making lined stockings, in my view.

I made a couple of minor changes for the second version; I went with a truer green color for the stocking body, and I used a shiny iridescent white thread instead of red to stitch the name. Both versions are lined with a holly-printed white fabric.

I've had a request for instructions on the method I use to ensure that the lining stays put and also helps the sock keep its shape over the years. (I intend the stockings I make to become heirlooms, so durability is a consideration for me.) The extra couple of steps you need to make the attached lining are straightforward to do.

If you're interested in learning my technique, which I haven't seen in any of the stocking instructions I've come across, click here to find the PDF instructions, along with the stocking template I use most often.

Altered Puzzle Ornaments

Posted 2019 Oct 04

From time to time I post non-embroidery projects like these fun ornaments made from altered pieces salvaged from a discarded child's puzzle, plus some beads from my stash. 

I've made a couple dozen of these as gifts and for my own tree. You'll find more of them featured in this PDF.

Hogwarts Christmas Stocking Completed

Posted 2019 Sep 27

My very first project when I finally got the embroidery machine back up and running was to complete the Hogwarts stocking I began back in February. I was waiting for baby Lily to arrive.


The stocking, as you'll recall, is color-blocked in the Hogwarts house colors, with an appliqued H-crest in the center where the four blocks meet. This not only looks nice, but also disguises any less-than-perfect alignment of the four colors.

The appliqued crest is black felt. I used gold metallic thread to stitch the H and to finish off the edge, just to add a bit of shimmer to the main adornment on this stocking. 

To add the name to the top, I selected a Harry Potter-inspired font, and used the same gold metallic thread.  Because the name is so brief, the band looked a bit bare, so to fill it out a little better,  I augmented at either end with a Potteresque lightning motif. I like the effect and will probably keep it for future Hogwarts stockings.

I like to add the year to the toe of my Christmas stocking creations, but as I don't like it to be too obtrusive I usually stitch it in the same color as the background.That way it's visible but not dominant.

I generally also add an appropriate  small motif alongside the date, and the little lightning bolt again seemed perfect.

The completed stocking has a plain back made from the same black fabric as the top band, and has a generous hanging loop.

The toe of this design has been modified to be less prominent; I did this to create better balance among the four color blocks.

The stocking is fully lined, as all my stocking creations are; this not only finishes the inside nicely, but also helps to protect the back of the embroidery from abrasions when items are inserted and removed.

It's fun to imagine Lily drawing gifts from this stocking for many Christmases into the future, and I want it to last as long as she does.

The completed stocking is approximately 18" from top to toe -- large enough to contain lots of loot, but not so big that it's a challenge to fill it. I'm pretty sure that plenty of Potterabilia will pass through this sock over the years to come.


If you're interested in the H-Crest applique design, you can see it in the Magical collection here. Just scroll down the page to find it.

You'll find an upper case Magic font for free download on this page.

Vintage Christmas Stockings Recreated

Posted 2019 Sep 20

As a surprise for Hubby, I recreated his childhood Christmas stocking, and those of his siblings, which hadn't been seen by any of them for more than 40 years. I had loads of fun replicating all four originals, which were lovingly made by their mom so long ago.

Click this link to find a PDF that tells the story.

Wool & Walnut Shell Pincushions

Posted 2019 Jul 12

Lately I've been making my own simple pincushions out of wool filled with ground walnut shells. I've made several and now have one at every sewing machine, and I love them! The wool wicks away moisture to help retard rusting, the natural lanolin helps lubricate the pins, and the ground walnut shells -- commonly used for sandblasting -- keep the pins sharp. They are the best pincushions I've ever had: not fancy, but really functional.

You can read more about this project in this PDF.


If you'd like to make some of these for yourself, you can find the pattern free at this link -- just scroll to the bottom of the page. 

You can also download the PDF instructions if you decide you need them.



No More Cap Button Irritation

Posted 2019 Jul 05

The rivet that attaches a button to the top of a baseball cap leaves a metal protrusion on the inside of the cap. These are sometimes quite sharp, and can cause irritation and even injury to a tender scalp. 

I came up with a modification to pad the uncomfortable metal point, which barely shows on the outside.

Click here to see a PDF showing how I did it.  

A Trekkie Stocking for John

Posted 2019 Jun 28

I'm a bit of a Christmas nut, and I just love making gift and decor projects, especially Christmas stockings, for my favorite holiday. Every year since I can remember, I've made at least one Christmas stocking, and I often make more than one. 

A few years back, when my sister wanted to gift her friend John with a special Christmas memento, she asked me to make him a special stocking. We decided on this Trek theme because John's a huge fan of both the original series and the subsequent generations and iterations.

As it happens, John's also a medical professional, so his stocking is blue, the color worn by Star Fleet science/medical officers in the first series.

The arrow-head badge is the science/medical variation introduced in the second series, and I digitized the name with a Trek-style font.

I chose a shiny satiny fabric for the black cuff, and added three metal buttons along the left side as an accent. I was originally going to place the name on the top band, but I decided it would look better on the toe, leaving the band clean and uncluttered.

The arrowhead and the name were stitched using metallic gold thread for added sheen, and the stocking is lined with a gold-toned Christmas fabric. 

Reusable Nylon Grocery Bags

Posted 2019 Jun 21

I love reusable shopping bags, and have made a variety of totes and cloth bags over the past few years. But tote bags can be bulky and cumbersome to carry, and it's easy to forget to bring them into the store with you.

This nifty nylon version tucks into its own integrated pouch, so it's easy to carry in a purse or pocket. I recently grabbed some ripstop nylon from the thrift store, and spent a couple of days sewing these bags.

They're roomier than the plastic kind, and they're also stronger, so they'll last for a long time. Plus, they're washable, colorful, and eco-friendly.

My version is fairly large -- I cut the fabric to 19" x 45", then used a plastic store bag as a guide for cutting the  handles. I finished the edges using the serger, and stitched the bottom closed on the sewing machine.

The image below is just a guide; it's not exactly to scale, but it will give you an idea of the general shape.

To make the integrated pouch, I cut two pieces of fabric, one approximately 4x4" and the other approximately 4x6" wide. I serged all around the edges, then hemmed one edge of each piece. I folded a tuck flap in the larger piece and seamed the two pieces together along the sides. Then I lined up the bottom of the pouch with the side seam approximately at the position of the notches, and stitched it to the inside of the bag, where it's out of the way when the bag is in use.

To fold up the bag into the pouch, fold it in three lengthwise, then roll up the bag body to a size that will fit the pouch, then flip the pouch over  to contain the folded bag. Hubby has declared these a hit -- he took several when he picked up groceries the other day and was very impressed with how much they hold and how strong they are, so it will be easy to convince him to take them along on future trips to the store.

In-the-Hoop Rag Doll

Posted 2019 Jun 7-14

My friend recently informed me that as a kid she loved Raggedy Ann, so I decided to add a mini doll to her Ornament-of-the-Month collection.

Because the doll is intended to be a tree ornament, she's quite small; I added the thread spool to the photo to give a sense of scale.

I had already digitized the appropriate doll face, so I decided to see if I could stitch the entire doll body on the embroidery machine. She was stitched in the 4" embroidery hoop.


I used three hoopings to make her -- one for body and face, one for arms, and a third for the legs. I added rosy cheeks using a crayon, and plan to paint on the black boots with acrylic paint. Then I'll add yarn hair and dress her in a tiny Christmas print.

I'm planning to make a larger version for my friend's baby granddaughter, also stitched on the embroidery machine. Stay tuned for that one to appear in a later project update.

I thought I'd post an update about the little Raggedy Ann, since I have added hair and have clothed her since last week. She's looking pretty fine now.

I made her hair using nubbly yarn and something called a "Singercraft Guide" which allows you to wind yarn and stitch along it to make a looped trim. Then I hand-sewed the resulting trim to her head, framing her face and filling in the back.

I made a bibbed apron for her, but realize now on having looked at a vintage doll that the apron is actually a simpler construction than this one, so I may change the apron style if I make a subsequent doll. The red trim was stitched on my Model 500 Rocketeer, using cam #6. 

I'm not sure you can make out the tiny print on the dress, but it's Christmas holly, in keeping with her status as a tree ornament.

She stands about 7 and 1/2" tall and will be able to perch on my friend's Christmas tree as a nostalgic ornament.

My friend is always intrigued to hear what I've been making in the craft room, and I sometimes bring a show and tell when we get together. On our last visit, forgetting for a second that the doll is intended for her, Hubby announced that I had made this mini Raggedy Ann. She expressed surprise that I hadn't brought the doll along for her to see, but fortunately she didn't see the look on my face when he made the remark, and I don't believe she suspected anything. I'm positive she'll be thrilled when I do present it to her as one of her ornament collection.

More Christmas Gift Bags

Posted 2019 May 31

I've been giving some of my vintage sewing machines a workout with a few small projects just to keep them tuned up and sewing smoothly.

These new Christmas gift bags are the result. They began as a way of using up small oddments of leftover fabric, but they've turned into a more elaborate production now that I know how popular they are. 

DH uses them for nearly all his wrapping, and my sisters like them, so I wrap some of their gifts in them too. I make them in all sizes, depending on the fabric pieces I have on hand.

I've added embroidery to all these latest bags, and must say I love the way the designs sew out on white flannelette.

On some, the embroidered panel is incorporated into the structure of bag, while on others I used a raw-edged applique technique to add the embroidered segment as a patch.

I like to place the panel/patch fairly low on the body of the bag so it's still visible when the drawstring is pulled tight. The decorative stitching around the edge of each patch was made with one of the following machines: Singer 411G, Singer 500, Singer 631G, or Kenmore 158.1802. I've used decorative ribbon on a few of the bags as well, and stitched it on with invisible (nylon) thread in my Singer 201.

When my friend saw the finished bags, she asked me to make a selection for her as well, and several of her family and friends have asked to receive their gifts in the bags.

FSL (Lace) Cartoon Cat Snowflake

Posted 2019 May 24

This project combines four of my favorite things: a digitizing challenge, a freestanding lace project, a Christmas ornament, AND Looney Tunes! What could be better?

We're big Looney Tunes fans at our house, and in the past few years we've amassed quite a lot of LT-themed Christmas ornaments. And though store-bought ornaments are beautiful and we have several, we also like to have a good proportion of handmades on our tree. I make new ornaments each year, and at last count I'd estimate that at least half of our Looney Tunes ornament collection was created in my craft room. 

I love the delicate look of freestanding lace, and a lace snowflake seems an almost perfect Christmas tree ornament!

I started with an illustration of Sylvester, making sure that it was exactly symmetrical. Then I repeated the image to make it six-sided, and worked from there to digitize the snowflake.

This kind of lace is stitched on water-soluble stabilizer, and begins with a dense underlay that forms a foundation to hold the stitches together. When digitizing it, you have to ensure that the design stitches are fully integrated so that the finished lace will hold together when you dissolve away the stabilizer.

To give the ornament a bit of body, you can leave in just enough stabilizer to stiffen it, or if you prefer, you could use a sugar solution such as old-time crocheters used on their doilies.

Here you can see the ornament on my Looney Tunes tree, along with a mix of purchased and other handmade ornaments.

Vintage-Style Souvenir Doll

Posted 2019 May 17

As a toddler visiting Scotland with her mum, Gwen was gifted with three small souvenir dolls similar to those shown at right. Although these were tourist items and not really intended as toys, the little dolls were colorful and detailed, and fascinating to a young child.

For reasons no one has ever discovered, she called them her "B'ys", and she loved them. Not having been built for play, they of course didn't survive for long, but it was memories of those first early souvenirs that inspired her as an adult to collect some of these vintage cuties, almost all of them dressed, like the originals, in Royal Stewart, the official tartan of Scotland.

It just didn't seem right not to have a doll costumed in her family tartan, so I decided to create one using a scrap I happened to have on hand.

In keeping with the scale of the rest of the collection, I chose a vintage 8" tall 'dress-me' doll, and clothed her in a dancer's garb of white shirt with lace jabot, black bodice, and tartan tam and skirt, complete with brass kilt pin. I like her so well that I may yet add some more, clad in provincial tartans.

Zippy Gets a New Suit

Posted 2019 May 10

These stuffed monkeys with the vinyl hands and faces were very popular toys when I was a little kid, so I was delighted to find this little Zippy in the local thrift store for only a couple of dollars.

He was in pretty rough shape and rather dirty, so I knew when I rescued him that I'd need to remake him completely.



See how I did it -- and the finished result -- in this PDF.

Personalized Felt Dog Paw Ornament

Posted 2019 May 03

My friend's beloved little dog is now 16 years old, but he's still a light of her life, so I've included a few in her Ornament of the Month collection to celebrate the bond they share.

To make the paw ornament, I chose felt in two shades of tan/brown, the main colors in Kirby's coat, and stitched the ornament on two layers of tear-away stabilizer (this one isn't stuffed). I went with white for the heart and gold for the name stitch-out, although on reflection I kind of wondered if I should have chosen a shade of pink for the heart, just to brighten the color a bit.

When I'd finished, I wasn't quite happy with the brown look, so I decided to add some sparkle. I chose peach sequins to outline the heart, and used a toothpick to add a tiny bit of gold glitter glue to the letters. The back is plain tan felt, but I added the date on it before I made up the ornament. This one stitches out fairly quickly and is a great memento for a dog or cat lover. 

Snowman Piper Felt Ornament

Posted 2019 Apr 12

After completing the kilted Gingerbread Piper ornament shown further down the page, it occurred to me that a Snowman would also work well, so I digitized one of those too. Like his Gingery pal, he's made out of felt appliqued with a small-sett tartan print, with the same sporran and bagpipes theme. And as with Ginger, you can change the look of each Snowman by varying the tartan. 



If you'd like to add one of these ornaments to your collection, find the design by scrolling down the page at this link

For complete instructions and more photos, click here to view the PDF. 

Hogwarts Banner

Posted 2019 Apr 05

Machine's up and running again, and I was able to finish up the project I was working on!

One of my sister's friends is crazy about all things Hogwarts, so he'll be plenty pleased when he finds this door banner under the tree next Christmas!

The finished banner is about 8" wide and roughly 18" long. I made the color-blocked body in much the same manner that I used for the Hogwarts stocking below -- stitching the red/green segment and the yellow/blue segments, pressing them flat, and then stitching the two together. I pressed all seams flat and then appliqued crest in the center using gold metallic thread. I used the applique "H" Crest in 3" size (find it on the Magic page here).

I cut a black topper about 4" deep and embroidered the name before sewing it to the top of the color-blocked section. I then trimmed the bottom into a point  before finishing it off with loops at top to take the hanger, plus a gold tassel and black backing fabric. Once I had turned it right side out and pressed it flat, I topstitched all around the edge using invisible nylon thread.

The font I used for the name is called Boere Tudor. I originally planned to use the Magic Font that I digitized for the site, but I found that, for this project, I didn't actually like it as well as the Tudor one. See what you think:

Junque Jewellery Conundrum

Posted 2019 Mar 29

My machine tech is busier than ever now that he's retired, and I'm still waiting for him to arrive and rescue my embroidery machine from its woes, so I'm afraid it's another non-embroidery project for this week.

If you've got a keen eye, you've probably already spotted the raw material underlying this cool brooch: it's made from jigsaw pieces.

I'm not much of a puzzle enthusiast, but I am fond of costume jewellery, and a puzzle collector I know happily provided the raw material from a few puzzles that were missing pieces.


Click here to see what else I made. 

"German Bell" Folded Paper Ornament

Posted 2019 Mar 22

While I was working on a project two days ago, my embroidery machine sprouted a "main motor lock" error that recurs despite my tinkering, so it's time for a visit from the local tech. While I wait for him to come, I've been playing with some other projects, including this very pretty German bell ornament.


These can be made fairly simply with any printed card stock, and you can find lots of instructions if you googld "German bell ornament DIY".

To see several other samples of ones I've made, click here for the PDF.  

Gingerbread Piper Felt Ornaments

Posted 2019 Mar 15

After coming across an actual gingerbread cookie decked out in a paper kilt, I decided to create a felt ornament in the same vein. Scottish iconography is a big deal where I come from, and I know my sibs will love these. 

I used a small-sett tartan (plaid) print for the applique segment; varying the tartan gives each one quite a different look. 

Since digitizing mine, I've found at least five different Scottish-themed Ginger ornaments on line. I like this version, though, because even with the kilt they still have that simple "gingerbready" look that makes them perfect as Christmas decorations.


If you'd like to make one of these ornaments, find the design by scrolling down the page at this link

For complete instructions and more photos, click here to view the PDF

 

Sewing Machine Cabinet to Light Table Conversion

Posted 2019 Mar 08

I repurposed this old sewing machine cabinet into a functional and attractive light table as a gift for a photographer friend.

To see the steps in this fun project, click here to access the PDF

Sewing Decal Ornaments

Posted 2019 Mar 01

I made these embroidered ornaments for  myself, to hang on the little Christmas tree that stands in the window of my third-floor sewing loft each Christmas.

I knew as soon as I finished digitizing this Fancy Red Eye decal design that it would make a spectacular ornament. And, of course, it would equally look amazing stitched on a tote bag or a sewing machine cover, or any sewing room decor.

The ornament at right, like the rest of the embroidered ornaments on this page, was made following these directions. It's stitched in 4" size on black felt, using metallic gold thread for sparkle. It's going to look great on my little white sewing room tree.

This second Singer ornament was made somewhat differently, using decorative stitches from my model 500 Rocketeer. To begin, I embroidered just the "S" from the Singer Word design on yellow felt. I trimmed the felt into an oval, then appliqued that to white felt with a bead stitch (setting BM on the Rocketeer or 401). To applique the white felt to black felt, I used a scallop stitch (setting JL), and finally finished off the black border with a chevron pattern (cam #21) in gold colored thread. 

I glued the finished patch to a second (plain) piece of black felt, sandwiching a piece of cardboard between, and stitched around the edge with black thread. To finish off , I hand-sewed a border of red fused beads around the edge of the ornament.  

Spilling Stocking Ornament

Posted 2019 Feb 22

I saw a similar idea on Pinterest and wondered if I could create my own version on the embroidery machine. The design took a little fiddling, but after several adjustments I'm quite pleased with the outcome.

The ornament is made from felt and, when assembled, is  about 8.5 - 9" tall. The motifs spilling from the stocking are attached with 6-pound fishing line.

To make the candy cane, bauble, wrapped gift, and candy, I stitched through three layers of felt, then trimmed close to the stitching with detail scissors.

The stocking and the little stuffed teddy were constructed using the same methods I use for my Mini Stocking ornaments and Tiny Animal toys. 

After I made the first couple of ornaments, I decided to try an all-purple version, personalized for Michelle whose favorite color is purple.

My sister, recalling the oranges that could always be found in the toes of our childhood stockings, suggested that the bauble be replaced with an orange, so I made a couple with that change as well.

I'm going to add one of these to my friend's monthly ornament, and I'll certainly do one for my own tree.

Hogwarts Christmas Stocking

Posted 2019 Feb 13

I don't usually post images of half-finished projects, but I've been working on this stocking for a new baby who won't be arriving til July.  At that time, I'll add the name in gold lettering along the black band at the top, and finish out the stocking with a plain back and lining.

The front was constructed of a blocked panel in the four colors of the Hogwarts houses. The stocking is shaped with an understated toe in order to better balance the color blocks.

I assembled the sock by stitching red and green together, then yellow and blue together. After pressing both seams open, I sewed the red-green segment to the yellow-blue segment and pressed the resulting seam open.

I embroidered the "H" crest applique design in the  center of the color blocks, using black felt and gold metallic thread, and I'm really pleased with how it looks.  (Find the applique crest design here). I then stitched the black band along the top, on which I will eventually embroider the baby's name.

Once I had completed the color-blocked front, I used that as a template to cut the plain back of the stocking from black fabric. Once I'm able to embroider the name, I'll complete the stocking and post updated photos.  And then I might just have to make one for my own Christmas decor!

"Retrobritening" Yellowed Plastic

Posted 2019 Feb 8

I love to tinker with my collection of vintage sewing machines, which includes a few 70s models with plastic housings and cases. 

Unfortunately these can turn an ugly dingy yellow over time, especially when exposed to UV light. But there is a simple remedy that will return yellowed plastic to its former brightness, as you can see in the before/after photo at left.  


Check out this PDF to learn how I "retrobritened" my 70s machines.

More Embroidered Ornaments

Posted 2019 Feb 1

I recall with fondness those vintage Looney Tunes movie shorts that aired in a cartoon show on lazy Sunday afternoons when I was a kid. This beloved memory is one I share with DH and several of our friends, and these two-sided embroidered ornaments are a fun bit of nostalgia for Christmas. Click here for PDF instructions on how to make embroidered ornaments from almost any embroidery design. They make great stocking stuffers or ornament-exchange gifts, or add them to your own tree.

Teddy with Embroidable Tummy

Posted 2019 Jan 18

Crystal loves her little green bear with the logo of her favorite football team embroidered on his tummy. He's an easy make even for a novice, and takes about 3 hours from start to finish.


The PDF has more pictures and greater detail.

Merry Christmas Bunting

Posted 2018 Dec 21

In recent years I've gone a little crazy with Christmas decorating, and this year I was inspired by a vintage Merry Christmas bunting that I saw at someone else's place. It was made with letters cut from felt and strung on a cord, so I thought I might be able to do something similar on the embroidery machine.

 I started with the playful letter outlines and filled in the interiors with a variety of Christmas-themed mini designs. Click here to see the complete instructions. The whole effect is cheerful and fun -- just right for a Christmas entryway. The original had sequins stitched on and I toyed with the idea of adding them to my machine-embroidered letters but I decided once it was all assembled that I didn't really need them. I must say I'm thrilled with the way the Christmas minis stitched out. You can find them all here, and the bunting letter set here.

Simple Drawstring Gift Bags

Posted 2018 Dec 14

DH hates Christmas wrapping, and as a result he tends to put it off til the absolute last minute -- which for years meant that we didn't get to spend much time together on Christmas Eve, because he was busy fretting and fuming over the chore of wrapping my gifts.

I solved the problem by making lots of these drawstring fabric bags. Hubby loves them, especially for oddly-shaped gifts that he otherwise finds challenging to wrap. All he has to do is pop the gift inside and pull the cords, and he's done.

You can make simple ones in a few minutes and leave them plain to show off pretty fabric, or decorate them with an embroidered motif before you finish stitching up the sides. I make them in a variety of sizes for gifts large and small.

I've embroidered directly on the fabric of the bag, as on the blue plaid one at left in the picture, but I find the embroidery shows up better if I stitch it on a plain color patch appliqued to the front of the bag.

If you're adding the embroidery while the bag is under construction, you can complete the entire process right in the embroidery machine. Hoop the main fabric, then float a piece of plain fabric and embroider the motif through both. Finish with one of the borders in your machine, then trim around the patch with pinking shears, leaving a border of about 1/4".

I have tried a variety of fabrics for the applique, including some left over bits of satin, but I find that cotton flannelette or plain felt works best.

I've also been able to attach an embroidered patch to an existing bag without opening up the side seams. I simply trim around the design stitch-out with pinking shears, then place and pin it to the front of the finished bag. Turn the bag inside out and carefully insert it under the presser foot of a conventional sewing machine. Gently pull the excess fabric out of the way of the needle, and use one of the fancy stitch settings to sew the patch to the bag. 

We wrap everything at our house, including stocking stuffers, so these bags have saved a lot of time and stress over the holidays -- and DH doesn't dread wrapping so much anymore.

Coordinated Fabric-Embroidery Stockings

Posted 2018 Dec 07

My friend Louise loves foxes, so when I found this remnant of Christmas print I knew I had to stitch up stockings for her and her hubby.

To make the stockings extra special, I digitized coordinating designs to match the fabric. And because the print is quite busy, I stitched the embroidery on a plain white panel and appliqued it in place. On Louise's sock I couldn't resist adding the punning phrase "Christmas Vixen" beneath the image.

Custom Underwear for the Guys

Posted 2018 Nov 30

It's just so darned difficult to find things to sew and embroider for men that I was thrilled to discover how much my guys really like these custom-made cotton knit underpants!

I make some every year for hubby, and recently started making them for others as well. I usually add a bit of embroidery, as I did here for our handy friend Mike, who loves his "Super Mike" motif (see inset).

The style my guys like comes from this Kwik Sew pattern, #3298; it's an older pattern but as far as I know it's still available. (I'm not affiliated with Kwik Sew in any way; this is just the pattern I happen to use.)

The guys on my list love these personalized underwear and both hubby and Mike swear these are the most comfortable underwear they own. It's great to be able to sew and embroider a gift they will actually use. 

Mini Stocking Ornaments

Posted 2018 Dec 14

Mini Stockings make a great friendship or hostess gift, and are quick to make up. There are just so many ways to personalize them, and you can add any one of more than two dozen mini toys.

The girls at Fredie's Fish & Chips, where my sister goes often, just loved their personalized mini-stocking ornaments, complete with lighthouse motif and Tiny Fish toys.

Here I made the little fishies in two different colors, and they look great in these seaside-themed mini stockings. Find the ornaments and the free fishie here.

Customized Santa Hat

Posted 2018 Nov 23

We wear Santa hats for our Christmas Day festivities, so I generally keep a few on hand. I like to add something extra to the purchased hats to make them uniquely our own.

To make this one special, I added some embroidery in the form of appliqued holly leaves with red jingle bell berries. I made the leaves freestanding by appliqueing the green tartan fabric to two layers of green felt sandwiched over the hooped stabilizer. Then I attached them to the hat by stitching down the center line of each leaf with invisible thread. The jingle bells were stitched on afterward by hand.

Kaleidoscopic Cats Ornaments

They're not embroidered, but these custom ornaments are a great way to showcase a favorite photo or image, and the repeating motif makes a kind of kaleidoscopic effect no matter which angle you view it from.

They're made from twenty circles of cardstock folded and fitted carefully together, then trimmed with glitter. You can use the same image for all the circles, or try different combinations like the one below, made with images of two vintage sewing badges.

The ones above feature our cats, past and present. An Internet search will turn up full instructions for making these geodesic ball ornaments. 

Christmas Birthday Stocking

Although I made this stocking a few years back, it's still one of my favorites, and one I wish I had thought of years ago. It's perfect for someone who has a birthday over  Christmas, when the celebration tends to be eclipsed by the larger holiday.

On this sock, I used the Balloon Alphabet to create her name, and the large size of the  "My Birthday is December 25th" for the main image on the middle of the stocking. The toe is decorated with a piece of Christmas birthday cake.

This is quite a large stocking with room for both Christmas and birthday mementos; the design would work equally well for a Christmas Eve birthday too, using the "My Birthday is December 24th" design.


Click here to find the balloonalphabet free in 4" size.

Small Door Banner

This small banner is just the right size to hang on an entry door (about 8"w x 14"h).  I've made several of these as gifts for friends and family, many of them by request. The phrase means  "a hundred thousand welcomes" in Scots Gaelic.

Other possibilities present themselves as well -- a clan/family crest makes a good small-sized banner (left, below), as does my friend Murphy's favorite beverage on the banner I made for his basement bar (right, below). I used an extra large size of the designs (7" tall) to sew these two banners.

Vintage Style Christmas Stocking

These Christmas stockings are reproductions of family heirlooms from 1954. Appliques on the originals were stitched by hand, along with the sequins, but the appliques on these were done on the embroidery machine.

After the appliques were stitched and trimmed, I highlighted them with hand-sewn sequins, just like on the originals.

To attach the sequins, I secured each one with a spot of tacky glue, then sewed them in place using invisible (nylon) thread. 

The original stockings -- which belong to the children's grandparents -- were red, like the one above, but the design looks just as nice done on green. You can embroider the name using a cool font, as above, or for added sparkle, you could sew it out in sequins as I did on the green stocking.

Custom T-Shirts

Each year I make customized tees for several of the guys on my list. The Harry Potter fan in the group will be sure to like his Hogwarts Alumnus shirt, while the blue tee with tilt-a-whirl applique will be a fun surprise for a fan of the classic circus ride.

Special-Interest Stockings

The definitive Christmas special when Shaun was a kid was A Charlie Brown Christmas, so I couldn't resist adding this embroidered Snoopy to his Peanuts-print Christmas stocking. For his name and other details I used a cartoon-style font. And I'm sure Liam was equally thrilled with his football stocking featuring the insignia of his favorite team. The plain insert panel in the middle gives a nice background for the embroidery, especially when the print is busy.

Embroidered Patches

I made 15 of these patches for a friend who was attending a TOGA gathering in Bangor, ME. I'm told they were a hit with the attendies.

To make these mementos, I used the Domed Sewing Machine case design in 3" size (find it in the Vintage Sewing collection) and replaced the caption with the title and date. I stitched them on felt backed with two layers of medium-weight tear-away stabilizer, then trimmed the felt to a narrow border. They can be stitched to a garment  or attached using fabric glue.

Large Teddy Bear

Soft toy design has been a hobby of mine for years; way back when, I even used to design toys for magazine features, and published two books of my toy designs.

I don't do as much of this kind of sewing as I used to, but I do like to keep in practice, and recently made this bear for a friend's first grandchild.

This bear stands about 30" tall and takes nearly two pounds of polyester stuffing. He's been customized with an embroidered heart showing the baby's name.

Re-Upholstered 50s Chair

I taught myself upholstery years ago so I could refurbish some of my garage-sale furniture. This Scandinavian chair, dating from the 1950s, was one of my earliest purchases back in the early 80s. It's most likely Danish, and although I'm not expert I believe the wood is teak.

I've re-done the upholstery several times over the years, including stripping the chair right back to the wood foundation and replacing the foam and padding.

I'm happy to report that its most recent incarnation seems to hold little interest for my cat, who shredded the previous fabric but hasn't touched this version so far. We're only a couple of weeks in, so it remains to be seen if my luck will hold.

Matchbox Ornaments

Each Christmas, I make new crafty ornaments for friends and family. Among this year's offerings are these nifty matchbox ornaments.

Each box in this collection was handmade with a printed tartan sleeve, and can be opened to reveal the memento inside -- in this case, a sign that reads "Cape Breton Christmas".

The embellishments on the outside of the boxes include these 1" tall freestanding lobster motifs, digitized and embroidered specifically for this purpose since I couldn't find any mini lobsters to fit the boxes. I also made the medallions. 

Embroidered Ornament

I'm not much of a fan, but my best friend is crazy about the mouse, so she'll be hanging this one on her Christmas tree from now on.

Like the Looney Tunes ones higher on the page, this ornament is two-sided, with the same design on front and back, although if you like you can use a single embroidered design and leave the back of the ornament plain. Here's how I made it by stitching the embroidery design twice (once in reverse).

The silver bling was attached afterward with glue and hand-stitching, and I added a touch of iridescent glitter glue to give the stars and moon a bit of shine. The finished ornament is about 5" tall overall.

I've made several of this kind of ornament using a variety of designs -- they make great custom gifts.

Look for more freebies throughout the site!

The design is for a tomato pincushion. Find a PDF with full instructions at this link.