Crafty Inspirations

Before I started crafting, I frequently visited craft shows to marvel at things that I thought I could never create. Fast forward years later, I am actually making and selling handmade soaps in my etsy shop Nordea Soaperie!

I always wonder what drives a person to choose their craft, and what inspires them to create on a daily basis. I know that I am inspired by my love of strange as that sounds. I LOVE food, and I love to cook. Making soap is simply following a recipe, and I am always thinking of different ways to incorporate food and beverages into my soaping projects. Many of my more popular soaps include fruit purees or liquids like aloe juice and beer.

I asked another member of the EtsyNY team what inspired their crafty creations, and Alison from Koto Designs gave me the following answer:

"I would say that I'm inspired by what I encounter in my day-to-day life. I always have an eye out for anything with a simple geometry that would translate well into embroidery. For example, my brother is a huge bike fanatic and for his birthday I made him a card featuring his super customized bike. I made another (more generic) version for my etsy shop for all the bike lovers out there."

To see the beautiful work from many more members of the EtsyNY team, make sure you come to the annual Holiday Handmade Cavalcade which will be a two-day event kicking off the Holiday shopping season! This show will feature artisans from all over the tri-state area. Don't forget to mark your calendars, December 1 & 2 in Brooklyn, NY....Hope to see you there!



A Family History of Embroidery

Nordea's blog piece on Artful Embroidery (September 19) reminded me of my teenage years when my mother, a crewel embroiderer, taught me some simple stitches. We lived in the middle of Long Island, where there was never enough for kids to do. 

My mom was a craft person extraordinaire. She made braided rugs, like this, for the rooms in our home by going to rummage sales on the last day when a shopper could fill a bag for $1.

She loaded up on wool jackets and pants, cut the material into strips, sewed the strips together at the ends and folded as she went. She braided the folded strips and then sewed the braids into an oval, like this.

The artistry came in blending the colors that would sit next to each other in the rug.

My mom also made pictures from wool thread, called crewel embroidery. She made mostly simple flower and fruit compositions that went with our New England antique furniture: ladder back chairs and butcher tables and pewter sconces and mugs.

Crewel is a style of free embroidery thousands of years old, done on linen or cotton and many stitches allow the sight of the linen through and around the design. These pieces, like the pillow below, she would frame and hang on the wall above the couch in the living room.

Both my parents were painters, as were relatives on my mother’s side. One of them lived in a lighthouse and painted it, as well as other shore scenes. Some painted the farmlands of Hicksville, Long Island in the early 1900s, which is where they lived, on potato farms. My father painted landscapes in oil and my mother used all media for her pieces. She painted well into her 80s, traveling to Italy to live and paint in Rome for a month.

All my embroidery was done on faded blue jeans. 

My masterpiece was a blue jean skirt that I made from a cut up pair of jeans. I put a few flowers on it, like this:

But I kept working on it over time. In the end, it had the feel of this piece:

According to my mother, I wore it every day from Memorial to Labor Day. It had fringe and hanging threads on the bottom. It was not something that could be purchased at the Smith Haven or Walt Whitman Malls, which is where everyone shopped. It was probably the most comfortable thing I ever wore, and I made it. 


Artful Embroidery

So, I admit to being a bit obsessed with embroidery. The act of creating art out of thread is very appealing to me. Especially since my drawing skills are not much advanced past stick figures.

I taught myself how to embroider by buying a couple of books and practicing. There are so many different stitches that can be used to create beautiful pieces of art.

I love this card which spells out a cute & clever message with thread. I also love how there are different colors used to create contrast on the white background.

This beautiful flowering tree is a stand alone picture. The embroidery is fantastic, and becomes its own picture frame by hanging it with the hoop! It would be great to hang a few of these clustered together on the same wall.

The holidays are right around the corner...these little Christmas tree ornaments are super cute!

I hope you have been inspired as much as I have! Embroidery is pretty easy once you get the hang of it. What I love most of all, is that it is easy to do on the go....something to pass the time while commuting to work.


What to Do with Scraps of Felt, Part VI: Make a Cuff Bracelet

This use for scraps of felt was inspired by a post I originally saw on Craftzine on how to make a felt friendship bracelet. I saw potential in the general idea presented there of a wide band of felt embellished with embroidery. One fun direction that I thought it could go, and that would help me use some of my very large quantity of felt scraps, was to embellish it not just with embroidery, but also with additional felt, possibly among other things.

  • A strip of felt that is at least 3/4" wide and as long as needed to encircle the wrist of the wearer-to-be with a little gap between the ends, and a minimum 1" allowance on each end (sorry if that's confusing; illustrative pictures to follow!)
  • Smaller pieces of felt
  • Embroidery floss
  • Thread (optional, as long as you have floss)
  • Sewing/embroidery needles
  • Buttons, beads, or the like (sequins?); maybe even fabric paint
  • Fabric glue (optional)

Fold each end of the felt strip over at least 1" and pin in place (you'll note that I folded mine over much more; this was because I measured the length of the strip only approximately and used the fold-overs to adjust it).

Using three 18" lengths of embroidery floss, sew the sides of one end of the felt together. Pull the floss through to the middle so that you have the equal lengths of all three strands on either side.

Two down, one to go

Braid the strands on either side of the felt and finish with a knot.

Using a matching color of thread or embroidery floss, sew the sides of the other end of the felt strip together leaving enough of a loop for the braided floss on the other end to be laced through it.

Embellish the felt strip with additional pieces of felt and whatever else.

Lace the braided floss through the loop on the other end of the strip and tie together.


Until next time --

Tutorial Tuesday: String Art Embellishment

When it was time to decorate a raffle box for the Spring Handmade Cavalcade, I really wanted to take advantage of the existing structure of the lunchbox. After much trial and error, I hit upon the idea of using the stitching holes as the basis of the design. During elementary school, one of my teachers had been in an art project rut that consisted of making string art for every single month. Apparently, time has made it fresh to me again, since I was pleased enough with the outcome to want to share it with you.

String art has its origins in activities invented at the end of the 19th Century to teach mathematical ideas to children, and became popular as a decorative craft in the late 1960s. Though straight lines are formed by the string, the angles and metric positions at which strings intersect give the appearance of curves.

For this project you need:
An item to embellish that has holes in it (holes can be configured as an angle or an arc)
Embroidery Thread
Glue (optional)

Thread the longest amount of thread that you think you can handle onto the needle (I use my full armspan, so about 5 feet). Tie a large knot and go from the back of the piece to the front at point #1 on the diagram. At this point I also like to add a dab of glue on the knot to keep it in place as well.

Follow the number patterns from 1-20 going from the back to the front on the odd numbers (1, 3, 5, etc.), and from front to back on the even numbers. Keep the thread taut as you go to keep the lines straight and neat. If you run out of thread, knot off on the back, and start again going up at the next odd number with a new piece.
Here is a step-by-step diagram to see how the picture emerges. Red lines are on the front of the piece, and the yellow lines are the shorter stitches hidden on the back. Click on the image to enlarge the diagram.

Now that you've completed the pattern, just knot off on the back, and if add a little dab of glue to anchor it in place.
You may have noticed that the arc that we've made could have continued the rest of the way around the circle. Alternately you could make an asymetrical design by making a different distance between a second set of points 1 and 2. I find that string art is so quick and easy to do (and undo) that experimentation is highly rewarding!
I would love if you could share any ideas or completed projects that this tutorial has inspired you to create in the comments section.


Tutorial Tuesday: Make an Iron On Embroidery Transfer

This year, I've been busy transforming photographs into embroidered images. My latest project is this building:

which will soon adorn this bag:

And here is the process:


  • Reverse image of the picture you want to use
  • Tracing paper (You can use ordinary paper, but tracing paper makes it easier to see the image you're tracing.)
  • Sulky Iron-On Transfer Pen
  • Fabric
  • Iron


  1. Trace your image on tracing paper. It will iron on IN REVERSE. You can use the mirror image setting of your printer to print a reverse image to trace. Once transferred, the image will be correct again.
  2. Lay the tracing paper on the fabric with the ink side touching the fabric. Use a dry iron (no steam) on a cotton setting and iron the back of the tracing paper.
  3. Lift up a corner of the paper to check whether the ink transferred.

  4. Start embroidering.
Note: The pen is supposed to be permanent. So if you don't want it to show on your fabric, you may want to iron it onto some tear-away fabric instead.

You can use this process to create your own embroidery transfers from photographs, drawings, or kid art, and to refresh vintage iron-on transfers where the ink has dried up. Or create your own designs from antique magazines like this embroidery pattern dated 1863 from Godey's Lady's Book, which you can find at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

Embroidery ; Night-dress. Digital ID: 828089. New York Public Library


How To Make An Embroidered Valentine

I first learned how to embroider cards at an Etsy craft night and fell in love instantly. This is an inexpensive and easy way to give your partner, BFF, or Mom something uncommercial and handmade on Valentine's Day.

What You'll Need:

Card stock or blank greeting card
Embroidery or Sewing Needle
Threader (optional)
Embroidery Floss (cotton preferred)
Bubble Mailer
Painters Tape
2-3 words to Embroider
Glue Stick
Decorative Paper for inside of the card (optional)

Once you decide what word(s) you want to use, the first step is to pick the right font to create your pattern. Type them into a Word program then play around with different fonts and sizes to fit your card. Keep in mind that you will be using simple, straight stitches to outline the word. Thin fonts are easiest to stitch, but you can also use a rotund font and stitch the outline. It helps to decide what will fit best by printing out a couple different choices.

Once you have picked the right font and size use a ruler to place your word and make sure it is straight. Once you are happy with placement, tape down the word to the front of the card with small pieces of painter's tape. Painter's tape will not stick to the front of the card so you can play with the placement if needed.

I have decided to add a simple heart cut-out to my card, then the embroidered word.

Next, open up your card and place the side you are embroidering on top of your bubble mailer.

We are now ready to punch the design into the card. This way, we can easily stitch the thread through the card all in one shot. I usually punch the holes about 1/8" apart, as evenly as possible. I am using a fat font, so I will do the outline of each letter. The hardest part of letters are in the curves. Around curves make the punches a little closer together to control the way the curve looks. You can always add a punch later if needed, so don't stress out about making this perfect.

To do the punch use a thin needle or straight pin to carefully push through the card to the mailer. It works best to hold the needle with one hand and push down the top of the head with the other. I like to wear a thimble for this to protect my finger.

Once you have punched all the letters carefully, pick up one side of your word pattern and make sure you didn't miss any letters. If you did, just tape it back down and keep punching. Once you are done, remove the pattern and you will be able to see the whole word clearly.

Woo hoo! Now we are ready to stitch, so let's talk about some basic stitches and thread options.
I recommend 6 string cotton embroidery because for about 39 cents you will use it forever and it works well moving through paper. This thread is made up of 6 strands and for outlining words you only need to use one or two strands. Cut off about 8 inches of the thread and separate out two threads and slowly pull down to completely pull it from the original strand.

Since we have separated the string sometimes it is hard to thread the needle. If you are a beginner I highly recommend investing a dollar for a threader to easily get the two strands of thread through your needle. Once you are threaded we are ready to stitch.

If you would like to do the whole word in one color use a backstitch. With this stitch you are literally going back through the hole of the last stitch you just did. Start by pulling your needle from the back of the card to the front. Leave a little bit of tail in the back of the card before you do your next stitch. Hold down the tail with your thumb for the first couple stitches. Do not tie a knot!

Back of Card:

Now you are at the front of card. Take your needle back through the next hole so your needle is now at the back of the card. Then from the back of the card come through the next hole to the front. Finally from the front, take the needle through the same hole where the last stitch was. You just completed a backstitch! Continue that same pattern through all the letters.

Another option is to do a straight stitch using two different colors to outline your word. With your first color threaded start at the back of the card and bring the needle through the front. Then bring the needle back through the next hole up and down through the card over and over again like below.

While you work, it is inevitable that you will run out of thread before completing the design. Some people recommend using a dot of glue or tape to hold down the ends, feel free to do that. I find it to be just as secure to stop the stitch at the back of the card with an inch or so left, then pull the excess thread through the stitches that you have already done in the back to hold down the end. All of the previous stitches will hold everything in place and it would be very hard for the ends to come lose through the front of the card.

Continue through all your letters until you have the word half stitched.

Now we'll thread our second color and do the same straight stitch. Start at the back of the card and pull the needle through the end of the first stitch. Then go back through the very next hole.

Back of Card:

Continue this way so the thread alternates in color.

Front of card:

When you first try this out, often you will get a dreaded knot in your thread. Don't freak! All you have to do is carefully push your needle through the knot and work it around in circles with a slight tug. Usually you'll be able to pull it out and happily continue on.

Another good tip is hold your thumb close to where you are pulling your needle through. This will help stabilize the paper and avoid tears. I usually keep my thumb a centimeter or so away from the hole I am pulling the needle through.

Once you are done, take a deep breath and enjoy your work. You just stitched a gorgeous handmade card. Nice! Some people choose to cover up the back of their card with decorative paper. If that works for you, go ahead and do that by gluing it on with a glue stick. I think it is awesome for people to see how the work is done. So instead of covering the back, I add some hand pulled paper on the inside but not over the embroidery. To do this just run a line of glue on the fold, press any decorative paper into the fold, then leave it underneath a pile of heavy books for 24 hours.

Finished card:
Have a lovely valentines day sharing your love with someone special.

Tutorial: Using Beaded Jacobean Couching to Fill Embroidered Shapes

This embroidery technique is a variation on a stitch called "Jacobean Couching" that uses beads to give your project some added elegance. This project is not difficult, though it is helpful to have some knowledge of basic embroidery. Here are the materials you will need:

1. Embroidery Floss.
2. Seed Beads.
3. Regular sewing thread in a color that matches your beads.
4. A heat-transfer pencil.
5. An air-soluble pen (a pen that makes a mark which will disappear in a day or so).
6. A transparent gridded ruler.
PLUS, tracing paper, scissors, a home iron, fabric to embroider your design onto, and an embroidery hoop. For this project I used a 6" hoop.

STEP 1: Trace your design onto tracing paper using the heat transfer pencil. I chose an eight pointed star - you can choose pretty much any image you like, as this technique works well for filling any simple shape.

STEP 2: Iron the design onto your fabric. Use the hottest setting that will work for your chosen fabric, turn the steam setting to "off," and do not let your design shift while ironing. My design was transfered after about ten seconds of ironing.

STEP 3: Outline your design using any stitch you like. I chose to use the Stem Stitch, which is illustrated below. For this project, I did my stitching with three strands of embroidery floss. A handy set of illustrations for various outline stitches can be found here.

STEP 4: You are going to run a series of parallel threads over the entirety of your design. I chose a distance of 3/8". Using your transparent gridded ruler, make small dots right next to your outline, indicating where your parallel stitches should be placed. The ink should disappear in a day or so, but it's still best to keep your marks as small as possible.

STEP 5: Using the marks you've made, create a series of long parallel stitches that fill up your entire shape.

STEP 6: Decide whether you would like to end up with a shape filled with squares or diamonds. If you want squares, you should make your second set of parallel stitches at a 90 degree angle to the first set. I decided I wanted diamonds, so I chose a random angle, and simply made all my stitches parallel to the first line that I made at random.

STEP 7: Once you have filled your entire shape with a grid of long stitches, you can start adding the beads. Thread your needle with a double strand of regular sewing thread, then bring your needle up through the fabric right next to the place where two threads cross.

Thread a bead onto your string, and bring your needle back down through the fabric on the opposite side of the crossed threads.

To make sure your beads are securely stitched onto the fabric, bring your needle back up, and make a second stitch through each bead before moving on to anchor the next intersection of threads. Keep going until you've tacked down all your threads.

STEP 8: Admire the beauty!

February is National Embroidery Month: NewNew Picks

In honor of National Embroidery Month, here are some of my NewNew top picks to celebrate.

This sampler by Miniature Rhino strikes me as simultaneously nostalgic and edgy. It would fit equally well in a modern decor setting as a Victorian one. Also this piece is a boon for those who want someone to remember us, but are a little camera shy.
Now your tea will be neither confused nor cold with the help of this fun cosy by KnitStorm. The use of recycled wool for both the cozy itself and the embroidery can make you feel toasty to your toes with the warmth of choosing something good for the earth.

This art quilt by Look Closely Press elevates the lowly blanket stitch to new heights. This one-of-a-kind artwork captures the spirit of sitting quietly to embroider.
If embroidery has captured your heart, what better way to display that love than with a heart ornament by copabananas. The vintage fabric is what really caught my eye in this piece.
thirdfloor makes embroidery art wearable in this wool and kimono silk cowl. Copper is one of my all time favorite colors since it has all the glamour of a metal, but a little softer.

If your eyes are still hungry for embroidery, there is time left to check out the exhibition, Forget-Me-Not: embroidered love from the new craft movement. This show at the Hanahou Gallery runs until February 27th, and NewNew members loveforever and Miniature Rhino have work on display.

Check back tomorrow as we continue to honor National Embroidery Month with a project and stitch how-to.