BLOG / January 08 2018

2017 Best Nine on Instagram

#2017BestNine was a popular hashtag on Instagram during December. It was so fun to see the most-liked pictures from my favorite accounts and to discover my own Best Nine from the year! Did you find out which were your most loved images?

I was so happy to see that the Leaf stitch and Donald Duck doodle were in the very top of the list!

Thanks for being there and your continuous support. If we haven’t connected yet, you can find me @karenbarbe on Instagram. See you!

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BLOG / December 25 2017

Christmas stars from Slovenia

These stars are the best Christmas gift I could have received!

Bojana and Janja from Slovenia were inspired by my Christmas Stars tutorial and carried out a volunteer workshop in an educational center for disabled adults. They all together made a bunch of stars to decorate the Christmas tree. It touches my heart to see all these people winding the stars!

When I make and share a project here on my blog I never know who may read it, how it may be interpreted and what may be made out of it. It blows my mind to discover that one of my ideas has jumped into the world and become a communal endeavor like this one in Slovenia or a lovely personal project somewhere else.

If you’ve ever tried one of my tutorials, do share with me your creations! Sometimes you can follow a tutorial to the T but then there are other times when you just feel inspired by it and do something completely different. Whichever is your case I’d love to see what you made and listen to your experience with it!

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BLOG / November 21 2017

Embroidery samplers—A new batch!

During the year I host a number of embroidery workshops in which I teach basic and complex stitches and techniques. I get to meet people that are so passionate about embroidery that you wouldn’t believe the number of scissors, hoops, books, and specialty threads they carry in their cases each class.

So today I’m proudly presenting some of the works these girls have created. From top to bottom: Sussy Bastías, Loreto Pineda, Paula Astete, Alejandra Montecino, and María José Peña.

For these samplers we follow the same process described in Colour Confident Stitching. Each student chooses an image that resonates with her in terms of color. It can be any theme, color is the only thing that matters. I always recommend choosing photographs that have been professionally produced to ensure they work beautifully. Then we carefully select the colors and build the palette for the sampler. We assign one full session just to choose colors and it’s so worth it! What do you think?

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BLOG / November 06 2017

Leaf Stitch – The new needlepoint

Leaf stitch is one of my favorite needlepoint stitches. I first shared this stitch on my blog back in 2010. I thought of revamping the whole idea of needlepoint with Leaf stitch so I created this easy and fun project to make a pair of coasters that look fresh and beautiful.

These colorful coasters will make a perfect gift for yourself, family, or friends. Get your materials and tools and start stitching!


Materials + Tools

  • 8.5 interlock needlepoint canvas (15” x 12” / 38 x 31 cm)
  • Worsted or sport weight yarn in 4 colors
  • Tapestry needle (size 16)
  • Embroidery scissors
  • Stretcher bars (optional but highly recommended)

Yarn. Use yarn that is thick enough to cover completely the canvas. The 8.5 interlock needlepoint canvas is usually covered by a worsted weight yarn; if you use a thinner yarn, such as a sport weight, use a double thread to provide sufficient coverage.

Canvas. The final size of your coaster will depend on the canvas you use. Any 12- to 8.5-count interlock canvas will work fine. The finer the canvas (or higher the count number), the smaller the coaster.

Mounting. You will get better results if you mount the canvas on stretcher bars (or on an old frame as I have done here). The benefit is that you’ll keep the canvas taut and straight at all times. The constant handling, warmth of the hands and stitch tension can distort the mesh resulting in crooked stitches.

Cut a piece of needlepoint canvas that’s the same size of your frame and use thumbtacks or staples to keep it in place. Attach a thumbtack or staple in the middle of each side carefully aligning the middle points of the frame with the canvas. Continue to attach thumbtacks or staples to each side of the previously attached ones until you reach the four corners. The only requisite is that you’ll need to clamp the frame to a table and stitch in a “stabbing” fashion. What’s that? To stab stitch means that you’ll complete a stitch in two movements: You’ll take the needle and thread the back of the canvas and then bring it back to the front again (as opposed to sew stitching).

Palette color guide

  • Very light color
  • Light color 1
  • Light color 2
  • Medium color

To achieve this organic pattern effect, choose four colors that build a gradient-like palette, ranging from very light to a medium color. Because you’ll make a coaster, look at your favorite mug for color inspiration. I have chosen two palettes, a cooler (ecru, light blues, and gray) and a warmer one (ecru, pink, caramel, and straw yellow) that will match my coffee and tea cups. The use of one variegated color (here, the pink and gray) also helps to mix all the shades together.

How to do it

Follow the stitch diagram above to complete one leaf. Bring your needle up in point 1 and take it down at 2. Continue with the following sequence until you complete all stitches. Take your needle to the back in point 22 (which is the same hole of point 2). Your first leaf is ready!

When you move to the next leaf, point 1 will be in the hole previously used by point 21.


How to finish your coaster

Once you have finished the stitching, cut the canvas around each coaster leaving a 3/4″ (2 cm) allowance. Trim the corners.

Fold each side to the back of the coaster. Using a double thread of sewing thread, secure each side with a whip stitch. You should only catch the folded canvas with the yarn stitches on the back; do not pass through to the right side. Once you have folded and stitched the four sides, do the same with the corners.


Make a paper template with the measurements of your finished coaster (measure from the line of the canvas fold to the opposite side). Use this template to cut a piece of felt for each coaster.

Use wool or blended wool felts so it will match nicely the stitched side. Wool felts (and blends) are softer and have a luxurious feel to it—definitely a fine touch to your coaster! If you can’t get wool felt, use craft or eco-friendly felts instead.

Put the felt piece on the back side of the coaster and keep it in place with baste stitches. Using sewing thread, stitch the edges of the felt to the folded line of the canvas with a whip stitch (use a color that will match your felt). Remove baste stitches.


Now, make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, sit back and enjoy your new coasters!


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BLOG / September 19 2017

Cross-stitch birds—my way

It’s always magical how new embroideries come to life. This is the story of how my lessened eyesight led me to explore traditional cross-stitch in a total different way.

As you may know, one of my vital sources of inspiration is old crafts magazines. Whenever I’m searching for new ideas or just need to put myself into creative mode, I look for some old magazines and let myself be inspired by their pages. By doing this I reenact a favourite pastime of my childhood: I loved looking at the same issues of crafts magazines (my mom’s) again and again, inspecting each project and later asking my mom which one we could do.

So when KOEL magazine approached me last year to create an embroidery pattern for their second issue, I rushed to my magazines stash. I flickered through some magazines from the early eighties and found several cross-stitch motifs—flowers, alphabets and birds. I was drawn to the birds designs and selected a few. I drew the motifs on a grid I had traced on cereal box cardboard (my favourite craft material) changing some details to my liking. I cut out the shapes and arranged an overall pattern with the birds.

The birds could be stitched as single cross-stitch motifs or, if feeling brave, you could tackle the whole flock. You can see more of this project in KOEL issue 2 or directly from their site.

After delivering the pattern I wanted to try it myself. I had bought a blue cotton fabric and had expected to do counted cross-stitch on it. Of course, I couldn’t even get through five stitches when I realised it was impossible to do. I couldn’t see a thing!

So if couldn’t do cross-stitch the way I had planned, then I would need to devise a manner to still use the birds motifs without straining my eyes.

I traced a dot grid on different parts of the fabric (if you look closely in the top image, you will see small white dots surrounding the stitched “K”) and used them as a reference for placing my stitches. I covered the dots with French knots or used them as a base for a trellis grid. To complete the motifs, I employed cross-stitches (done freely on the fabric, not counting the threads) and long, straight stitches.

So don’t be discouraged if you ever find yourself not knowing how to do a stitch, achieve a certain effect or, like me, not being able to see (that small). I know, in the moment it can be very frustrating, but go ahead, forget about the original idea, do it your way and love the results.

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