Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Teaching Tuesday: adding a bit of sparkle

As the festive season gallops up on us, perhaps it's time to consider adding a bit of sparkle to our work!

Sequins and beads, stitched by machine - because I can, and because I'm too lazy to do them by hand :). 
I could have stitched the buttons by machine too, but that would involve changing the presser foot...

NB This is all free-machining - teeth down, embroidery foot on

To stitch sequins, take it nice and slowly and don't be afraid to use the fly-wheel to lower the needle into position to take one stitch. When using the fly-wheel, make sure you only EVER turn it towards you, never backwards. So to get the needle back up, either use the foot pedal if your machine will do one stitch at a time, or keep turning the fly-wheel FORWARDS.

When the needle has taken a stitch through the sequin, shuffle the embroidery forward a bit so that the next stitch is off the edge, back into the fabric.

Now. Stitching beads.

First and most important - and do NOT skip this step! You need to check that your machine needle fits through the hole in the bead. You may need to downsize your needle. I routinely use a 90, so I will go down to an 80, and sometimes even a 70.

And I know it's tedious, but it's best to check every individual bead even if they all came from the same pack. Sometimes there are irregularities.

The process is exactly the same as for sequins, but this time you are stitching through the hole in the bead. Take your time, use the fly-wheel to position the needle, and as long as you have checked your beads first, all should be well. The beads cannot fall into the machine race as the fabric is there to stop it (do one bead at a time, just in case they run away). 

When you have taken the stitch through the centre of the bead, move away from the bead and stitch into the fabric. At this point, pay attention to where the back of your embroidery foot is - even though it usually sits slightly above the surface of the fabric, it still exerts enough pressure to smash a bead. I either stitch without a foot altogether, or move BACKWARDS away from the bead.

The worst that can happen is you break a bead. Actually, the worst that can happen is that you break a needle, but you would have to be stitching hard and fast to do that and hit a previously stitched bead. I can't rule it out as anything is possible!

So - my preferred method is:

1. Check the bead/needle first
2. Use the fly-wheel to position the needle just inside the bead (this also stops the bead running away)
3. Use my foot pedal to take ONE stitch, down and up
4. Move the embroidery towards me a smidge, so the foot effectively moves backwards away from the bead
5. Take a stitch into the fabric, making sure I don't skim the edge of the bead
6. Stitch my way to where I want the next bead, paying close attention to previously stitched beads so that I don't hit them with the needle or the foot.

You could also add a bit of sparkle by using some foil - just sayin'

I know my students want me to put their work up on here, so next week, we'll take a look at their landscapes and textured stitching, and we'll talk whip stitch and feather stitch. There's been some lovely stuff taking shape in the practice pieces, but this week we are starting an ambitious three-week project to bring it all together...

Meanwhile, here are a "few" finished pieces:

These are all by Fiona, who had to miss the last half-term to recuperate from an operation, but being Fiona she couldn't just stop and watch daytime TV, she stitched all of these instead! 

Monday, 10 November 2014

Messing about on Monday

Hello again, and sorry for the lack of a post on Friday. Five on Friday will have to be Messing About on Monday!

The easiest way to see what I've been up to in the past week is to look back through my iThing photos...

1. I needed a profile photo of myself (tell you why soon, promise). Had to stand in the woods at the weekend trying to take a selfie as the Others were less than helpful, and were more interested in climbing trees and chasing the Whippet around. I absolutely detest having my photo taken, but I managed to get a half decent one in the end!

2. I finally finished my Seascapes with Knots. Again, more on this soon! 

3. Since blogging about how I work in the dining room and don't have a proper studio, I've thrown a few paddies and got very cross about the lack of space to create, so Grand Plans have been hatched. The short version is, we are moving the Girl into the upstairs office, moving Himself into the summer house, moving the midlife crisis trains into the garage, and ultimately moving me into the Girl's old room. 

However, the long version is (deep breath) we replace the outdated double glazing so we can redecorate, we empty the loft so we can move my foil stash out of the summer house, we empty the garage - including selling four bikes and buying one - so we can move the trains out of the little summer house and into the garage (either that or tear the summer house down and build a bigger one to house a desk AND trains), we declutter the Girl so we can move her, we declutter me so we can move me (ah, there's the rub), we declutter Himself so we can move him, and we move the broadband router so that the Internet reaches the little summer house.

I've moved the router, done the loft, and we did half the garage and got quotes for double glazing (yikes). Also two full carloads to the tip, and numerous bootloads to the charity shops. Feels good, very very good. But oh boy, we've only just scraped the surface. This is a project that will run and run!

4. I have also moved the foil, and if you would like to buy yourself some bargain transfer foil (use with Bondaweb, loads of videos on YouTube) then please visit my foil Facebook page here!

5. I've nominated myself to make some bunting for Newtown Arts. How did that happen??! I'm going for paper, for now, as we need a quick and colourful fix and I've just downsized my fabric stash! Doh!  Here's the start:

This is just a mock-up of how the letters might look. I haven't decided what to use for them yet - cotton? felt? paper? I will stitch things somewhere along the way, it won't all be glue!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Teaching Tuesday: fancyschmanzy cutaways and design transfer

Better late than never, here we are! Yes, it is still Tuesday - just. 

In the week before half-term we were constructing backgrounds by free-machining scraps of fabric onto calico (we used Bondaweb to stick them down first). Some people were more pernickity than others in arranging their "scraps"!

Christine Libby

And some people used neutral fabrics and painted them after stitching:


Then we embroidered something over the top, as it were. 

Some people went for an applique, making it up as they went along carefully designing something first, then piecing it together and stitching it onto the background.



Other people tried a bit of design transfer and a cutaway technique to create their embroideries.

First, stitch your background (as above).

Secondly, design something to stitch...we were inspired by the wonderful Angie Lewin.


Thirdly, pin a piece of sheer fabric - organza is good - onto your background. Make sure the pins are just around the edge.

 Is this you, Lyndsay?!

Fourthly, turn your work over and pin a tracing of your design onto the back. You can trace onto tissue paper, you can use tracing paper, a photocopy or even a design drawn on the back of a (paper) envelope! I just drew straight onto the stabiliser backing.


My design, drawn and stitched on the reverse

Fifthly (!) make sure you have a wonderful thread in the BOBBIN and a toning thread on top, and stitch - upside down - following the lines of your design. Finger's crossed your bobbin tension is set perfectly (we'll be talking tension soon).


When you have finished stitching, you can tear away the excess paper from the back, turn your work over, and CAREFULLY snip away the excess organza with some very sharp scissors.


I made a mistake here - the little details should have been stitched after I cut away the organza. I think I will regret that as it means more fiddly cutting away...

To make sure nothing comes undone where it shouldn't, I tend to stitch a double line of tiny stitches, and I don't cut the organza right up tight to the stitching - I leave a millimetre or two!

Here is Carole adding some detail to the top surface. Unfortunately, I don't seem to have a photo of the finished piece - but it was wonderful! Next time. So meanwhile, here is mine:

Ta da!