Category Archives: embroidery

A Year to Remember

Well, it’s been a long time. Too long. Going into last spring, I had plans to stay in touch every few weeks throughout the pandemic. In fact in mid May I was conjuring up a post about my adventures with sourdough. But then George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers at a convenience store two miles from my house. Needless to say, his tragic death and the crazy events that followed in my neighborhood made it seem pretty ridiculous to be posting about sourdough. So my 16-year-old and I headed down to Lake Street with heavy duty garbage bags and shovels to help with clean up. My husband and I attended neighborhood meetings, helped with a food drive at the local middle school, and tried to learn about other things we could do to help. We support locally owned businesses in the neighborhood whenever we can. There’s so much more we could do, I’m sure.

I’m starting small. Kind gestures toward neighbors, friends, family, and those I see while out walking in the neighborhood. Giving others space, a little bit of grace, and the benefit of doubt. This year’s resolution is to go into each day with a kind and generous heart.

Navigating this shift in mindset from negative to positive isn’t easy…in fact, I think I’ve posted about this very thing before. I’ve always been a glass-half-empty kind of gal. And I definitely have a long way to go. But I’ve been trying to make choices that lead to a happier disposition. Less Facebook, more Instagram, for example. Getting out for a walk or run most every day. And keeping some form of creative spark in my daily routine. This act of making can be anything, but over the past year it’s leaned heavily toward pottery.

For my 50th birthday in April, my husband tracked down a pottery wheel for me. With studios closed all over town, I had been missing working with clay. So I did the research on setting up a bare-bones studio at home, including finding a local place where I could fire my work and figuring out the clay and underglazes that would make the most sense with limited access to studios. I ordered supplies locally through Continental Clay and discovered that I could fire my work and use the glazes at The Workshop Mpls, a sweet studio less than 10 minutes from my house. And, I decided to try sgraffito, a pottery decorating technique that involves carving a design into a brushed on underglaze or slip (colored, liquid clay). With sgraffito, I could apply the underglaze and carve designs at home, have them bisque fired at the Workshop, and then use their glaze bay to apply a clear glaze on site. Here are a few of my first sgraffito projects.

In the meantime, a friend convinced me to sign up for a virtual handbuilding class through Northern Clay Center. This was pretty eye opening. The pieces I made were kind of clunky, and too thick, but I really liked our instructor, Marion Angelica, who’s all about adding texture to handbuilt pieces. And the designs she shared with us for the class were fun, useful pieces with graceful design elements. I was kind of hooked on the instant gratification of rolling out a slab of clay, cutting out a pattern, and folding or piecing it together.

Lanterns from virtual handbuilding glass (and a cute little cup I made).

In September I was able to sign up for a handbuilding open studio in-person class at Northern Clay Center (masks on, of course). The class was totally self-directed, which I loved. For months I had been filling my Instagram feed with the posts of potters who’s work I admired (Hat tip to MODHome Ceramics, Melissa Weiss, and many others for inspiration!), patterns for folded handbuilt containers, and projects using slump molds and other forms, so I was full of ideas. I’d also been wanting to try decorating my pieces with ceramic transfers, so I stocked up on a few floral patterns to try in class. I had so much fun, and left class with a few platters and bowls that I’m pretty happy with. I made a couple of berry bowls, using the cardboard berry boxes from farmers’ markets as a template.

Then I found a couple of patterns for folded bowls and lidded containers that were really fun to make.

And I used some of the molds available in the studio to make a couple of sgraffito platters, one rectangular, and one oblong.

Sgraffito using white slip on stoneware.
Sgraffito using black slip on stoneware.

I’m having so much fun exploring handbuilding that I signed up for another class that starts this month. In between classes, I’ve been making bowls and mugs on my wheel at home. As you can imagine, the bowls, mugs, containers, and platters are starting to pile up around here. In November I finally got around to opening up my Etsy shop, Fickle Heart Goods, where I’m selling my origami bags, hand embroidered felted hearts, and my books. Eventually, I plan to add pottery to my shop. But right now I’m just enjoying the process of trying different techniques, some with success, and some not. But these little goals make me happy, putting me in a better mindset when I do venture out in the world.

Here’s hoping 2021 gives us all more reasons to be happy. Be kind to each other!

Check out my Etsy shop: FickleHeartGoods

Follow me on Instagram: kari.a.cornel1

I Heart Cinco de Mayo

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First heart I made!

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone! I’ve had this project in my back pocket for months, but I decided to wait until today before sharing it, because, you know, it’s Cinco de Mayo.

Way back in mid February, we took a trip to Tulum, Mexico with friends. We had an amazing time. We relaxed on the beach, snorkeled in beautiful cenotes (freshwater limestone pools and caves), visited Maya ruins at Chichen Itza, and ate lots of good food. We spent a couple of evenings in the town of Tulum, where I couldn’t resist doing a little shopping in the market stalls. Not only were there pom pom garlands in all sorts of fun colors (and I’m a sucker for pom poms), there were these adorable hearts, made of felt and hand embroidered. Needless to say I became a little obsessed with them. I ended up buying two hearts and a pom pom garland the night before we flew home to stuff in my suitcase as keepsakes. I love ’em!

A pom pom cart in Tulum, Mexico.

Well, those hearts soon became the inspiration for this cute project. I love making these hearts for so many reasons. One, they allow me to use up some of the scraps from thrift store sweaters I bought a few years ago and felted for various projects. Two, embroidery is so easy to pick up and tinker away at whenever you have a spare moment. Three, this project is also small, so it’s perfect for stuffing in a tote or purse and taking along to soccer games or public transit commutes. And four (this is my favorite reason), they provide the perfect use for all that polyfil my dog pulls out of her chew toys…reusing and recycling at its best!

Heart Instructions

To make your own hearts, you’ll need the following.

  • Wool sweaters or felt, in any color
  • Large heart cookie cutter (the one I use measures 5 inches across)
  • permanent marker
  • small embroidery hoop
  • crewel embroidery yarn in a variety of bright colors
  • embroidery needle
  • scissors
  • polyfil stuffing
  • pom pom
  • tassel

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Using the cookie cutter and permanent marker, trace two heart shapes on the wool or felt.

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Center one of the hearts in the embroidery hoop, pulling it as taut as possible.

Use different colors of crewel embroidery yarn to embroider a design of your choosing. (Before you begin stitching, practice drawing possible designs on paper if that helps you solidify a design.)

As you stitch, try not to get too hung up on your embroidery skills or worry about how your design is coming along; Keep adding to it until you like what you see. (Need to brush up on embroidery stitches? Check out this site. )

Once you’re happy with your design, remove the embroidery hoop and cut out the two hearts (the one you embroidered and the one you did not).

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Stack the embroidered heart on top of the unstitched heart. Sew a quarter inch seam along outside edge of the hearts, but leave a 2 inch section along one of the sides unsewn. This is where you’ll add the stuffing.

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Push the polyfil stuffing through the hole. Use enough to give a puffy dimension to the entire heart.

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Stitch the opening closed.

Chose a complementary color of yarn to create a blanket stitch all the way around the outside edge of the heart. Here’s a quick how-to.

 

Use yarn to sew a pom pom and tassel to the bottom of the heart. Here are instructions for making a tassel

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Sew a loop to the top of your heart for hanging.

 

Last but not least, find the perfect place to hang your heart. I love how they look on door nobs, window closures, or as Christmas ornaments. Or better yet, give them to a friend!

Happy heart making! If you like this project, then definitely check out the other cool crafts made from recycled sweaters in the Craft-A-Day Book!

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T-Shirt Make Over

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We are getting to that time of year again (and already!). The boys started school this week, morning’s are crisp and clear, and the sun is setting earlier each day. All of these subtle changes mean only one thing—fall is on its way.

With these seasonal shifts, my thoughts turn from the garden, lake swims, and weekend getaways to more cozy, inside activities. Like whipping up a pot of homemade chili, watching a movie with the family, cuddling up with a good book, or, as you see here, crafting. This sort of crafting—the kind I like to do on a T-shirt—goes hand in hand with another nesting instinct that seems to kick in for me when seasons change—the wardrobe overhaul.

For me, the urge to purge is especially strong in the spring and fall. But I’m not one to be hasty about it. Usually the shirts, skirts, pants, shoes, or any other items that failed to see much play during the fading season hang out in the far flung corners of my closet or dresser for a bit before I’m moved to actually pack them up into grocery bags and haul them to the nearest Goodwill. Lately, though, I’ve been setting some of those shirts aside and giving them a second look, with an eye to what I might do to give that shirt new life, right here at home. Think about it. With a little embroidery thread on a lazy, autumn Sunday, I can transform that shirt into something I might actually want to wear again.

Embroidered to a T

If you like to embroider, this is pretty easy to do. The inspiration for the black only floral design came from Naoko Shimoda’s book Artfully Embroidered, which I highly recommend. First, I doodled with pencil on a sketch pad until I came up with flowers I was pleased with (this part can be as elaborate or as simple as you’d like!). Then I traced over those flowers with a fabric transfer pen. Before ironing the design onto my shirt, I cut out a piece of iron-on interfacing, slightly larger than the size of my design. Interfacing is what really makes it possible to stitch a design onto a t-shirt. Without it, the knit fabric is too flimsy to support the stitches. Follow directions on the interfacing package to iron the piece to the inside of the shirt, on the back side of the area where you plan to place the design. Lay your sketched design face down on the shirt, cover with a light cloth, and iron, making several passes to make sure the design transfers to the fabric. Place an embroidery hoop over your design, grab a needle and some embroidery floss and start stitching. I do most of my embroidery using split, stem, and running stitch, but try out other stitches as well. Craftsy is a great place to find instructions for basic embroidery stitches.

Applique Upgrade

If you’re not into the embroidery thing, though, there are many other ways to add interest to dull T-shirts. An obvious one is applique. As I was sorting through my kiddo’s too-small clothes, I came across these darling octopus swim trunks. The seat was well-worn, so I didn’t really want to donate them, but the pattern was so cute! I decided to cut out one of the octopi (?) and applique it to an orange and white striped shirt I had in the drawer. This was so easy to do, and it turned out great! Again, I used interfacing on the inside of the T-shirt to make it sturdy, and then I used a few dabs of fabric glue on the back of the octopus to keep it in place on the front of the shirt (test this first to make sure it doesn’t show through). Then, set the sewing machine to zigzag stitch, thread it with a thread that coordinates with the colors of the shirt, and sew along the entire edge of the cut out design.

Just Add Trim

This last T-shirt make over is even easier. Before I tell you how to do it though, I have a confession to make…I snagged this idea from a J Crew catalog. Last summer I pined for a cute v-neck T-shirt with bobble trim sewn along the sides. But I didn’t really want to shell out more than 40 clams for a short sleeve T, so I passed. Then I had a blinding flash of the obvious—why couldn’t I just sew trim onto the sides of any old shirt? So, using bobble trim I picked up for $1, I added some flair to my $7 v-neck T. Love it, and it was so simple to do! I ironed the shirt, aligned a strand of trim along each side seam  (beginning at the arm pit and ending at the bottom hem), pinned them in place, and then sewed them on using a straight stitch.

 

These are just a few ways to get a little more wear (and joy) out of a T-shirt you might otherwise cast away. For more fun ideas for projects made using old T-Shirts, sweaters, and even socks, stay tuned for more crafty posts AND (drumroll please) more details about my upcoming book, The Craft-a-Day Project Book. Can’t wait to share it with you!