Tag Archives: embroidery

Share a Little Love

Happy Valentine’s Day, all! I hope you are staying warm and spending time with loved ones on this cold February day.

A few weeks ago, I posted the picture above with the following words on Instagram:

I find that I’ve been embracing all holidays over the past year, even those Hallmark holidays I’ve resisted in the past (I’m looking at you, Valentine’s Day). After all, don’t we all need a good excuse to add a little more love and kindness to the world these days? So I’ve started making conversation hearts in anticipation of Valentines Day. These are a work in progress…turns out writing with a needle and thread is harder than I thought…but I’m looking for some clever pandemic-related sweet nothings for the next batch. Reply with any ideas you might have!

I meant to build a blog post on this, but I kept dragging my feet. I’m not crazy about how some of the embroidery on the early attempts turned out, so I was reluctant to post. But then a friend messaged me and asked if I’d be willing to sell the XOXO heart. She told me she loved the handmade, not-quite-perfect nature of the hearts and wanted to share them with a friend who loves Valentine’s Day.

Needless to say, I was touched. I made a couple more of the XOXO version and packaged them in a pink gift bag. But this is what stuck with me: I was kind of waiting until I had time to make hearts with more perfect lettering before posting, but this isn’t real life. In reality, my hearts are not perfect. And they shouldn’t have to be. I realized I had to give myself a little grace, just as I’ve been trying to do with others during this pandemic craziness.

So, I’m throwing this idea out there. I’m giving myself a little space, including the permission to create without being perfect. I’m also challenging myself to pass it on, to share a little kindness and compassion with others today and on each day going forward. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, by any means. On these bitterly cold days, I’ve been keeping packets of hand warmers in the car. Sometimes I see homeless people holding signs requesting money at major intersections, but I rarely have cash on me. The handwarmers are a way to share a little warmth and compassion for a fellow human out in the cold. It’s not all that much, but it’s something, and it eases my heart a bit.

In the meantime, here are a couple of ways to show your sweetheart or loved ones you care today. Spread the love!

Conversation Hearts

If you’ve not yet made a Valentine, here’s a cute little project to warm the heart of someone special. If you sew, these hearts are super easy to make. If you don’t sew, see the instructions for making a paper heart garland below.

You will need: 3-inch heart cookie cutter, sharpie, sweater scraps or festive cotton fabric, needle & wool embroidery thread, embroidery hoop, scissors, pins, sewing machine, thread to match color of sweater or fabric, poly fil

  1. Using the heart and sharpie, trace two hearts on the fabric and sweater.
  2. If you wish to embroider the heart, center one of the traced hearts within an embroidery hoop. Use needle and wool embroidery thread to stitch your favorite valentine sentiment.
  3. Remove embroidery hoop and cut out hearts.
  4. Stack embroidered heart on top of the plain heart and use pins secure them together.
  5. With a sewing machine (can also be hand stitched, if you prefer), stitch a 1/4 inch seam along the very edge of the heart, leaving and 1 1/2 inch unsewn.
  6. Stuff polyfil into the unsewn area until the heart is full and well-shaped.
  7. Sew hole closed.
  8. String several embroidered or plain hearts together to make a garland, or hide hearts around the house to surprise your sweetie. Up for a more elaborate heart? Check out these.

Paper Heart Garland

This is a sweet way to give a valentine and add a festive touch to your home. I’m planning to make one someday using the leftover paper we made for our wedding invitations. Yes, someday 😉

  1. Cut hearts out of red paper or leftover wrapping paper. I use a 3- inch heart cookie cutter to trace consistent heart shapes.
  2. Apply a small amount of glue (white or stick) to the back sides of two hearts.
  3. Then simply sandwich two hearts, wrong sides together, over a string (make this string as long as you like) to create a garland.

Until next time, stay warm!

For more fun and easy craft projects to make with paper or cast off sweaters, see my Craft a Day Book!

I Heart Cinco de Mayo


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


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


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).


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.


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


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. 


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


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!



October: A month of creativity

In the month of October,  I promised myself that every day I would do something creative, no matter how small a project it may be. I decided to take it easy on myself and set rather broad parameters to guarantee success. By my definition, “creative” means anything handmade or embellished, including everything from food (made from scratch, of course; Mac and cheese from a box doesn’t count), crafts, gardening, or writing.

Here is the month in photos.