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 a few of my projects -- most are embroidery-related, but some show my other interests as well. Many, though not all, are gift items for friends and siblings, many of them 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 put together some detailed instructions for posting.

Gingerbread Piper Felt Ornaments

I love the idea of "themed" gingerbread felt ornaments, and have made quite a few over the years. 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. 

My kilted Ginger ornament is made out of felt appliqued with a small-sett tartan print, and is complete with sporran and a set of bagpipes. Varying the tartan gives each one quite a different look. 

My Ginger is stitched completely on the embroidery machine, then lightly stuffed through a small opening at the top of the head, which is then sewed closed on the sewing machine. Before closing up the opening, I inserted a small loop of wire to enable me to hang the ornament with a hook or string, but if  you preferred, you could insert a ribbon or cord into the opening and sew that in place instead.

Because I want my ornaments to become heirlooms, I chose wool felt instead of the more commonly available polyester. And to give some added stability to the pipes and keep them upright, I carefully inserted a straight pin through each, dipping the pin in a little bit of glue beforehand. If I were giving the ornament directly to a child, I would probably skip this step, but the pins will help preserve my ornament for years to come.

Turns out there are several versions of Scottish-themed Ginger ornaments on line; since digitizing mine, I've found at least five different styles, some of them quite intricate. I like this version, though, because even with the kilt they still have that simple "gingerbready" look that makes them perfect as Christmas decorations.

Sewing Machine Cabinet - Light Table Conversion

When I acquired it a few years ago, this vintage Kenmore cabinet was in rough shape -- not only was it pretty beaten up, but someone had attempted to adapt it to hold a different machine. The adaptation was rather crude, and pretty much ruined it for housing any sewing machine.

Since I couldn't install any of my machines in it and didn't need it as a desk, I decided to repurpose the cabinet, making it into a light table as a gift for a photographer friend.

I first removed the oak boards and sewing machine lift mechanism, leaving a large open hole.

I added four support strips around edge of the opening to hold the plexiglass insert that would become the surface of the light table.

Then I used a chemical stripper to remove the finish from the whole thing .

Once the cabinet had been given a new coat of urethane finish, I installed three light fixtures and a standard switch into the recess.

I chose household light fixtures so my friend would readily be able find replacement bulbs when necessary, and positioned the lights so that the surface would be illuminated without shadows.

For a modest cost, a local glass shop cut a piece of translucent plexiglass to the exact size I needed.

Now my friend can easily work on sorting his negatives and slides, and the poor old cabinet has been kept from the landfill.

(Note the built-in storage tray that will come in handy in its new life as a photographer's light table.)

The cabinet looks a whole lot better now, and when not in use, the delicate light table surface is protected by the fold-over desktop. Plus, with the lid closed it can serve as a writing desk.

(Note that I had to move the switch to the leg of the cabinet because it interfered with the bottom panel I installed after the whole thing was finished.  It's not as unobtrusive as I'd like, but it's easier to reach and operate.) 

This was a really fun project, and very satisfying since I got to turn something worn out into something practical and attractive.  In fact, I've been keeping my eyes peeled for another suitable cabinet so I can make a light table for myself.

Sewing Decal Ornaments

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 the ornament, I hand-sewed a border of red fused beads around the edge of the ornament.  

Spilling Stocking Ornament

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

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

In addition to digitizing and doing machine embroidery, I also love to tinker with my beautiful vintage sewing machines. Although I mostly focus on machines from the first half of the 20th Century, my collection does include a few 70s models.

Some of these machines have plastic housings and cases, which unfortunately can turn an ugly dingy yellow over time, especially when exposed to UV light. I really dislike this discoloration, and was delighted to discover that there is a remedy, so I recently got busy with three of my machines -- a Singer Model 354 Genie and two Kenmore 158.1040 machines. Here's what they looked like before treatment.

The Genie was discolored all over, but on the Kenmores it was mostly the plastic accessory containers that were yellowed. The body of these machines is paint on metal, so they weren't affected the same way, but the contrast made the yellowed bit look even worse.

To restore them to brightness -- "retrobritening" as it's colloquially known -- requires a creme-style hydrogen peroxide bleach designed for use in hair salons.

To make this process work, you need at least a 30-volume solution, much stronger than the drugstore stuff. The one I used was 40-volume, and the 32 fl oz bottle cost me under $10 at a beauty supply store. 

Be sure to wear latex or vinyl gloves when handling the bleach and wash your hands afterward, because it *will* discolor clothes, hair, and even skin. My fingers went leprous white, though thank goodness the effect was temporary. Plus, the stuff can sting.

Apply the solution directly to the yellowed plastic using a brush, as evenly as you can -- try to avoid streaks or heavy areas, which will make the plastic lighten unevenly. Then cover the machine with plastic wrap to keep the bleach moist, and set it in sunlight for a few hours. How long will depend on the time of year (the sun is stronger in summer) and on how much yellowing you need to correct. Keep an eye on the item to ensure it doesn't over-bleach, then unwrap and wipe clean with a damp cloth. I've successfully treated several of the 70s models I own and the process really does work, even in winter when the sun isn't super high in the sky. 

I should mention that this treatment doesn't prevent the item from eventually yellowing again if exposed to UV light, but the results are quite startling when you compare how the machines look after treatment to how they looked before.

I'm not sure that these photos really do them justice, but hopefully you can see how much better my little Kenmore looks with its accessory box restored to brightness. The difference in the Genie is obvious too, especially when you compare the restored front cover to the still-untreated back of the machine, shown in the picture at bottom right.

For more detailed instructions, check out this video (not mine) or search "retrobriten" on youtube. The process works for other plastic appliances as well as sewing machines.

More Embroidered Ornaments

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

I made this little green bear with the embroidered tummy as a surprise for my friend Crystal, who loves her football team -- its colors are green and white.

The finished bear -- with or without an embroidered tummy patch -- stands about 13" tall and is perfect as a beginner's project.

Crystal sent me a picture after she received her bear. She was thrilled to have him-- the only green Riders bear in existence, and made just for her -- so I know he's found a good home.

The pattern for this bear is quite simple, and he's quick to make for anyone with even a little bit of experience in toymaking.

His tummy is a single flat pattern piece, so it can easily be personalized with an embroidered motif before the bear is assembled using a conventional machine. Make the tummy the same color as the rest of the body, or use a different color to showcase the embroidery.

I designed this bear as a simple first-time toymaking project for the women in my little craft group. The chocolate brown one in the photo above and the white one at right were actually made in about three hours by two people who had hardly any sewing experience and who had never made any kind of  toy before. There was lots of excitement in the sewing room when the bears were taking shape and the women were justly thrilled with how they turned out.

Antonia's little cutie is pleased to pose beside the machine on which he was created -- you'll no doubt recognize the lovely little Singer 185.

Merry Christmas Bunting

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

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

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

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

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

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, which uses two different images of 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.

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!