Six Onesies, Or Finding (non-pattern) Patterns

I am currently 32 weeks pregnant and slowly but surely amassing an epic amount of adorable baby clothes (as if there was any other kind).  I have a little hat with a monkey face, stripey socks, and a pretty stripe-y black and white dress amongst other things.  But as my husband and I were sorting the clothing by size, we realised that although we had lots of 3-6 and 6-9 month clothes, we were seriously lacking in 0-3 months, which we kind of needed first.  Seems like an excellent excuse to go shopping and embroider something adorable!

I went and picked up 6 identical white onesies, for about 25$.  Super plain, boat neck, snaps at the crotch, etc.  Now what to put on them?I’ve had something up on my Embroidery & Patterns I Like Pinterest board for a while now, and this was the perfect opportunity to use it.  But it’s not really a pattern.  It’s a font.

Are they not super adorable?  The font is $4 for a private license, which is all I needed to stitch them onto onesies.  I played with them for a while, eventually choosing three per design.  They came together in a slow afternoon.

Stitching on jersey is harder than I thought it would be, just because of how stretchy it is.  You need to be careful and not stitch too tight or too fast to make sure that your stitches stay nice and you don’t ruin the fabric.

Tracing out the patterns was also a bit more difficult than on a more sturdy fabric, but I found that if I put my rotary cutting board inside the onesie, it wasn’t too bad and I could get a good impression.  I definitely used a tracing stylus (from Sublime Stitching) instead of a pen, cause the soft fabric tended to lead to torn paper and I didn’t want to mark up my work.

I used mostly split stitch, with little straight stitch legs and beaks, and a few little lazy daisies for certain feathers.  I had to make the beaks and eyes a bit bigger to be able to see them properly in stitches, but that’s all good.

I definitely recommend you look at more of Miss Tiina’s work and the whole Sugar Hill co. website.  It has tons of vector doodles that, although intended for digital scrapbooking, could be easily and cheaply adapted to embroidery.  Make sure you read each artist’s Terms of Service, to make sure that what you plan on doing with the design is fine by them (especially if you plan to sell anything you stitch – some designers may not allow it, or may ask you to pay a different price than if you are using it for personal means).

A few adorable mentions include these Blooming Doodles, these metal dress forms and even these Christmas light strings!  Scrapbooking sites and colouring pages (both online and in real life) can be great resources for embroiderers.  QisforQuilter made a beautiful redwork Hello Kitty quilt for her daughter using over 30 different images from a colouring book.  It’s super cute!

Hopefully you’ll get an update later this summer when she wears them, unless she looks like Winston Churchill.  Bah, who am I kidding, there’ll definitely be an update.



Vintage Finds in Real Life (with pretty bird patterns)

Last week I pointed out a few good resources for finding vintage patterns online, but there is something exciting about holding a vintage iron on transfer in your hands, or reading a book that says that embroidery is not only one of the most important skills a woman can know, it goes a long way towards getting her married.  Awesome.

I have gotten pretty lucky finding older materials in good shape, so I thought I would share a few hints with you.  Book wise, is the best place to find used books.  You can look up books, then sort it by which vendors are closest to you, in order to get the best shipping costs.  I have bought a few books off of abe, and most of the time I will pay less for the book than for the shipping!

Encyclopedia of Needlework by Th. de Dillmont is a thick, tiny book that is a fabulous look into the past.  The copy I got is in reasonable shape, with the spine having been taped up at some point.  There is no obvious date on this book.  The pages are all still there and legible, and it goes through an extraordinary amount of crafts, from embroidery to tatting to knitting and more.  The instructions are mostly written with a few illustrations sprinkled in.  I love thinking that a woman, by herself with this tiny book, would have learned all these techniques through trial and error (and hopefully help from a friendly neighbour) without having the step by step tutorials and videos we take for granted nowadays.

The back of the book also has an old ordering catalogue for DMC, so that if you were a farm wife living far from the city, you could ask your local grocer to order you a particular few shades so you could finish the embroidered tablecloth you’d been working on.

I’ve also had good luck ordering used (and new) craft books on Etsy.  I ordered a 1964 version of Jacqueline Enthoven’s The Stitches of Creative Embroidery last year and I’ve read it cover to cover.  She concentrates on the importance of samplers and doodling with a needle, has lots of pictures of both her work and her students’, and is super inspiring.  The book is missing it’s dust jacket, but who cares when the content is so awesome?

My mother, sister, and I try to reupholster a few chairs every summer; it’s a fun hobby we can do on the weekends together.  My sister is excellent at demolishing the old chairs, my mom sews beautifully, and I can hammer tacks like nobody’s business.  What this all means is that we tend to hang out at estate sales, thrift shops, and auction houses more than average girls.

Charity shops are hit and miss for vintage finds; sometimes you can pick up a book or a slightly older pattern, but most of the time you’ll just find super cheap embroidery hoops and maybe some random colours of thread.  Still excellent, but not quite vintage.

Estate sales are also tricky, since you never know if the person who recently died was interested in embroidery or not.  Every once in a while though, even if you can’t find embroidery materials, you can find embroidered pieces.  I pulled these three little birds off a wall, fell in love with the dorky stitching on black velvet, and paid a dollar for it.

Auction houses can be interesting.  They tend to buy up estate sales, so you can end up with everything and anything there.  One of the auction houses near my sister’s place is open on weekends, and some of the stuff (mostly furniture on consignment) can be browsed and purchased without having to actually attend an auction (which is not as exciting as it sounds, we found out).

I found two old Coats and Clark’s craft booklets that look like they are from the 60s or 70s.  The prices on the covers are 49 and 35 cents.  I paid a dollar for both.

Both had complete patterns in them, with only one of them being cut out.  They have a mix of embroidery, cross stitch and blackwork in them.  Some patterns have definitely aged better than others, and some of them are so adorably classic that they wouldn’t look out of place in a home today.  Most of the patterns also come with projects; skirts, napkins, glasses cases, wall hangings, whatever.

Here are two of the patterns from the small Coats booklets, three pretty little birds which are suggested for a cute little girl’s dress.  They come out of Book No. 180, and are designs E-182 and E-183.  There is no date anywhere in the booklet.  The patterns are a bit busy; as with a lot of old transfers, folding, time and pressure has caused patterns to imprit on each other.  I would definitely never use them with an iron for fear that I could get two patterns at the same time!  Still, they are super adorable and would look cute pretty much anywhere.

Please do not use these for commercial purposes.   Enjoy!

Vintage Patterns and Orange Chickens

I love vintage patterns.  I like them kitsch, I love them nonsensical and I love them pretty. Sometimes I don’t really get them, like the myriad days of the week tea towel patterns.  Did people ever really change their kitchen tea towels every single day?  Perhaps before dishwashers…Anyway, vintage patterns are a great way to practice embroidery without spending too much money.  There are thousands and thousands of patterns of various size and complexity out there, and although you can’t necessarily sell what you make from them, they are perfect for personal use and practice.

Two of the best places to find vintage patterns on Flickr are the two following groups: Hoop Love Vintage Transfers and Vintage Embroidery Patterns.  The groups have over 4000 and 7000 images respectively.  There is some overlap between the two groups, since some people post to both, but I still check out both of them often.

I found this gorgeous pattern on Faster KittyKill’s blog.  She features lots of patterns on there.  There are matching roosters, too, but I just liked this chick.  It was also good practice for teeny tiny consistent back stitch.   Look how pretty they all are!  This was a simple, relaxing pattern to stitch, a nice break from the hardcore crewelwork I had done the week before or the mind numbing cross-stitch I am looking at doing this week.

Another great place to find patterns is on doe-c-doe’s blog.  The patterns she posts are always cleaned up really well to allow the clearest transfers possible.  She also stamps all her patterns which makes it easy to remember where you found it originally.

My best tip is to make use of tools like Flickr’s favorites or a Pinterest board to keep all your patterns organized.  That way you never have to wonder where you got the random file you found on your computer that you saved last year was from when it comes to giving proper credit.  My embroidery Pinterest board is filled with patterns, inspiration, links to etsy and even a few quilts that are too pretty to pass up.  Similarly, my Flickr favorites has both inspiration pieces and patterns from all over Flickr.  I also have an rss feed of anything on Flickr that is tagged with the word embroidery, so that I have eye candy in my reader every morning.  You can learn how to workout lots of rss feeds out of Flickr on this page at  There is even a quick one line URL you can edit to make a feed out of any tag!  Awesome!


Satin Stitch Crewelwork Flower

Satin stitch and me, we’re not friends. Maybe it’s me. See, I’m a bit impatient sometimes, and taking the time to outline every single shape I want to satin stitch, and then only using a single thread (out of the six in DMC stranded cotton) seems so tedious I can almost never bear it. So I skip the outline and use two or three strands, and then end up with something messy I am not happy with. Sigh.

Mr. Xstitch recently featured an excellent article about filling stitches called Improving Your Stitch – Filling Out, by Stichalicious. She discusses common mistakes in filing stitches, especially in satin stitch. I have to say I am guilty of all of them at one point or another. The article got me thinking, so when I saw a pretty pattern in The Anchor Book of Crewelwork Embroidery Stitches (Eve Harlow, 9780715306321), (discussed in an earlier post) that featured a lot of satin stitch, I figured I would finally take the time and give it the best shot I could.

The results aren’t perfect, but they are so above and beyond what I have done in the past that I am super proud of myself. Sometimes, yes, the angles on the stitches do not stay perfectly parallell for the whole leaf. I probably should have done the top red part as one long satin stitch piece instead of doing it petal by petal. There are a few miniscule gaps that show up sometimes, and sometimes two threads overlap and mar the smooth surface. But overall, I am super happy with it.

As I progressed in the piece, I could definitely see my satin stitch improving. The best stitches are on the bottom of the piece, the worst ones being at the top where I started. Practice, practice, practice!

There are very few other stitches used throughout the piece. I used french knots in clusters inside the flower, a sort of mock thorn stitch over split stitch for the thorny yellow tendrils, and the most of the leaves and stems were done in split stitch. “Real” split stitch, split from underneath.