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Skeleton (Day of the Dead) Embroidery Design / Best Gift Ever

I love embroidering gifts for my friend Alix, because she likes just about anything I make. (See lotus flower dress from last year.) Or maybe that’s just what she tells me. Anyway – when her birthday came around this year, I felt a lot of pressure to top some of the gifts I had embroidered in years past.. but was – JUST –  NOT –  FEELING –  IT.

But – fortunately – things changed for me while taking a trip to Puerto Rico this winter. While dining in old San Juan, I noticed a skeleton face icon painted on a wall across from where I was eating. And the thought occurred to me that this would be a great design to digitize.  I had wanted to digitize a “day of the dead” skeleton face – but had not found a great design. But once I spotted this sign – I knew I had found a winner. 2016-04-06 18.08.31

I ended up finding a black longsleeved T-shirt with a slight swing in the hem on the Old Navy clearance rack that would be the perfect back drop for my design.  I had considered stitching it out all in one color but opted to get a little crazy with the color combo and I think I made the right call.

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I couldn’t be any more in love with this design.  I especially love seeing my best bud in this ensemble.  (The necklace is from Puerto Rico as well!)

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Want to make this shirt too?  Check out the day of the dead design on my store.

Confused about machine applique? Check out this “how-to” video and learn the basics of machine appliqué how to make a $6 tunic look cute and custom.

I never anticipated that after I started making embroidery designs, people would start asking me how to use them. It all seems so simple to me now. But I remember when getting started – I, too, was perplexed about certain processes. The big mystery for me? appliqué designs.

Now I do tons of appliqué on my embroidery machine. In fact, a personalized, appliqué t-shirt or sweatshirt is usually my go-to gift for kid birthday gifts. (And either they all are lying to me but the kids LOVE them).  One of my favorite items that I’ve ever made are these personalized tunics that I bought at Walmart.

In the following video you will see how I personalized a similar tunic. It’s cheap, it’s easy to do and kids will love it.  I hope this helps + let me know what you think!

Note: the single initial flower design is available on my Etsy store.

Free fabric scraps at this funky Chicago fabric store: The Needle Shop!

The Needle Shop - Chicago, IL
The Needle Shop – Chicago, IL

Anyone who does appliqué knows the value of a scrap. A small piece of fabric is all you need to make a big impact.  But if you rely on using scraps from your own projects AND you do a lot of appliqué… you start to run out of fresh options. So when I walked into The Needle Shop in Chicago and saw a large bin of free scraps, I got pretty excited!

What a fabulous concept! I have never seen such an offer in any fabric store, and I think it’s absolutely brilliant. After rooting through the scrap bin for a good 10 minutes, and feeling very grateful for my finds, I WANTED to find something to purchase from this totally awesome store. And this was not a problem.

The Needle Shop has tons of modem (primarily) cotton printed fabrics and many examples of garments made from their stock to provide lots of inspiration. I didn’t even go near their trims for fear that it would be just too tempting (and I haven’t done ANYTHING yet with my $40 trim purchase from Geneva.)

Don’t know how to sew? Not a problem – The Needle Shop also offers an assortment of sewing classes and from the looks of it – it’s not your grandma’s sewing school.

So if you find yourself in Chicago – make sure you drop by and help yourself to the free scraps. Just save a few for me!

Learn more about The Needle Shop, Chicago

Use your old t-shirts to make groovy appliqués like this funky gecko sweatshirt!

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There’s nothing I like more than making a custom item of clothing for my kids and their friends. But the last thing I want to do is dress them in something dorky just because I think it’s cute.  So I’m always asking  for their opinion on what they think looks cool. Unfortunately I don’t always have the perfect materials on-hand to make exactly what they have  in mind.

Right now I have a little boy who is six (Thomas), and he’s a big fan of the t-shirts I make for him.  So he has a lot of ideas for garments he would like me to stitch for him and his friends.  But when it comes to little boys – I think it’s a bit tricky finding an age appropriate design for boys his age.  I tend to favor raw edge appliqués on garments I make for little boys.  Some of my favorite designs for little boys include my fishbone appliqué and the rodeo cowboy design. These make great T-shirts for little guys.

But for his friend, Johnny (who was celebrating his 6th birthday), Thomas had a new idea.  He informed me that we needed to make a gecko shirt for his friend. You see Johnny has a pet gecko, so Thomas thought it would be the perfect emblem for a sweatshirt.  Alright – a gecko sweatshirt is it – with a raw edge applique to make it a little more boy-appropriate.

When I make right at edge appliqués I like to use a knit fabric so that the fabric doesn’t ravel around the edges when the raw edge is exposed.  The only problem was that I didn’t have any green knit fabric to make the appliqué. But what I did have, was a green t-shirt that was waiting to go to Goodwill.

t-shirt applique
An old t-shirt can be a great source of applique fabric.

Old t-shirts make great knit fabric applique. In fact, I frequently use my husband’s old white undershirts (when I find a clean patch) and use it for an appliqué design. Unfortunately –  he only wears white T-shirts so that deprives me of other color options. I suppose you could dye parts of his white T-shirts in a rainbow of colors or simply save pieces of junkie T-shirts that you’re going to get rid of anyway in different colors?

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Stitching the gecko

Anyway – back to the project.  I took this hideous green t-shirt, cut out a small piece and used it for a lizard applique on a blue sweatshirt, then I I added some initials  to personalize it a bit.  I chose a blue sweatshirt because they are “uniform acceptable”  at the Catholic school they attend. I realize that the gecko may be pushing the dress code a bit but I think sister Diane will let it slide.

Want to make it yourself?  Check out my lizard applique on Etsy and don’t forget your applique scissors so you don’t cut your finished product!

My big Spring Break thrill: meeting Patricia from Project Runway in Taos, NM!

Meeting Patricia Michaels in Taos... wish I dressed a little nicer.
Meeting Patricia Michaels in Taos… wish I dressed a little nicer.

I am a HUGE Project Runway fan.  I know, I know, the show has been on for years, it’s formulaic, it’s reality TV – but I love it anyway.  As a creator – I totally appreciate how much work goes into every piece these designers crank out and I totally get it… it’s NOT easy.   Another reason why I like the show is that (unlike The Bachelor)  it’s pretty kid appropriate.  So now my kids are big fans too.

One of my favorite designers from the past few seasons is Patricia Michaels, a Native American woman from Taos, New Mexico.  Patricia had such a quiet grace on the show and seemed to never succumb to hurling insults at her fellow competitors.  Plus her work was exquisite, ornate, unique and totally reflective of her Native American culture with a few whimsical twists.

My best friend, Alix, who is often featured on this blog, just happens to live in Taos, New Mexico and met Patricia at a show in town recently. Prior to meeting her, Alix and I had talked about how much we loved her and her work on the show, so this was exciting!  Alix quickly discovered that Patricia is just as sweet and talented in person as she is on the show.  Patricia even invited Alix to another show (featuring Native American made products in Taos) this past weekend, and guess who just so happened to be in town… ME!

So – yes – I got to meet Patricia and ask her just a few of my many stupid questions about the show.  And as you can see – I have a picture here to prove it.  (The two five-year-olds couldn’t resist getting in on the action.)

I’m looking forward to future visits to Taos to pick up my own Patricia Michaels original and maybe even check out her studio.  Maybe I will come back to Taos and pry her full of alcohol to get all the real behind-the-scense dirt on Project Runway… just kidding.

Anyway – being you, my dear readers, are all creative people – I thought you would appreciate my thrill in meeting Ms. Patricia.  If you can’t make it to Taos, to meet her yourself, be sure to  check out the Patricia Michaels web site, PM Waterlily.