MeiJo’s JOY: Cactus Pincushion – tutorial

cactus pincushion by PC Lim

cactus pincushion by PC Lim

This little cactus pincushion was a handmade present from PC of MeiJo’s Joy, when she and I met up in Penang a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t just being nice when I squealed and gushed over this tiny potted cactus…it really took hold of my tender ‘cuteness’ gland and gave it a hard squeeze.

Ms. Lim at Air Hitam Saturday markets

If PC wasn’t my sister-in-mischief, I would be tempted to do a tutorial for these cacti, myself!

Luckily, PC has put together her own tutorial (see the link, below) for making this (and a whole family of others, different shapes and everything!) that couldn’t be simpler to understand.

I love that she has used recycled materials instead of new store-bought stuff: a streaky green T-shirt has been the perfect fabric for all the cacti, and tiny plastic disposable pudding cups were used for the pots. Don’t forget to check out her additional tutorials, to make the puffy flowers that she uses to make both the bright pink flowers and the bases for some of the cacti plants.

This photo of the whole family together really fires my imagination…I’m starting to see all sorts of variations on this theme…a perfect little project for a rainy afternoon, as they are really simple to make.

MeiJo’s JOY: Cactus Pincushion – tutorial.

a whole family of potted cacti


One way to use up leftover thread…

I got around to organizing my embroidery threads the other day…putting all the untouched hanks, little paper bands and color codes still on, in one organizer, looping the working hanks of thread around plastic thread card thingies, and gathering all the odds and ends of leftover threads (short lengths, minus a few skeins)

If you do a lot of embroidery, chances are that you have a small (or medium…or humongous…) mass of embroidery threads left over from all those other stitchy projects. Could it possibly look anything like my own thread bunny, here?…or am I more slovenly than most of you? >:)


I hate to throw anything even remotely usable away, but I know that I will not remember to rummage through my tangled thread monster for a particular shade of thread when I am working on an embroidery design, so the solution—for me—has always been to create a project specifically to use up my leftover threads.

Years ago I drew diamonds on an A4-sized piece of white linen using gold gutta, and whenever I had time to kill I would take some leftover thread and fill a shape or two in with satin stitch. I ended up turning the finished piece into trading cards and swapping them away. I only have this one crappy photo, pretty much to scale, but you can see what I mean.


It was time for another one of those projects:

A simple geometric grid on the fabric (old white cotton bedsheets, in case you were wondering)…nothing too complicated.

Inch-sized squares halved on the diagonal. I’ve kept each shape smallish, just the right size to use up the verious 16-inch lengths, 3 or 4 threads to a skein, of each color. Any bigger and I would have to pull fresh thread from the other piles, and I am trying to use the snarl up, not create more leftover thread.

I’ve filled the triangles with a simple satin stitch…alternating between horizontal and vertical stitching gives textured patches of glossy and matte threads.

I started out by using the regular satin stitch, but realised that some of my thread lengths were so short that I wouldn’t have enough to fill even one triangle, so I shifted to surface satin stitch—leaving almost no thread on the back of the embroidery.

front / back

Once I use up this tangle of  leftover threads I hope to always keep a piece of fabric, with a simple grid like this, ready in a hoop, so that I can stay on top of the thread situation, working a triangle here and there alongside my real embroidery projects.

It doesn’t really matter that I don’t know what I’m going to do with this piece of cotton when it’s full of embroidery…there are a million ways it can be used, and I’ll just decide that when it’s done.

Fabric Bunting Beads (via from Hell to Breakfast)


Took a moment this morning to make some little beads, using fabric and plastic tubes, that—when strung together—look like festive party bunting. A good way to use those pretty fabric scraps too small for other projects, and—thanks to double-sided tape—very quick and easy to do.

Tutorial for these miniature bunting beads is on my other blog.


 Nothing says “Fiesta!” like colorful bunting flags hanging all over town… Another quick way to use up fabric scraps. I dreamt these tiny stringable fabric bunting flags up just before falling asleep last night, and spent a quick hour this morning making some, to see if the idea would work. The sort of thing you can make using junk from around your home…

via from Hell to Breakfast