Kids’ DIY gifts: portrait bookmarks


Leggi questo post in: Italiano

when i saw this project in the book handmade home by amanda blake soule, i knew i needed to do it with my little girl for gifts. they are bookmarks made with scraps of fabric. the child draws the recipient’s portrait and the adult embroiders over that and then sews it together. here you can see the ones she made of me (left) and my hubby, “daddy” (right). i’m making a bunch of these bookmarks as christmas gifts from my daughter, but i’m only going to show a few so as not to ruin the surprise for the others! this is a great project because the child can draw what he wants and choose the fabric, the color of embroidery thread and the ribbon at the top. how do you make them?
1. choose the fabric. i used leftover scraps of linen from two projects (fitted bed sheets and a comforter cover) and then pieces of colored linen left over from cloth napkins i made for a friend for the backs. iron the fabric (apparently i didn’t do a very good job for the piece in this picture) and attach it to the table with masking tape, marking off the area where you want the picture drawn. i usually made mine about 20 cm high and 9 cm wide, though they all ended up being different from each other.

2. have your child draw inside the rectangle with a fabric marker that washes off with just water (i use and love this one). then take off the tape. you can see some spots on the picture on the right side here. they were things that my daughter drew but didn’t like, so i erased them right away with a touch of water.

3. using an embroidery hoop (or loop?), embroider over the picture. if you want, also embroider the name or initials of the child with the year on the back piece.

4. wash away the marker, let the fabric dry and iron it. (again, you can see i don’t always iron when i should!) mark where you want to sew, therefore the final dimensions, on the back of the embroidered picture. put the piece with the portrait on top of the back piece, good sides together, and pin.

5. here are the pinned pieces as seen from the back.

6. sew along the rectangle you drew, leaving an open space at the top. then trim off the extra fabric and cut triangles at the corners so you can turn them better.

7. turn the fabric right side out and press out the corners and sides with a pencil or something like that. turn in the edges of the open space and iron. (this time you really need to!) i don’t know if it was really necessary, but i ironed with another piece of fabric over the embroidered parts because i didn’t know if something bad would’ve happened without covering them. then slip a bit of folded ribbon in the open space and pin it shut.
8. topstitch all around the edges to close up the opening and keep everything nice and flat. here’s the detail of the back where i embroidered the initials and the year.
9.  put them to good use or give them to the lucky recipients!

seeing as i’m not that great at embroidering, it took me a while to make this type of bookmark. then it bothered me that, in the end, what you see is the work of the adult’s embroidery, not the child’s original picture. so i thought a bit…

i didn’t like the look of drawing directly with permanent markers because the fabric absorbed too much of the ink and made a smudged picture (at least on the linen that i used).
then i thought that the child could paint directly on the fabric. i decided against fabric paint (which i used here) because they look better if you do two coats, absolutely unthinkable for a kid! and then of course it probably won’t ever be necessary to wash these things, so i didn’t think it was so important. instead i chose acrylics. my somewhat ecological way of having my daughter paint is by using a big yogurt container for the water, a rag to clean off the paint brushes, and a washed-out clamshell container from the deli (which you can’t recycle with the rest of the plastic, at least not here) for the paint.
the one change i made in the procedure above (besides, obviously, the embroidery part) was to paint the name and year on the back at the very end, after having sewn everything together.

these came out quite nicely, too, and took much less time to make. for a kid, it’s hard to do a detailed picture with paint on fabric, so my daughter just did pictures as she likes, very abstract and often mixing all the colors up. they obviously have a totally different effect, but i like them, too. which type do you prefer?


  1. Io invece preferisco quelli dipinti: in quelli si vede direttamente il contributo di tua figlia, senza passare poi per le mani di un adulto! Mi sembrano più "autentici".

    PS: ho finito la maglia che avevo visto sul tuo blog! Ho fatto diverse modifiche perchè quando ho provato ad indossarla per prova (la destinataria ha le mie misure, a parte il pancione) ho fatto fatica ad avvolgermi tutta… Dopo Natale posterò le foto! Comunque sono proprio contenta di aver trovato questa idea! Grazie!!! 😀

  2. @roby: grazie per il tuo parere sui segnalibri! e mi fa molto piacere che ha fatto la maglia! sarò molto curiosa di vederla! quando posti le foto, mi faresti il favore di farmelo sapere? dovrei partorire dopo natale, quindi non credo di poter seguire molto i blog degli altri in quel periodo, e non le vorrei perdere! 🙂

  3. Bellissima idea.
    Ti ho segnalata.

    Io preferisco quelli ricamati, mi piace molto il ricamo, che di solito è preciso e inserito in regole estetiche precise, e che invece nei tuoi segnalibri è così…creativo!!!

  4. Idee grandiosa e ti sono venuti tutti bene, anche se quelli ricamati mi piacciono un sacco! Ti ho pinnata così mi ricordo x quando Alessio è un po' più grandicello!
    Grazie e buona giornata

  5. grazie clara! ora mi piacciono ancora di più questi segnalibri perché, passato 1 1/2 anni, lei non diesgna nè scrive così. è un bel modo per ricordare com'era lei! forse ne devo fare qualcuno altro questo anno! 🙂

  6. è vero che si divertono a vedere le loro opere, ma si divertono anche a vedere le loro opere trasformate. mia figlia si è divertita tanto a vedere come si erano trasformati i suoi disegni! grazie per il commento!


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