Embroidery for Idle Hands

When I was a child, my mom would bring out my embroidery stuff when; she felt my idle hands need to be filled with something positive. To this day, I carry my embroidery with me to do while waiting for a doctor’s appointment. After getting an allergy shot, I have to wait 30 minutes to make sure that I don’t have a reaction, so I take my embroidery to work on. On Sundays, I take my embroidery work to do if I get a bit sleepy or at coffee hour as I talk to friends – old or new.

Embroidery can facilitate a lot of conversations, as well. I was sitting at a table embroidering a large turtle in blues and reds last Sunday and I had lots of people stop by and make comments on its uniqueness. I began embroidering more than a year ago when I did a workshop at my church. Lots of people joined me for several weeks and a few still come. At my church in Franklin, MA, I hold a workshop on Thursdays that I call: Art & Soul. This weekly workshop runs from September through May. It is open for just about any art form, and fiber arts is very popular.

The turtle design is just an outline, which allows a lot of creativity. Using the ideas from Designing Your Own Project add to the blank areas of the turtle shell, legs and head. You can also look at pictures of turtles online to get ideas. I’m doing mine using mainly the Chain Stitch.

Download Turtle Design by right-clicking on picture below:


Using a transfer pen, draw over the lines. You can fix some of the overlapping or lines that aren’t perfect using your transfer pen. All lines you put on your turtles will transfer.

Turn the transfer face down on topside of youe fabric, and then, iron (on linen or highest heat setting, no steam). Carefully check to see if your design is transferring. If the design is sticking to the fabric, this is a good sign. Lift up slightly around several edges to see if it is transferring evenly. If not, carefully put edges down and continue to iron, especially in places that are transferred too lightly. When transferred, pull up an edge and remove design from fabric. Put into an embroidery hoop, select thread(s) desired. Begin embroidery.

Notice on my finished design, that I broke up the back of the turtle into sections. There is no right or wrong way to do this. I simply used a thread that I deemed as the outline color and divided up the turtle. Please note that the bottom edge is sort of fluted. Divide this off from the back of the turtle.

If you aren’t sure how you want to create your turtle, look at pictures of turtles online. Turtles can be very colorful or very drab. Look at the patterns that are natural on turtles. Taking it to the next level, thing about squared off spirals or spirals. Filling in the square/uneven squareish spaces with one color or variegated thread, then doing the spiral in a contrasting color to make it stand out can be nice, such as a brown variegated thread with a contrasting color of orange. You can basically do that to all the squares or sections, except for the center. I made a circle or more like an oval in the middle of the shell, and then, I made those squareish spaces radiating around the oval. This can be completely different to all the other squares.

I’ve done a similar turtle design where the circular center space is the sun! There are an endless number of different ways to do this same outline of a turtle.

Have fun!

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