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Stitching on Wool and Felt — Journal Covers and More

Hand Stitched Mixed Media Journal Cover

Several years ago during the holiday season I wrote about creating felt-covered journals (my tutorial is expanded on below). I mentioned that I generally batch or make multiples of art, in that case making four journal covers at one time… a great process for making gifts! I’ve realized I hadn’t shared the cover (pictured above) of the journal I kept for myself, and so in celebration of February being National Embroidery Month, am sharing some of my stitching here.

Detail, Hand Stitched Mixed Media Journal Cover

Pictured above, and stitching detail photo right, is the finished hand-stitched felt/wool mixed media journal cover. Natural fiber felts are perfect for needlefelting (by hand or machine), or as a base for hand-stitching.

Plus, in addition to commercial felts, I enjoy using upcycled wool sweaters and fabrics that have been “fulled” (washed in hot water and dried to shrink and tighten the fibers) as a base for switching. You can see the fun striped sweater created a beautiful accent!

Commercial felt and fulled wool sweaters were used to create the journal cover design

Above, commercial felt and fulled wool sweaters were used to create my journal cover. I simply cut simple shapes to add, plus traced a more elaborate scroll design to appliqué to the base felt fabric. These shapes were accented with blanket stitching, simple straight stitches, running stitching and cross-stitching.

WonderFil Specialty Threads embellish wool hearts on an upcycled sweater piece

WonderFil Specialty Threads feature a large number of beautiful threads, such as Sue Spargo’s collection of Eleganza, perfect for hand-stitching. Here, WonderFil Specialty Threads embellish wool hearts on an upcycled sweater swatch. Above left features French knots; right are Bullion knots (use a Bullion Knot Needle for ease in creating these). Also pictured below, these stitched hearts are an example of a project demonstrated and completed during our monthly Hand Stitch Third Thursday sessions.

WonderFil Specialty Threads embellish wool hearts on an upcycled sweater piece

I am always touting Modern Hand Stitching by Ruth Chandler: it’s a wonderful resource, giving you well-illustrated instructions on creating basic embroidery stitches. The fun of the book is how she shows you many ways you can adjust and alter those stitches for a new look. Artistic Artifacts also carries a number of other beautiful embroidery books complete with instructions, patterns and projects.

Hand stitching with wool on wool

This blog post is giving you instructions to create a mixed media journal, but imagine the above pictured examples (more of my hand-stitching on wool) instead sewn into a zipper pouch… wouldn’t that make the perfect storage for your favorite thread spools? Or how about working larger, or stitching together different squares, to create a pillow? Your only limit is your imagination!

Creating Mixed Media Journals

Select your commercial felt base or fulled wool swatch. The bright light green pictured here is XoticFelt, which came as a large 20" x 22" swatch. I folded it in half, ironed the fold line, folded it in half again and ironed that fold.

Folding felt for cutting lines

Doing this created easy to follow cutting lines to cut my four book covers. Because I was “batching” my work to create multiple journals to use as gifts, I used the entire piece and these covers measured 10" x 11". This was a bit unusual in size, but I didn’t waste any felt! Of course you can choose to make your cover in any size you like.

Rotary cutting along fold lines

The next step is to cut a backing for the felt. This surface will serve as your inside front and back cover. My favorite to use is Roc-lon Multi-Purpose Cloth™. Comparable to canvas, this 70% Polyester/30% cotton material is flexible, soft, and prepared for painting and collaging. Using it makes your felt cover sturdier and more durable. Cut the Multi-Purpose Cloth (or your desired material) the same size, or a bit smaller than the size of the felt.

You will also want to cut your choice of found papers, and cards to go on the inside of the book. You can cut all your paper for your page signatures the same size, or you can, like in my example, incorporate different sizes for interest.

Pages for the journal interior

This is an ideal way to recycle junk mail, wrapping paper scraps, and more. You can also incorporate sheets of fabric into your pages as I did. If you do, you can stitch inside your book, or pin or fuse items to the fabric. The sky’s the limit!

You now have three elements working: embroidered felt or wool for the front cover, Multi-Purpose Cloth for the inside cover, and your pages.

Front Cover:

Cut small pieces of contrasting felt to create a design, and hand-stitch with floss using straight or embroidery stitches. I’ve included a photo here of a different stitched book cover I created for additional ideas — I love stitching on buttons! As noted above Artistic Artifacts carries a number of hand-stitching and embroidery books, plus there are a huge number of online and YouTube resources for learning embroidery stitches. You could also choose to machine stitch your cover — a great opportunity to practice free-motion quilting!

Inside Cover:

Next is the Multi-Purpose Cloth. You can leave this plain/white, or create some surface design with paint or inks. I’ve used stencils and spray inks to quickly pattern the inside cover of the Multi-Purpose Cloth.

Spray inks and stencils atop Multi-Purpose Cloth inside cover

When working with spray inks, make sure your work surface is well covered, or place your item in a box. In the photo examples here, I have used a red plastic tablecloth to protect the table surface, topping it with tissue paper.

Stencil removed, leaving ink design

I add the tissue paper because then it builds my stash — I can use any of the oversprayed tissue in other mixed media projects! Spray your first color of ink lightly through the stencil.

Adding additional colors of ink and layers of design

After I lifted the stencil off, I let it dry (spray inks dry quickly) and then continued the process, spraying all four of my Multi-Purpose Cloth at the same time, using different colors of ink. I also added a small stencil and used another color ink. Let dry.

Spray ink through stencils on Roc-lon Multi-Purpose Cloth

Mistyfuse layered onto Multi-Purpose cloth and covered with a non-stick craft sheet

To continue, the non-sprayed or plain side of your Multi-Purpose Cloth needs to have Mistyfuse applied to it. I’ve often mentioned using Mistyfuse in projects; you know I love it! But remember, it requires the use of a Goddess Sheet, the Bo-Nash Amazing Sheet or any brand of non-stick (Teflon) craft sheet (parchment paper will also work) to cover the surface while ironing. Pictured here, the plain side of my Multi-Purpose cover has a layer of white Mistyfuse (hard to see, I know, but you can pick up the webbing texture) that is being covered by the non-stick sheet. I iron on top of the sheet, which fuses the Mistyfuse to the interior covers.

Once the Mistyfuse has been applied, all the pieces are ready:

  1. Outside Cover: the felt has a pattern and color stitched to the front.
  2. Inside Cover: the Multi-Purpose Cloth has color on one side (or was left plain) and Mistyfuse on the other side.
  3. Pages: Paper and fabric is assembled for the interior of the book.

Stitching & Embellishing Pages:

Stitch the paper to your inside cover Multi-Purpose Cloth. I found the center by simply folding all the papers and fabrics. I also folded the Multi-Purpose Cloth and lined everything up according to that fold — remember, your color side faces up so it is visible — and straight stitched down the center.

Stitching your paper and cardstock signatures together using your sewing machine and a long, straight stitch

Set your sewing machine to sew a long, straight stitch — shorter stitches too close together can cause the paper to perforate and then fall out.

Washi tape covers stitching and creates foldout page

These mixed media journals are also a great place to use your favorite washi tape: apply the tape over the stitching (above) to hide it if you prefer. Washi tape is also a simple and decorative way to create fold out pages and pockets.

Washi tape creates a fold out pocket tab and embellishes a tag

Finishing Your Mixed Media Journal:

Your last step is to fuse your stitched felt cover to the plain side of your Multi-Purpose Cloth interior cover — which has already had the Mistyfuse applied. Trim your edges if it’s necessary.

You can add finishing touches like a button closure and an attached fabric tie, as in my example. Pictured below is my journal opened to show both the front and back stitching and how the fabric tie was stitched on.

View of both front and back hand stitched journal cover

Finally, enjoy your new journal… and if you have batched your construction, enjoy giving away these special gifts!

Block Printed & Slow Stitched Quiltlets

Judy Gula flower quiltlet, block printed and stitched

We recently welcomed a customer in the store and discussed some of the modern stitching methods, such as the Stitch Meditations we wrote about last week. She fell in love with one of my projects, which is displayed with our wooden printing blocks, and I realized this was the perfect opportunity to update you on the completed project, published in progress in June 2015.

The Slow Stitching Movement has become very hot over the last couple of years. Mark Lipinski modeled it after the international Slow Food movement, open to all fiber and needle artists to prepare them for a higher form of creativity and important work in the needle and fiber arts.

I have really enjoyed renewing my acquaintance with hand stitching! I was inspired by my stitching gurus, Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution, and renowned stitch/fiber artist Ruth Chandler, both of whom were interviewed by Mark about the Slow Stitching movement — listen to their podcasts!

Cover of Modern Hand Stitching by Ruth Chandler

Another catalyst for my renewed interest was the publication of Ruth’s book Modern Hand Stitching, which gives you instructions for how to create basic stitches, and then shows the multiple ways you can use and alter it for a fresh new look. It is amazing! Now I comb through used book stores looking for European hand stitching books — especially the Scandinavian ones. It’s official…I am hooked!

At one of the monthly Judy’s Altered Minds (JAMs) meeting, a show & tell project by member Karen Scudder caused such a stir that she was asked to give the group a short demo at a future meeting. Karen had used a creative hand stitching and quilting technique often attributed to Teesha Moore (see the end of this post for more info and tutorial links). That demo has led to many little hand stitch quiltlets appearing at JAMS meetings, and a number of dedicated new fans of the process!

Judy Gula small quilt sandwich makings

Not wanting to be left out of the fun, and wanting to use the samples I have accumulated from many block printing demonstrations using our wooden printing blocks and Artistic Artifacts textile paints, I embarked on my own slow stitch project! Here’s my method:

I used shirting fabric samples as my backing — despite giving literally scores of them away over the years, I still have a huge number remaining! Using these samples also gave me a starting point as to the size of my blocks. I matched up the stamped fabric with backing of cotton shirting approximately the same size. For this technique, it’s often recommended that your backing fabric be a bit larger, so it can be turned over to the front to create the distinctive rolled edge.

Judy Gula small quilt sandwich -- edge stitched for stability

I used Nature-Fil™ Blend quilt batting (a blend of bamboo and rayon; stitches beautifully) and cut it slightly smaller than my front and back pieces of fabric. See the beginning of my quilt sandwich above.

Step 2 is to stitch around the block, by hand or machine (example right), to hold the pieces together. While it is possible to skip this step, I have found it does help stabilize it all for the subsequent steps.

The next step is to roll the edges and stitch around them, as shown in the photo below of quiltlet blocks ready to be embellished with hand stitching.

Block printed swatches ready to be embellished with hand stitching
Judy Gula small quilt: rolled and stitched edges

Once you have your small quilt or quiltlet put together, it’s time to break out your floss and stitch away, using as many embroidery stitches as you desire. For this project I kept it simple with variations of straight stitching using a variety of threads and floss.

Detail, Judy Gula quiltlets hand stitched together

You use the same hand stitching to join individual units together, as seen above. These quiltlets can be joined together in stages, so you can always add to a project if you want to.

I have seen examples that are done with more precision, and they are beautiful too… for mine, I didn’t worry about the units lining up accurately — in fact I welcomed the free form nature of it. Another in progress view:

Judy Gula small quiltlets in progress

Many people choose to add buttons, beads and charms too. Note that that kind of additional embellishing should take place after you have stitched the block completely — your stitches shrink the entire block somewhat; beads applied too early in the process could loosen or pucker.

This is a fun and portable project — as you can see in the bird block pictured above, I carried the needle with me everywhere!

And now, finished!

After beginning this in 2015, I continued to enjoy adding to my project. I knew I wanted to join the blocks together to create something, but when I began wasn’t sure what that something would be. I considered a journal cover as Teesha has done, but ultimately had so much fun I just kept going, enlarging and embellishing to end with a wall hanging.

Variegated thread accents this stitched block

Adding to my enjoyment was the fact that Artistic Artifacts is now a WonderFil Specialty Threads “Threaducation” Center… so I have even more yummy threads and fibers to use! Variegated threads like those from Sue Spargo’s collection of Eleganza are beautiful.

Pictured below, I added some beading for another pop of color and texture.

Once all the blocks have been attached together, you can add beads to embellish

My completed wall hanging, below. I encourage you to try this technique for yourself… it really is addicting! Scroll down for instructions by the originator of this method, Susan “Lucky” Shie, and a YouTube tutorial for a fabric journal by Teesha Moore, who popularized Susan’s technique.

Completed block printed andhand stitched art quilt by Judy Gula

More About This Method

Art quilt by Susan "Lucky" Shie

Susan “Lucky” Shie (pronounced “shy”) is an amazing artist, and created a number of heavily stitched and embellished art quilts featured in Quilting Arts and elsewhere. For years she taught her methods; in 1999 she taught a class in her techniques that included Teesha Moore (see Susan’s online diary, scroll approximately halfway down the page). Susan wrotes that Teesha,
         “…who had never made fabric art before, took to it really fast! She is primarily a stamp artist and journaler, who self publishes a wild stamp art quarterly. Her ability to translate her creativity over to fabric textures was wonderful!”

Although Susan ceased teaching this in 2006, she documented her methods in writing and continues to keep that tutorial online. Learn this fun technique from its originator by visiting the Lucky School of Quilting Techniques »

Fabric journal by Teesha Moore

With Susan’s permission, Teesha and others began teaching their own takes on this stitching technique, using it to make art dolls, fabric journals and more. Teesha offers a free set of tutorial videos to create one of her fabric journals, constructed from units she calls pillows. (Teesha stuffs her fabric with polyfil stuffing, rather than using batting.) Watch these videos for her own methods on constructing a sewn and embellished fiber art book:

P.S. As you may know, Teesha suffered a stroke in April. In June Tracy Moore, her husband, posted the following good news on Facebook, that she “keeps improving day after day. She is bright, funny, and beautiful. She continues to inspire me every second of every day. She is working hard on gaining her strength back in her right arm and hand so that she can whip up new wonderful art to share with the world soon.” Please send her positive vibes for her continued recovery!

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