Wonky Pearls * How to Use Them

I love making pearl threads from six-strand threads, which are an embroidery staple. It allows me to have pearls in any of the fun hand-painted, dyed, or overdyed threads. That’s especially handy if I want to match the six-strand floss with the pearl, but it’s also nice to have all those interesting threads available in different weights.

Assorted handmade pearl threads, wonky pearls on the right.

Assorted handmade pearl threads, wonky pearls on the right.

I often use the finer pearls for stitching and the heavier ones for edge stitches and finishing. The heavier threads are strong and durable.

Two-color, handmade pearls are used for the tag holders, running stitch, and edge stitch

Two-color, handmade pearls are used for the tag holders, running stitch, and edge stitch

Handmade wonky pearl by Funk & Weber Designs

A wonky pearl thread makes a nice friendship bracelet, too.

Making traditional pearls is ever so useful, but it’s also just the beginning of what is possible. By adding specialty threads—metallics, fuzzy threads, ribbons, etc.—we wind up with some wildly interesting threads.

And we can keep going, combining handmade pearl threads for heavier and more interesting threads and cords, aka Wonky Pearls.

At this point, the wonky pearls can take on a life of their out, outside embroidery. They look great as ribbons for packages or wrapped around a wrist as a friendship bracelet.

But what can they do for your embroidery? They’re probably too big to pull through the fabric for regular stitching.

Three ways to use wonky pearls in embroidery

1. Couching

Couch the wonky pearl to the fabric surface. Couching a thread is a great way to create smooth curves in normally boxy counted thread embroidery. It can be a fun way to outline a shape.

2. Trims and Hangers

Ornaments, fobs, standups, etc. often have a trim around the edge masking a seam. This is a perfect place for wonky pearls. If you’re using twisted cord, stop! Wonky pearls won’t untwist when you let go of them, so they’re much easier to work with.

Couching handmade pearl thread trim over a seam.

Couching handmade wonky pearl thread trim over a seam.

3. Bookmark Tails

If you make book thongs or ribbon-style bookmarks, wonky pearls are a fun alternative to ribbon. I like combining several interesting threads—wonky pearl plus individual strands of Fuzzy Stuff, chenille, rickrack, etc.—to make a tail or connect two bits of embroidery for a book thong. I will braid them together very loosely so that they hang together and intermingle.

Wonky Pearl in Book-Thong String

The large green wonky pearl is loosely braided with Fuzzy Stuff, a heavy metallic, and simple pearl on this book thong.

Have you made wonky pearls yet? How do you use them or plan to use them?

Bookmark Donations*Huzzah!

I put out a call in the Nutsletter for help with bookmark donations, and generous stitchers across the globe got busy.

Stitching for Literacy, hand-stitched bookmarks donated to Mountain View Elementary School

Hand-stitched bookmarks delivered to Mountain View Elementary School in Anchorage, Alaska.

Arctic Needle Karen got the first batch of 70 bookmarks out the door to Mountain View Elementary before I even got to see them! Bummer for me, but hooray for Karen and all you quick stitchers who came through so we could continue this beloved tradition for the sixth year . . . I think. I believe the kids who were kindergarteners when we first started donating bookmarks to Mountain View were this year’s graduating fifth graders. How flipping cool is that?!

Cross Stitch Bookmarks, Stitching For Literacy

Cross stitch bookmarks

Got Questions? pattern

Tilt the embroidery to read the answer to the question.

I promised a free digital bookmark pattern to everyone who donated a bookmark or two or twelve. I selected the Got Questions? puzzle bookmark, but if you’d like a different one from our arsenal of digital bookmark patterns, say the word.

I sent those patterns out a week or so ago, so if you haven’t gotten yours, check your SPAM folder or let me know.

Ca’Trena, if you haven’t gotten yours, Karen has it.

Pamela in Japan, I need your email addy! Send it to mail AT funkandweber DOT com.

Cross Stitch Bookmarks, Stitching For Literacy

More cross stitch bookmarks

Yes-yes-yes, we are still collecting bookmarks! And yes-yes-yes, you will still get a free digital bookmark pattern if you donate a bookmark or two or twenty.

Hardanger Bookmarks, Stitching for Literacy

Hardanger bookmarks

If you are a librarian an you would like to receive bookmarks for event prizes, give me a shout. We have awesome stitchers willing to stitch, and I’m more than happy to collect and distribute.

Handmade Fabric Bookmarks, Stitching for Literacy

Handmade fabric bookmarks

We got some cleverly finished bookmarks that I will share separately. Remember, if you want finishing ideas and/or instruction, we have several resources.

Thanks heaps for coming through with bookmarks in our time of need, and please keep ’em coming. It’s exciting to share the joy, beauty, and wonder of both embroidery and reading.

Brilliant Ideas for Recycling Embroidery

Embroidered flowers on a hook bookmark.

A bit of embroidery from a handkerchief stitched by my grandmother that I recycled into a bookmark for my father.

After the post about recycling family heirlooms, I received further Brilliant Ideas from fellow Nuts, Judy and Angi.

Judy’s Brilliant Idea

Judy has a collection of hankies from her great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and great-aunt and a tie collection from her dad. We e-talked about a skirt made out of men’s ties and the possibilities for bags and purses. Judy’s heirloom-recycling brainstorm continued with these great ideas:

I’ve seen some crazy quilts that have used ties. Don’t know how well that would hold up under laundering, however. Another thought: the ties could be used for a pinwheel-type throw pillow.

As far as the hankies are concerned, there are any number of things that can be done with them. If they have crocheted lace edges, you could make a decorative flap on a pocket, or adorn the top flap of a purse, cut and sew them together to make a tissue box cover. I’ve seen them draped over a curtain rod to make a valance, which I wouldn’t do with just the hankies by themselves, but incorporate with other material and use as a decorative border of some sort. They could be used to make doll clothes; they would make a pretty dress. They could be incorporated into a quilt.

A friend of mine recently made a quilt of old T-shirts that she and her husband had collected from their travels. The front part of the T-shirt that had “Alaska” or wherever they had been was cut and made the center of the block, bordered by other material. They have it hanging on a stairwell wall. It’s a most beautiful display of their travels. I thought that was such a great idea. Much better than keeping the shirts tucked away in drawers or in the closet!

I’m also going nuts lately with recycling possibilities. Taffeta material used to line old jackets can be used for purse lining. The old jackets can be cut up to make the purse. Men’s shirts make a good purse lining, too. And, of course, never throw away the buttons!

Angi’s Brilliant Idea

Some years ago my friend and I sent cross stitched cards for Christmases and birthdays to our friends Bea and Pete in Florida. We got to visit them one year and found that Bea had been cutting down the cards and placing them into multi-section photo frames along with photos so that she could display them all year round. They looked great and made us feel our cards and wishes were very much appreciated. One day I plan to do something similar with some of the ones I’ve been sent.

Your Turn

If these don’t get your creative juices flowing, it’s time to sit down with a beverage; clearly, you’re low on fluids.

Have you recycled embroidery? Do you have ideas for doing so? Tell us, please. And if you have pictures, send them along, too. We want to see! Send them to mail AT funkandweber DOT com.

Becca’s Decoupaged Embroidery

Check it out! Long-time Nut, Becca, jumped on the decoupaged embroidery idea and crafted her own stitchy adventure. She embellished and re-purposed a glass jar, and now she uses the jar daily.

I adore the idea and execution of this project! The colors and embroidery are fabulous! It’s a great Off the Wall project, too: Becca got her needlework off the wall and into her life.

Here’s Becca’s story about the project:

Describe the project. I embroidered a design I purchased in Scotland, but wasn’t sure what to do with it. You came up with the idea of decoupaging embroidery. It seemed a bit far out to me, but what did I have to lose? I think I used the fabric Mod Podge. I covered a rice jar I had with pieces of fabric that matched the colors in the medallion. Then I placed the medallion and covered the whole project with more Mod Podge. I used Krenik gold braid to finish the edge of the medallion and some flat braid for the top and bottom of the fabric “panel”. I use it to store coffee beans.

Becca's completed bean jar. The medallion is gorgeous!

Becca’s Beans. Becca decoupaged a glass jar with fabric scraps and an embroidered medallion.

What made you want to do this project? You came up with trying the technique and I was game. Even your craziest ideas haven’t led me too far astray yet!

Hey, what’s with the “yet”?

How did it go, and what did you think of the process? It was surprisingly easy and I love the result. Other than the embroidery, the project was done in a day.

What did you learn, and what advice would you offer to others who want to undertake something similar? Don’t be timid. You will be scared to death when you first start slapping glue on your precious embroidery. Start with something easily lost or replaced in case you aren’t happy.

Side view showing patchwork of decopaged scraps.

Decoupaged fabric patchwork. Aren’t the colors great? Remember, decoupage darkens fabrics.

How has the final product held up to use? I made this whenever you first came up with the idea. It has been years. The jar has been in constant use. I rinse the inside now and then, the outside has remained beautiful, if I do say so myself!

I second that.

Is there something else you’d like to try with needlework decoupage? Or where would you like to go from here? I have a few small projects that might lend themselves to this.

We’ll look forward to seeing them!

What do you think? Are you game to try some decoupaged embroidery? Tell us . . . or, better yet, show us!

Recycling Embroidery

This Brilliant Idea comes straight from a garbage bag in our garage. How’s that for a strong smelling point—er, I mean selling point?

During a massive garage cleanup, I uncovered (for the umpteenth time) a large garbage bag filled with family heirloom linens that I’ve never known what to do with. (No comments on the storage method, please. I know it stinks.)


Old embroidered linen from my aunt and grandmother.

This piece is stained and has holes, but the embroidery is lovely.


My deceased grandmothers and aunt were needleworkers.

More old, family embroidery.

Another lovely bit of embroidery by my grandmother or aunt, but the linen is spotted with stains and holes.

They embroidered, crocheted, tatted, quilted, and knitted. As a result, I have a collection of hand-me-down tablecloths, hankies, doilies, pillowcases, napkins, towels, aprons, and so on. Most have been well-used already: the tablecloths and doilies are stained, crocheted edges are coming apart, and there are holes here and there. The hankies? Don’t get me started.

I can’t see using these things as the objects they are. For starters, I’m a crafter myself, so I want to make my own tablecloths and napkins, ones that suit my style, which is clearly different from theirs. But these are what remain of my relatives, and like my father, I can’t bring myself to take them to a thrift store, or (gasp!) throw them away. So they sit wrinkled in a garbage bag, being toted from storage space to shed to garage to closet, not to mention from PA to MD to AK.

Until now.

This ongoing venture into needlework decoupage and the increasing presence of bookmarks in my life altered the way I look at this bag of family heirlooms. If a doily has holes and stains, I don’t feel bad cutting out bits and pieces to decoupage onto a gift tag or card. The crocheted edge of a table runner makes a nice bookmark or napkin ring. Parts of a stained tablecloth can be salvaged and turned into coasters. Suddenly, I see a way to recycle this needlework, make it useful again, and keep memories of relatives alive and close at hand.


Old embroidery recycled into bookmarks.

The parallelogram and flower bookmarks on the bottom row are recycled embroidery bits from old linens embellished by my grandmother and aunt.


Is this a sort of sacrilege? Am I desecrating heirlooms? I don’t think so. All I have to base my opinion on is how I’d feel if I were on the other side, if I were the one who’d left these things behind. Frankly, I’d be honored to have someone—relative or stranger—appreciate my work enough to give it new life. And so I will take scissors and glue to the needlework of my grandmothers and aunt.


A bunch of my grandmother's and aunt's embroidered linens.

Just a few (a very few) of the embroidered pieces I have to work with.


I used to cringe at the idea of inheriting more of these family heirlooms—Dad says he’s got a basement full of them. Now, I’m asking for them.

If you are not so fortunate to have your own garbage bag full of holey and stained family linens, you might look for them at yard sales, thrift stores, flea markets, and antique malls. Ask friends and relatives, too.

Have you recycled needlework? If so, how? We’d love to know!