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Have you noticed that embroidery has been making a huge comeback over the past few years? I have been seeing a ton of it used in all sorts of ways, from embellishing home goods, to simple hangable embroidery art, to visible mending of clothing. And I love the many modern and ethnic-inspired styles that are so popular now. (You can check out a lot of interesting ideas on my Embroidery & Hand Sewing Pinterest board.) Which is why, when my mother gave me her old wool ruana poncho, I decided to transform it into a DIY embroidered sunflower blanket, using some of the techniques that I’d seen and wanted to try out.
In the 60s, a Colombian college friend of my mother’s brought it to her. I used to wear it in our home on cold winter days when I was in high school, and then when I left home the poor ruana ended up in storage for about two decades. When my mother gave it to me a couple of years ago, I knew that I wouldn’t use it because I can’t stand the scratchy wool against my skin, but I hated to get rid of it because it was a special memory and the wool is really incredibly warm.
So, I decided to transform this garment as a gift for my mother. I sewed up the opening in the ruana and used bulky yarn and a yarn hand needle to embroider a sunflower, my mother’s favorite flower, on it.
I started doing embroidery regularly a couple of years ago and I find it very relaxing. If you want to start learning the basics, I highly recommend that you check out the free embroidery school at Sweater Doll. In addition to instructions on a great number of stitches and useful tips on things such as design transfer, supplies, and care, she also has some free embroidery patterns to get started on.
The flower embroidery came out a little wonky because, as I soon discovered, it’s a whole lot harder to embroider without using an embroidery hoop, because the fabric gets pulled and warped. But overall I’d say that it’s still quite nice, and my mother was very pleased with it!
Do you have a boring wool blanket that you’d like to embellish? Or maybe you also have a poncho that you never wear, but could use as a throw blanket on your sofa? Then keep on reading to find out how to make your own DIY embroidered sunflower blanket!
Sewing the slit closed
My poncho’s slit was finished off with a blanket stitch, so I just slipped my needle through those stitches. If yours isn’t like that, just stick the needle through the very edge of the fabric. It doesn’t have to be beautiful because it will get covered up afterwards.
1. Stick a blunt hand needle for yarn* threaded with a bulky yarn close to the color of the poncho in the beginning of the slit and tie a knot.
2. Use a ladder stitch (see my tutorial on how to easily hand sew the ladder stitch if you don’t know how) to sew your way down the two sides of the slit (top) and gently pull the stitches tight (bottom). Work your way all the way down to the edge of the poncho so that the opening is completely closed up.
Embroidering the sunflower petals
3. Sketch out the center of your sunflower with some petals going around it with a water soluble fabric marking pen*. The great thing about this type of pen is that, if you make a mistake, you just need to get the ink wet and it will disappear. (You might want to first test it in a corner on the back of the blanket to make sure that it will indeed disappear, because it’s not 100% guaranteed to disappear from all fabrics.)
Then outline the petals with a yellow bulky yarn using the stem stitch (Allison shows how to do the stem stitch in her embroidery school here).
5. Now it’s time to fill in the petals with color. Normally you would use the satin stitch to fill in such spaces, however that is not possible with very large areas, because the thread (or yarn, in this case) would move all over the place and not stay adhered to the fabric base. What you need to do in this case is make a series of overlapping stitches.
I used the technique shown for shading in this post of Needle ‘n Thread called long-short stitch shading, however I didn’t change the yarn color, and kept it a solid yellow. Basically you start with a row of alternating long and short satin stitches within the area that you want to cover, then continue with more rows, filling in between the previous stitches. I highly suggest you look at the tutorial, because it’s pretty clear how to do it by looking at the pictures.
Fill in all the petals with color in this way.
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