Tutorial: bargello needlepoint iphone case

bargello iphone case completed

Finally! I’m posting a detailed tutorial on how to make a needlepoint iphone case. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know I have a thing for hand-stitched iphone cases, and it won’t be a surprise to know I recently made yet another one.

This phone case was a present for a beloved babysitter and this time, I took photos of the process. Now, several months later, I’ve finally managed to edit the photos and string them together to make this tutorial.

If you’re here because you’re a loyal reader, friend, or possibly because you’re my mother, you are excused from wading through the rest of this post, which will consist of diagrammatic photos and pragmatic text on constructing a phone case from needlepoint canvas. (Thank you for reading! I promise to try for something more entertaining next time!)

If you’re here because you want to see how to make a phone case like this, please, read on!

1 iphone case tutorial

Start by cutting two rectangles of needlepoint canvas. I cut mine rougly 8 inches by 5 and a quarter inches. This includes extra canvas to hem the edges.  I like to use interlocking canvas, but if you want to know more about canvas types, here’s a little description of a few types of needlepoint canvas typically available in the USA.

2 iphone case tutorialCut notches in the corners and then fold over the edges, lining the holes up.

3 iphone case tutorial

Stitch down the folded edges, but be careful not to block the holes since you’ll be stitching them later.

4 iphone case tutorial

Then, stitch away with you favorite needlepoint pattern. I copied this bargello pattern from a piece I made last year: you can read more detail about this Jonathan Adler inspired pattern in my “Beginner’s Bargello” post.  I like using a bargello because you don’t really have to worry about the number of squares in the canvas, or finding an exact center to begin stitching.

5 iphone case tutorial

Make sure the patterns on the two sides work together, since they’ll be connected in the end. In this case, I made the halves mirror images of one another. But it might also be fun to have them be related but different, like same exact pattern but with the colors switched around.

6 iphone case tutorial

Once the two needlepoint canvas sides are stitched, Its time to sew the lining in. Cut two rectangles of lining material the same size as your stitched panels. (I used wool felt.) Then use regular thread to baste the lining panel to the stitched canvas along the edges. Don’t worry if this stitching is sloppy – you’ll cover it up in the end.

6.5 iphone case tutorial

The next step will be to apply binding material. I used 1″ red wool twill tape for this piece. I’ve written before about the reproduction needlework at Colonial Williamsburg, and how it inspired me to seek out natural materials. I found this wool twill tape  at William Booth, Draper, though I might also try Wooded Hamlet Designs another time.

7 iphone case tutorial

Starting with what will be the upper edges of the finished case, pin strips of binding along the edge, leaving a few inches sticking out on either end.

8 iphone case tutorial

Stitch this binding down, making sure the binding tape covers the unstitched white canvas along the edge.

9 iphone case tutorial

You can see that I wasn’t too particular about the extra length of binding. I probably could have saved a little material by allowing only an inch on either end.

10 iphone case tutorial

Next, tuck the binding ends in between the lining and needlepointed canvas. (You may have to undo a little of your earlier basting – I did.) Make sure it folds more or less symmetrically so it looks intentional, rather than haphazard. Sew the tucked end firmly in place.

needlepoint phone case tutorial

You’re almost there! Once all the ends are tucked and sewn, its time to sew the two sides together with the binding tape. First, take the two sides of the phone case and sandwich them together, with the lining inward, and needlepoint canvas on the outside. Then, you’ll need to pin the binding tape around the outside edges, covering the white canvas edges of the needlpoint. The starting end is a little bit tricky. (Shown below.)

12 iphone case tutorial

Take one end of your roll of binding tape and notch the corners. Not shown: I also ran a few stitches through the end to prevent raveling.  Pinch the two havles of the phone case tightly together and take your folded binding tape end, and wrap it around the two sides, with the notched end folded to the inside. Be sure to line the top of the folded binding tape up with the tucked corners of the top bindings. Pin that in place but don’t start stitching yet. Its super thick, as you can see, so I used a safety pin to keep it in place while I pinned arround the rest of the edges.

13 iphone case tutorial

Wrap the binding tape around the two halves of the piece, pinning it in place as you go. I used safety pins for the corners and straight pins for the sides. Repeat the same folded over end and pinning at the other top corner. (Described above.) Once its all pinned, you can stitch the binding down. Make sure your thread goes through all four layers – Needlepoint canvas, lining 1, lining 2, and needlepoint canvas 2. Also, make sure the binding edge reaches the stiched canvas edge so that the white edge of canvas doesn’t show through. It can require a firm hand, but you can do it!

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Now, there it is, almost done! There are lots to ways you could finish it off now, but I’m going to share what I did.

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I always like to have a loop for a caribiner clip, so I can clip my keys to it and clip it to my purse. I made one here with a double strip of binding tape, sewn together and then sewn into the top opening. I used a double strip because in my expereince that is the thing that wears out first, especially if you like ot have it dangling from a clip a lot.

16 open phone case

While sewing in the ring, I also sewed the opening shut at that point and a tiny bit at the other end, so the opening would not be the full length of the case. I hope that will keep a phone from falling out.

Now comes the only part I can’t remember – what I used as a closure. To hold it closed, I sewed either a few snaps or some velcro just inside the lining. Either would work just fine.

There you go, one iphone case complete. I hope you’ll give it a try!

bargello iphone case completed for pinning

 

 

Bargello pocketbook

close up modern bargello

Remember this? Last October, I stitched this bargello – a modern, multicolored, aspiring-to-be-Jonathan Adler bargello. After I posted it, I tucked it away for later, not quite sure what to so with it. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had a vague vision of a clutch purse type of bag, but it turns out, I don’t need a fancy needlepoint clutch. (Already have one and I’m not fancy enough to use it very often.)

Wool needlepoint pocketbook.
Wool needlepoint pocketbook from colonial williamsburg.

Only when I revisited my photos from a summer trip to colonial Williamsburg did I know why I had this idea was lodged in my brain. Look at this hand-stitched 18th century pocketbook (photo above), used by the ladies of colonial Williamsburg to store scissors, needles and other sewing notions.

That was when I knew I had to make my own 21st century version. As someone who typically throws an extra needle and a pair of scissors in the bottom of a canvas tote bag, drops her needlework on top, and then periodically struggles to untangle metal bits from thread, I found the idea of having an organized case for the small notions deeply appealing.

needlepoint bargello pocketbook

I particularly liked the idea of stitching it entirely by hand and using all natural materials, as in the 18th century, so I used wool twill tape to bind the edges, and 100% wool felt to line it. The only place I cheated was in using a lighter, thinner rayon to form the gussets that allow the pocketbook to open a bit wider. (I was hoping they would fold in more easily for closing.)

opened up sewing case

When it came time to engineer a method to keep it closed, I hemmed and hawed again. In other projects, I have used magnetic snaps or velcro. I like the convenience of both of these closures but each has their drawbacks, too. (Velcro obscures a large area of the needlework and can also snag threads if not carefully placed; Snaps sometimes open too easily.)

So, again, I consulted the work of the Williamsburg ladies and decided to try twill tape ties for closure. They are certainly not as convenient, but they leave no mark on the needlework and can always be removed and replaced with some small miracle of the 20th century like velcro.

There it is, tied up and ready to go. Now, I am excited to put this pocketbook to use and move on the new projects. The first of which might just have to be a needlecase, so I can get rid of the plastic bag I’m currently using to store my needles.

tied up needlepoint pocketbook

 

Bold geometric iphone case

 

plastic canvas iphone case

If you know me in real life, you’ve probably seen me carrying around my phone case clipped to my keys with a carabiner. Its a strategy to keep from losing either phone or keys. Yet, this strategy failed one day in December when my needlepoint iPhone case fell off the clip (thankfully without my phone inside).

When I discovered my loss, I re-traced my steps, searching, but came home empty-handed, and quite sad to lose something so personal and that I had made myself. So, I decided to make a replacement right away, hoping that a quick replacement would help me move on.

In the interest of speed, and inspired by Diane at Crafty pod, I used plastic canvas, cotton yarn and a geometric pattern from one of my favorite vintage needlepoint books.

plastic canvas iphone case open and closed

I’m mostly happy with the way it turned out and I do like how the striped sides have a kind of 70’s or 80’s vibe.

I love working with plastic canvas because its so geometric and speedy. Plus, no hand sewing with thread – I used a glue gun to secure the flanel lining.  One of the benefits of using inexpensive materials is feeling no compunction whatsoever for using a glue gun.

Yet, with the finished product hanging from my key clip, I didn’t love it. It was either too plastic, or too brightly colored, too boldly geometric, or just not an adequate replacement for my lost needlepoint case.

So, I was ecstatic when I received a voicemail from a stranger, a local real estate agent, who had found my lost case and tracked down my home phone from a scrap of personalized stationery inside. Never mind that he referred to it as “macrame” (Macrame?! that’s for old ladies!) I am so grateful he took the time to find me and return it, because as it turns out, a soft ombré suits my personal style better than the bold geometric, however much I admire it.

keys and phone case

Beginner’s Bargello

multi color modern bargello

I’m really excited about my newest finished needlepoint piece.

When I started this canvas in September, I was planning to make another geometric needlepoint purse, but none of my plans or patterns worked out. One seemed too heavy and dark, the other seemed too small and boring. So I scratched my plans and tried something completely different – bargello.

I’d been eyeing bargello needlepoint for years. There is something appealing and mathematical about it, like an M.C. Escher drawing, it draws you in and along, moving your eye through it.

I’d also been eyeing these modern-looking bargello pillows at Jonathan Adler. But of course, its one thing to admire something, but its another thing to try and re-create it. After a few false starts and repeated picking out of those erroneous stitches, I settled on an asymmetrical design I charted on a piece of graph paper. Next, I went to my bins of stashed yarn, pulled out heaps of colors.

jumble of needlepoint yarn

My final pattern consists of 5 and 3 block high bands, which move only in one direction – diagonally down, from right to left. It was only later that I read that the traditional Bargello unit is 4 stitches high. I stitched bands of 2-3 shades of the same color mixed together in a random order. I tried to put complimentary colors (e.g., purple and yellow, red and green) beside one another to highlight the transition between bands of color.

close up modern bargello

 

Of course, all this randomness requires careful organization and the bulk of my mental energy went into planning a sequence of colors that was consistently inconsistent. In the end, I was not so free and haphazard with color as I might have liked. While not being a repeating pattern, my piece comes very close – it is not quite consistent, i.e., consistently inconsistent.

P1030776

I’m thrilled with my first attempt at bargello and I’m starting to understand the deep appeal it seems to have for many needlework ladies. Maybe next time, I’ll try something multi-directional, closer to this waves pattern pillow. But for now, all that’s left is to decide what to make of it: another purse? a lumbar pillow? any other ideas?

multi color bargello

The godmother of botanical needlework

Gerda Bentgesson from Danish stitchery book
Wall hanging by Gerda Bengtsson, from Gerda Bengtsson’s Book of Danish Stitchery

As some of you know, I studied botany as a graduate student. I spent hours pouring over plant specimens, flipping through dichotomous keys, and learning terms like “stipules.” There were nights when my dreams were filled with swirling leaf shapes, fragile rootlets, and constellations of flowers.

Now, I dream of others things, but I have retained a love of plant forms. These shapes sometimes inspire my creative projects, but for true, breathtaking, botanically inspired work, I consult the books of Gerda Bengtsson. Published in the 1970’s and 1980’s her books are mostly out of print, but still, easy to find.

GB.rosamoyesii
Rosa Moyesii by Gerda Bengtsson. From Roses and Flowering Plants in counted cross-stitch.

Like 18th and 19th century botanical prints, Bengtsson’s designs show specific knowledge of plants and convey appreciation for the varieties of plant form. Yet, they are pretty and decorative.

GB.couluteaarborescens
Senna by Gerda Bengtsson. From Roses and Flowering branches in counted cross-stitch

Flowers and plants are often generic and stylized in needlework, however beautiful. In contrast, Bengtsson’s designs are botanically correct, but also balanced and artistic.

Mountain Ash by Gerda Bentgsson. From Dye PLants nad Fruits in Cross -stitch
Mountain Ash by Gerda Bengtsson. From Dye Plants and Fruits in Cross -stitch

Bengtsson worked mostly in cross-stitch, but much of her published work consists of charted designs that could also be used for needlepoint, and other mediums.

In my mind, Gerda Bengtsson is the godmother of all botanical needlework. When I tried to do a little online research, I didn’t find much. From her books I know she trained as a painter and later switched to textiles. She was also part of the Danish Handcraft guild.  My research did turn up a great pinterest board and many of her designs are available in cross stitch kits here.

Since I’m not much for cross-stitch, I mostly just pour over her books and swoon, but I did recently complete a Bentgesson-inspired embroidery piece. I’ll tell you about that in my next post.

Williamsburg Embroidery

my favorite patriot

If we’re connected on social media, you’ll know that I recenty visited Colonial Williamsburg with my favorite eight-year-old patriot and one of his older brothers, who prefers to remain more anonymous.

George Wythe House
George Wythe House

In case you’ve never heard of Colonial Williamsburg, its a non-profit organization and outdoor living history museum consisting of 18th century shops, homes, gardens, out buildings, taverns, government buildings. As capitol of the Virginia colonies in the 1700’s, Williamsburg was a hot bed of political activity before, during and after the American Revolution. Yes, George Washington undoubtedly slept there. Thomas Jefferson too.

Capitol building, Williamsburg
Capitol building, Williamsburg

Today, Colonial Williamsburg is populated with a staff of historically attired re-enactors who work, play, and intrigue in the 18th century style – discussing politics, cooking meals, forming militias, selling 18th century goods in shops, and crafting all manner of 18th century essentials, like wigs, tin cups, and wooden barrels. Every day, at 10am, they storm the Governor’s Palace, and there’s Revolution in the Streets at noon.

My little patriot got to try his hand at kitchen chores, military training, and 18th century children’s games. We all got to see shoes constructed by a cobbler, spoons hammered out by a silver smith, and watch an outdoor performance of Moliere’s Scapin that was so inventive and silly that it held my 8 year old’s attention.

work in progress at the milliner's shop
work in progress at the milliner’s shop

Above all, my favorite Williamsburg activity was our trip to the Milliner’s shop, where they were working on embroidery projects. I dragged my little patriot there early one morning, while his elder brother slept in.

Thankfully, even 18th century stores are prepared to keep children entertained while their mothers browse. A kind seamstress (milliner’s apprentice?!) pulled out a basket of historically correct children’s activities. They embarked on a reproduction puzzle of the monarchs of England, from William I (1066 -ish) to George III (1770 -ish).

I was so busy asking questions and gawking at the embroidery projects, that I didn’t take nearly enough photos, and neglected to document the good ladies’ names.  Yet here are some of the hand made needlework projects I saw there.

A wool pocket book, suitable for 18th century men and women, edged with wool tape, and lined with linen, with rag paper in between to add structure and stiffness. I love the scalloped edge of the top flap and the way it closes with ties.

Case for spectacles, line with wool and leather and hand-stitched with a awl.
Case for spectacles, lined with wool and leather and hand-stitched with an awl.

Likewise, this spectacle case is edged in wool tape and closes with ties, but it was made with a leather inside to help hold the shape and prtect those precious spectacles.

I also learned about bone thread winders, knotting shuttles, and a lucet. I negleted to take photos of the beautiful crewel works in progress, the embroidered silk handbag on display, or how to use the lucet to make squared silk cord. But I did emerge with an book recommendation: 18th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh

18th century embroidery techniques

I’ve just borrowed a copy from my local library and I’m enthralled. Who knew that “pattern-drawer” was an occupation in the 18th century? Doubtless the ladies of the milliner’s shop did, but now I do too. I don’t plan on stitching any spangled waistcoats, but if I do, I’ll have the Colonial Williamsburg staff to thank, and you’ll be the first to hear about it.

Needlepoint and the creative process.

np.iphone.case

One of the more challenging of my late 2013 projects was a second ombre needlepoint iphone case. I posted about my first ombré phone case last August, and that post still receives traffic. I took this as a sign of interest, and so, in making a second one, I planned to take photos of the process and try a proper tutorial. (Insert a foreboding snicker here.) As it turns out, I was filled with hubris.

yarn.for.needlepoint

I started with this photo of beautiful new yarns, and planned to follow the same pattern as in my first phone case. I took notes on how to prepare the canvas and how I counted out the stitches for the bands of color.

taking.notes

Quickly, my plan and the project fell apart. These colors looked too cold and hard in the wide bands of color I’d used on my last ombré case. So I ripped them out and tried again. My next attempt was not much better. So I ripped it out again. In fact, I lost track of how many times I started over and thankfully I stopped trying to take photos of the progress too. I probably threw up my hands once or twice, but in the end I found a way to finish it.

np.iphone.case.2

I’m happy with the way it turned out, but also chastened and reminded of the tenacity, flexibility, and, of course, creativity, required to make something satisfying. There’s are reason its called the creative process.

Fancy Needlepoint Clutch

I’m not really much of a ‘fancy’ mom as my four-year-old would say. I spend many of my waking hours  in yoga pants and Dansko clogs, yet when I first saw this tutorial on making a needlepoint clutch, I knew I had to make one.

np.clutch.step2

I even bought new yarn, fancy yarn, made of silk and wool, rather than use the usual decades old wool I’ve inherited from my mother and a cousin. The beautiful feeling of the Silk and Ivory yarn inspired me to work slowly and carefully, to work to make something truly beautiful and finely made.

The stitching was quick, especially since I started with a long flat stitch (from this book) to form a lattice pattern. Then, the assembly took some time.

I contrived to install a magnetic snap closure and added a pocket for my phone in the lining. (The second time in recent months that I’ve made something special for my phone – what does this say about my relationship with that little device?)

finish.clutch4

I will probably only use it rarely, but since my usual bag is more of a bucket riddled with loose change, cracker crumbs, and a few wadded up receipts, it will be quite a thrill. No doubt, it will make me feel elegant, chic and, downright fancy.

finished.clutch

Making the case for eyeglasses

finished glasses case

I have a pair of reading glasses that I never use. They’ve sat in a drawer of my nightstand, unloved, since I visited a vision therapist in an attempt to recover previously 20/20 vision. Though I don’t currently need reading glasses, I know, someday, I probably will: I see my future as an aging crafty lady in need of spectacles to thread her needles.

Thankfully, this is not what I saw when I last came across my reading glasses. Instead, I saw a project. I saw a needlepoint case for those negelcted beauties. A plastic canvas needlepoint case.

just glasses

I had been admiring the plastic canvas projects by Jenny Herny, Cathy of Trinkets in Bloom, and Diane Gilleland of Crafy Pod, and itching to try my hand at one, so I was ready to begin.

I cut a piece of #7 plastic canvas (7″ by 6.5″), and, using cotton Sugar and Cream yarn, stitched a simple geometric pattern, which is pretty much all you can stich into the large scale gid of this type of plastic canvas. I decided to line this case with some wool felt, cutting a slightly smaller piece and stitching it to the back side of the finished needlepoint with regular cotton thread.

The final step was to bind the edges and bottom together. Case closed.

stitching edge

I slipped my glasses in – its a tight fit for my tiny glasses, probably because I added a lining at the last minute. I’ll make any future glasses cases a little larger but all in all, an entirely satisfying and speedy little project.  I placed the case, glasses inside, back in the drawer so my eyeglasses can wait, more stylishly, until I am actually forced to use them for my aging eyes.

final needle point glasses case