Create Your Own Message in a Bottle This V-Day!

by Tess Duncan

February is upon us and that means Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! We know that nothing shows that you care more than a gift made with your nimble fingers. That’s why Miniature Rhino’s tutorial on creating your very own nifty message in a bottle is perfect for this lovey-dovey season. But what makes this idea even more awesome is that it doesn’t have to be lovey. You can write any message you want, making it a suitable surprise for your best friend, significant other, mom, cousin, grandma, etc, etc, etc. So while some might stick with “I love you” or a romantic haiku, other might choose “Blargh!” or “If you wasn’t so ugly, I’d put my dick in yo face.” Whatever your preference, let’s get started.

You’re going to need:

Message template (optional)

Wide-neck bottle with 3/4 in (2 cm) or wider opening

Cork (to fit the bottle)

4 x 14 in (10 x 35.5 cm) fabric strips, prewashed and ironed

Water-soluble pen

Transfer paper (optional)

4 in (10 cm) or larger embroidery hoop

Embroidery thread (DMC threads shown: 311/navy, 312/blue)

Size 5 embroidery needle



Rotary blade


Sewing pins

Sewing machine (optional)

Sewing thread (optional)

Fray Check

Time: 1 to 2 hours


1. Find a small, wide-neck bottle you’d like to use for this project. Make sure the mouth of the bottle is 3/4 in (2 cm) or more, so that your fabric scroll can go through it. The longer the scroll, the wider the mouth opening will need to be. Base your fabric dimensions on your bottle height.

2. Since these lines of text are long, you’ll need the fabric cut into long strips. The narrower you make the fabric strips, the smaller the embroidery hoop will need to be. Leave an extra 2 in (5 cm) on the final width of your scroll, so that it will be easy to hoop and embroider. For example, if you’d like your scroll to be 3 x 12 in (7.5 x 30.5 cm), start with a 5 x 12 in (12.5 x 30.5 cm) fabric piece. You can also stitch more than one scroll at a time on a larger fabric piece, using a larger hoop.

3. Transfer your desired text directly onto your fabric with a water-soluble pen. This method is best used with a light box or bright window. It’s easier to use a light box, but a window works just as well. In either case, tape your template layered under your fabric to the work surface. Trace the lines of the template onto the fabric with a water soluble pen or pencil. Once you’re done stitching, pat the pen or pencil marks with a damp cloth or lightly spray with water to remove.

4. Mount your fabric in the embroidery hoop, stretching it taut but not so tight that the text is distorted. I don’t suggest using a stabilizer for this project since the back will be visible, and it would just add thickness to the scroll. If you really want some added tension to your piece, use a layer of thin cotton fabric behind your embroidery fabric.

5. Stitch! Here’s what I did: I stitched the text with a 3-ply backstitch. Since the back is visible, you’ll want to pay more attention than usual to the back of the piece as you stitch. Tie knots to start a length of thread or tuck the beginning length of thread under your stitches. Don’t jump from word to word with your thread. Instead, at the end of a word, tuck the threads under 5 to 6 previous stitches and snip the threads close to the fabric for a clean look. Start each word with a separate length of thread — either use the remaining thread on the needle or start a new length of thread.

6. Once you are done stitching, measure and mark the desired width of your scroll along the length of your fabric with a water-soluble pen and ruler. Use the ruler and rotary blade to cut your scroll length out. Make sure your rotary blade is on the side of your ruler opposite your embroidery.

7. Add a ribbon to one end of the scroll, which will extend beyond the bottle lip. That way, the scroll can be easily removed from the bottle. Measure the height of your bottle, and add an extra 1/2 to 1 in (12 mm to 2.5 cm) length to the piece of ribbon. And if you’d like the ribbon to also wrap around your scroll, add 2 lengths of your scroll width to the final ribbon size.

8. Wrap the ribbon around the scroll edge. Iron and pin in place. You can work without a hoop in a simple backstitch to secure the ribbon to one end of the scroll, or you can use a sewing machine like I did. Match your thread color to your ribbon and use a zigzag stitch or a straight stitch to sew along each edge of the ribbon to give it a finished look. Tie off the sewing threads, and then thread them onto a needle and lace the needle under the ribbon edge to hide them under the ribbon.

9. Finish the scroll by sealing the cut, exposed edges of the fabric. Use a bit of Fray Check to seal the fabric edges to keep them from fraying. (Fray Check can possibly change the color of your fabric so test it out first.) Let the fabric dry in the open air, because Fray Check has a strong odor.

10. Roll up your scroll, bottle it up, and give it as a gift or keep it.

Thanks again to Jessica Marquez, Chronicle Books, and Etsy for this amazing gift idea. You can find this project in Jessica’s new book Stitched Gifts!

Photos via Etsy

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