Given there are only so many hoop framed embroidery pieces I feel inclined to hang on my wall and given my ever present affinity for practicality, I often find myself looking for embroidery projects that can actually be useful in some way.  It was towards this aim I decided to start a series of posts I’ll call Practical Embroidery.  The first of which begins with a classic: the pillowcase.

pillow case embroidery with moon phases blue heron and cricket in moonlight

Pillowcases are often embroidered with floral motifs, or curly cues, or they’re monogrammed.  I’m not big on monograms myself and even though I like flowers, when it comes to pillowcases I like the thought of them being decorated with something a little more in keeping with bedtime.

I adore, for instance, the pillowcases I’ve seen with the elegantly simple, “sweet dreams” embroidered along the edge, and the pillowcases with whimsically embroidered sheep to count.

After some deliberation I ultimately decided the phases of the moon would be the perfect design befitting a pillowcase. While the moon phases on their own would be perfectly lovely I decided I wanted to add a little more complexity and detail so I brainstormed a few night time animals I could include, like frogs, owls, maybe a fox… settling in the end on a cricket and a blue heron wading in the moonlight.

My sketches for the project:
sketches arranged on pillow case
embroidery pattern arrangement
Work in progress:

I used my own variation on prick and pounce, which I nicknamed prick and pence, to transfer my design onto the pillowcase, you can read about it here if you’d like:  Embroidery Transfer Technique ~ Prick and Pence

embroidery pattern "penced" onto fabric prior to stitching
The Penced outline of my cricket.

Because I was embroidering along the edge of the pillowcase I used a very light stitch to temporarily attach some extra fabric along the side, so the piece would fit inside my embroidery hoop.

moon phase embroidery in progress

In all honesty I don’t love the way my moon phases turned out.  I had this beautiful silver thread I really wanted to use, unfortunately it wasn’t showing up very well.  Right from the beginning I could tell it wasn’t working but I had my heart set on using this thread and I stubbornly thought I could make it work, so I kept trying different things trying to force it to look good, the end result is my moons definitely look “overworked” and have a bit of a Girl-Scout Patch appearance to them.  The old adage, less is more comes to mind.  Unlike my moons, however, I really love the detail I put into the blue heron and cricket and think they turned out lovely.

blue heron egret and cricket embroidery
My New Pillowcase
grey pillow case with moon phases and egret and cricket embroidery