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I’m getting ready to convert the website over to a hosted WordPress one (just when I thought I was out…) so if you’re reading this via a feed reader, you’ll probably need to resubscribe shortly. The new feed will be at (RSS) or (Atom), and so far I haven’t found any way to set up a list of redirects for pages that are going away. (Which is… all of them. Apparently hosted sites don’t get non-numeric permalinks, which I didn’t expect. I used to run a multi-site WP install and the individual sites were able to do that, so the “it’s because WordPress dot com runs the multi-site software” explanation doesn’t ring entirely true. But whatever.)

There will probably be a little hiccup in the emailed versions of the blog as well, but the durn thing wasn’t sending images as it was so overall it’ll be an improvement once I get it reconnected.

Although I keep telling myself I didn’t get the embroidery machine to do conventional embroidery, I keep finding myself doing conventional embroidery. In large part it’s learning how the thing behaves with different materials, and also yielding to the temptation to make cute stuff for my nieces.

It started when I sent my sister a link to a possible teacher gift and she sent back a link to a unicorn book band on that site, for one daughter’s school agenda.

A unicorn book band slider

I asked her what she wanted for her planner, and she said a heart, so I went all-in on hearts.

A heart-shaped book band slider in heart-hologram vinyl with shape glitter hearts enclosed

What about the other daughter? Some other cute animal, possibly involving pink and/or teal. Well, if you want cute animals, the best source for that is Japanese stickers, so I digitized a Shibanban design and ran it in teal with a pink bandana. My husband liked it, so I scaled it down and ran it in the original colors.

A book band slider and snap tab with Shibanban dogs

What did I learn? That when the white vinyl seems a little squishier than the other colors, you shouldn’t think oh, it’ll be fine, you should go ahead and put down some top stabilizer. The smaller shiba is a little wobblier, and the stitches compressed the vinyl quite a bit meaning the empty white areas stand noticeably higher. I also learned that you should play it safe when cutting vinyl because sometimes the pattern is larger than you thought and your unicorn’s horn almost runs out of space.

Three plush jumping spiders

I wrote about the origin of these spiders on Monday, so I’m happy to say I have a finished pattern and not just another unfinished item to add to my to-do list. It’s designed as an in-the-hoop pattern for an embroidery machine but you can also sew it with a conventional machine and use safety eyes.

It’s pretty simple: hoop up and embroider the top of the body, then put a second piece of minky on, right-sides-together, before “embroidering” the outer seam. Unhoop it, cut it out and turn it, then hoop up and “embroider” the seam of the legs, cut them out and turn them. Stuff the body, wire the legs with pipe cleaners if you want, then hand-sew the two pieces together and you’re done.

Detailed PDF instructions with step-by-step pictures

If you’re sewing with a conventional machine, or you’d like to play around with Inkstitch to see how embroidery pattern design works, you’ll want the SVG version. To make a pattern for conventional sewing, hide one layer, print, unhide, hide the other layer, print. Bonus: you’re not limited to a 4x4” spider. Remember that the lines are sewing lines, not cutting lines.

Jumping Spider - SVG

If you’re embroidering, pick the file that works best for your machine. Caveat: I’ve only used the Brother PES file, but there’s nothing too boundary-pushing in this design so I expect the other versions to work fine. One exception might be in sizing - it runs up against the boundaries of my machine’s “4x4” hoop so let me know if I need to size it down to meet the exact specs of other brands.

If you make a spider, let me know! Send me an email or tag me on Instagram (don’t forget the underscore in the middle there) or on Flickr

Yesterday’s pattern development kind of encapsulates how I work.

I decided to release the in-the-hoop dragon as a pattern on Etsy, which meant I needed some pictures for the instructions. I cut some kelly-green minky squares and went through the process. I gave it orange eyes because St. Patrick’s Day is coming up and I was thinking Irish flag. And the more I worked with it the less I liked that green, until I realized it was the unnatural green of a plush Cthulhu. It only took encouragement from one person to get me haring off on an in-the-hoop Cthulhu, even though there are already way too many chibi Elder Gods out there already.

I rushed things a little too much and, in the process of changing the pattern entirely between colors, managed to mis-align the eye-shines:

The tiny plush dragon next to a failed embroider of six weird clustered eyes.

As I went to throw away the goof, I went “ha ha looks like a cute little jumping spider instead” and, well, my heart really wasn’t in Cthulhu anyway.

A plush jumping spider with a heart-shaped mark on its back.

My work table has a close-up work light on the cutting mat and there are two more ceiling spots pointed at it which were turned all the way up, plus two more ceiling lights in the (admittedly-large) room, so you’d think there would be enough ambient light to light up all sides of the spider, including all four of its eyes. Obviously this is wrong.

A poor close-up of the spider's face

The plush spider in my hand. It's about 4 inches across.

Anyway, this is Phidippus audax, the bold jumping spider. They’re probably my favorite spider; I used to have one (more likely a series of them) living in the crevices of the storm door on the back of the house in Wichita. Despite the name they’re very shy and I sometimes had trouble persuading it to get out of the spot it “hid” in so I could close the door without smushing it. The ones in Wichita had boring rectangular white spots, but some of them really do have orange to red hearts on their backs.

Soon as I make a second one, and take pictures for its instructions, I’ll release the pattern here on the blog. I’ve learned from my mistakes: the one in the instructions will be in brown minky.

Certificate of Trade Name for Silver Seams in Camden County, New Jersey.

It’s official!

My experiments with the ice dragon had come close to using up the yard of white upholstery velvet from, so I ordered some more. While I was at it, I picked up a yard of silver on a whim (and also two yards red, which I’m not sure what Past Karen was thinking). Despite the projects already on my plate, “I wonder what surface sewing belly scales on upholstery velvet would look like” turned into… this.

Silver dragon fabric sculpture in progress.

Silver dragon fabric sculpture in progress, slightly closer.

Proper nerds may recognize this dragon as the current style of silver dragon in D&D: frilled head with a “goatee” type chin section. I’ve put my own stamp on it a bit; the official art shows kind of a bloated round nose profile but I toned it down quite a bit. It came out a little more dinosaur-ish than I was shooting for, especially in the above pictures where I forgot to pin the ear on.

I also haven’t decided whether I’m going with the carved-bone horn (black, below) or the smaller icicle-trim horn (chrome, above). The problem with both of them is that they only come in one direction of spiral, so I may come up with something else entirely so they can be properly mirrored.

Silver dragon fabric sculpture in progress, earlier stage (and ear-ier stage).

I can’t say how excited I am that the embroidery-machine plans I’ve had in my head for the last year-plus actually work. At least, they work after a yard of experimentation and fine-tuning on that yard of white. Now the real challenge begins: finishing a project.

A Raspberry Pi Zero attached to a computerized embroidery machine.

Transferring embroidery files to the Brother requires writing them to a USB stick, carrying it over to the embroidery machine, and plugging it in. Doesn’t seem hard, right? Except there’s an annoying bug in my Linux desktop that means ejecting the USB drive sometimes disables the entire USB port. A normal person would just use the command line, but no, I have to make things complicated.

A Raspberry Pi Zero is a single-board computer. Add a case, a microSD card (its “hard drive”), and a USB cable or connector and it’s around $20-30. It has a mode called Mass Storage Gadget in which it pretends to be a USB stick to anything plugged into its USB port. It also has onboard wifi, meaning I can log into it from my desktop machine. Put those two together, and I can just transfer files to my embroidery machine via wifi.

Right now it’s still super-nerdy (it involves a lot of command-line, uh, commands) but when I put together a drag-and-drop interface for it I’ll post the how-to and a downloadable image.

Diagram of compartments for first "page" of cats

Last year, it belatedly occurred to me that my mother-in-law was excited about the time my father-in-law’s sister sent him fifty little presents for his fiftieth birthday. And that she had given my husband forty ducks for his fortieth (we kept a flock of Khaki Campbells at the time)… and that we’d never done that for her.

Since I have entirely too much felt, the logical thing to do was make seventy tiny felt cats. (For the record: if you’re going to do this for someone I recommend getting it out of the way when they’re younger.)

Diagram of compartments for second "page" of cats

I started with the five tiny cats on Runo’s blog and for the most part just made variations on those patterns. I experimented with varying types of embellishment (and with varying degrees of success), and made cats with whatever theme struck my fancy. The black winged cat came about when I heard the news of Ursula K. LeGuin’s death, for example.

In my head, I expected the cats to be a throwaway thing, or perhaps she’d let guests take them home. But for the party, my husband and his siblings strung the cats as a banner over the living room couch… and they’re still there, a year later, somewhat to the unhappiness of my father-in-law. “If they get put in a box, no one will ever see them,” my mother-in-law explained to me. Clearly, the solution is a display box.

Diagram of compartments for third "page" of cats

Enter an even more ridiculous project for this year’s birthday: a custom box with a compartment for each cat. I had a couple of sheets of 1/8” Davey board, and for some reason decided it would be a good idea to make not only the box but its dividers out of that. Overkill? Well, yes.

The diagrams above came from my kitchen-table photo shoot of the finished cats, four hours before putting my husband and them on a flight at 5am - not only was the lighting terrible, the pink heart cat somehow didn’t make it into the shots and the only picture I had of it was on a red tablecloth. I was just trying to document each one so I could make a list of the inspiration for each before I forgot them.

Moire fabric

Naturally, I should have shipped this thing out Wednesday or Thursday, but turns out that lining all those little compartments with book cloth takes awhile. I picked up some discontinued home dec fabric at JoAnn, and used Heat-n-Bond to fuse it to some rice paper because it was a little too transparent to Heat-n-Bond directly to the bookboard. For proper archival book cloth it should have been pasted to the rice paper, but let me remind you this is for “throwaway” felt cats.


A cat playing with tied-together strips of fabric.

I have seen some amazing selvedge* projects, but this remains the most popular one.

  • the edges of fabric as it comes off the loom; print fabrics usually have alignment checks and text there, the pile stops or at least changes there on pile fabrics, and almost all fabrics have sprocket holes and whatnot there.

Little dragon plush curled up on a plush gold bed.

Look at this little dragon curled up on its pile of gold. LOOK AT IT!

But Karen, you say, why would you buy one of @quietsnooze ’s little dragons when you are making your own? BECAUSE NONE OF MINE HOLD DICE is why.

Surprise! The plush dragon is the top edge of a drawstring bag.

(yes it should properly be the polyhedrals but the Fudge dice were closer to hand)