Thursday, May 29, 2014

DIY: Stenciled Embroidery

 I don't know if you know this about me, but I'm a songwriter. It's true. Do you really think Emimen came up with all those lyrics on his own? I'm the real Real Slim Shady, ermkay. Don't believe me? Well then, lemme share with you a song I've been workin' on. It's a little tune I like to call The Thus Far Days of Summer Vacay: 

On the first day of vacay,
My summer gave to me
A busted ankle swollen to the size of a panda babe-ee.

On the second of vacay,
My summer gave to me
Flashbacks of last summer when I dropped a food processing blade on the same foot
and a busted ankle swollen to the size of a cat babe-ee 
(which I know is called a kitten but that didn't rhyme so bear with me)

On the third day of vacay
My summer gave to me
A visit to the doctor who said I bruised my ankle bone (what?!)
Flashbacks of last summer when I dropped a food processing blade on the same foot
and a busted ankle swollen to the size of, well, nothing. It healed. End of song.
I do hope your summer is off to a better bruised-boneless start, ya'll!

The hubs and I, when not busting ankles, have found ourselves on the road aplenty thus far. And, as I've chatted about before, one of my fave travel crafts is embroidery (you can read all sorts of fascinating embroideryness here, here and here, kids). Howevers, at the time of said hittin'-the-road-ness, I had nothing in the works. So, on a whim, I grabbed this thrifted stenciled piece with the idea that I'd improve upon it's half-a##'ed stencil-ness as seen above.
 Whatcha see here is a half embroidered piece. On the left side is the original state and on the right is the embroidered upon. Not to sound like a bragosaurus but, despite what the photo shows, the embroidery is a big improvement to the formerly just-stenciled state of the fabric.
See? I told ya's.

Which got me thinking. When I gave my students an End of the School Year survey (an In the Art Room post to come, ya'll), many of them wrote that they wanted to learn more weaving, sewing and "handcrafts", as one put it. I was thrilled to hear that since I loves me some fiber arts (and totally enjoyed teaching it this year!). However, teaching embroidery takes 4.Eve.Rrr...R. And sometimes the results are small due to the size of the stitching and the limited amount of patience (on behalf of both artist and art teacher). 

So, after working on this piece, I had the thought, "Why not have them stencil a design then embroider?" Actually, that's not what I thought at all. What I really thought was, "Why am I thinking about school, IT'S SUMMER!" And then I reminded myself that this is a blog where I pretend that I eat, drink and breathe art education and I needed to shut up before those five folks that read this catch on. 

Oops. Too late.
Ahem. What was I saying? It appears that I fell asleep and that some evil Summer-Loving Art Teacher Maniac took over for a moment. My apologies. 

For this here activity, you're gonna need to gather up the following:
  • Stencils. I had these pre-mades from JoAnn's in my stash
  • Fabric Paint. Left overs from this dress
  • Fabric. I just used random bits from my scrap bin.
  • Embroidery hoops.
  • Stencil sponges. In a pinch, I used my makeup wedges as that's all I had on hand.
  • Embroidery floss.
  • Embroidery needle.

 Because just stenciling one color would be a snooze-fest, I decided to do a little color blend. I think the kids could handle that. Well. Maybe.
 The trick is watching where you stamp so you don't flip that wedge. Because a flipped wedgie just sounds terrible.
 Here's something interesting I noticed: the thicker the plastic stencil, the more underneath bleeding of the paint. The super thin stencils actually worked much better and produced a much more crisp image. Hmm. Not what I was expecting.
 Have you ever embroidered before? I'm gonna assume you've not. So lemme introduce to you The Running Stitch:

1.  Embroidery floss comes in strands of 6 pieces of floss (or thread). Cut your desired length (I usually go from hand to shoulder and clip) and separate 2 strands of floss from the 6. Do this slowly as the floss loves to tangle.

2. Ideally, you should run those two combined strands of embroidery floss over a lump of wax. Bee's wax is preferred. This will prevent the floss from tangling. And tangling sux.

3. Thread your needle with those bee's wax-y stands of floss and double knot one end. Frame your piece in an embroidery hoop. Starting from the back, poke your needle up at your starting point.

 4.  Go about a quart inch and dive your needle down. I'm using mine to outline the edge of the flower. You do whatever you want. Make veins for your leaves, fill in a shape, whatevers. Just be certain to pull that needle down until the knot on the back stops it.
 5.  Now for the next stitch, jump ahead a quarter inch and pop up pulling completely.
 6. And go backward to fill in that gap.
 7.  For your third stitch, pop up from the end of your last stitch. The reason you didn't do this previously is because you would be taking a stitch out. You see, you can never have your needle come out of a hole it just went into, it will take the stitch out. However, it works here because your previous stitch had gone backward. Say what? I don't know, I'm just as confused as you are. Let's keep stitching.
 8.  When you get to the point where your thread is as long as half the length of your hand, it's time to tie off and reload your needle. To tie off, flip your embroidery to the back. Slide your needle under a nearby stitch.
 9.  Pull slightly until there is only a loop of embroidery floss left. Then reverse that needle and go through that loop. Do this twice. That will create a secure knot.

Confused? Me too. Youtube it, kids.
 And there you go! You are on your way to a stenciled embroidery! I'm really excited to play around with this idea of combining these two techniques into one project for the kids. 

What are your thoughts? Got any awesome ideas you'd like to share? Please enlighten this bruised-bone barbarian, would ya?! 


  1. I think it's a great combination. I have a bunch of patterned fabrics that the kids like to stitch on (I do too) so I know they would really enjoy making their own patterns with stenciling. Hope you don't mind that I will be stealing this :) By the way, I took a little poll for next year's art club theme and the "Needle and Thread" club won over the "Young Illustrators" (comics) club - very excited, and half of my sign-ups were boys!

    1. Yay! They all love fiber crafts...I can't wait to share more lessons with them on this next school year! Borrow away...I TOTALLY am doing your radial symmetry embroidery lesson, girl. Those were so beautiful!

  2. I love Your embroidered/stenciled pattern! Big effect with simple stitch. Your post is very good beginning for some folks who hasn't done any embroidery yet.
    I love cross stitch and admire people who make large pictures like Heaven and Earth Design but recently, I discovered that free-hand-embroidery is much faster ;) Do You know Mary's Corbett Needle and Thread ? It's a wonderful guide to all kinds of embroidery! Greeting from Poland!

    1. Thanks for the links! I'll have to check those out, I've not heard of free hand embroidery but going to look into it. I used to cross stitch as well...but I was so bad at keeping count that I often did more pulling out of threads than anything else! Thanks for dropping by :)

  3. Love this!!! Really, really, really beautiful!!

  4. Sorry for the injured ankle :( I really love the embroidery your doing on the stenciled piece at the beginning of your post! Stitching is such a soothing activity... I love me some fiber crafts! Hope you are back up on your feet soon!

    1. I am, thanks!! Just mowed the it seems I wasn't able to milk that injured ankle for as long as I'd like!

  5. Anonymous6/01/2014

    Hi Cassie,

    would you please respond to your hidden FB message? I can't log on here since I have no Google account


    1. Sure, I'll see if I can find a message...

  6. Anonymous6/01/2014

    Where was this when I needed it when my brain blipped and I'd forgotten how to do back stitch??? Doh. Xx

  7. I've often made stencils just out of paper with the kids and they work well for just one time use. We've done hearts with hole punches to create a doily effect ad of course snowflake stencils. I love the look with the two tone colors. My blog is not for school... just my own art but I did put a paper stencil up there once.

  8. These look fun to do- I think I'll try with my adult class! Thanks for sharing!
    We just did some stitchery ion doilies that we framed in embroidery hoops-I got the idea from

  9. Cassie Stephens i love this post. done good job

  10. This is awesome. I can't wait to try this and incorporate it into my quilting. I think it would go great with either over appliqu├ęd material or paint. My question is what type of paint can you use on fabric and not have it come out if washed. Super awesome idea

  11. These look fun to do- I think I'll try with my adult class! Thanks for sharing!
    Custom Embroidery Digitizing Services

  12. Great work done. I just love the colors & design pattern. Thanks for sharing.
    Paint by Numbers Home


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