Decoupaged Embroidery, part 1

Ages ago, I hatched the idea of decoupaged embroidery. (I’m sure I’m not the first to have this idea, nor will I be the last.) Since then, I’ve done a little adventuring (not nearly enough), and here is a collection of those adventures.

For those of you who are not familiar with decoupage, it involves gluing objects (usually cut-out paper pictures) to a surface, then coating that surface and all its objects with layers of glue and, perhaps, varnish. The glue, or “decoupage medium,” is generally a white PVA glue that dries clear and hard.

Yeah, I know . . . glue + needlework = sacrilege. It’s bad enough that I endorse gluing the backs and edges of needlework; now I’m proposing we slather glue all over the front as well, layer upon layer.

Yep, that’s what I’m proposing. Deal with it.

Embroidery Adventure 1

Embellished Cups

In one of my first experiments, I decoupaged noodles (needlework doodles) to plastic cups. What I really want to do is make pretty labels for some refillable spice bottles, and I want to label and embellish some plastic containers I use for craft supplies.

Hand embroidery decoupaged to plastic cups

Embroidery and fabrics decoupaged to plastic cups.

I covered one cup completely with fabric bits—think papier mache. (The cup on the right.) Then I glued a noodle on top of those fabric bits. I didn’t like the irregular raw edge of the noodle (I hadn’t cut it carefully), so I glued some Caron Watercolours thread and Kreinik petite facets around the edge to hide it. That worked well.

The end result is nothing to shout about, but I learned some things and got ideas for improvement:

  • I’d prefer smaller bits of fabric on the bottom (papier mache) layer.
  • The decoupage medium significantly darkens fabric and thread colors; I can’t tell the dark green from the black. In the future, I’ll stick with bright and light colors.
  • Early on, the glued fabric edges were rough and prickly, but this went away after the surface had been coated several times.
  • The noodle uses Dinky Dyes hand-dyed silk. I did not rinse the threads before stitching or wash the piece when it was finished. As I suspected, some of the dyes bled, but only the colors with red in them. Good ‘ol red, the troublesome diva of color. The bleeding doesn’t bother me, though. We can use the technique deliberately to create a watercolor effect.
  • This project makes me think “crazy quilt.” I’d like what I have to be busier, and I think beads, trims, glitter, etc. between the bits is the answer.

I painted the other cup and decoupaged a half-inch stitchband around it. Very simple. I’m not keen on the color of paint or the color of the stitchband or the color combo of the whole, but I was just playing with what I had on hand; colors we can fix. I think the overall project has potential.

I wonder if I could glue a strip of embroidered fabric around the cup, leaving a soft fringe free. It would require careful gluing, but it might be a cool effect.

On both cups, I glued and painted all the way to the top rim, not expecting to use them as drinking glasses. I’m thinking now, though, that I might stop the gluing below the rim and go ahead and use them as glasses. There’s a ridge on these cups that would make it easy to separate the work area from the top “drinking” edge. (I’ve got a bunch of these cups.) I’ve seen glass plates decoupaged on the bottom side (so the design shows through) and rumor has it that with hand-washing, those plates can be used to serve food.

Embroidery Adventure 2

Pocket Bookmark

For the cups, I used regular old Mod Podge. For my next adventure, I used Fabric Mod Podge. Did you even know there was such a thing? There are several Mod Podges. I love the Sparkle one.

I spoke with a chemist at Plaid (manufacturer of Mod Podge) to get a clue about the differences between Fabric and Regular Mod Podge. That conversation went over my head, for the most part, but the regular is a PVA (poly-vinyl acetate, which is what we know as white glue) while the Fabric Mod Podge is an acrylic. The chemist’s biggest concern about using regular Mod Podge with fabrics and threads was the potential for the dyes to bleed; that shouldn’t happen with Fabric Mod Podge.

Okay. Understood. We saw that with the cups, and decided that planned bleeding isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

According to Plaid, the Fabric Mod Podge is made to adhere paper to fabric or fabric to fabric. They suggest decoupaging a denim jacket, a tote bag, pillows, etc. Hmm . . . imagine decoupaging noodles to all of those things.

Embroidery decoupaged to denim pockets

Pocket bookarks embellished with decoupaged embroidery.

I decoupaged a couple of noodles to denim pockets from a pair of toddler overalls. I put a grommet on one pocket and sewed a buttonhole on the other to accommodate ribbons and turned them into pocket bookmarks.

The Fabrci Mod Podge stays flexible unlike regular Mod Podge. The medium creates a shiny, “plasticized” coating over the embroidery, which I just feathered out on the edges, rather than coating the whole pocket with medium.

I like to sew, and I like applique, but I also like this technique for attaching embroidery to a fabric surface.

Unfortunately, Fabric Mod Podge can be hard to find on store shelves. Your best bet might be purchasing it online. Just make sure it won’t freeze during shipping. Freezing can ruin glue.

You can order Fabric Mod Podge here.

Are You Ready for a Decoupaged-Embroidery Adventure?

I have two more decoupaged-embroidery adventures that I’ll share with you next time. Until then, what do you think? Would you be willing to slather your embroidery with decoupage medium? Is there a stitchy decoupage project you’d like to try? Leave a comment, and let me know.

Hand-Embroidered Paperclip Bookmarks

We’ve already embroidered paperclips. Today, we’re going to tweak that design and embroider paperclip bookmarks.

Hand-Embroidered Paperclip Bookmarks by Funk & Weber Designs

A batch of embroidered bookmarks.

Instead of covering the whole paperclip with the fabric, I attach the fabric to the top of the paperclip so that it sticks out above the book. You can use the same pattern we used for paperclips (the Smyrna crosses), catching only the tip of the paperclip in the satin stitches.

Most of the time, however, I stitch a close blanket stitch around the edge of paperclip bookmarks so I don’t have to glue the edges. If you do Hardanger, you know this stitch. You may know it even if you don’t do Hardanger. It is often erroneously called the buttonhole stitch, in books, by teachers, once upon a time by me, but I have since learned otherwise, thanks to Marion Scoular, embroidery teacher extraordinaire. The difference between blanket stitch and buttonhole stitch is a topic for another day, though. Focus, Jen, focus.

Any number of edge treatments will do for paperclip bookmarks. The picot edge we use in the Bracelet Basics class works great. Glue or paint along the edges is another option.

Some Backstory

When I first posted this project in The Needlework Nutshell, I wrote and uploaded it while caretaking at Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge. I didn’t have any samples with me; in fact, I’d recently given away the last one as an apology to some unknown teen who was waiting for my overdue book to be returned to the library.

No big deal. I figured I’d just make some more. Except I didn’t pack the paperclips either. Oops.

Oh, well. Once upon a time, I made my sister-in-law fun “Italian” coiled paperclips for Christmas, so I decided I’d just whip up some paperclips, too. Who needs craft wire (I didn’t have any) when you’re building a new lodge and have scraps of copper 12-2 Romex wire lying about? Who needs craft pliers, hammers, and metal do-wacky things (nope, didn’t have those, either) when you’ve got a carpenter’s toolbox and scrap metal?

So I bent and pounded wire into fun coils, and you know what? I’m still making these homemade paperclips for embroidered bookmarks! (No, not because they take forever to make, but because I love making them!)

How It’s Done

  • Homemade paperclip materials, Funk & Weber Designs

    Homemade Paperclip Materials

    Having forgotten to pack the large, office-supply paperclips I usually use, I rounded up tools and materials to make my own. Craft supply stores provide specialized tools and wire, but since I didn’t have access to a store, I made do with what was on hand: stripped 12-2 Romex copper wire, needlenose pliers, file, smooth-head hammer, and a piece of scrap metal.

  • Bending wire for a paperclip, Funk & Weber Designs

    Step 1

    File the cut ends of the wire to smooth. You don’t want sharp edges to rip the pages of a book.

    Bend the wire into any coiled shape. Think about how paperclips work: pages slide between coils. In this case, the zigzag will be on one side, and the outer rectangle will be on the other.

    I extended the wire down the right side of the rectangle because I will slide the clip through a finished piece of needlework rather than stitching it in place. The needlework will slide up to the top of the clip. If the arm ended at the top of the rectangle, the needlework might slip off.

    An alternative is to loop the wire back on itself, creating a stop to hold the needlework in place. This kind of clip must be stitched in place.

  • Hammer Wire Flat, Funk & Weber Designs

    Step 2

    Hammer the shaped clip flat. Hammering strengthens the wire, but more important in this case is making it flat so it fits neatly between the pages of a book.

    The clip will expand, and bends in the wire will loosen as you hammer. Adjust as needed. Flip the clip and hammer on both sides.

  • Embroidery for clip bookmarks, Funk & Weber Designs

    Step 3

    Stitch a small design on fabric. Any design and edge-finishing technique can be used. Here, I’ve enclosed a variety of crossed stitches in blanket-stitch outlines. A blanket-stitch edge, as used in Hardanger embroidery, accommodates a paperclip nicely, but there are many alternatives.

    Trim around the edges of the stitched piece.

  • Slide paperclip through edge stitching, Funk & Weber Designs

    Step 4

    Work the end of the paperclip through the blanket stitches on the back side then finish the back side of the needlework as desired. I will stitch felt or Ultrasuede to the back.

  • How to Use Embroidered Paperclip Bookmarks


    When using paperclip bookmarks, I attach them to several pages instead of one to prevent “embossing” the page. I do this with commercially made paperclip-style bookmarks as well as homemade ones.

Embroidered Bookmark Inside Book

The completed bookmark in use.

Functional (that is, Funk-tional) and fantastic!

Tips, Tricks, and Brilliant Ideas

  • Stiff fabrics make bookmarks that stand up straight above a book. Floppy fabrics can be stiffened or allowed to flop. I have used congress cloth, Hardanger, 18-ct monocanvas, and 22-ct evenweave with Caron Watercolours or size 5 pearl cotton for the blanket stitch.
  • Unless you’re using a reversible pattern or technique with a tidy back, you’ll probably want to back the bookmark with felt, leather, faux suede, fabric, craft metal, heavy paper, or something else. Backs can be stitched on, glued on, or taped on with Kreinik’s wicked-sticky Treasure Tape. Tape will also help stiffen the embroidery.
  • Stitch any small design or specialty stitch on fabric. I tend to keep my pieces rather narrow, with just a little overhang on each side of the clip, but you can make them any size.
  • You can finish the edges of the fabric any number of ways: blanket stitch, picot edge stitch, or glue. You can make a 2-sided bookmark, using an overcast backstitch.
  • Plan ahead whether you will attach the paperclip while you stitch the edge or if you will add it later. Make sure the method you choose works with the technique you use.
  • Trim around the edge of the bookmark. Leave a fringe if you want. Stiffen the piece if desired.

As you know, I prefer to not hide a hand-stitched bookmark inside a book. Along with ribbons and shepherd’s hooks, this is a way to show off an embroidered bookmarkf—and to get your needlework off the wall and into your life.

So . . . who’s game?

Embroidered Paperclips Tutorial

I’ll admit it, I have a thing for office and school supplies: notebooks, pens, file folders, paperclips . . . . Maybe they appeal to my longing for organization. Maybe they trigger fond memories of school days. Or maybe I just like the bright colors. Who knows?

No matter how cool office supplies are right out of the package, we can make them cooler. We can spiff them up, trick them out, and make them uniquely ours. All with a bit of fabric and thread and a needle. Scraps, really.

“What?” you ask. “Personalize a paperclip? We knew you were a Nut, Jen, but come on . . . a paperclip?”

Um…yeah. I like to personalize paperclips. And other office supplies, too, but let’s start with the humble paperclip.

  • Materials used to embroider a paperclip.


    This is a great way to use scraps; many fabrics and fibers can be used. Here, I’m using 18-count monocanvas from Zweigart®, Caron Watercolours (205 Saffron), and a large (2-inch) paperclip.

  • Smyrna Crosses on 18-ct monocanvas

    Step 1

    Stitch Smyrna crosses (or any other design) the length of your paperclip on canvas, fabric, or other ground material in the colors and threads of your choice. Anything goes. Names and words like “Done!” and “Help!” might be fun and useful.

Smyrna Cross Pattern, Funk & Weber Designs

Smyrna Cross pattern

  • Satin stitches around paperclip design

    Step 2

    Satin stitch around the crosses, but heads up . . .

  • Satin Stitches Catch Outer Paperclip Wire

    Step 2, too

    You want to catch the long sides of the outermost wires in the stitches, encasing them, and attaching the embroidery to the paperclip.

  • Gluing the edges around the needlework

    Step 3

    From the back, apply your favorite PVA (white) glue or sealer around the stitching, saturating the threads to secure the edges. I like Gem Tac from Beacon Adhesives because it dries clear, flexible, and non-tacky. Plaid’s Fabric Mod Podge is another good choice.

  • Trim around the paperclip

    Step 4

    When the glue is good and dry, cut around the paperclip and stitching, through the glued edge.

  • Pretty stitched paperclips


    Easy. Fun. Cool! They make excellent, useful gifts.

  • Assorted embroidered paperclips

    Go Nuts!

    These are some of the other paperclips I have within reach today. If you’re familiar with our bracelets, note the picot edge stitch on some of these.

    These are great portable projects, a wonderful use of scraps and doodles. These useful little things are another way to get needlework off the wall and into your life!

So do you still think I’m Nuts? Is this something you might try?

Practically Perfect Planner Winner

I am not alone.

That’s what I learned after exposing the ugly truth about my not-so-brilliant business planning.

Four pieces of paper crammed with lists and notes. A total mess.

My current planner system: lists and notes on scrap paper. I don’t throw them out until everything is done, transferred, or otherwise attended to.

It seems a lot of us are list makers and a lot of us are conservationists, recycling many little bits of scrap paper to make these lists. Yay, us! Surely these lists are the key to our planning and organization; we just need to learn how to control them and use them better. Let’s figure this out, okay?

Last week, we announced a drawing for a free spot in Cara’s Practically Perfect Planner class. I’ve consulted the Random Number Generator . . .

Winner image

And the Winner is . . .

Tiffany Hathorn

Congrats, Tiffany! I will be in touch and so will Cara.

Practically Perfect Planner Class

A printable daily planner page that isn't quite right for me.

Nope, this isn’t for me. I want two of the elements on this page but not the other three. Good to know!

February 9 to March 22, 2015

You’re all winners in my book, but, I’m sorry, not everyone gets a free spot in the class. You can still sign up for it, though, and there’s a little time left to get the Early Bird price—a very little time, so head over there now. The regular price for the class is $47, but for the rest of today it’s $35.

Mark. Set. Go!

It’s ALL Embroidery to Me

  • My stitchy heart earrings are on canvas.
  • My bracelets and barrettes are on linen.
  • My card-keeper wallet is on Aida.
  • My Clover and Crocus stumpwork piece is on silk.
Different kinds of embroidery on different ground fabrics.

Needlepoint, cross stitch, stumpwork, Hardanger, pulled thread . . . It’s ALL embroidery.

I belong to a wonderful needlepoint group on Facebook: Needlepoint Nation. It’s wonderful because it’s active (nearly 7,000 members as of today and growing daily), focused, supportive, and positive. There are rules, and the three moderators nip potential problems in the bud, so they never blossom. It’s a delightful group, and I love hanging out there.

One of the rules is that it’s for needlepoint only. The definition of needlepoint there is anything stitched on canvas, Congress cloth, or silk gauze. Because I don’t generally stitch on canvas (bleh!), I don’t post pictures of what I’m stitching. I do like silk gauze, however, so one day I’ll dig that out and have something to share.

The needlepoint focus of the group doesn’t bother me in the least. It’s a private group, and the group administrators are free to choose the focus and set the rules. I think the focus and rules are what make the group so great. I’m not in a more fun, positive, or productive stitchy group. The projects members share are beautiful and inspiring; the advice shared is relevant to all stitchers. I may not be a needlepointer, per se, but I feel right at home because it’s all embroidery to me.

In another stitchy Facebook group recently, a stitcher’s feelings were hurt when a gift she’d made wasn’t received with the appreciation she had hoped. In fact, the recipient questioned whether it was “real embroidery.” Other members chimed in with comments intended to be supportive, but, unfortunately, seemed to me defensive and mean. The prevailing attitude was “screw her if she can’t appreciate your awesome work.” I think it’s more productive to remember that gifts should be given with no strings attached (ribbons and bows excepted). The recipient is under no obligation to understand, appreciate, or like the gift—which is a darn good reason to carefully consider who on your gift list gets a handmade gift! Give it joyfully and lovingly, then let it go.

If someone asks whether it’s “real embroidery,” the answer, quite simply, is “yes.” If the asker is interested, you might explain the different kinds of embroidery and the different kinds of materials. Explaining is more likely to create a new embroidery fan than a snarky or defensive comment.

There was also talk of different kinds of embroidery being superior to others (needlepoint vs. cross stitch vs. crewel vs. something else). I won’t even go here because it’s all embroidery to me. The best embroidery is the one you enjoy most.

What kind of embroidery do you enjoy most? Do you have a favorite fabric or thread to work with?

If you’re a needlepointer who’s been hanging around here, raise your hand (that is, leave a comment). I tend to think everything we do here is relevant to needlepinters, too, because, yanno . . . it’s ALL embroidery to me!