Handmade holidays

Happy New Year everyone!

This holiday season, I wanted to give little gifts to a few of my close friends. Being short on cash but rich in creativity (or so I’d like to think), I decided to make presents for everyone. Easy said, right?

This DIY-craze was sparked, in part, by the website pinterest (and, to a lesser extent since I discovered it later, craftgawker). There are just so many creative people out there, it makes me feel a bit inept. But I came up with some good, personalized ideas that I didn’t want to give up on.

My first gift was for my friend Angela and her new husband, Tommy. Theirs was the wedding I was a part of in September. The theme of the wedding was romantic movies, so I decided to make an illustration that used the names of some of my favorite movie couples with theirs in the place of prominence. As if they are joining the ranks of the famous.

I’m happy with the way it came out. I could always spend more time touching it up, but in the end I like the final result. I printed it on a 20×16 size poster, though I omitted framing it for them. They’re in the process of moving, so I didn’t know what type of frame would look best in their new place (I would probably choose a white frame and put it on a darker-color wall, but they may be more partial to black frames, which could look odd).

That’s the other reason I wanted to give them this poster: as decoration for the new place. Joery and I have an apartment with bare bare bare walls, and I can’t wait to fill them with things like this. And large pieces are hard (and expensive) to come by. I just hope they like it :)

I also embroidered a tote bag for one of my girlfriends. This definitely took the most time, since I had never embroidered anything before (the tote bag was purchased). It was difficult to choose which medium I was going to use to transfer my design onto the bags, and I struggled with my options before settling with embroidery. At first, I was planning on making a stencil and painting it on, but I was afraid it would come out too messy. My mom had suggested iron-ons, which I actually had on hand, but I always hated the way they crinkled up, and was afraid that they wouldn’t adhere very well to the canvas tote bag I had found. So I decided on embroidery, which aside from being a bit time-consuming, wasn’t too hard.

Final product:

I was a little hesitant about the bag at first. After all, I wanted my gift to be thoughtful and useful, and I wasn’t sure if she would be able to get much use out of them. My first idea for her was to make matching t-shirts for her, her husband and their soon-to-be baby (yay!), but my sister told me that was a stupid idea and they would never wear them.

In the end I figured totes were always nice to have on hand, even if you only use it every once in a while.

<< Click through to see a tutorial on how I embroidered the tote bag >>

Lastly, I made another of my crocheted necklaces for my boyfriend’s mom. She had seen the one I made for my sister and had asked me to make her one as well.

All in all, I think it was a successful holiday season. I’m hoping everyone enjoys their presents, and it was a great way for me to get some creative juices out (as opposed to standing in lines and rifling through bargain bins at the mall).

Hope you all had a great holiday season! And sorry for not posting the presents sooner to give you ideas. My friends just read my blog :)

Embroidered Tote Bag Tutorial:


  • Tote bag (I found mine at Michaels, though they do sell them at AC Moore as well. I just didn’t like the size of the ones offered at my local AC Moore).
  • Embroidery thread (also called floss)
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Needle
  • Carbon paper
  • Stencil
  • Heat N Bond iron-on adhesive (not 100% necessary, but I added fabric to the back of the tote so all the little strings wouldn’t catch on the things you put into it.)

The steps itself are quite simple. I created my design through Adobe Indesign, though you could probably do this with anything. When choosing a silhouette of the dog, I wanted something with relatively straight lines, just to make life a bit easier.

After printing out the image, place carbon paper on the fabric, carbon-side down (you can pin it down, if you want, to make sure it doesn’t move). I found carbon paper at AC Moore, but I hear it’s relatively common anywhere that sells sewing products. Layer the design over the carbon paper. Using a ballpoint pen, trace the design (gently enough not to rip the paper but hard enough to leave the carbon trace marks). You should end up with the complete image on your fabric.

Then, place your fabric in an embroidery hoop and just follow your design with whatever stitch you choose (I used a back stitch and just a fill stitch for the inside of the letters). I also chose to split the embroidery floss in half (embroidery floss is made from six strands of string, so I split the floss into three stands).

Inside of tote with the iron-on adhesive added.

To finish, I turned the bag inside out and, using an iron-on adhesive, I covered all the little strings and such on the back with a piece of scrap fabric. You can also stitch a lining, but as my sewing skills are less than adequate, the iron-on was my best bet. I also chose to cover the whole back, since the first patch I put on, which just covered the back of the design, could be seen through the bag.

It takes a little time to get your rhythm, so it could help to practice on scrap fabric (I didn’t so the first words are a little rough). But as long as you have the time and patience, it’s definitely something a novice can easily do.

Happy embroidering!


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