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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!)


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

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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.

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This is my house and I’ll do as I damn please!

Plate provides inspiration for machine embroidery.
Plate provides inspiration for machine embroidery.

One of my favorite things that my grandmother had in her kitchen was a hand-painted plate mounted on the wall.  It was painted with sweet flowers with a subtle message above the flowers that was anything but sweet. In dainty cursive, it said: “this is my house and I’ll do as I damn please.”

What I found so funny about this plate was the fact that most people probably wouldn’t have noticed what it said until they actually took a minute and stopped to look at it. Most people would have given it a quick glance and thought it was just a sweet old lady plate.

Like many others, I too, had not given the plate much thought or even realized what it said until after my grandmother passed. But my older sister had. I guess it pays to be observant because she requested it outright, and now she proudly hangs the snarky little plate in her kitchen.  Frankly, it makes me a little jealous.

So what’s a spaced out second child to do after missing the boat on a gem like this? Digitize it, of course! Using the original plate as inspiration, I set up a design that lends itself well to be stitched on kitchen towels or even an apron. Now I can use my embroidery machine to share a little piece of my granny’s humor with my cousins and aunts who will appreciate it.

I am hoping that people outside my family like the design as well – so I posted it on my Etsy store.  We’ll see!


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Its inspiration Sunday, and I’m inspired by the Barcelona, Spain based brand, Desigual

My new favorite store - Desigual
My new favorite store – Desigual

Walking through the Galeries St Hubert in Brussels last week, I discovered my new favorite European clothing line. Ok – yes – I am not familiar with all that many other European clothing lines.  But now I have a favorite.  Desigual is a Barcelona-based store with locations all over Europe and  a few stores in New York.  And lucky for us – I just discovered that U.S. customers can actually shop on-line as well. They carry mostly women’s clothes – but looking on-line I see that they also carry clothing and accessories for men and children too.

How do I even begin to describe the look and feel of the stuff in this store?  Colorful, modern, playful… Frankly, it looked like Barcelona.  I loved it.  I didn’t make any purchases, but they are definitely on my radar and provided a ton of ideas for new embroidery designs.

Below you will find a couple of my favorite things.  I apologize for the look of some of my pictures but I was trying to be subtle and not look like a complete tourist.  Enjoy!

My favorite shirts in Desigual - a Barcelona-based clothing company
My favorite shirts in Desigual – a Barcelona-based clothing company
How cute are these embroidered jeans?
How cute are these embroidered jeans?
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It’s inspiration Sunday and I am inspired by our Christmas tree, or more specifically, it’s skirt!

Make a Christmas tree skirt for a newly engaged couple
Make a Christmas tree skirt for a newly engaged couple

This past weekend we put up our Christmas tree. I am sure many of you did as well. While we were decorating the tree I caught myself admiring our Christmas tree skirt. I mean it’s nothing that special, but I do recall going out to buy it the first Christmas I was married and had a real Christmas tree, and it brought back some great memories.

This made me realize that most likely, the vast majority of Christmas tree skirts have to be bought by Newlyweds. I mean who goes out and buys a new Christmas tree skirt, year after year? Unless, of course, it somehow got lost in storage.

Recognizing this phenomenon gave me a great idea for a Christmas gift.  Since every engaged couple who celebrates Christmas is going to need a Christmas tree skirt – why not make them one for Christmas – or at least embroider their last name on an already made one? Have you been to Marshalls or TJ Maxx recently? They have tons.

But if you are inspired to make your own, there are loads of free Christmas tree skirt patterns out there. And here’s a whole Pinterest Board of Christmas tree skirts. I can’t say that I love all these ideas… but hey – with all these examples out there – they can’t be that hard to make!

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It’s inspiration Sunday, and I’m inspired by the Pottery Barn Teen Christmas catalog.

Well – Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I’m a few days behind on the blog – so for a moment – can we just pretend it’s Sunday??

I’m sure if you are anything like me – your house is flooded with Christmas catalogs. I have been perusing them all – trying to get inspired for those hard-to-gift people. Even though I do not have any teenagers in my house – I found a lot of inspiration for gifts to make from the Pottery Barn Teen Christmas catalog. Here are some ideas of projects you could make for a teen with a little time and and a sewing and embroidery machine.

1) Personalized bean bag chair. Bean bag chairs are $169 dollars (at 20% off) in the Pottery Barn Teen catalog. How hard can these be to make??? There are lots of tutorials on-line, e.g. or you can buy one from for $29 and make a removable, washable cover to go over it.  Just monogram the front panel before you stitch it all together.

2) Monogrammed or personalized sheets. Monogrammed sheets seemed like a very “adult” kind of gift to me until I saw them pictured in the Pottery Barn Teen catalog. The bold typeface choice and unconventional colors made the monogram look hip and modern and completely teen-appropriate.

Personalized sheets for teens
Personalized sheets for teens

3) Personalized pillows as bed toppers. Again – sounds fussy but the bold sans serif initial stitched out on some funky fabrics adds tons of character to a bed.  I am also a sucker for pompoms.  (I actually “made” a throw for my husband when we were dating by sewing pompoms on a fleece – it looked really cool but he didn’t seem too impressed.  When I asked why – he said “well you didn’t really make it… you just sewed pompoms on a piece of fleece.”  Charming, huh?)

Personalized initial pom pom pillows and throws
Personalized initial pom pom pillows and throws

4) Monogrammed fur tote bags. Sounds hideous – but looks really cute in the picture. For ladies only, of course.

Personalized faux fur tote bags
Personalized faux fur tote bags

5) Monogrammed bath robes – think crazy colors with a bold monogram.

6) Cheeky sleep masks…. maybe this would be a great “in the hoop” project. I wonder if anyone has created an in-the-hoop design for this?

7) Inspiration message stitched on pillows. What teen doesn’t need a bit of a boost from time to time? Stitch it out in a crazy bold typeface on a throw pillow so that they wake up to a positive affirmation every day.

8) Monogrammed or personalized toiletry bags. I made one for myself a few months ago and got lots of compliments. The ones in PB Teen are bright with a bold monogram. Super cute.

Well – being that I don’t have a teen that I am buying for this holiday, these brilliant ideas don’t do me any good… but I’ll be ready in a few years when my girls hit that age.  I hope this provides a bit of inspiration to you all! Happy Thanksgiving.

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Florida, Georgia and several more states, digitizing my way through the U.S.

Florida machine embroidery design
Florida machine embroidery design

A couple of weeks ago I posted a Tennessee applique design on my Etsy store. Digitizing the state of Tennessee was motivated by a conversation on one of my
embroidery Facebook groups. One of my embroidery Facebook friends was looking for a Tennessee design, so I took it as an opportunity to digitize it for her – as this has been on my to do list for a long time. My plan is to eventually get all of the states digitized, and, I thought that by posting the Tennessee design on my Etsy store and offering another state for free with the purchase of Tennessee, I might eventually get all the other states digitized.

Well, the plan is working, albeit a bit slowly.  I am chugging along, one by one, until I digitize the entire United States. Since I know that most of my customers are located in the Southeast, I decided to begin by digitizing Florida and Georgia, and then proceed with other states based on my customer’s requests.

For each state, I am making seven different versions of the file: one satin stitch appliqué and one triple stitch appliqué in a size that will fit in a 6″ x 10″ hoop, one that will fit in a 5″ x 7″ hoop, and another that will fit a 4″ x 4″ inch hoop. I am also making a small filled version of each state that is a maximum dimension of 2.5 inches.

I am starting to list them all individually on my Etsy store with the same offer that if you purchase one, I will give you any other state for free. So we will see how it goes.  So far I have digitized Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, California, Texas and Illinois.  That’s 9 down and 41 to go… I’m curious to see how long it will take for someone to request Alaska.

P.S.  I just noticed that I got a comment from my last post about digitizing the New England state.  That is next – I promise!

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It’s inspiration Sunday and I’m inspired by Hanukkah and dinosaurs

Okay – if that title wasn’t random enough to get your attention – I don’t know what is.  Today my inspiration comes from two separate but equally random occurrences in my everyday life.  Let’s start by talking about Hanukkah.

Last week on Halloween night, we went trick-or-treating with our Jewish neighbors.  At the end of Halloween night, the conversation naturally drifted towards the next holiday, and the next one on my radar being Thanksgiving.  Then someone pointed out the unusual coincidence of the first night of Hanukkah coinciding with Thanksgiving.  So it’s a Thanksgivukkah!  Apparently the last time it happened was in 1888 and it won’t happen again for more than 78,000 years.   (I have no idea how that works.  It seems weird to me that the last time it occurred was 125 years ago but the next time it happens is 78,000 years from now – weird.)

But anyway….being that I am a digitizer – i am frequently thinking about the holidays and how I can make holiday specific embroidery designs.  So I started searching in my stock image database for modern looking menorah designs and I stumbled upon this one – which I think will be a great one for digitizing. I think it would look great on kitchen towels to celebrate the season.   And guess what – I think I already have a recipient in mind!

This menorah will make a great embroidery design
This menorah will make a great embroidery design

On a completely different note – today I got another brilliant idea for another digitizing project: dinosaur silhouettes.  When logging into Etsy today to check my store stats, I discovered an Austin, TX based Etsy printed t-shirt design called eleventyfive who makes some cool-ass shirts.  I especially love the ones for babies with the simple dinosaur silhouettes.  Um… why haven’t I digitized some simple dinosaur silhouettes?  I gotta get on that.

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New filled versions of the rodeo horse applique and embroidery design

Rodeo guy on horse - filled design.
Rodeo guy on horse – filled design.

One of my most popular designs on my Etsy store is my rodeo guy on horse that was inspired by the iconic character on Wyoming’s license plate. I made this design as a triple stitch applique design because of all of the jaggedy edges. The satin stitch works fine at a larger size but once it gets smaller the satin stitch is too thick to accurately reflect the shape.

Recently, however, I received a request for this design as a filled embroidery design. Why it didn’t occur to me to make this a filled design…. I have no idea.   So – I went ahead and did it – and stiched it out as a little test.

Here are five suggestions as to where you could stitch out this design.

1) a mens tie (maybe with some initials?)2) on the breast of a polo shirt
3) a wallet
4) a lunch box (with a name)
5) a detail on a quilt

Or maybe you have better ideas?  Hopefully now that I have the filled versions integrated into my offerings on my Etsy listing, the customer will purchase it and let me know how she is using it.

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It’s inspiration Sunday, and I’m inspired by my new curtain from Denmark

My new fabric / curtain from Denmark
My new fabric / curtain from Denmark

My best friend, Alix, spent the summer doing architectural research in Scandinavia. Besides getting a lot of research done, she picked up a little bit of language. For example, she learned the words for new boobs is “nye bruster.” (She picked this up from an advertisement for plastic surgery.) So as you can see, it was a very worthwhile trip.

Alix, being the good friend that she is, took a lot of pictures of patterns, designs signs, etc… and sent them to me for digitizing inspiration. But, I haven’t even gotten to most of that yet. As you may recall, she has some pretty crazy ideas about what she thinks should be digitized (e.g. SuperToken) so I am not sure if I will ever get to it, but anyway…

She also got me a birthday present from Denmark. that I just received last week. (My birthday is in June, and it is October. But that’s cool. That just gave me a three-month grace period for her birthday gift.) In addition to some really cool earrings, Alix sent me a groovy piece of fabric from Denmark.

When I called her to say “thank you,” she admitted that after she purchased the fabric, she discovered that the fabric is actually a curtain. Oh well… I like it anyway. The flowers within the print are bold and groovy, and I think they would look great as an embroidery or appliqué file. But I’m still not sure what I will make out of my fabric/curtain. It is a nice light cotton and might look really cute as a little simple dress for one of my girls. Or I may change the color scheme in my house and hang these up his curtains. Just kidding.