Hi there! Mama here.
Have you ever hand stitched? I've seen tons of adorable hand-embroidered wall decor on Pinterest and I can't help but feel a little envious of some of those crafty stitching sistas! So what did I do about it? Well, I decided that for Week 3 of my "30 Goals in 30 Weeks" series, my goal would be to learn to stitch and create some of that handmade loveliness! 

Now I have to admit I've had this pretty colored embroidery floss sitting in my sewing box (aka three rubbermaid tubs that cover my entire closet floor) for over a month, but I've been too afraid to touch it for fear of creating some knotty, ugly mess and forever shaming myself in the world of stitchery. So naturally, my first step was to find and repeatedly watch (what else?) a youtube video about basic embroidery by embroiderer extraordinaire Jenny Hart, founder of Sublime Stitching. It's a short, easy-to-follow video, perfect for any stitching beginner, and the girly background music makes it even more fun while you learn.

At first I wasn't quite sure what to make, but, much like in Week 1, the perfect opportunity presented itself. My friend Stephanie was throwing a first birthday party for her sweet girl Claire and the theme was "You Are My Sunshine," with yellow and orange decorations (including an absolutely adorable birthday banner she made...don't get me started on how much I adore any kind of hanging banner--I have an entire wall in my dining room devoted to a large wall banner that I change for every season and holiday). These past couple years I've gotten into the habit of giving handmade gifts, so as soon as she told me the theme, the wheels in my Martha brain started turning and I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to set out on my hand stitching adventure.

I decided to stitch the words "You are my sunshine" onto burlap fabric and add some felt rosettes, and the result was pretty gosh darn adorable... Click "Read More" below to see how I did it!

"You Are My Sunshine" Hand Stitched Hoop Art

This project took me a little over an hour to complete. I had tons of rosettes already made because I use them to embellish hair clips and yarn wreaths, so if you don't have any pre-made rosettes laying around this might take you a little longer. There are all different kinds of felt rosettes you can make, and if you've never made one before here's a great tutorial by Cathy of Catshy Crafts (she's one of my crafty heroes). 

I chose burlap because I thought it would look great with the bright orange and yellow embroidery floss, plus the holes in the fabric are very large and I figured it would be very forgiving and easy to work with for a beginning stitching project. It was.
What I used
1 square foot of burlap fabric
an embroidery hoop
yellow and orange embroidery floss
a large sewing needle
a hot glue gun
4 felt rosettes
3 felt leaves
How I did it
1. Start out by putting the fabric inside the hoop. Set the inner hoop flat on the table, lay the fabric over it, then loosen the screw on the outer hoop and press the outer hoop over the fabric. Pull the fabric taut if it isn't already, then tighten the screw. Since I was going to leave the fabric in the hoop for a wall hanging, I trimmed the ends of the fabric to about an inch outside the hoop.
2. Choose how much embroidery floss you want to use (more floss = a thicker stitch). I used all six strands for mine because of the large holes in the burlap. Use your scissors to cut the embroidery floss to about the length of your forearm from wrist to elbow, and then thread the needle, leaving about 2 inches of floss at the end (Jenny Hart demonstrates this very well in her video). 
3. Choose the stitch you want to use. There are tons of different stitches, but here's a list of 5 common ones (with pictures!). Starting from the back, pull the needle up through the fabric to start your stitch. Leave enough thread in the back (an inch or so) to hold onto as you continue stitching, then push the needle back down through the front and to the back of the fabric. I used a backstitch, which is super easy and works well for outlines and lettering. I stitched my letters freehand, but you can use a fabric pencil or transferable pattern if you prefer a guide.  
4. Keep stitching, wrapping the stitches around the tail of thread you left in the back. When you get close to the end of your length of embroidery floss, loop the thread around a stitch in the back and use a basic knot to tie it off. Rethread your needle with more embroidery floss and continue in this fashion until you've finished stitching your design.
5. If you're going to use the hoop for a wall hanging, you can glue the fabric to the inside of the hoop. If not, you can take it out of the hoop now. I used hot glue to fasten my burlap fabric to the hoop. Isn't it funny how the front can look so neat and tidy while the back is all unkempt?
6. Once your fabric is secured to the hoop, you can add whatever embellishments you like. I added orange and yellow felt rosettes to match the embroidery floss, and green felt leaves to really make it pop. You could also add things like buttons, mini pennants, ink stamps, or anything else that tickles your fancy.
That's it! I seriously wish I would have started stitching years ago. It's fun and easy and not too expensive, and there are so many different stitches to work with. And you want to know the best part? Since you don't need a machine, you can do it anywhere! Portability is huge to me when it comes to crafts, since I have little ones and have to put everything away in between crafting sessions so they don't get their little fingers into everything or chew on things they shouldn't (though my oldest always manages to find a way to sneak in when I'm not looking--he loves all the cool things in Mama's sewing box).

Next week, I'm going to make homemade baby food for my youngest. He's recently started eating baby cereals and tries to grab at everything on my plate when I hold him in my lap at dinner time, so I think he's really going to love it. 

So what cool things have you hand stitched? Do you have any good tips to share? Or have you made any goals for yourself as you've been following along on my 30-week journey? Leave a comment and tell me all about it--I'd love to hear from you!

-- Mama

This is post #3/30 in my "30 Goals In 30 Weeks" series. I'm working on one goal a week for the 30 weeks leading up to my 30th birthday. Join me by setting goals of your own! You don't need to have a special time frame in mind, just choose something simple that you think will make you happy, and go for it!

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