October 25, 2010

DIY Voter Pride: A Tutorial for Making Your Own "I Voted" Pin

Election day is next Tuesday. Below: a crafty how-to for making your own "I Voted" pin. But first, a little anecdote:

I received my vote by mail ballot a couple of weeks ago and was quite dismayed when I discovered that my district doesn't give "I Voted" stickers to absentee voters. I
love those stickers; they're one of the reasons why I vote. I took my time to read about the measures and research the candidates and mailed in my complete ballot a few days ago. As I made the finishing touches on my choices, I turned to the Internet to voice my dissatisfaction with not receiving my "I Voted" sticker.

My buddy Alison offered two suggestions: steal someone else's or make my own. Although the thought and mental image of attempting to steal someone's "I Voted" sticker makes me smile, something tells me that it wouldn't go too well. So I went with the second option and made my own. My first attempt was a bit of a disaster:

I realized half way through that I had dark blue was not the optimal background color for a non-monotone lettering, my layout needed work, and a that back stitch is optimal for lettering. What are mistakes but lessons for the future.

Let's get on with the real deal.

Make Your Own "I Voted" Pin:
A Quick and Easy DIY

What you will need:

  • Embroidery thread and needles
  • Felt (preferably in patriotic colors)
  • Sharp scissors
  • A pencil
  • Circular object for tracing needs--I used the band for a large mouthed mason jar.
  • 1 Pin backing
  • Fabric pen, craft glue, and card stock (not pictured)
  • About 1 hour

OK, let's craft!

Get a circular object that you will use as your template for your pin. I used the inner circle of a mason jar band which measures just under 3". You can make yours bigger or smaller, but I found that 3" was the perfect size for the lettering that I had planned. Use your pencil (or fabric pen) to trace 2 circles on your felt.

Cut said circles out. If you are using sharp scissors and have relatively good motor control they should look something like this.

Take your marking tool of choice (I opted for a fabric pen this time) and make a check mark that takes up just about the whole circle on one of the felt circles.

Take your handy needle and embroidery thread (all 8 strands), and embroider the check mark. I chose red thread and a split stitch. I considered other stitches, but landed on this one because I thought it would create a nice flow...but you could use another one if you think otherwise. Here is a tutorial (from a neat embroidery reference site, FYI) for the split stitch if you need some guidance.

A bit of patience and a few even stitches later and you should have something that looks like this. I almost accomplished the even stitches part, but I think it looks pretty good anyways.

Now take up your fabric pen one more time and sketch the layout of your "I Voted" message. Your letters don't need to be super perfect, just sufficiently formed so that you can stitch them without them turning out too wonky.

Use another color of embroidery thread (I chose blue) and stitch your text. For this portion I used the back stitch; like the split stitch for the check mark, I felt that the back stitch worked well for lettering. Check out this page for a video tutorial (if needed). Tip: Short stitches are key for this portion of the project, especially with the rounded letters.

I intentionally placed some of the letters so that they overlapped the check mark; I wanted to create a more complex graphic where the different components interacted with each other. To achieve this: I just stitched over the check mark without reservation. I think it works well.

Check out your work. I think it looks pretty good; I had some difficulty with the "e" and I'm not 100% happy with it, but I still think it turned out well enough.

Take your other felt circle and determine the position of the pin backing. I find that a little North of dead center works well. Take your fabric pen and mark at least one of the holes. This is a simple step, but will make sewing the pin backing much, much easier.

Sew the pin backing to this piece of felt. I like to run the thread through the holes laterally a couple of times and then vertically in each direction. Make a secure knot of the backside of the felt to anchor the stitches in place.

Set your felt pieces aside for the moment. Take your tracing tool and apply it to a piece of card stock paper. Cut this piece out and then cut it down to size until it is smaller than the felt piece by about 1/8". Use this piece of card stock to cut out another circle.

Glue the pieces together (just a few dots will do) and then glue them to the back piece. Squeeze a few more dollops of glue onto the other side and place the front piece on top. Make sure that the back and front pieces match up: the pin backing should be horizontally level and right behind the "I". (I realized this aspect of assembly after I sandwiched the pieces together, but thankfully I had lined them up right!)

Now you'll want to use a blanket stitch to put a finished edge on your pin. When I first started making catnip buddies, I discovered that I didn't like how the first stitch turned out: performed like every other stitch in the sequence, it slanted to one side. So I developed a variation of the blanket stitch specifically for the first stitch in the sequence. I don't know if this is used by anyone else--I'm sure it is...somewhere--but I haven't researched it. At any rate here is how I do my blanket stitch.

Bring your thread up, from back to front, through the top layer only. Use the outer edge of the card stock as a guide for this stitch and all subsequent stitches.

Pull it through making sure that the tail points towards the outer edge and lies behind the cardstock. (If not, the red thread will show through the front piece a little bit.)

Bring the needle around and push it through both felt layers and though the same hole or just below it.

Pull the thread through until a small loop is formed. Then bring your needle around in a clockwise fashion and pass it through this loop.

Pull the loop closed, pulling to the right. It should look like this: a thicker stitch with a knot on top.

Now you can begin creating the blanket stitch as usual. Continue stitching around the edge of the felt (without going through the card stock). Here's a video if you need a visual.

Blanket stitch all around the edge. Here is how I finish my blanket stitch: while completing the last stitch of the series, bring the needle up from the back through the base of the first stitch and then complete it as usual.

Inset your needle underneath the top bar of the first stitch. Pull the thread through. I find that this step closes the gap that often forms between the first and last stitches; some might not find this gap very noticeable, but I see it...and not in a good way.

Make a knot and pull it snug so that it rests on the backside of the edge. Insert your needle downward through the edge and out of the back piece thusly.

Pull the needle and thread through and snip the tail close to the felt.

And...you're done! Fill out your mail in ballot (if you haven't already), drop it in the mail, and wear it with pride on November 2.


  1. This is fantastic! What a great solution to an irksome problem.


  2. Thank you so much for posting a picture your first attempt. I've recently started embroidering, and some of the project websites are so intimidating. Craft and food bloggers always have these uber-amazing flawless projects, and I love that you showed that it was a process. Thanks!