Category Archives: Fabric and Fiber Arts

Decorate a Bookmark With Paper, Fabric and Buttons

Bookmark made from paper, fabric and buttonsMy bookmark tutorial has been posted on the Canvas Corp Brands Blog. I included a free downloadable PDF template with my tutorial. Enjoy!

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Self-help techniques for depression

Last year at this time I was fighting major depression as a result of abuse. I am thankful that this year is much better for me but I know some people who are really struggling right now. I vividly remember how last year’s Holiday season made me feel worse. Winter weather and less daylight contributed to the struggle also. I had counseling and intensive outpatient therapy to help me recover. I learned some new techniques and tips to help me pull out of depression and here are some actions that I found to be the most effective for me. Please keep in mind that I’m not a professional therapist or a doctor and I needed professional help along with the following practices I could do on my own to recover. Please get professional help if you are suffering from depression. If you are afraid that you might harm yourself, please call 911 or a suicide hotline immediately. Here is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number – 1-800-273-8255.

Action #1
Help someone else who is suffering – No matter what your situation is, there are always going to be people who have it even worse than you. I’m not saying this to invalidate what you are feeling because you feel how you feel no matter what other people are going through. Maybe you can visit a lonely person or make a phone call, make someone a nice baked good or homemade gift, do a good deed for a neighbor or volunteer for a charity. No matter how humble you think your gifts are, someone out there can use them. I know that one of the most depressing thoughts you can have is that you don’t matter or no one would care if you are gone. It’s not true, even if other people have tried to make you think that. Doing things for people helps you prove that to yourself and the gratitude you get is very healing.

Action #2
Explore DBT skills for emotion regulation – DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Training. While in group therapy we practiced some DBT techniques which helped me out a great deal. The concepts were new to me and I wish I’d known about them earlier in life. I kept printouts about the anger and sadness emotion regulation techniques hung up in my bathroom for months so that I could perform normal life functions and do things I needed to do for recovery. I recommend you get the workbook and if you can, take classes. When I was feeling overwhelmed with emotions the techniques on the worksheets were invaluable.

This slide show provides a good overview of distress tolerance and includes some good techniques: DBT Distress Tolerance Skills

For example, I had to learn to tolerate distress because I was in a situation that I could not fix. You can’t make the trauma not have happened. There were people in group therapy with me that were rape victims, crime victims, were homeless and in other situations that could not be undone or fixed quickly. You have to learn to tolerate your situation to avoid making it worse. For example there were many times at work when I had to run to the refrigerator to put a cold drink on my head and do breathing exercises so I could do my job – that’s an example of learning to cope to avoid making things worse. It wouldn’t help my recovery to add financial and career problems to the trauma I already had. I was left with a huge therapy bill, enough to buy a good used car, and adding unpaid bills to my other problems would not make me feel better!

Intrigued? Here is some more information about DBT.
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

Action #3
Attend support groups – Some people tell me that support groups are not effective for them but I find them valuable. It’s a good place to discuss painful things with people who understand some of what you’ve been through and will listen without being judgmental. Sometimes there is no one else in a person’s life to provide this. If you do have people in your life who will listen you have to be careful not to burn them out. It feels good to provide this service to other people in the group because you know how valuable it is. Also you can learn from the other members’ experiences and get good information about resources you may need.

Action #4
Use AND statements in your internal dialougue – I learned this in a support group and it’s one of the most helpful things anyone has ever told me. “I feel ______ AND I’m going to _______.” This is a good way to remind yourself that there are a lot of things you can do despite how you feel.

Examples of AND statements I’ve used to motivate myself:
“I’m angry AND I’m going to give this customer extra good service and make their day easier.”
“I’m sad AND I’m going to take a walk and enjoy nature.”
“I’m tired AND I’m going to go grocery shopping so I have nutritious food to eat.”

Action #5
G.R.A.P.E.S. – This is an acronym to help you remember to take steps each day to help recover from depression. When you are really depressed, it’s difficult to take any kind of action. I learned from experience that if I did everything on this list daily I would improve. It was hard. It took a long time. But it did work!

  • Being Gentle with yourself
  • Relaxation
  • Achievement
  • Pleasure
  • Exercise
  • Social

I made a set of felt ornaments for a friend to put little pieces of paper in as a reminder of which activities have been done that day and motivation for getting as many as possible completed each day. I suggested she start with the papers on the sun side and move them to the moon side as they are finished to get more out of the cycle of each day. I also made a set for myself. The patterns for the sun and moon came from the book “Forest Fairy Crafts”.

I made a PDF file that includes reminders that you can print out on cardstock or on clear sticker paper to incorporate them into different systems that you might use for motivation such as calendars or planners. I threw in some motivational sayings that are designed for cards the size of ATCs (artist trading cards). Some people call these “self care cards”.
Download PDF here

Action #6
Light Therapy – Other people can explain better than I can the science behind improving your mood with light. I just know that it works. I give myself exposure to a natural light lamp and try to get natural sunlight on me as much as possible. Of course that is difficult in winter when you have to cover up to be outdoors but I use the outdoor activities I enjoy and gardening to motivate me to get what sun exposure I can.

Action #7
Meditation – I never tried meditation before I was in group therapy. I was having severe sleep problems and a group meditation session got me closer than I had been to sleep in quite some time. I decided to download some apps to help me meditate on my own and I’ve enjoyed using them ever since. There are guided meditations designed especially for problems such as sleep, anxiety and depression. Meditation has been a great discovery for me!

Action #8
Collect motivational and comforting sayings – fighting depression feels like you are fighting your own brain and your own thoughts all the time. Putting an input of healthy thoughts in my brain is helpful. I put some of them in my journal where I can use them for inspiration, a journaling prompt or just a reminder to get my thoughts in a healthy direction. You might put such sayings on the wall, on a fridge, on a computer slide show, on a Pinterest board or wherever it’s convenient for you.

In a support group meeting that I go to, we read affirmations at the end. We are supposed to pick ones that resonate with us at the moment. Sometimes I or other people have to look at the list a long time before we see one that we think is the truth. I know what it’s like to read an inspirational or motivational saying or affirmation and think “yeah, right”. Give it a chance and give it time and maybe more and more of them will seem true to you.

Action #9
Try new activities with a group – Doing something fun with a group of strangers may not be a substitute for having a close friend to do activities with. However, I think it’s much more likely to lift your mood than staying home alone. You’ll also get the opportunity to make some friends. For example I do a lot of activities with groups on There are groups you can join for every interest and activities for every budget.

Action #10
Journaling – there are several ways my art journal helped me fight depression.

I wrote down thoughts which helped get them out of my mind. Once expressed, it was easier to get my mind on something more pleasant.

I gained new insights through writing. Forcing myself to organize my thoughts by writing them down made me understand situations better.

I kept track of my tasks. I found it much more satisfying to do what I needed to do to get better if I made a task page or some kind of task listing for it in my journal/planner. I found it motivating to fill in or mark completed tasks as opposed to just keeping track in my head. Seeing tangible evidence of the completed tasks made me feel proud.

Do artwork that expresses your feelings. Some of my best artwork was made when I was really having a bad time. It makes me feel a little bit better to know that if I had to go through the feelings, I at least got some strong artwork out of it. Here are a couple of art journal pages that I did Christmas Day 2016. I hope I never feel again like I did that day but I did get quite a bit of satisfaction out of my artistic expression.
“Going Cheap”

I made gratitude lists. It’s easy to forget about the good things we still have – referring to a list of things to be grateful for is a good reminder that life isn’t all bad. As an exercise when I felt like I “hated everyone and everything” I decided to go through two magazines and make a collage out of things I was grateful for. I realized that even if I could not enjoy them now I would again in the future.

I made a list of my progress. Seeing what I’d achieved in recovery then referring to it when I felt frustrated by my seemingly slow progress was a great motivator for me. I had been taken down so far by abuse that performing normal, everyday activities became milestones. Keeping track of them DID help me realize I was slowly getting better and gave me determination to keep working.

Action #11
Spiritual practices – In my life I’ve gone back and forth from having religious faith to having serious doubts. I’ve resolved my doubts for the most part at this stage of life but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy for me to take time out for prayer and worship. However, I’ve found spiritual practices are one of many things where if you don’t “feel like” doing it, if you do it anyway the feeling will follow. In other words, let feelings follow the actions, don’t let feelings dictate your actions. Is this proof of the existence of God or just how the human brain works? Either way, if you’re open to it spiritual practices have been a source of strength and healing for me. I’ve prayed for strength in many tough situations and received it and I am very grateful.

Christmas Craft Bender – Part 2

Here is another chapter in my post-Christmas wrap-up!

I made quite a few felt ornaments as gifts. I really love to give ornaments with pockets as gifts because they can be made into a more substantial gift by tucking something in the pocket such as gift card or some money. Small objects like jewelry, flash drives, memory cards or candy could be included. Or for a gift with a lot of value other than monetary, you could put personal notes or prayers in the pocket.

Felt heart with pocket – this design could work for Valentine’s Day of course, but I made a few in Christmas colors to serve as tree ornaments.
Here is the flower Pocket Treasure Keeper made in colors that a friend of mine likes.
Here is a version of the flower made in Christmas colors.

The patterns for the ornaments shown came from the book “Forest Fairy Crafts” by Lenka Vodicka-Paredes and Asia Currie. When I first started teaching at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts, the Education Coordinator lent me this book from the classroom library to get ideas for kids hand sewing projects. I haven’t made any of the fairies in the book but I have made six different projects from the Pocket Treasure Keepers section. I’ve taught these projects to kids and adults and they are a big hit with both groups. Pockets are just really fun! I changed the stitching and design details on some of my samples but used the patterns unaltered. The patterns are very easy to use because they are printed at actual size.

Besides super cute patterns, “Forest Fairy Crafts” contains tips for teaching hand-sewing to kids. There are overviews of materials and basic skills plus a handy troubleshooting page. The directions are easy to follow and the photos are clear and beautiful. If you are interested in teaching a child how to sew or just want to make the appealing projects I highly recommend “Forest Fairy Crafts”.

Christmas Craft Bender Part 1

I’ve been so busy making Christmas presents that I haven’t had much time to write about them. I’m still working on making and giving even though Christmas Day was a couple of days ago. In my religion Christmas lasts until December 6, so I’m not worried!

Melissa and Stephanie from Schnarr's Hardware on Halloween and the Elsa and Anna ornaments
The lovely Melissa and Stephanie from Schnarr’s Hardware on Halloween and the Elsa and Anna ornaments I made

At Schnarr’s Hardware in Old Webster, we handed out treats on Halloween. Melissa and Stephanie dressed up as Anna and Elsa from the movie Frozen. We were using some Frozen fabric in a holiday project for the teaching department at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts. I decided I knew a couple of people who needed Frozen ornaments for Christmas! I cut out the Elsa and Anna images from flannel fabric and sewed them to felt circles. I added sequins and beads and a little decorative stitching with embroidery thread and decorative iridescent thread, sewed in a ribbon hanger and stuffed the ornaments. These were such fun to make!

Tom and my new craft room!

My fiance Tom is pictured on the left with the fleece blanket I made for him from St. Louis Cardinals themed fabric. I got some much needed practice sewing fleece on a machine and it sure feels nice to snuggle with him under this blanket! I just adore fleece! I was moved to tears when I saw his Christmas gift to me on the right – a craft room! This is located in my future home where I will move after we get married in August 2018. Tom is quite a guy, wouldn’t you say? I am so lucky to have him in my life!

Fun Demos at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts – Pom Poms, Tassels and Ornaments

I love showing people how to use products and helping them make stuff! I got the chance to do that yesterday at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts. First I demonstrated how to use the Boye Pom Pom & Tassel Maker. I had a lot of fun making samples for this demo and the customers had a great time trying out the kit. It’s really fun and useful for crafters of all ages.

Making pom poms with the Boye Pom Pom & Tassel Maker

I made a garland and decorated gift packaging ahead of time for the demo. I’m also going to use the tassel tool for making a tassel necklace and some boot cuffs. Personal adornment sure does provide a lot of potential for tassels and pom poms!

Making pom poms and ornaments

After the pom pom and tassel demo, I switched to ornament making for the JoAnn Make to Give event supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Participants at our store made 47 ornaments! My boyfriend Tom who also works at JoAnn looks in this picture like I felt after we did all that! It was uplifting to watch kids get creative with the supplies and have fun putting them together. We used clear plastic ornaments that are designed to be filled with fun stuff and decorated them with colorful pom poms, Sharpie paint markers, ribbon, glitter paper, googly eyes, chenille stems, yarn and more. You can see what ornaments people made in JoAnn stores all over the country on Pinterest and Facebook.

Make to Give is happening again on November 28 from 2-7 pm at selected JoAnn stores, so I hope you can join us!

Holiday Table Runner With Wired Burlap Ribbon

To celebrate the Holiday season, here are instructions for making a table runner with some of my favorite supplies – wired burlap ribbon, felt, beads, embroidery thread and sequins!

Read more on the Schnarr’s Hardware Blog:
Holiday Table Runner With Wired Burlap Ribbon

Fall Table Runner with Wired Burlap Ribbon

Fall table runner with felt appliqué leaves
Fall table runner with felt appliqué leaves, enhanced with embroidery thread, sequins and beads

This project is inspired by memories of sewing kits that I used to work on when I was a kid. I remember one kit in particular was a calendar printed on burlap with certain areas of the design accented with sequins attached by running thread through seed beads. Here is an original design of mine that reminds me of all that fun!

Tools and Materials

Fall leaves
Scrap paper
Heavy books
Scrap chipboard
Fabric scissors
Ball point pen
Masking tape
Wide burlap ribbon with metallic threads in it – about 9 inches wide
Harvest gold color wired burlap-look ribbon – 1 1/2 inches wide
Felt in a assorted fall leaf colors
Washable fabric marking pen
Gold metallic embroidery thread – six strand
Embroidery thread in off white, rust and dark brown
Assorted size sequins in fall and earthy colors such as ochre, brown, bronze, copper and gold
Copper or bronze colored seed beads – select ones with holes big enough for a threaded needle to pass through twice
Scrap fabric in a rustic color for the ends
Needles – tapestry and embroidery


Chipboard leaves made as templates
Chipboard leaves made as templates. Leaf veins were drawn on for future reference in designs.

Walk around your neighborhood and collect leaves to use as templates. Choose leaves more for their shape than their color – you want ones that will flatten easily and are roughly the size of your hand and smaller.

Place your leaves on a hard surface like a table between pieces of scrap paper. Stack books or other flat heavy objects on top and allow to sit for several hours to press leaves for easier handling.

Place leaves on scrap chipboard and trace around with marker. Loosely draw where the leaf veins are on the cardboard for future reference. Discard leaves in the compost if you don’t want them for another project. Cut out the chipboard leaves.

Cut a piece of wide burap ribbon the length that you want for your table runner, plus about 4 extra inches for hemming. Before cutting, tape a piece of masking tape just inside where you plan to cut. The tape will help keep the ends of the ribbon from unraveling.

Pin down the hems on the ends but don’t sew yet.

Fold wired burlap ribbon lengthwise and pin along the long sides of the ribbon.

Use tapestry needle and full thickness of the gold embroidery thread to sew the ribbon in place with a running stitch just inside the wired edge.

Trace around the chipboard leaf shapes with a ball point pen on the backs of various colors of felt. Cut out leaf shapes.

Place felt leaves on your runner in an arrangement that you like. Pin in place.

Split lengths of the six-strand gold embroidery thread lengthwise into pieces with three strands each. Use the three-strand pieces to sew a running stitch along the edges of the felt leaves, attaching them to the wide burlap ribbon.

Stitch leaf vein marks using a running stitch with the various embroidery thread colors. For example try rust color thread for the veins on the light brown felt, off-white thread for the ochre felt and dark brown for the gold and orange felt. If it helps to figure out where to sew the leaf veins, refer back to your chipboard leaves and draw the veins on the felt with the washable fabric marker. After you’re done sewing on the leaf viens, dab any washable marker marks that show with a damp cloth to get rid of them.

Accent the leaves with a few scattered sequins on each nestled among the embroidered leaf veins in a manner that suggests the spots and color variations that you find on natural fallen leaves. Hold the sequins on by bringing a thread from the back through a bead, around the side of the bead then back down through the sequin. Go back through each bead at least twice for durability. Sew a few beads by themselves among the sequins.

Pin and fold strips of fabric to the ends to cover up the raw edge of the ribbon. Sew in place with the metallic embroidery thread.

When the fall season is over, store your table runner rolled up so that the wire in the ribbon does not kink.

Upcycling with scrap fabric, trim, buttons and beads

Over the years I’ve collected a lot of recycled fabric, trim, beads and buttons. Some of it comes from thrift stores or places that specialize in teaching the reuse of materials. Two such places where you can score fabric and related items at a low price are Leftovers, Etc. and Perennial. I teach classes at Perennial so be sure to check my schedule to see what I’m doing there in the near future!

I also get scrap fabric and sewing items from people who know that I collect it. In addition I made a big score a few years ago when a local interior design studio allowed me to salvage some samples and scraps that were being discarded. I’ve thought of a lot of ways to use these pieces over the years. Pictured below is a fanny pack that I’ve been using for over 20 years. The zipper went out on it recently but the rest of it was still in good shape. I decided to purchase a replacement zipper from JoAnn Fabrics and crafts (where I also teach classes) and repair the bag while adding a pocket to the front made of upcycled upholstery fabric and trim. I added some snaps to keep the new front pocket closed and some buttons given to me by fellow teacher Kate. My old fanny pack is better than new now!

Fabric pouch refurbished by repairing the zipper and adding a front pocket made from salvaged materials.
Fabric pouch refurbished by repairing the zipper and adding a front pocket made from salvaged materials.

I also recently took three plain solid color tank tops and made them more interesting by sewing strips of fabric and trim to the fronts. Much of the trim was salvaged and I also purchased a couple of new rolls from JoAnn. To the coral colored tank top I also added some buttons and beads.

Tank tops embellished with upcycled fabric, trim, beads and buttons.
Tank tops embellished with upcycled fabric, trim, beads and buttons.

My wardrobe is a little more colorful and interesting now thanks to my stash of upcycled materials!

More Pop Art – Poop Emoji Patch and Pillow

I started seeing poop emoji pillows for sale in mall kiosks last fall. Ever since then I’ve been tempted to buy one – why? They make me laugh, that’s why, and I like to laugh! But I have been too embarrassed to buy one. It’s kind of hard to justify at my age! At JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts, where I teach classes, they have started selling emoji merchandise. You can buy patches, pillows, pillow kits, suncatcher kits and more. The poop designs seem to sell out a lot faster than the other emojis, so I guess I don’t need to be embarrassed. Still, I feel better about making a poop patch and poop pillow rather than buying one. I can always justify it as sewing practice, right?

When I was in seventh grade, my Mom made a duffel bag for me out of an old pair of my jeans. I used to use it for Girl Scout camping trips. It’s a good size for transporting a sleeping bag, pillow, air mattress and sheets. When I was older, for nostalgia reasons I got it out again and I decided it would be a good place to display my growing collection of patches. Over the last several years I’ve been sewing on old patches and collecting new ones and adding them to the duffel bag. It’s a great conversation starter on trips and reminds me of fun times!

Duffel bag with some of my patches

To make the poop patch, I downloaded a pattern and used Photoshop to size it for a patch. I printed out the design and traced it onto tracing paper. I made extra tracings to use for cutting and lining up.

To make a poop patch like mine, transfer a tracing of the outline of the poop, the white smile and the white part of the eyeballs onto scrap chipboard. Cut out the chipboard.

Place the poop outline chipboard template onto a piece of medium brown felt. Trace around the chipboard with a ball-point pen and cut out the brown poop piece. Trace around the smile and eyeball pieces on white felt and cut out.

Take a tracing on tracing paper of the whole poop design, with the brown lines and facial features indicated and pin it to the front of the brown felt piece. Use it as a guide for where to pin the white smile and eyeball pieces. Using white thread, sew around the edges of the white pieces to hold them in place.

Using dark brown embroidery thread, sew the brown diagonal lines using a running stitch. Don’t sew the outline yet – you’ll sew the outline when you sew your patch where it’s going to go. Carefully tear the paper away. A pair of tweezers is helpful for removing tiny bits of paper that might stick in small crevices.

Make a tracing on tracing paper of only the eyes, including the pupils and cut out, leaving some space around the eyes for pinning in place. Pin your tracing over the eyes so you can see exactly where to sew the pupils. With black embroidery thread, outline the pupils then fill them in solid with a satin stitch. Tear away the paper.

When you sew on your patch, use brown embroidery thread around the edge. You’re done!

handmade felt poop pillow

Pictured above is the small pillow I made from the same pattern at a larger size. Because of the larger size I sewed on black felt ovals for the pupils instead of using stitching only to fill them in. I used two pieces of dark brown felt as the pillow body. Cut a little larger, they made a nice outline. I sewed the medium brown felt portion with all the details onto the front.

Heisenberg Pillow

Heisenberg pillow inspired by Breaking Bad
Heisenberg pillow inspired by Breaking Bad

A therapist recently suggested the use of a talking globe for family discussions. This reminded me of the family intervention scene with the talking pillow in the TV show Breaking Bad. In my immediate family we are all fans of the show and I thought it would be funny to make a talking pillow and have a portrait of the main character Walter White aka Heisenberg on it. That should create a more convivial atmosphere for us. I feel a little silly making fan art at my age but if I call it Pop Art it’s more legit, right?

I traced a drawing of the character at the size I wanted onto translucent tracing paper. I decided to applique felt onto the dark hat and sunglasses areas so I used my tracing to make additional outlines for the hat and glasses on scrap paper. I pinned the scrap paper to the felt and cut the shapes out. Another method for transferring a shape design to felt is to make a chipboard template and trace around it with a ball point pen or graphite pencil for light colors or a light colored chalk pencil for dark felt colors.

Next I cut out two square pieces for the front and back of the pillow from scrap knit white fabric with a texture to it that was suggestive of cross stitch backing fabric. I ironed fusible webbing onto the backs of each piece because stretchy fabric like this knit is sometimes hard to keep square.

I pinned my tracing to the front of the pillow and fastened my felt pieces in place over the sunglasses and hat areas. I stitched the felt pieces around the edges with black embroidery thread to hold the applied pieces in place. I then stitched the rest of the design with two different weights of embroidery thread through the tracing paper. When I was finished stitching I carefully tore the tracing paper away. In places where the stitching was close together I used a pair of tweezers to tear out some small remaining tracing paper bits.

I pinned the pillow halves together with the good sides facing out since I was not planning to turn the pillow inside out. I stitched the halves together with more of the black embroidery thread leaving a gap at the bottom edge for stuffing. I stuffed he pillow with fiberfill then sewed the gap shut. The last step to finish the pillow was to trim the raw fabric edges with pinking shears.