Zen Bookmarks on Cork and Balsa

by Cathy Ellsaesser, posted on

Jon Caulkin is one of our customers at Arvada, and he stitches out the most amazing embroidery designs on balsa wood. If you haven’t seen his work, click here to be amazed. I am so impressed with his work, and I want to embroider on balsa wood, too! So I thought that the Zen Bookmarks from OESD would be great first attempt.

OESD Zen Bookmarks


  1. Fuse cutaway stabilizer to the back of a piece of balsa wood that is slightly larger than the design.
  2. Hoop a piece of wash away, sticky back stabilizer.
  3. Stitch the placement line of the bookmark design.
    placement stitch for material for bookmark
  4. Place the balsa wood on the stabilizer as indicated by the placement line.
    Balsa wood aligned with placement stitch
  5. Place a piece of washaway topping film on the top of the wood*, and stitch the tackdown stitch.
    Wash away film on top of balsa wood
  6. Stitch the design, stopping before sewing the satin stitches for the edge of the bookmark.
    Zen Bookmark design stiched on balsa wood
  7. Add a piece of felt to the back of the hoop.
  8. Secure the felt on the back of the hoop with tape. 
    Zen Bookmark design stiched on balsa wood
  9. Back up to the initial tackdown stitch and stitch down the felt.
    Felt stitched in place on back of hoop
  10. Trim the felt close to the tackdown stitches.
  11. Stitch the remaining sequence (the satin stitch for the edges of the bookmark.
  12. Once the design is finished, simply break the balsa away outside of the satin stitches on the edge of the Zen bookmark
  13. Touch up the edges with a black sharpie or fabric marker if needed.
  14. Use a piece of ribbon in the hole to finish it off.
    completed zen bookmark with ribbon Felt backing on Zen Bookmark

*When I first started embroidering the design on the balsa wood, the stitches sunk into the wood, and you could see an imprint of the presser foot. So, I added a heavy wash away film topper to the top of the balsa wood, and that solved the problem.

Cork, Of Course!

I think cork is a fabulous fabric to work with. If you watch our Sew Fun videos, you may remember the beautiful purse that Audrey made from cork in July. Lynn showed us some cork notebook covers in August Sew Fun. I used some cork to make coasters for Thanksgiving and Christmas last year.

From all I read about cork, it is very durable and color fast. In addition, we’re seeing some really beautiful cork with some embedded foil, cork with cutwork and cork with printed designs, so expect to see a lot more cork items.

I thought these Zen Bookmarks would look great done in cork and I’m so happy with how they turned out.

I used the same process for making the cork Zen Bookmarks as I used for the balsa wood bookmarks. First, though, I cut the cork to the exact size of the bookmark. In addition, I used another piece of cork on the back rather than felt, and did not use fusible cutaway stabilizer.

I have one of those Brother labeling machines that print on ribbon, so I printed the names of some of my favorite book readers on some ribbon to place in the hole on the Zen Bookmark.

4 Zen Bookmarks made from different colors of cork

Zen Bookmarks Ordering Information

Would’t these Zen Bookmarks make great gifts for the book readers in your life? We may not have these in stock in the store, but if you’d like a CD or USB with these designs, stop into any of our stores, and they’ll be happy to order one for you. Of course customers with our Sew Fun Discount Card will get 20% off their order.

If you can’t wait and want the designs right away, you can download them from our OESD affiliate micro site. Search for Zen Bookmarks to find the collection. Once you order you’ll receive a link to download the designs.

So, experiment with different materials and find something fun and unique for your Zen Bookmarks. I’d love to see what you make so please post your picture in the comments below.

Happy Sewing!