I have a hard time sitting still, so even during my “relaxation” time in front of the TV in the evenings, I like to have something to do. Sewing is kind of hard to do if your machine isn’t already in front of the TV, so one of my favorite Idiot Box crafts is hand embroidery.
Here are a couple of Halloween themed pieces I’ve been working on::
I think I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been obsessed with vintage Halloween decorations lately, so that’s where the inspiration for these came from.
Of course, once you do the embroidery work, you can take the pieces off the hoop and use it for almost anything- clothing, bags, pillow covers, tea towels. But I love the simplicity of leaving the hoop as the frame and hanging them on the wall.
Here’s how you can make your own!
Let’s do this!
Choose a design and then gather your supplies.
There are lots of free designs on the internet, or you can design your own! Spiders, witches, bats- get creative! I want to get a few of the really small hoops and do single letters, then hang a bunch in a row to spell out “BOO!” or “HAPPY HALLOWEEN”.
- an embroidery hoop
- embroidery needles
- embroidery floss
- backing fabric
- applique fabric
Any medium or heavy weight woven fabric will work well for your backing. I chose prints because my designs were fairly simple and I had a lot of Halloween themed fabric in my stash. If you’re going with a more detailed design, I would probably use a solid background so the details don’t get lost.
I used felt for my applique fabric. It’s easy to work with and comes in tons of colors. It’s thick enough that you get a little 3D effect with the appliques, but it’s not hard to sew through. And best of all, it doesn’t fray!
You can absolutely use woven and even knit fabrics for the applique, but I would recommend using a fusible interfacing if you go that route to help keep the fabric from fraying or puckering. Get creative and use a print!
Prepare the hoop.
Cut a piece of the backing fabric large enough to fit your hoop, plus an extra 2″ on each edge. You can eyeball it- this doesn’t have to be exact.
Loosen the thumb screw so that you can separate the inner hoop from the outer hoop. Place the inner hoop under the fabric. (The “right” side of the fabric should be facing you.)
Center the hoops in the fabric, and squeeze the outer hoop around the inner hoop. Tighten the thumb screw slowly- stop every so often to pull the fabric edges gently to remove creases and wrinkles. When the fabric is taught and secure, you can stop tightening the screw.
Cut a piece of floss long enough that it can go all the way around the circumference of the hoop, plus an additional 6″ or so.
Ideally, the stitches for a running stitch should all be equal in length, but since this is the back of the hoop, I’m not that concerned with how it looks. If you’re OCD, feel free to be anal about the stitch length.
Continue the running stitch all the way around the hoop, stitching approximately 1/2″ from the edge of the hoop.
When you get back to where you started, pull the stitching taught. The edges of the backing fabric should start the gather and flip towards the center of the hoop.
Now you have a nice neat back that won’t flop in your way while you’re stitching the actual design.
Prepare your design.
(I’m combining applique and embroidery, but you could certainly embroider without using any appliques.)
Pin the bottom layer of your applique (if your design has multiple layers) to the hoop. I’ve used a disappearing marker to mark where my embroidered details need to go.
Let’s take a small detour and discuss the floss, first. The most common floss you’ll find has 6 strands. You can use the floss as is, but particularly with smaller projects like this, I find the 6 strands a little bulky.
So I like to separate the thread into two pieces of 3 strands each.
Just cut a piece of floss and separate the strands on one end, then pull the two halves apart, all the way down. I go for a piece a little longer than my arm- any longer and you tend to have issues with tangling and knots.
Now for the stitches. There are tons of embroidery and applique stitches out there, but I’ll show you a few of the basic stitches I used on my three hoops.
We’ve already covered the running stitch, which works well around the edge of an applique.
Here’s another stitch that’s nice for giving your edges a little extra detail. It’s called the blanket stitch.
Thread your needle and knot your floss. Starting from the back of the hoop, pass the needle to the front. It should be just at the outside edge of the applique- not through the applique itself.
Diagonal from the first needle position, pass the needle from the front of the hoop through the back. This stitch should go through your applique.
Now you start repeating the original pattern- pass the needle from the back of the hoop to the front, but THIS time, the needle will come up through the loop we held aside. Again, the needle should be just at the edge of the applique, not through it.
Don’t expect your first try to turn out looking so nice and even. I ripped out my stitched about 5 times on my first run, because I’d never done this stitch before. But now I’m a pro!
It’s easier if you try to keep the stitches smaller, in my opinion.
When you run out of thread, pass the needle from front to back just to the outside of your last stitch.
It will be pretty much invisible. Knot your thread, and cut a new piece of floss.
I like used a contrasting thread color for this one, since it’s a little fancy looking. You want your hard work to stand out!
The blanket stitch is best suited for edges that don’t have a lot of nooks and crannies, since corners can sometimes be almost impossible to navigate.
Congrats, you’re now the master of the blanket stitch!
Here’s the straight stitch. It’s a lot easier than the blanket stitch, so you might want to start with this one.
It’s a good stitch for edges, especially edges with more detail that would be difficult to do with the blanket stitch.
You can use a contrasting thread or match the thread to the applique if you don’t want it to be visible.
Again, the needle starts from the back side of the hoop, just at the outer edge of the applique.
Normally I wouldn’t do my stitches so large, but they doubled as the detail on the teeth.
All the “invisible” stitching on my appliques use this stitch. The eyes and nose for example:
I did a few stitches in the green so you can see how small I would normally do this stitch.
Now get those needles fired up and let’s see what you come up with! I think I’m going to start making hoop art for every holiday and season!
This post brought to you by Jo-Ann. All opinions are 100% mine.