Arrowheart Love Notes Pillow

Arrowheart Hand-Embroidered Love Notes Pillow | Embroidery Download Free

My son always wants me to sew him something. As anyone who sews for kids knows,  just like trying to buy cool boys’ clothes in a store, it is often an exercise in frustration. The selection in stores is usually downright sad compared with the real estate given over to all the delightful styles for girls. When it comes to sewing patterns, the choice isn’t much better, and to top it off, it’s just plain hard to sew the kinds of clothes they want to wear once they’re past the baby/toddler stage. So it’s often a challenge to find projects to make for The Boy (who is very, very big now, he’d be the first to tell you), because I’m sure not sewing him jeans! That is way out of my comfort zone. I fare much better with non-clothing items. In that spirit, I recently made him this Arrowheart hand-embroidered pillow. It has a wee pocket on the back to tuck in sweet little messages and other goodies:

Pocket detail on Embroidered Arrowheart Love Notes Pillow

Because, fortunately, although he is very, very big, The Boy is not too old to still want love notes from his mommy.

(I don’t know how R2D2 got in there. He’s wily, that one.)

The best part about this pillow is that it started life as a very well made linen shirt, which had become a bit stained and just generally wasn’t my style. It sat in my closet for years, until a recent purge unearthed it. It made its way to my to-be-repurposed sewing basket, and with a little creative cutting, it’s got new life. I think it’s more beautiful than ever. DIY Embroidered Arrowheart Love Notes Pillow | Upcyclyed Deconstructed Linen Shirt

If you feel like doing a little upcycling yourself, or you’ve got some other fabric that’s in dire need of decoration, download my free embroidery template and get to it.

I find that I’m ruthless these days about culling my closet. Anything made of quality fabric is in jeopardy of becoming source material. I’d much rather put that stuff to good use in a sewing project than let it languish in “what if” land in my closet. As in, “What if someday I do want to wear it?” Because more often than not, someday never comes.

How about you? Have to take the scissors to your closet yet? Once you start, it’s hard to stop!

Arrowheart Embroidery Design Download

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Get Some Zakka Style | Come On, You Know You Want To

Zakka Patchwork Linen Bag with Strap

Just finished a new bag, and I’m so in love with it. It’s a Zakka-style linen patchwork shoulder bag with hand-embroidered detailing on the flap, inspired by a Zakka-style patchwork makeup pouch by Rashida Coleman-Hale. (My small zippered pouch somehow grew up to be a shoulder bag with rainbow embroidery on the flap, a magnetic snap closure, and a leather strap I’d sewed for another bag. Not sure how that happened.)

Have you visited her blog, I Heart Linen? It’s amazing. If you’ve never seen her work, check it out for some gorgeous, simple projects that usually, as you might have guessed, feature linen. If you’re not familiar with Zakka, it’s a Japanese style focused on beautiful, useful, simple handmade items created with natural materials. It’s thoroughly charming and I’m a bit obsessed. Zakka items somehow manage to be rustic and sophisticated all at the same time. I Heart Linen has some great examples of this style of sewing. Also, I’m completely in love with her new fabric line. It’s high up on my wish list.

Have you sewn with linen? Honestly, once I started, I found it hard to stop. I raided my closet for old linen shirts and dresses that I never wore anymore. Now every time I go into my closet, I’m likely to come out with something to deconstruct for another project. That linen seems wasted on rarely worn shirts, when it could become a bunch of adorable new Zakka coin purses!

So, what do you think of Zakka style?

Tutorial: Hand-Sewn Reverse Applique Needlebook

DIY Reverse Applique Felt Needlebook Tutorial

DIY Reverse Applique Felt Needlebook Tutorial

Needlebook Tutorial Open Pocket View

As I’ve mentioned before, when I first began sewing, I used my friend’s grandmother’s tank of a Singer. I was so clueless then, I didn’t know how great that old workhorse was. I just wanted to learn to sew, and I used the machine I had available. At the same time, I started to dip my needle into hand-sewing and embroidery.  A book on embroidery caught my eye on Amazon, and I was off to the races. The thing is, it’s really, really hard to describe stitches in words. It is, as they say, like dancing about architecture. I was completely befuddled by the drawings and long explanations of what I was assured were simple stitches that any  beginner could easily master. Sigh. Me? Not so much. The only way I figured any of it out was to get myself some fabric and thread and needles and go to it. (It probably doesn’t help that I’m a lefty. But honestly, the few times I’ve come across embroidery instructions for lefties, I was even more confused!)

So, I found myself in need of this “needlebook” I kept hearing about. I didn’t have a clue what a needlebook was supposed to look like. All I knew was that all the sewing books and blogs seemed to think I had one, or should at any rate, and once I began my tentative attempts at embroidery I could see that I really did need a place to stash those needles and pins so that they didn’t end up underfoot or stuck in the couch cushions (yes, that was a painful lesson learned). So, despite my near-total ignorance on the matter, I set about designing one for myself with some scraps of fabric leftover from the first bag I ever made. My sewing has come a long way since then, but that slapdash, very DIY-looking (and not in a good way) needlebook has done its duty and it has a special place in my sewing bag as a symbol of my tendency—sometimes admirable, sometimes foolish—to dive headlong into a challenge, always presuming I can figure it out.

But lately I’ve wanted something a bit more stylish, and more functional as well. Inspired recently by the Alabama Chanin techniques of hand-sewing and reverse applique, I created this felt needlebook with reverse applique. It turned out really well, and so I thought I’d share it. I made two with different appliques for the cover: a wonky cross and a flower petal design. You can download one of my designs or draw your own. I’ve included the design downloads in the tutorial.

I hope you enjoy it! It’s a quick, fun project with a useful result, and a good excuse to try out reverse applique if you’ve never done it.

Get the complete tutorial:
 Reverse Applique Needlebook Tutorial

Don’t Fear the Needle

Hand-Sewn Blue Felt Ball

The thought of hand-sewing used to terrify me. When I first started sewing, I borrowed my friend’s grandmother’s ancient Singer. I didn’t know the first thing about machine sewing—or sewing, period. I didn’t even know how to thread it, so I just used the thread that was already in the machine, which fortunately was a nice neutral brown that pretty much worked with everything. Eventually, though, the thread broke, and I was faced with the daunting task of tackling the Singer’s baffling series of tension knobs and hooks and loops. I might as well have been trying to build the space shuttle from scratch for all I knew about the process. Of course, I didn’t have a manual either. So, I turned to the handy-dandy Internet and voila, seconds later I had a PDF of the manual in front of me. I set to work, being in general rather confident in my ability to accomplish pretty much anything as long as I have directions. Sure enough, shortly thereafter I once again had a functional, threaded sewing machine. No sweat. (A few months later, I bought myself a very nice Brother, and I was off to the races. I thread that thing like nobody’s business! Ah, how far I’ve come…)

So why, then, was I so scared to pick up a sharps needle and throw down some stitches with the hands God gave me? Perhaps it was a generational preference for technology, my instinctive presumption that I could never do as good a job as a machine. Also, I did not grow up with a tradition of sewing. I didn’t have a mom who patiently sat with me and passed along all her sewing wisdom, and the wisdom passed down to her from her mother, and so on. I hear these stories so often from sewers and quilters, and I’m always envious. Regardless, I didn’t have that, and I picked up sewing all on my own. (Apparently my paternal grandmother was a master seamstress, though, as was one of her daughters. Unfortunately, my grandmother died before I was old enough to learn to sew, and my aunt was well into a sad case of dementia by the time sewing caught my fancy.)

The first things I sewed were bags, and I dreaded the thought of having to hand-sew the linings closed. I’d read through the directions on a project, and every time I’d come to the point where I was told to turn the bag right side out and blind stitch or slipstitch the opening, I’d think, Well, surely there’s some way to get around this, right? I can’t really have to hand-sew it! Oh, the horror.  I got over it, and actually became a teensy bit proficient at it. I distinctly remember the first time I finished a bag and I truly couldn’t see where I’d stitched it closed. I was so excited I grabbed my clueless husband and shoved the bag at him. “Look!” I squealed. “Can you see where I stitched the opening closed? You can’t, can you?  Yeah me!” He gamely agreed that he couldn’t find the stitches and professed his amazement at my growing skill level. (He’s a sweetie like that. I’m sure he didn’t  have the first clue what he was supposed to be looking for, but after many years of marriage, he is exceedingly well trained in the art of when to blindly and generously praise.)

That was more than a year ago. In recent months, to my surprise and delight, I’ve learned to not just tolerate hand-sewing. I’ve actually grown to love it. It’s a graceful counterpoint, a delicate and subtle contrast to the blunt instrument of machine sewing. It gives me a welcome feeling of control, as opposed to machine sewing, where often I feel that I’m grasping for the reins and my machine is about to bolt for the hills. I’m just holding on for dear life half the time, praying for everything to go as planned.

The rhythms of hand-sewing have become a part of my daily life. And did I mention the convenience? The portability factor is huge! I love being able to sit on the couch with a project in hand, after getting the kiddo to bed, and watch TV with my husband (in the 5 minutes we have alone every day before we pass out from exhaustion). I have taken projects to 3rd grade basketball games, doctors’ waiting rooms, and the school parking lot at pickup time. I’ve even sewed while stuck in a traffic jam!

A year ago I would have been shocked that my current favorite project, the one I’m always itching to pick up when I have a random 30 seconds of downtime, is this:

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