Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Make Memories With Embroidery

When Maria doodled this darling quartet of kitties, I fell in love with their cool cat style. But, art on a white board is interim, and I really wanted these guys to last. First step: I took a picture of them. I love having photographs of my children's art, a keepsake I can share, and enjoy. But, I was still feeling a need to have the kitties around, so I decided to embroider them on a tea towel. It's easy to do, and makes a thoughtful gesture of admiration for anyone's doodle art.

*The cloth I used was from the kitchen supplies (oven mitts, and dishcloth aisle) at Target. Four cotton, square cloths were sold together, and I like them for covering rising dough, drying dishes, wrapping up baked bread, tortillas, covering bowls of prepared food at a picnic. These sort of towels come in different qualities of cotton, and this particular one was a bit too light... the weave is very lose, and almost gauze-like. In retrospect, I would have looked for something a bit heavier, more stable.*


  • Cotton cloth
  • photocopy of art
  • pencil
  • tape
  • embroidery floss
  • embroidery needle
  • embroidery hoop
  • a light box or a bright window pane
Our improvised light box.
I made a black and white print of Maria's kitties, and taped the picture to a bright window pane. Next, I centered the dish towel over the picture, so that I could trace the kitties onto the cloth with a #2 pencil (The pencil lines wash out.) I didn't change the size of the original kitties, but you can choose to increase or decrease the image before printing it, if it will look better, or make embroidering your image easier.
Here are the kitties, traced from my make shift window pane light box! Because this cloth is so light, and the weave is uneven, it wanted to shift around a lot. Holding it down, with my hands, and more tape helped to stabilize it, but you can expect it to be an imperfect reproduction; fix any wayward lines as you go.
The hoop keeps the cloth stable, so I can keep my stitches even and taut. I had to be careful not too over stretch the cloth... again, this was due to how light and open the weave was. The dish towel warped very easily. I used a slip stitch to embroider Maria's drawing, outlining each figure in three strands of black embroidery floss. A back stitch would work nicely, too.
And here they are... looking as adorable as ever. After a run through the wash and dryer, you can see this cotton is quite irregular, and wrinkly, but I think it's all pretty adorable just the same. Embroidery is not hard to learn, and there are beautiful, inspiring books out there, like Alicia Paulson's Embroidery Companion. The charm of this project is how simple it is, but if the idea of embroidering is too much, consider bringing out fabric markers. Your artist can make original art directly on the dish towels, or you can trace a favorite piece using the same light box technique!