Save the Cardigans! (with some sexy embroidery)

mending upcycle

Upcyclng with Embroidery

Embroidery Saves the Day--err Sweater

With a little bit of embroidery experience, and a couple of materials, you can salvage a sweater from the donation pile. What I'll show you how to do is basically embroider a patch directly over the offending stain.

Embroidery seems to be the new "put a bird on it", and I'm definitely not mad about it. Let's all embroider everything all the time. 

Step 1: Find a shirt or sweater to embroider

Do you have a sweater that met some unfortunate circumstances, but you can't bear to get rid of it? With a little embroidery, you can kiss that moth hole, coffee stain, bleach botch goodbye, and take your sweater out on the town with pride. 

This lovely-to-me cardigan is my favorite. I love it's cute little front pockets, and perfect fit, but that damn paint stain on the sleeve keeps it on the "to get rid of" pile. 

Step 2: Sulky Magic

Prior to this little experiment, I didn't know anything about Sulky. Now I know that Sulky is magic, and makes all of the difference in the world. It's freedom from a hoop and/or a million pins waiting to make your fingers bloody. 

Sulky is magic for embroidery

If you're unfamiliar, it's a sticker on one side, so you can sketch your design directly on the Sulky and then stick it directly over what you are about to embroider. 

Prepping to upcycle this sweater

But I still backed it with felt

You'll notice that I am using pins, but it's because I pinned felt to the inside of the sweater. Overkill? Maybe, but with knits, I prefer overkill to keep my stitches tight. Do you see how I kind of missed the mark when I stuck the sulky to my sweater, and didn't even notice that it wasn't covering the entire stain, until I had embroidered most of the butterfly. Oops! Oh well, very few people will notice that stain after there is a beautiful butterfly. Part of embroidery is adaptability, and changing your stitches or embroidery plan on the fly. If you're just starting out, don't worry, you'll develop it over time. 

sulky saves the day, but I still back with felt on knit fabrics

Step 3: Start Stitching

Here we go! My plan was to stitch the middle first. I used sections of satin stitches to create the body. 

butterfly stain patch

I was going to start with the outline, but decided that outlines really work better as a last step in this case. So I went through and filled my embroidery in, color by color. I used variegated thread for even more color variation. 

butterfly upcycle

Step 4: Remove the Sulky (carefully)

Now the finishing touch was to outline the butterfly, and then outline around each thread color. To remove the sulky, I soaked it, and then gently tore around my embroidery. If you are using felt or stabilizer on the backside, trim around to keep it more compact. I added the antennaes afterwards, since they don't really need to be stabilized further. Notice you can see a little paint, so if you plan a little better than I did, your stain won't even be visible. ;)

voila-a butterfly!

Pretty sweet, huh? Even though it's the summer, I am still wearing it today. 

These little appliqué/embroidery fixes are so much fun, and addictive. 

I'm really into thrifting and mending/upcycling, so if you're into it too, sign up here to get my blog in your email box every couple of weeks, and we can experiment with embroidery together! 

Still learning how to use different embroidery stitches? 

Check out my blog post on how to choose the right stitch for your embroidery projects here. 


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  • Erin on

    Lauren-thank you! You can always request a custom hankie, and I’ll make one for you! Just email me!

  • Lauren on

    this is beautiful! i would love this in a hankie!!!


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