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.

8 Responses to “Decoupaged Embroidery, part 1”

  1. I actually love this idea! I can see bits of embroidery decoupaged to the tops of decorative tins too! The sky would be the limit. I love “rescuing” embroidered pieces from the thrift stores and this will be another way to upcycle them – thanks!

    March 2, 2015 @ 5:13 am
  2. Jen

    Kerry, yes! And you just reminded me of something else I’d like to share. Thanks!

    Kathy, yay! Wait until you see Part 2. We need bookmarks for Mountain View. 🙂

    March 5, 2015 @ 8:13 pm
  3. Kathy in Kenai

    What a great idea! I have lots of little projects that I never know what to do with….this opens up a whole new world of possibilities!

    March 3, 2015 @ 9:41 pm
  4. DEBo

    Thank you so much for this post. I needed some encouragement to podge a cross-stitched clock face to a wooden clock and you gave it to me. 🙂

    October 17, 2016 @ 7:13 am
  5. Jen

    Yay! The only concern I have anymore is about the darkening of the fabric and threads. I tend to choose light and bright colors for decoupage.

    If you can, send us a picture of your clock when it’s finished. We’d love to see it! Send it to mail AT funkandweber DOT com.

    October 17, 2016 @ 9:12 am
  6. DEBo

    I will! Hope to finish it tomorrow. I bought the fabric modpodge, is that the correct one, do you think? The clock base is painted with enamel.

    October 17, 2016 @ 6:47 pm
  7. Jen

    Hey, DEBo.

    I’ve seen tutorials that recommend preparing the fabric with Fabric Mod Podge, and then applying it to painted and other surfaces with regular Mod Podge, but, honestly, I’m a make-do gal, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use just the Fabric Mod Podge. The formulas of all the glues are different and intended to work best on different surfaces, but I’ve found all Mod Podge products forgiving and versatile.

    My bottle of Fabric Mod Podge doesn’t list recommended surfaces, and I’m not finding it online. You just bought your bottle; did it come with that info?

    Obviously, I can’t make any guarantees, but I would go for it with the Fabric Mod Podge. There’s always some risk in crafting.

    October 18, 2016 @ 9:01 am
  8. DEBo

    Hi, Jen! I went for it, the piece is done, I’ll send a pic after it’s dry. The fabric podge did not come with any instructions except that to do an applique, adhere it, wait at least 2 hours for it to dry, then seal with a fabric brush and work it into the applique. I had a small new 1″ paintbrush so I used that and it did good! This piece was a throw-away if I could not make this work, plus it’s a gift for someone who will love it no matter what, so not too risky. 🙂

    October 18, 2016 @ 5:48 pm

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