Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Kid Art Embroidery--How-To

When I first saw (on Soulemama's blog) the idea of turning kid art into embroidery, when M was in kindergarten or first grade, I thought I would have nothing to use, because all of M's art was of monsters, monster trucks, mad army generals (MAD RME JANRL), guns, swords, knives, race cars, robots, pirates Hotwheels, and other testosterone-loaded images that I thought, at the time, didn't merit rendering in embroidery.  Now when I look back at his old preschool and kindergarten journals, I want to weep with joy at how awesome all of his pictures were and I want to smack myself in the head for once again not appreciating what is before me and instead holding my life up to an imaginary ideal from blogtopia.

Anyway, as I think I have mentioned here before (possibly on multiple occasions) it is incredibly satisfying and enjoyable it is to take my kids' art and turn it into embroidery.  I'll say it again--it is so satisfying and enjoyable (possibly even addicting).  After posting about my Thanksgiving table runner,  commenter ccp (Hi, ccp!  I miss your blog) requested that I tell how I put it together.  So here is a brief, not-quite-tutorial, on how to turn your kids' art into a wonderful embroidery (and really, you don't need any previous sewing skills or knowledge--as long as you can thread a needle and tie a knot, you can do this!).

Materials needed:
  1. a piece of kid art; a simple line-drawing is preferable to something colored in (it's best to dig something out of their school papers or rescue from the recycling bin, though I am not above ordering my kids to draw a picture for me).
  2. a small amount of light-colored, loosely-woved fabric (linen, light cotton canvas, unbleached muslin, for example).
  3. embroidery floss in a variety of colors (this is available super cheap at craft stores).
  4. an embroidery hoop slightly larger than the drawing you're copying (also super cheap at craft stores).
  5. embroidery needles.

Step 1:  Transfer your drawing onto your fabric.  I do this by placing the fabric over the picture and holding them both up to the window and tracing with a soft, sharp pencil (a lumberyard pencil is handy for this).  If you don't plan on keeping the original art, you can go over it with a marker to make it easier to see when tracing (or you can photocopy and re-size as needed and then darken the lines).  You can also iron a piece of freezer paper to the back of your fabric to keep it more stable while you trace (the fabric tends to ooch around while you draw).

Compare your tracing to the original to make sure you didn't miss any details.

Step 2:  Fit your fabric snugly into your embroidery hoop.  Cut a length of floss a bit longer than the distance from your fingertips to your elbow and divide in half (embroidery floss has six plies--six separate threads; grab three threads in each hand, hold the other end in your mouth and tug to divide into two separate three-ply strands of the same length).  Thread your needle, knot the other end and using backstitch, chain stitch, split stitch or even running stitch, go over the lines of your drawing.

Once you've finished embroidering the drawing, you can turn it into a finished product.

The easiest thing to do is just leave it in the hoop, cut and glue around the edges and hang it on the wall. Or you can frame the image by sewing strips of fabric around it and turn it into a wall hanging, a pillow, a table runner, or pretty much anything you can think of.  

I embroidered Christmassy pictures by each of the boys onto white canvas and made a set of placemats to go with the tablerunner I made last Christmas.

This is mathematical-M's 3-D Christmas package.

I used a combination of recycling and coercion to get two drawings out of each child.

E drew this Rudolph under duress.
I saved this cute tree-and-reindeer Z drew last year.

The only remotely holiday-ish drawing I found in all of M's preschool journals was this "ROBOT SNOMAN"

Another picture-on-demand by E.

The picture that started it all--I love this sleigh and reindeer by Z.

Here they all are with the runner.

Yes I do realize white is a crazy color for placemats for my messy family, but I had two yards of white organic cotton canvas that I'd gotten for a screaming deal and had no other plans for it.

The flip side.

The placemats and runner are reversible, with this cute winter greens and red flowers and chipmunks and chickadees fabric on the back (leftover from the length of fabric that we used to put around the base of our tree before I made a skirt).  Amazingly, I found three napkins made from the exact same material at Goodwill right before Christmas.


  1. I keep meaning to do this. I think it makes their drawings look so cool! Yours came out great. I also loved the mad army general spelling.

  2. Okay, you never cease to amaze me. I'm going to have to take a crafting tutorial from you. I love those placemats!


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