Customize Your Clothes With Fake Embroidery

Guess what? You don't have to actually learn how to embroider to stitch cool designs on your stuff. Fake it. Think of it as drawing with needles and thread.

Apr 30, 2012 at 6:00pm | Leave a comment

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What am I doing with that spider-hand?
I don't know about you, but there are a few crafty things I don't have the patience to learn how to execute properly. Knitting. Embroidery. Pinatas. Much like how I own guitars and may have been in bands, I "embroider" like I "play guitar." Meaning I fake it enough to create the illusion I'm going for. 
 
My mother "improvised" embroidery all over chambray shirts and bell-bottoms as a flower child. I grew up with evidence of her handiwork and friends and family would regularly pop up with gorgeously ornate examples of her crafty hippie history that were new to me. It was cool.
 
My first attempt at free-form needlework was the freaky face from my parents' Love album on a plain white T-shirt. I just tried to find a link to the LP art and it basically doesn't exist, making me feel like I'm having some sort of hereditary flashback.
 
Anyway, let's customize my super-cheap striped Target clearance sweater (like $5.90?).
 
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Here are the supplies I recommend (AKA exactly what I used):
 
1. An item of clothing you'd like to fancy up.
 
2. A very large needle that can accommodate embroidery floss.
 
3. Embroidery floss (an assorted bag like mine is an inexpensive way to get a bunch of starter colors).
 
4. A chalk pencil of some sort, either a fabric marking pencil from the fabric store or a chalk pastel pencil from the art store. I had both, the latter gave me the best results.
 
5. An embroidery hoop (mine was a little big, but kept my work area taut regardless).
 
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No mustache designs for me. NO.

For my design, I scoured the Internet for ideas and came across a fantastic blog devoted to female illustrators of the mid-twentieth century. There I was reminded of a childhood favorite of mine, Ruth Ruhman. I had her Merry Mother Goose book and A Child's Garden of Verses. Sweetest things ever.
 
Images searches landed me a pattern from the endpapers of what I would have to assume was a circus book. So awesome. I decided on the cotton candy and circus tent. (I'd like to add a couple of the other illos on the other side, for time's sake I kept it simple.)
 
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Oh look, my nails are done so I can actually make a DIY post

I used my chalk pencil to sketch out basic lines to follow with my thread, then started faking away at my loosey-goosely make-it-up embroidery. The best part: Every stitch is exactly right because I invented it myself.
 
I kept my laptop right there also so I could keep referencing my designs. And check Twitter and Facebook and look up ham radio clubs in Chicago (you know you want me to look into this; you're dying for it).
 
One good tip I can give is to use as many straight lines as you can, then use small stitches in the middle to curve those lines or several little stitches spread out over a line to hold it in place. Just have fun with that sh*t. It doesn't have to be perfect.
 
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Gratuitous, I know. My husband uses "crafty" as a euphemism for large-breasted.

What types of images would you embellish your stuff with? Any favorite illustrators? What kind of crap do you fake your way through? Will you join my ham radio girl gang if I work out all the details? If so, what should our satin jackets look like?

Follow Rachel on Twitter @RachelMcPadden