Archive for the ‘Featured Project’ Category

Featured Project – The Blue Fairy

Autumn is really starting to bloom around here, and it’s got me all excited about Halloween! Fall is my favorite season, and the array of amazing costumes it brings isone of my favorite things about it. I thought it would be perfect to kick off the costume season with a favorite costumer we’ve seen before… the amazing Urban Threadster, Azre Greis! You will probably remember her from the epic Steamwork Doll Costume, and she’s back and stitching with a vengeance. She whipped up this amazing water-themed blue fairy costume for a Ren fest she was planning to attend. She went just as crazy this time as she did last time, and the results are impressive! She joins us today to talk a little about what inspired the costume and what it was like to make…

This is an incredible costume! Talk to us a bit about what started it. Was it for an event in particular?

Thank you! Out in Texas there is a large Renaissance festival called TRF (Texas Renaissance Festival) and I really didn’t have anything good to wear out to it as the mish-mash I had worn the prior year was very disappointing. We were going to it with a friend who was renowned for her adorable fairy costume and decided we’d make costumes to go with her. I chose a water fairy because I love the water and the color blue and had blonde hair at the time so they all seemed to fit together well.


She was very gracious and encouraged the project by asking me what kind of wings I’d like to have and made those for me along with the goggles I have on my head. TRF is typically a cold and rainy faire so the costume was made from many parts and has lots of opportunities for layering for the sake of warmth and weather compliance.


I wanted to look like I was flowing all the time, perpetually coming up out of the water so all the fabric is very light with a lot of reflective qualities. The cape I’m wearing was actually made for by a friend vendor at another faire called Sherwood Forest who was inspired by my costume and made it just for me, even with holes for my wings to go through!


How did you go about choosing designs? How many are on there?

I chose light designs with a lot of open space. The costume itself uses salt water animals while the cape is fresh water. Overall the costume includes about 31 embroideries.


How long did the embroidery take?

Probably about 70 hours. I used a lot of metallic thread which always slows me down.


How long did the whole thing take you to make? Was the costume designed by you, or was it based on a pattern?

The costume has evolved a bit over the last year or so. All told I think I put about 2 weeks of work into it. I added trims, more pearls, decorative stitching and knickknacks such as the satchel and a vial of perfume with some stones. The idea for the pants came from a genie pattern made by Simplicity, but I drastically exaggerated the drape pieces for it so that I’d get more swish when I walked.


The top is a common blouse again from Simplicity with the rest of the sleeves cut off and a looser neck. The rest of it is just kind of slapped together from late nights and “brilliant” ideas that didn’t always work out. The two drapes on my arms were originally meant to be tight against my arm the entire way up and then in strips hanging down. I dropped that idea in favor of the loose sort of drape effect it has now for the sake of warmth.


Did you run into any problems along the way? Any tips for people trying something like this?

Always make sure you’ve got the right stabilizer. I had to do over one of the pieces for the chest because the stabilizer I had was too lightweight and collapsed under the design. The fabric I used had a lot of stretch and needed the additional support the stabilizer granted. I also learned a lot when I did the leg pieces (organza) and used the knowledge from that to do a better job on the cape with a water soluble one side adhesive stabilizer.


It took a really long time to properly rinse the cape so that it flowed properly, but it was worth it in the end. To anyone else doing such a thing, hang up your large project in a stand up shower, close the shower curtain and use hot water in a downward spray to get all the stabilizer out and keep it from making your ends stiff.


How did people react to the costume and the embroidery?

The best reaction I ever got was a small boy, around 4 years old, who flew at me when we were at Sherwood. He came to a dead stop in front of me and peered, stating with great confidence, “I remember you…!” And proceeded to tell me a story about how he’d met me in the forest once the year before.


This was impossible as the costume was new at the time, but it made me feel fantastic to know I had embodied a child’s imaginary experience and brought it to life. I’ve gotten many compliments, been mistaken for cast at two different faires (which I’d love to be one day) and it’s a fun costume to wear. It takes a lot of time to get on but it’s always worth it and it’s very comfortable to go tearing around being silly in.


You seem to always be cooking up new costume ideas! What’s your next project going to be?

I am currently working on several new things! A Princess Toadstool from Super Mario Land (SNES), Queen Frostine from Candy Land (the board game), and Queen Zurline from The Life and Adventure of Santa Claus (a Rankin-Bass movie) as well as a new sort of barbarian costume that I plan to use a lot of Celtic or Nordic patterns you’ve got up on, I’m having trouble deciding so all the printed out pieces are pinned to the dress in various places. I’ve also done several wedding dresses using designs from Urban Threads that I hope to get some good pictures of soon once the brides have had time to settle in and pick their favourites.

I’m totally addicted to you guys!

As usual, this costume gets my gears going about this year’s Halloween costume. Slightly out of character for me, I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to be, but this certainly gets me inspired to start! What about you stitchers? Have any epic costumes in the works? Well, if it’s anything like the stunning creations from Azre Greis, be sure to drop us a line at or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group so we can see what you’re stitching.

Makeup by Kristie MacLean, wings by Jenna Idaho, cape by Two Spools, and photos by Marcos Melendez. See Azre Greis’ shop here.

Featured Project – Medieval Elven Dress

It’s been a spooky and costume filled week here at Urban Threads, with our Halloween in July celebrations going on, and it seemed a great time to share this amazing embroidered costume from Urban Threadster Kaino. Kaino really wanted an excuse to whip a classic “princess dress” like many a little girl dreams of. When the Elven Court series appeared, it seemed like the time to do it!

Kaino joins us today to explain the work that went into this amazing dress from someone who has only recently learned how to sew!


What started this project? What was the dress for?

I start this project because our association Celtic Hardt organized a Highland games contest and a medieval market, so it was a great excuse to wear a pretty dress while also advertising my work and my little home shop Kaino Art’Couture.

Plus it’s a little girl’s dream to wear a princess dress.


How did you go about designing your dress?

I used for this dress the McCall’s costumes pattern M6376, because I’d never sewn anything like this before, and it was a big big challenge for me. The only thing I changed on the pattern was the sleeve design because it looked too simple and I wanted to repeat the black and purple colors.



I chose for this project a purple and a black velvet, because there are my favorites colors and because it s a heavy fabrics, which have a luxurious look, but are hot, very hot in the summer! (Oh well,  it looked great)


I also used 12 meters of little black lace on the whole dress. A friend gave me the crinoline petticoat from her wedding dress, and it gave me a simple way to have a fuller dress bottom, like a princess!


Any challenges along the way?

Oh yes! Sewing something like this was tricky since I only started sewing in December of 2011. I made this dress in 10 days, working day and night. My husband and all my friends followed along through the steps of my work (which I posted on facebook for people to see), and that was a great support.


Talk us through the embroidery… which designs did you use? How long did it take to embroider it all?

I had planned this project before I had any designs for it, and I saw on facebook your post for the Elven Court embroidery pack…. I fell in love and immediately purchased the pack!


I used 3 differents designs from this pack. The Elven Court tree crest for the chest, which took about 80 mins to embroider.  The Elven Court knotwork corner I used twice in mirror at the bottom of the dress, and just the moon from the Elven Court crescent moon curve for the two handles and also, twice on the back. I used 3 different colors and even silver metallic thread for the moons, tree and knot.


I spent one entire day embroidering the dress, but before that I tested the designs many times on some test fabrics to make sure I had made good color choices.


How was the dress and the embroidery received?

Really really really great! Everywhere I went, both dress and embroidery designs people loved it. First on Facebook and then in real life at the medieval event. I even had some little girls saying “Mom, look a princess!”

It was amazing, and see stars in my two daughters eyes …. “Mom you look great! “

Love it 🙂


Any plans for other amazing embroidered creations?

I regularly use your designs for my creations! And yes, I’m already thinking about my next big project (an Elven or faery dress), and definitely on my own wedding dress (But I have plenty of time!)


You look so amazing and absolute thrilled in your new dress, Kaino!  You look like a real princess, and not only that, a princess who can make and embroider her own darn gown! That’s a DIY princess if I’ve ever heard of one.

I can’t wait to see what you whip up next, and what amazing stitchy creations come out of your sewing room come Halloween.

Do you want to have your project featured on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!

Featured Project – A Pair Of Wonderland Wonders

We’ve seen the fabulous work of  Judith and her daughter Freeke before, most notably on our facebook page, but when she sent us these images of two out-of-this-world Alice costumes, we knew they deserved their very own Featured Project post. After all, we’re always suckers for a new Alice project, and this time we got TWO wonderland wonders for the price of one!

Judith & her daughter are from the Netherlands, so her answers are short and sweet, but the amazing photos of these gorgeous embroidered costumes is more than enough to keep your eyes happy! Read on to learn a little about the ideas behind each Wonderland costume and the embroidery she added to them…


What started this project? What were the costumes for?

I started the project because I saw the Wonderland designs on your page. I started searching for a reason to embroider them on something, because I liked the designs a lot! The costumes were for my daughter who was planning on wear them at am upcoming fantasy fair.


What’s the blue Alice costume all about? What designs did you use to make it?

There was a group with who were going to do a photo shoot with, and they were discussing an Alice in Wonderland theme. That’s what started the hunt, and when I found the Wonderland embroidery designs the costume followed.


This blue Alice costume with the rabbit ears on the hat is supposed to have the rabbit “hiding” in it. The rest is a new twist on Alice. My daughter hasn’t gotten a chance to wear it yet at the fantasy fair.


What kinds of challenges did you face in making this costume? 

I had quite a bit of trouble making the rabbit hat. It was the first time I made a hat and I didn’t really know what materials to use!


Tell us a little about the other Alice costume… 

The costume from this photoshoot was a ‘Black Alice’ theme because we made it around Halloween, but she wore for this photo shoot last Sunday. It ended up being sort of a wintery scene in the summer, because the Black Alice also had a hooded jacket as part of the outfit.


What kinds of designs did you end up using on this costume?

On the apron I used a design of a raven and a chain, because it look a little boring without them. I also used the Blackthorn design pack for the Black Alice coat.

I can’t remember how long it took to embroider them, but they were easy to do. Thankfully, there weren’t many threads I needed to cut.


How are people reacting to the costumes and all the embroidery?

I get a lot of nice replies on the embroidery designs and the costume. People are very enthusiastic about them. 

Any other fun project planned for the future?

I’m currently working on a Steampunk Geesekeeper costume for my daughters. I also would like to do a costume with the Dark Fairytales designs. I don’t know what it would be yet, but I think that they could make a very nice costume. 


Thank you so much for sharing your amazing sewing skills Judith, and to Freeke for her awesome modeling skills. She makes a perfect Alice! I’m sure these costumes will be a hit the fantasy fair. And I know we’re all just dying to see the next costume you two dream up! I bet Halloween this year will be epic.

Do you want to have your project featured on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!

Featured Project – The Steampunk Clown

Oh steampunk… is there anything you can’t make amazing? Sometimes the best ideas come from one random thought, such as “I wonder what a steampunk circus would look like?”

From that one brilliant idea this amazing steampunk clown costume was born from the talented minds of two ladies, Laura and Chelsey. That one little thought grew into this gorgeous over-the-top clown costume that just blew my mind when it showed up in my inbox. The photos were taken in an opera house in Mantorville MN, just a short drive from my hometown, and the richness of this whole project was just too good to pass up!

I could go on, but really, it’s much better if I just let our lovely ladies tell us a bit about what went into this steampunk creation…


What started this project?

Laura: I started to buy fabric to design a circus costume after several of us talked about how we hadn’t really seen a steampunk circus done before, and what fun it could be.  I didn’t know the outfit itself would be a clown until I had assembled a pile of brightly colored fabrics and the idea that the skirt might look like a carousel.  When I mentioned it to my husband he said, “Just don’t make a clown.  Clowns are creepy.”  Which meant, of course, that it had to be a clown.  A non-creepy clown.


How did you go about choosing designs for the project?

Laura: We chose the Parisian Clockwork for the lapels, stripped down to just the clock faces and in a copper thread to mimic the idea of the clown being a clockwork clown, and to bring the copper color of the metal into the embroidery.  Lyra and the Ringmaster got added to the spats after the leather that was purchased for the spats was found to not be thick enough for the original cut-work design that was planned.  The colors were changed in their clothing to better reflect the colors of the fabric.


The end result of the spats far exceeded our expectations and looked much better than I believe the original idea would have looked.  We did use Carousel Animals embroidery from Embroidery Library because we needed a number of different animals (there is only one repetition in the entire skirt) and at that point Urban Threads did not have a large collection of carousel animals, otherwise you definitely would have been our first choice!


Chelsey: It was tough to choose between all the different circus characters and steampunk elements. I think Laura and I had a list of a dozen designs before we settled on Parisian Clockwork, Lyra, and the Ringmaster. In the end, Parisian Clockwork was chosen for the simplicity and subtlety it could bring.


Lyra was picked because we wanted to keep the costume as feminine and pretty as possible. The Ringmaster was chosen because he was playful but still had that hint of creepiness that circuses have.


Talk us through the embroidery… which designs did you use? How long did it take to embroider it all?

Chelsey: Once we sifted through all the possible designs, the whole thing came together. I used Embird to edit out the background shading and text on Parisian Clockwork and then repeated the design against itself. I stitched it large enough that Laura would be able to fit her lapel pattern inside the stitched area, essentially creating a new fabric for her to use. Lyra and the Ringmaster were embroidered into this amazing pink leather.


This project was the first time I’d ever embroidered on leather before, and I was a little nervous my placement would be terrible or I’d screw up have to start over, leaving Laura without enough room to cut out the spats. Those three designs were super easy and fast to stitch up. The carousel animals on the skirt were the most time consuming with their million and one thread changes. All told, there is probably a 40 hour work week put into the embroidery, but that’s a rough estimate.



Any challenges along the way?

Laura: Oh goodness yes.  In regards to the actual construction, the design changed several times. The mechanical pieces in the front actually broke several days prior to the photo shoot and needed to be completely redone.  The shoe design was changed several times and the wheel farthingale that supports the skirt went through several variations before we got it right.  The rigging of the front panel was also done on the fly the morning of the photo shoot.  It worked, though, and the photos were beautiful.


How was the costume and the embroidery received?

Laura: Everyone thus far has LOVED the costume. Historical and non-historical costumers alike. We were so very fortunate that the setting of the background worked so well with the colors of the costume and we really lucked out in having Jim Jordan shoot the photos. He did an amazing job. The boots were particular favorites of many people, and I know the embroidery was a huge part of that.

Chelsey: It’s been fun to get comments from people who usually don’t like clowns. One of the biggest goals was to keep her a pretty clown, and I think it really worked. The embroidery is one of the really fun aspects of this costume, because every time someone takes another look, they notice something different.

final shot

Any plans for other amazing embroidered costumes?

Laura: I have a plan for Chelsey, but she doesn’t know about it yet. 😉

Chelsey: I have at least two costumes in mind right now. To keep with the steampunk circus theme, I have a bearded lady Lolita in mind. I plan on using a good amount of UT mustaches  The other costume will have a little embroidery, in particular a gear or two, but it is actually going to be a physical interpretation of an Urban Threads embroidery design.

Thank you so much, ladies, for sharing this project with us. The fabrics, the spats, that amazing full skirt, the gears… goodness I could go on. It’s fun to see some designs from our buds at Embroidery Library show up too! Now it makes me think we need to do a line of steampunk carousel animals… what do you think, gang?

Want to see more of this project? It was wonderfully documented on Laura’s blog Rocking the Frock if you’d like to see even more behind-the-scenes action of its construction, and of course you know you want to see more of those final photos over on their facebook album.

Do you want to have your project featured on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!

Featured Project – The Darkheart Duckie Project

I had been gleefully watching this project as each duckie was slowly uploaded to our flickr group, and I was just waiting to pounce on our talented stitcher Chris so I could get her to share her amazing finished quilt with us once it was ready.

Well, the deadline for the quilt was fast approaching, and Chris got it done! We now have 6 delightfully hand-stitched duckies from our Daring Duckies collection made into one geektastic quilt. This amazing creation goes to one lucky little tyke, which is a fantastic and nerdy way to welcome a kid into the world. Chris joins us today to talk about all the work that went into this quilt and where it all began…

What started this project?

A friend becoming pregnant. I had already told her that when she did get pregnant, her sproglet would have one very cool baby quilt.

Did the embroidery inspire the quilt or was the quilt the catalyst for starting the embroidery?

The first! I was very taken by many of the Urban Thread designs, and a quilt is a good way to get multiple designs into one piece.

This looks like an impressive undertaking! How long did it take to embroider it all?

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 something hours. Around 80 hours per duckie, not counting the pantographs and bias tape borders. I took plenty of time with it, as I started in April and didn’t finish up until the end of September. Putting the quilt together went quite quickly in comparison. It probably wouldn’t be done yet if I hadn’t been up against the definite deadline of pregnancy.

Talk us through the embroidery… What make you pick the ducks? Which of the duckie designs did you decide to use?

Initially, I had planned to do a skully quilt, however, I took another look before picking out skullies and saw Zombie Duckie, which sealed the decision to go with duckies. My friend is all about zombies, she loves them and I had already made her a zombie pillow. So, duckies it was going to be.

The Duckies I chose: Punk Duckie, Zombie Duckie, Robot Duckie, Vampire Duckie, Nerd Duckie, Pirate Duckie, Devil Duckie and Ninja Duckie.

Punk Duckie provided a nice opportunity to deal with the knotty pink/blue problem by combining them both in one Duckie.

Zombie Duckie was sheer fun to do and I added some touches which tied it into the pillow I had made for my friend. We both share a love of Futurama, so I downloaded the official Alienese font and used it to say “Zombie Loves You!” Zombie Duckie also ended up with changes due to my not getting enough of the purple thread for the shirt, which resulted in a rather large hole in the shirtsleeve. I liked the end result, but that was not planned at all.

Robot Duckie quickly became Bender’s Duckie, due to Futurama love. I wanted a touch of color and DMC had come out with fluorescent light effects floss, which I used for the eyes and antenna ends. I used pink fluorescent to do “Bender’s Duckie.” One strand worked best when working with the light effects floss, it’s easier to manage and flattens out quite thick.

Vampire Duckie felt like it took forever, but I had a lot of fun with it. Rather than go with Maître d’ look popularized by Bela Lugosi, I went with a richer look for the clothes. I wanted a vest which resembled brocade. I think I managed that, but it felt like that vest was never going to end. Everything else was a piece of cake in comparison. A little bit of blood on the fangs was added to counter the cheerful expression and because, well, it’s a vampire – there must be blood somewhere.

Nerd Duckie was next and that one saw considerable change. I tire of the default geek = male, so I decided to make Nerd Duckie decidedly female because there are a lot of us glasses wearing geek women out there.

This gave me the opportunity to use variegated floss for the hair. I also used a subtle variegated floss for the shirt, DMC’s Color Variations Glistening Pearl. I chose red for the glasses frames because that’s my personal favorite color for frames.

Next was Pirate Duckie. I decided to add a pirate shirt and a tentacle had to make its way in there somehow, being as we’re both cephalopod lovers too. After giving it some thought, I decided to go with the classic black on Ninja Duckie.

This also simplified it considerably for me, because I had a lot of shading planned for the gray version. This was for a couple of reasons – the black is not only classic, but it’s more vivid and striking and I was running out of time at this point, so simpler made things go faster. Devil Duckie was fairly quick stitching, using two shades of red. I added quite a bit of shading for variation.

What kinds of embroidery techniques and stitches did you use to bring the ducks to life?

The fabric I was using is a lightweight cotton, so once the duckies were drawn on the fabric, I drew an outline of the duckie on a permanent iron-on stabilizer, cut it out and applied it. Then, two layers of tearaway stabilizer were ironed on. I went with split stitch for the bulk of the embroidery, it’s a rapid stitch and is very durable and stands up well to washing.

There’s also a liberal amount of outline stitch and satin stitch throughout the Duckies. In Pirate Duckie, there’s padded satin stitch (for the shirt ruffles) and running stitch in the tentacle. I used 3 strands of floss for all the duckies except Ninja Duckie, where I used 6 strands, as black floss has a tendency to stitch thin. Each duckie needed a pantograph to secure it to the batting (I used Warm & Natural needled cotton) and I did something different for each one, using glazed cotton quilting thread.

Any challenges along the way? What advice would you give someone trying to create something like this?

Plenty of them, most all of them due to oversight on my part, such as not getting enough floss for Zombie Duckie. When I first started Nerd Duckie’s hair, I went with Turkey stitch. I did a rather large section. Once I cut the thread, I hated how it looked. It’s an absolute nightmare, removing cut Turkey stitch! Don’t use it unless you’re absolutely sure it’s what you want to do. This goes for any stitch you aren’t sure of – it pays to have a piece of fabric hooped for experimental purposes.

I also forgot to pre wash the fabric on several duckies (always pre-wash!), which left me with upsetting tensioning problems when finished. Thankfully, that turned out not to be a massive problem once I did the pantographs. Doing a project like this can be a lot of fun and that’s the key – choose something which truly delights you, something which you can add your own touches to and something you won’t get bored doing.

What’s your next project going to be?

There’s a La Calavera Catrina sculpture, a museum piece, which I want to translate to embroidery on canvas and two Urban Threads trees (Natura and Skeleton tree) which I want to do on canvas (stretched and barred, extra heavy artist’s canvas). Then, a Skully quilt! This time, an adult-sized quilt, single size for a futon, somewhere in the neighborhood of 42″ x 72″. I think.

Thanks again Chris for sharing this amazing hand embroidered creation. I love how each duckie came to life in their own unique way, and what an amazing quilt they make! I cannot wait to see your next creations.

Do you want to have your project featured on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!

The Parisian Jacket

Jackets, I think, are my favorite thing to add embroidery to. This might be a fairly obvious statement, given that we’ve done a fair share of embroidered jackets like the ones here, here, and here. For me, it’s the perfect canvas; the best example of a wearable, durable surface that really lets you showcase your favorite stuff. It’s thicker than a tee, which lets you add more and varied designs, and it’s also a heck of a lot easier to show off and wear around than a quilt or a wall hanging. Yeah, people might look at you a little odd for wearing your wall hanging. Best just leave that one at home.

It should come as no surprise, then, that we’ve seen our own share of amazing stitched jacket examples from customers, and it was only a matter of time before a gorgeous Parisian version came along after the very popular Parisian Love Letter collection was released. Urban Threadster Gail created this jacket from a pattern, and it ended up winning her an award! You just never know where your next creation might go.

Gail joins us to talk about what went into this embroidered creation…

What started this project?

I wanted to enter a project into a “wearable art” challenge at a local quilt show.  I had never entered anything before and thought this would be a fun project.  

Did embroidery inspire the jacket or did the jacket inspire the embroidery you chose?

I always wanted to make a jacket that was unique.  When I saw your “postcard pillow” for the Parisian Love Letter design pack I got inspired to make a jacket using the same designs.

Where did the jacket design come from?

I used Vogue Pattern V2827.  It has been sitting in my pattern collection for a few years and I always dreamed of making it.  I did a sample jacket out of similar material (but less expensive) first to make sure it fit me properly.  Once I was happy with the results I then cut the material I wanted to use for the final project.

Talk us through the embroidery… which designs did you use? How long did it take to embroider it all?

I used all the designs in the design pack.  I duplicated 1 design 3 times on the jacket – once on the back waist and then again on the cuff of each sleeve.  I thought that would give it some balance.  I stitched out 21 designs and it took a week to complete the embroidery.  I took time to print out the designs off my computer and printer then I cut the paper down to just outside the embroidery design area.  I then placed those paper designs onto the jacket pieces – prior to construction – so that I could visualize what the jacket would look like. 

I started with the sleeves first, and I loved the results so I continued with the rest of the jacket.  This pattern has multiple front and back sections so I sewed those together first and then I sewed the shoulder seams together but left the side pieces un-sewn.  This way I could embroider the front, back and shoulder areas with ease.  When all the embroidery was complete on the front, back and shoulder I then sewed the side seam together then embroidered the side embroidery designs.  

Any challenges along the way?

I had some challenges with the lining of the jacket.  I had never done a lined jacket before.  I did an OK job but I know I could do better. 

What advice would you give someone trying to create something like this?

I would recommend doing a sample of the embroidery on the same fabric that you are using for you project.  I did that and I was happy with the results.  Just cut a piece of your fabric before you do any cutting of pattern pieces.  It would not be fun if you weren’t happy with the results once you had spent some hours stitching seams together!  

I would also say, personalize a label on the things you create.  I embroidered my name onto a piece of fabric and just sewed it onto the back of my jacket.  I think it looks nice and really, you should be proud to show off the things you create.

I hear you won an award with this jacket, congrats! Did you start this project with the contest in mind? How did people react to it and all the embroidery?

Thank you!

I actually had a different contest in mind.  The original contest was for a “quilted wearable art  jacket”.  After I was almost done the jacket it occurred to me that I had no traditional quilting in this jacket, and I was trying to think of how I could add quilting to the jacket somehow.  I thought of maybe quilting the collar or somehow quilting the sleeves but then decided to not add any quilting at all as I was afraid it would take away from the embroidery and stylishness of the jacket. 

I entered the jacket anyway to the contest and won an “honorable mention” ribbon.  I was ecstatic about winning a ribbon – it was the first time I won anything.  A few ladies from an embroidery group that I was a part of mentioned entering the jacket into the “Calgary Stampede” contest.  I was glad I did.  They did a great job displaying the jacket and I was so happy that I received a 2nd place blue ribbon.  I have had many compliments on the jacket and all the embroidery.  I love it.

What’s your next project going to be?

I have three young daughters and have a list of things I would like to make for them.  I have been thinking of what I could do with the Dark Fairytales design pack; I am trying to come up with something creative for that.  

Thanks so much for sharing this jacket and your process with us, Gail! I know you must just look fabulous in that jacket wherever you go, and your skill with sewing and design is really an inspiration. I can’t wait to see what you do for your lucky daughters. Perhaps more prizes are in your future!

Do you want to have your project featured on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!

Featured Project – Custom Embroidered Shoes

This project is absolutely near and dear to my heart, because I have long been lamenting over not being able to embroider my own shoes. Well Marna Jean aka Wickedstepmother1969 has outdone me today, because she had the same thought, but instead of sitting here daydreaming, she went out and learned how to make her own shoes!

Yup, you read that right. Something most of us only picture being made by elves in the dead of night, she went out and learned how to do. Being able to make her own shoes also meant she could pre-embroider them, so she could add any stitched decoration she liked! Marna joins us today to share a very thorough walk-through on just how she made these shoes, and all the interesting challenges along the way.

Lets start with shoemaking… how did you get into this?

I have been a Victorian dressmaker for many years, and the one thing that always drove me NUTS was the fact I couldn’t get good shoes to go with my creations. I have a friend  Lisa Sorrell who is a bespoke bootmaker who makes the most AWESOME cowboy boots — the inlay is just incredible. Then her daughter Paige started making shoes.  I kept drooling and longing, and started taking apart old shoes and haunting the Met Museum’s website. My husband finally took pity on me and arranged for Paige to teach me a class on making simple flats when she was free on spring break. You can’t believe how excited I was!

Starting out: Printed out the embroidery design full size from my embroidery software, cut it out, and played with my placement. The shoe forms pictured are called "lasts."

Using the lasts (forms) to make a pattern using tearaway stabilizer.

Placing the design on the shoe pattern.

Using a double tracing wheel to mark 3/4 inch lasting allowance at the bottom of the pattern.

What was it like learning this technique?

I found that a lot of my sewing skills transferred over to shoemaking. I still am “skiving challenged”; skiving is the thinning of the leather with a special knife (you can actually do it with a sharp X-Acto)  at joins and overlaps to reduce bulk. It takes a practiced hand, and it’s something I am still working on.

Once Paige showed me the basics my mind kept jumping three steps ahead of where I should have been. Right now I just work in glued construction shoes- one day I hope to learn welted construction (sewn on soles) as well. I think the best description of learning would be “liberating” — my first pair of shoes I made I chose purple kid leather; if I had been just purchasing a pair I would probably have gone with something more basic black. Once you understand what parts go into the making of a shoe and why they are there, then the techniques become adaptable to your imagination.

Unfolded and referring to the lines of my tracing wheel to make sure I like the top line placement. Then I sketched the cutting line on the upper pattern.

Cut out an insole pattern, wet it down, and nailed it in place. First heel, then toe, then ball, then waist (the narrow part between heel and ball).

When the insoles were nailed, I wrap the lasts and insole tightly with strips of lightweight denim to make the leather conform better to the bottom of the last. Then I have to leave it alone to dry -- that is hard waiting.

Counters (stiffeners at the back of the heel that provides some arch support for the shoe) must be skived thin along the edges to reduce bulk and improve the look of the finished shoe. True confession time: I suck at skiving.

The newly soaked counter is not exactly put on evenly- more length goes to the instep to support the arch

Starting with a nail at center back of last, I nailed around both sides and then started tacking down the bottom.

Counters nailed down and drying. After this dries the nails will come out- they just hold everything in place.

Did you always have the idea of adding embroidery to your shoes? Or did this come later?

I think I always had it in mind I would embroider shoes. I’ve always loved embroidered shoes, but the challenge comes with working on an already constructed project, and some of the embroidered shoes available can be disappointing. I have a pair of cowboy boots with skulls embroidered on them, but when people comment how much they love my little owls on there … well, it makes you want to do it yourself. You would not believe the amazing things embroidered on Victorian era shoes. These shoes from the Met make my heart jump every time I look at them.

What I wasn’t sure was whether I could embroider on leather,  but I jumped on that one after I saw the leather embroidered bracelets on your site.  So when I knew I could embroider them BEFORE they were shaped — well, I was pretty much set! I decided to use the light stitching Sweetness skull.

I marked the center lines on heavy tearaway stabilizer with felt tip, and then marked the center lines on the shoe upper pattern.

I traced out shoe pattern onto kidskin using a special silver pen that wipes off leather, marking the centering lines when I traced. I left a quarter inch all the way around and did not cut out the center in case I needed to make small adjustments after the piece was embroidered.

To hoop it, I sprayed the toe of the back of the upper leather with basting glue. I traced the placement of the roses with a silver pen and cut out the shapes slightly bigger than that from gold silk to add a highlight to my design, and set it to stitching.

Repeating the process, I embroidered the second piece and then trimmed on cutting lines. I also trimmed the roses down with an applique scissors and frayed the edges with my fingernail.

What were the kinds of considerations you made when choosing your design? Was it tricky embroidering on the material for the shoes?

I knew for a leather shoe I needed a lightweight pattern (fewer stitches) because too many would cause the leather to become weak from piercing. I also needed a design that would fit where I had in mind on the toe of the flat.  Thanks to the magic of temporary fabric adhesive, hooping was not really a problem — I hooped the stabilizer and sprayed the back of the leather. The hardest part is placement  and mirror image placement on the opposite shoe as I had used an asymmetrical placement. The best advice I can give is check and recheck placement before you start. Also, start with a full bobbin- once leather is pierced its best to not have to go back over it.

The upper pattern is traced all the way around for the lining, but the lining is made a little bit smaller than the upper. I then traced the lining out on pigskin suede and flipped the pattern for a right and left shoe.

After making leather strips for beading, I removed the nails from the dried counters and took them off the last.

After stitching the lining together with nylon upholstery thread, I applied double sided basting tape to hold the beading in place. It should just barely show above the edge of the leather.

I skived down the beading leather at the join (the inner side of your foot). If you put the join at the back it will rub your heel, & the outside will show more, so the best place is the middle of the foot. Here the beading is in place.

To hold it in place while you sew, use double sided sticky tape. The lining leather should look something like this when properly in place.

Stitching the layers together. Yes, I use a flat bed machine to sew shaped objects. This is not a skill for everyone. Make sure nothing gets folded under -- remember, stitches in leather will show if pulled out.

Starting the lasting process. Position the center backseam of the shoe on the last first, and spray the leather. I pulled the toe first, pulling both layers over so you can make sure the shoe is positioned well over the last, then secured it with nails.

One placement is secure, you can unpin the top layer. Nails are added around the toe line working from side to side. The toe will end up with tiny gathers on the underside of the foot, but the top of the toe should be relatively smooth.

Open the leather up to prepare for gluing, and apply contact cement to the lining leather and insole where it will overlap. Pull the lining leather smooth and press it in place. Once it's stuck down you can remove the nails.

Pound the heel and toe flat, and then fit the counter over the heel. Once it is in place, the outline is traced for contact cement placement. After it's glued in place the bottom is "hammer lasted" (beaten down with a hammer).

I cut out two half moon shapes for toe boxes out of flexible cowhide and skived them, then smoothed the leather over the shoe and trimmed the excess at the bottom. Then I painted the leather toebox with toebox cement. This will harden it to help keep the shape of the toe.

Contact cement is added over the toebox before lasting is started, and worked with while wet (instead of waiting until dry and tacky like the norm) and using the lasting pliers, the center toe is pulled over. The top layer is pulled and nailed down, ready for gluing.

The upper leather is glued with contact cement and nails have been removed.

Talk about the awesome touch you added to the bottom of the shoe… how did you do that?

I got the idea after seeing this great pair of shoes that had been laser etched. Now since I don’t have a laser lying around in my workshop, I decided I could get the same effect by using a wood burning tool. I dampened the leather down, used a ball stylus to trace over the pattern, and then wood burned the lines. To darken it up I rubbed some extra shoe polish down in the grooves. I started out trying to center the design, but decided to put it right at the arch or waist area of the shoe, kind of peaking around. I’ve been glad I did because after wearing the shoes the image has remained unworn.

The sole is traced to make a pattern, which will be cut out of leather. I decided to add a matching design to the sole.

I cut the pattern out of leather and Traced my skully onto the bottom of the sole in prep for woodburning.

Skullies are wood burned into the soles. I cut the black heels out of crepe soling and glued them on with contact cement. The overlap was trimmed and sanded once the glue was set.

Decided to try some shoe cream to finish the bottoms. I like the look of this!

I put contact cement on the shoe bottom, and two coats of contact cement on the sole leather. Then the sole is put in place and "hammer lasted" with a heavy hammer. They are so very close to being finished.

Finally, I used an edger to remove the excess lining down to the stitching line. The shoes are done!

So, is this the first pair of many shoes? Is this the start of a business? Or just a really awesome hobby? What are you going to tackle next?

This was my 4th set of shoes, and the second with an Urban Threads design on them. When I started, I never really intended for it to be the start of the business, but I could see it becoming one as I become more confident in my abilities. Right now I consider myself a very enthusiastic amateur.

My next pair is in progress as we speak — a pair of steampunk booties with the Urban Threads cogs designs on them. I also have a pair of cloth flats laid out with the “runs with scissors” design — I really think a seamstress needs a pair like that!

If you want even more depth on the whole process, you can see an even more detailed version of her process here, which pretty much amounts to a tutorial if you’re feeling extra brave and have some shoe forms around. I have to say I am so blown away by this process, it’s always such a treat to see someone take their love of embroidery and their mad skillz in other areas and combine them into one amazing process. If you decide to take these into the business world, I’m sure it won’t be long before the orders fill up — after all, where else can you get shoes like these?

Thanks so much for sharing your shoes and your process with us Marna, you’re an inspiration to the brave when it comes to diving headlong into a challenging process, and now you have some fantastic shoes to show for it. I can’t wait to see the next creations you make.

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