Archive for the ‘Tutorials’ Category

Vestido de los Muertos – Behind the Scenes

In case you missed it, this past Friday saw the release of another UT Lab project, once again heralded by resident Urban Threads artist and Halloween diva Dani. You can see all the gorgeous photos from the Vestido de los Muertos project right here


Today as promised, Dani is here to talk a little about her amazing creation she designed and embroidered, and to show us a little bit of the behind the scenes creation of making a dress like this…


With this lab project, I wanted to make something both dark and colorful to fit the bright, pretty Day of the Dead designs of the Bella Muerte collection. I took inspiration from flamenco dresses, Mexican folklorico dresses, and even tiered evening gowns. With that cultural mix in mind, I sketched a rough idea of what the dress would look like.


The pattern I used was a modified version of the Katjusha dress found on BurdaStyle. I shortened the circle skirt and added two tapered tiers on top of it. I did my modifications in Adobe Illustrator–one of the benefits of being a digital artist!


These are the basic raw materials I used for this project. I used a type of satin fabric for the main fabric and a light cotton linen for the lining. And lots of frills! I’m fairly certain I used over 20 yards of ribbon/lace for this dress.


After cutting out all the pieces, I pinned together the dress on my dress form before I started sewing, to make sure the size and shape were right. I ended up making the dress shorter than my sketch due to the limit of the fabric width. This pattern also only comes in one size, and it was a tad small for me. I fixed this by using less of the seam allowance included in the pattern.


I then started stitching the bodice pieces together. There is a lining to this dress, so I labeled each piece with masking tape to not get them mixed up.


Here’s the exterior and interior of the front part of the bodice.


The nice thing about this pattern is that there aren’t any zippers or buttons to sew on. The back is cinched together with elastic. I measured out the elastic and sewed casings into the fabric. After that I used a safety pin attached to each piece of elastic to thread them through the casings. I had to be careful not to pull the elastic too far in before I sewed it in place.


Here it is all sewn in. After the elastic was in place, I attached the cinched back to the front of the bodice. I went over this seam a couple times so it could withstand the pull of the elastic.


Setting the bodice aside for now, I went to work on turning my many yards of ribbon into ruffles. I wanted a less full ruffle to the top tier of the dress, so I set my sewing machine to its longest stitch and sewed a single run on the top of the yellow ribbon. By pulling on one end of the thread, you can ruffle the ribbon together without having to use a gathering foot or pinning it.


Since the ribbon was so long, I had to cut the thread a few times and pull from a different point. I had to be careful to keep the ruffling uniform, but this saved me of having to pull a single thread through several yards of ribbon. After this, I sewed it to the top tier of the skirt.

I wanted the bottom tier to be more voluminous, so I used a wider ribbon and manually pinned the ribbon in place before sewing down. I did turn over the seam of the fabric and sew it in place before pinning the ribbon to make it easier to place. Since this is a satin ribbon, I finished the ends of the ribbon with a lighter to keep it from fraying. (An old trick I learned from ballet!)


I used the same method of pulling one end of a long stitch to ruffle the skirt. I did this very loosely since I would be adjusting it to fit the bodice later.


I pinned the cinched skirts on the dress form to make sure the ruffles and the tiers were layering the way I wanted. I also pinned the top two skirts together to keep the positioning right.


Next, it was time to sew the bodice to the skirts. I pinned them together, making sure to adjust the skirt to the back of the bodice as it was stretched out so it would still fit. At this point I couldn’t get the bodice over the shoulders of my dress form, so I’m afraid no more dress form pictures for you!


After trying it on, I decided to give the dress some straps. I made the straps by sewing two long strips of both fabrics together, pulling it inside out with a safety pin, and pressing with an iron. I sewed them into the front and back of the bodice and I had myself some straps.


I then started the first fun embellishment on the shoulder cowl… embroidery!  I printed out the templates for this series and placed them where I wanted with masking tape. This tutorial explains how to line up designs in this manner.


I then started stitching away! The first design stitched was the Bella Muerte Cuervo, or raven. I used medium weight cutaway stabilizer with these, and cut away the extra stabilizer with each design. I only changed two colors while stitching this on black fabric. I used a light gray silver for the white painterly fills instead of a pure white, and I used the pure white instead of black for the lacy line work on top.


Everything was going smoothly until I got to the back centerpiece design and got hungry. I then made a classic mistake. I left my machine for five minutes to go heat up some pizza, and the machine had eaten part of the stabilizer while stitching and had shifted the last stop of line work something fierce. Luckily I had used this design for my test sewout, so I was able to just cut it out and replace it with the test design.


There! It never happened… See? We make the same kinds of common mistakes you guys do. You just may not know it until you peek behind the scenes!


After finishing the embroidery, I sewed together the lining and pinned it to the embroidered fabric, placing some pre-ruffled ribbon in between.


I flipped the cowl right side out and pinned down the top hem with a different color ribbon. I sewed that shut and pressed both sides flat with an iron.


I made pleats on either side of the cowl to fit my shoulders. I pinned it first and tried it on with the dress to make sure it fit correctly. After this the dress was mostly done!


It just needed one final touch. The embroidered gauntlets! I measured the widest part of my forearm and cut out two squares of fabric that fit that measurement and the height of the design I wanted to use on them. I mirrored the Calavera Cascade to make the gauntlets seem more balanced when worn.


After embroidering the designs, I cut away the excess stabilizer. I pinned the lining with pieces of ribbon and lace in between and sewed a seam on either side.


I flipped the pieces right side out, pressed the seams flat, and sewed the raw edges together. Flipping that out once more, I was done with the gauntlets and the whole dress. And that is how I created my latest lab project – the Vestido de los Muertos, or the Dress of the Dead. Making something bright and colorful but still thematically dark was a perfect fit for our annual Halloween in July celebration!


These projects are always a fun way for our artists to bring Urban Threads designs to life in their own way! 


They also end up being an exciting team effort to bring the whole projects to life. After the whole dress was complete, one of our amazing resident digitizers Bonnie (you’ve met her previously here) did the face painting on Dani. Our newest Urban Threads member and photographer Heather did the shots for this project, and everyone had a grand time romping around the woods and through flowers. 

Be sure to check out the original post for more gorgeous photos of the finished project, and grab the new Bella Muerte collection to create your own colorful creations!

How to Defenestrate Your Embroidery Machine

Covering the basic steps to carefully and safely defenestrate your problematic embroidery machine out of a window of your choice.

Step 1) Unplug your machine from the wall

Step 2) Collect all necessary cords and accessories

Step 3) Just kidding


It was too tempting, on a day like today.

Seriously though, we’ve all thought about it. When your machine is just driving you nuts, it seems like the only option. But WAIT! Before you gather that hulking machine and head towards the window, try out these three tutorials that cover the most frustrating problems, to see if you can save a little machine’s life…


Thread breaking all the time, to the point of madness? Don’t worry, it happens to all of us. Here are tips and tricks to handle those annoying thread problems.


What about when the thread doesn’t break, but does something worse? Like terrible tension or even those nasty nests that happen under designs sometimes. Check out this tutorial for how to deal with those headaches.

bad 003

Got a design that’s looking, well… terrible? Fills that won’t line up, puckering everywhere? Those shifting and gapping nightmares can totally ruin an otherwise amazing project. Find out how to get better stitch-outs with these simple tips.

So don’t throw that machine out the window just yet. Maybe just the threat will scare it straight. If that doesn’t work, well then hopefully these tutorials will.

Using Cutwork in Colder Months

Cutwork is a fun and elegant way of using embroidery to dress up your apparel, but in these chillier winter months, it may look a bit brisk!

What if you’re in love with the new Rose & Bone Cutwork collection, but are sad you have to wait till spring to use it? No worries! There’s a quick design hack to get some use out of it now.


All you have to do is back it with fabric. This is very easy, and you can include it as a step right in the process to stitch your fabric right into the design! All you have to do is modify the original cutwork tutorial like so:

1) You have cut out your fabric piece and have backed it with your water soluble stabilizer

2) All your cotton lace pieces have sewn

3) Tape your chosen fabric piece behind your design, making sure it covers all open areas

4) Change your bobbin back to the regular rayon thread, and finish stitching your design

That’s it! That way, when you soak your design, your cotton thread will still float effortlessly above your fabric backing, but the rest of your fabric will be stitched together snugly with the satin outlines. When you’re done, just cut away the excess fabric like you would with your stabilizer.

It’s that simple!


Placing fabric behind your cutwork offers all kinds of options. Add a beautiful ombre fabric for a special effect. Add a matching color fabric for a gorgeous tone-on-tone textural effect. Put organza on the back for an extra light option. If you don’t want your cutwork showing off a bit of skin, or find it just too brisk an option, this is a classy way to still use your cutwork to amazing effect, no matter the season.


Want an even easier solution? Stitch your cutwork like a regular design. No need to change the bobbin or mess with xacto knives. Your elegant piece will just stitch as a lacy textured accent on anything you stitch it on, like this pillow example.

So if you’re fretting the cold air, try one of these versions and keep yourself chic and toasty. Plus, don’t forget, the Rose & Bone Cutwork collection is only on sale for a limited time! Go grab it now and get stitching no matter the season.

6 Stitchy Ways To Refresh Your Decor


It’s a new year … time for a fresh start!

Give your home a lift with chic and unique designs from the Fresh Start Sale! These designs are perfect for throw pillows, blankets, curtains, wall art, and lots more home decor. Want a couple of ideas on how to freshen up your space with embroidery? Try these 6 easy ideas you can try this weekend…


Get organized in style with a fabric-covered bulletin board.


Stitch a felt bowl to catch odds and ends near the door.


Stretch fabric on a frame to turn your favorite designs into wall art.


Layer and collage embroidery to make a postcard pillow.


Brighten up your space with a pretty patchwork throw from this pattern.


Light up your life with a lampshade covered with pretty embroidery.

Every design pictured on these easy ideas is on sale, along with MANY others — just $1.49 for each machine embroidery design, and only $0.50 for the hand embroidery versions.  Sale ends Sunday, Feb. 2 at 11:59 p.m., Central time — so go pick out your favorite designs, and make your nest the best it’s ever been!

5 Crafty Ways To Keep Up New Year’s Resolutions


Get fit with a new workout tee!


Get organized with easy no-sew wall pockets.

Repair those clothes that have been sitting in the closet.


Upcycle the ones that can’t be saved into something cooler to save money.

Finally, keep those kids (or yourself) motivated on household chores with a helpful monster.

2014 is going to rock. Are you ready to make it your craftiest year ever? Get stitching!

Urban Threads Tackles Cutwork

cutwork 01

Cutwork is a classic embroidery technique where portions of fabric are cut out and filled with a lace-like embroidery. Versions of it have been around before, but never in the classic Urban Threads style… until now! In this new Dark Heart design, pretty lace covers a cut-out shape in your fabric, surrounded by one-color roses digitized with incredible dimension.

cutwork 11

We fell in love with this style once we found out how easy it is to get a dramatic effect. You’ll be amazed how simple this process is… check out the tutorial to see how!

6 Last Minute Handmade Holiday Gift Ideas

It’s the weekend before Christmas and you’re in a panic. You have all your big gifts done (maybe…) but all those little gifts for friends, coworkers and holiday hostesses are yet to be done. You need some ideas and you need them fast. Well lucky for you, here are six new quick-stitching Christmas embroidery designs and six easy DIY projects that you can whip through in a weekend, no problem.


What’s cuter than a little stitched gift bag? A quick trip to your machine to add the design, and a few sewing tricks later, and you can fill this drawstring bag with all kinds of candies and goodies for any gift occasion.

Make it here.


Need something simple like a card, but still want to show you didn’t just run to the store? You can quickly stitch a card. No kidding! You just stitch it on some light fabric and then stitch it onto cardstock. It’s as unique and personal as you are. You could even make this as a matching card (with matching design) to another stitched gift, or just stitch it on its own. Try it in those sparkling metallics for an extra festive look.

Make it here.


Cookies! Everyone loves holiday cookies. Grab a jar and layer in the ingredients for some Christmas cookies. Then stitch this festive little bag cover and tie it all up with a cookie cutter. So cute and delicious!

Get the recipe and make it here…. (just skip past the ornaments part)


Want a big statement with a quick project? A pillow cover is much easier than you’d think to make. Grab a chic shiny silk or some soft fleece and stitch a merry design to warm up someone’s home. A quick-stitching design will get you through the project in no time!

Make it here with a zipper, or if that’s too scary, make an even easier fold over pillow cover here(jump to the end of each tutorial for pillow construction techniques)


Want an even easier gift, no tutorial required? Pick up a pretty scarf (something at least a bit sturdier than silk) and hoop it up with some tearaway stabilizer. Stitch your favorite light, festive design, and you’re done! Maybe you can even add your recipient’s initials to make it extra personal. Lots of machines have built-in alphabets, or you can use one of these. Simple and so chic!


Finally, want a little gift that’s perfect for everyone on your list, and easy to make a dozen in an afternoon? These adorable little pocket handwarmers are just simple stitched squares filled with rice and spices. They’re a gift that’s always appreciated on cold days and look just darling all tied up in a bow.

Make it here.

So there you have it. Six chic new embroideries designed to stitch quickly in time for Christmas, and six simple tutorials you can use to take care of those last few people on your list. You’ve got a whole weekend. Make yourself a mug of cocoa, and you’ll be done stitching in no time!

Psst… still not sure what to get someone? Everyone loves fluffy yetis.