Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Teaching Tuesday - and breathe...

One of the most important - no, THE most important thing to remember about machine embroidery - is to BREATHE.

Maybe it would be a good idea to do a spot of meditation before picking up the calico - sit up straight, rest your eyes, gently place your hands on your uncrossed legs, shoulders down and breathe - and breathe out, fully and completely, and rest a while before you allow your lungs to fill again.

Now we will begin! What we are aiming for is the perfect combination of the machine speed (your foot on the pedal) and the line speed (how fast you move the fabric with your hands).

The problems start when your eyes look at the line, see it wandering about not looking like what you wanted it to look like, so then your brain starts to panic and says "oh no! I can't stop, the line is going everywhere and nowhere and I don't know what to do aaaaaaghgggghhhhh!". Breathe.

I highly recommend that before you start to stitch, have a definite idea of what you are going to do - wiggles? Your name? The dreaded vermicelli? It helps to draw it out in pencil on paper first.

I won't tell you exactly how to set your machine up for free machining, as there are lots of other resources out there that can help and all machines are different. Just remember to drop/cover the feed teeth, loosen the top tension by one notch, change the presser foot to an embroidery foot, and stabilise your fabric somehow - it should be stiff enough to stay completely flat when you start to stitch.

When you are ready:

  • Make sure you are holding the stabilised fabric or hoop (see last week) flat not tilted, and firmly and confidently - but not so tightly that your knuckles turn white. 
  • Start to stitch, remembering to hold your threads (see last week again). This is a bit of a juggling act with holding the fabric, but it's only for the first few stitches.
  • Start to run the machine at a moderate speed - not full speed flat out, and definitely not a crawl. Faster rather than slower, but not so fast that you panic and feel out of control (see above).
  • Move the fabric gently, confidently and smoothly. Not too fast, but keep it moving. Try not to jerk it about, and keep it flat.
You will know when you've got it right - it will feel smooth, controlled, and your stitches will neither be too big or too small.

Moving the fabric too fast, and/or stitching too slowly = stitches are too big.

The lines are jagged, and you will most likely bend and then break the needle. 

BUT watch out for the other extreme: stitching too fast and moving the fabric too slowly = stitches are too small.

The stitches all pile on top of each other, and you may start to pull up the bobbin thread (sometimes we want this to happen, but not today!) If you keep going like this, you will get hard and lumpy heaps of stitches and may end up breaking the thread. 

Unfortunately the only way to crack this one is to practice, as much as you can. 

You can breathe out now! Next Tuesday, where are all these lines going anyway?


  1. Oh dear, my stitching still looks like the above examples. No hope for me!

  2. Definitely practice is vital. As is a warm up before starting on your real fabric.


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