Saturday, February 13, 2016

Family Dandelion Embroidered Napkin

Lovely Day! Today I am sharing with you one of the more personal gifts I’ve  made. I wanted to make something special for my maternal grandmother and my husband’s maternal grandmother. They are both immensely strong, supportive and amazing women.


I had seen an article once in Martha Stewart’s “Living” magazine about embroidering a name on a napkin. I always thought it was a neat idea, however I never got around to making one. The idea struck me again when I was brainstorming what to make our grandmothers, and I kept coming back to this desire to give them something they could hold on to as time goes by. I wanted to give them something meaningful and personal to remind them of what they brought into this world, helped to cultivate and release. They nurtured the future.


I am not quite sure what led me to the dandelion design I finally settled on. I think what really triggered an emotion in me with this design is that dandelions represent wishes, and the thought that our children are our wishes for the future. With all of this in mind, I came up with the design for the embroidered napkins for our grandmothers.


One of my favorite sites to look for special and unique sewing items is the Martha Pullen Company. I found some heirloom linen dinner napkins with a hemstitched border design that I thought would work well for this project. This item is no longer in stock, but they have these linen coasters with the same hemstitch design. Based on the description on Martha Pullen’s website I found the napkins here (Item N712-18), but I am unsure of how an individual would purchase something from this company.  


Once the napkins arrived, I measured the space available to embroider and cut a template using pattern paper. Pattern paper is nice because there are numbers and symbols that create straight lines that can be followed. This makes it easier to line up the design and ensure everything is balanced. Next I sketched out some ideas, finally deciding on the design below (I apologize for the hazy/blurred/crazy looking names but I didn’t want to share them so publicly so I edited them).


I marked the center vertical line and worked my way out with the placement of everyone’s names. There was a lot of erasing but I finally arrived at a design that worked.  In essence it is my husband’s grandmother and grandfather in the middle surrounded by the dandelion seeds. The seeds float to the names of their two children, then their grandchildren and spouses, and lastly their great-grandchildren, like a family tree. The colors go from dark at the center of the flower and slowly transitions to a lighter color. The two templates took about two hours to create. Next I used painter’s tape to attach the template and napkin to a window during daylight hours so I could trace the lines (ie a light box).
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Paper template


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I selected the color schemes for each napkin, the colors pictured below are what I used for my husband’s grandma. Also in the picture were all the materials I needed to make the napkin; a hoop, needle, scissors, and embroidery floss.
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The materials and colors I used to make the napkin


I’ve done a few embroidery things in the past, but nothing like this, AT ALL. I only know a few stitches, so the ones I chose for this project were the split stitch, back split stitch and french knot. I used 3 pieces of floss (a strand has 6) for my stitching lines. I followed the traced lines, went slowly and removed stitches if I didn’t get the look I wanted the first time. Each napkin took 10-12 hours to sew (about 4 days). I used my book “Handsewn: The Essential Techniques for Tailoring and Embellishment” for guidance. I didn’t do a lot of research for this project, I was afraid I would talk myself out of sewing these and knew I just needed to start them. I did learn after doing my grandmother’s that since I picked a light colored fabric to embroider, I had to be careful not to go too far from point to point, that the long floss lines could be seen from the front. This really became evident when the dandelion seeds became more sparse. It was better to make each seed an individual, knotting it off. It was a time consuming extra step.


I gave my grandmother her napkin for Christmas, and she told me she was going to frame it. I thought that was a little much, since it was my first embroidered piece. She made a comment about how she still had some of my mom’s first pieces from when she was a child, thanks grandma! My husband’s grandma received her’s as a birthday present.


This is a project that I feel really attached to and hope it brings some inspiration your way.

Written by: Shawna

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The finished napkin

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