Hi! I’m Rachel and I have a recently-rediscovered passion for sewing.
On today’s Cheatsheet we will be learning the basics of free machine embroidery or as I like to call it drawing with the sewing machine. I have to say I’m very excited about this post as once you’ve mastered the basics that’s where the real fun begins.
This post assumes you are all set up, embroidery or darning foot attached, feed dogs down and ready to go. If you need some further guidance on what you will need and how to cover your feed dogs if they will not drop, just click here.
Ready? Here goes.
First up, we need to decide what we will be drawing. For more advanced embroiderers this may come from the imagination or may even be a sketch made on the machine. For beginners I would recommend drawing or printing your image or text ready for sewing. The print out should provide a clear line and direction to follow with your machine, at this stage simplistic designs are best. As a word of warning for any sketchers out there, we will be ripping our paper away later so make sure you have copies.
Once you have decided on your image, I would recommend cutting away any excess paper so it will not get in the way of your sewing. You will then need to pin the paper to your fabric. Regular readers may recognise the fabric I am using today from my Anna dress – I hope you haven’t had enough of polka dots just yet!
In my previous post, I recommended purchasing an embroidery hoop as this will make moving the fabric even easier and will make the embroidery process a little safer. In this post I will not be using an embroidery hoop as I prefer working without one unless stitching an area with heavy detailing. This is a little risky so if you decide to follow this route just make sure you keep an eye on your fingers in the relation to the needle!
If you do decide to use embroidery hoop now is the time to attach it your image.
Once you have secured your image you are ready sew. Position your image underneath you needle and begin to stitch. Use both hands to gently move the fabric underneath the needle, pushing and pulling in the direction in which you wish to draw. It is important to go slowly at first, any hand movements should be careful and precise. Sudden hand movements may cause the thread to catch and lead to an unhappy sewing machine!
When moving between letters or sections in an image my technique is to turn the hand wheel so the needle is at its highest point and lift the foot. I will then move the fabric to the next starting point, drop the foot and turn the hand wheel so needle goes through all layers and continue to stitch. Once my sewing is complete I will return to my image and cut all connecting threads.
An alternative method would be to cut the threads and start afresh with each letter or section. I am not an advocate of any particular method as this is really a matter of personal preference.
Now your sewing is complete it is time to reveal your image. Carefully tear back the paper to reveal the text or image. Here’s mine:
Tearing is my favourite bit of the process as I think the result, even if only part way through tearing, can be fantastic. I personally love the above and it isn’t even half way through!
If you have managed to resist stopping mid-tear and you have torn away the majority of your paper you will find that you have some pesky bits left within your stitching. If you decide that you would like to remove these remaining pieces all you need to is to run the fabric under the tap like so:
And voila! You’ve just completed your first free machine piece.
Coming up next on Cheatsheet, we will be taking a look at free machine embroidery.
Free machine embroidery is a really fun and useful skill to learn. It’s a great way of adding detail to garments and can even be used to make wonderful pieces of art!
For those of you who are new to my blog, my sewing background is in Textile Art and it was during my A Level study of the subject in which I first encountered the embroidery or darning foot. To 16/17 year olds free machine was billed as drawing with the sewing machine and for a class full of art students it was an amazing discovery. As a group we experimented sewing/drawing through anything and everything – photographs, plastic, occasionally fabric and very unfortunately for a few of us this included a few fingers along the way.
From the start of this blog I have always wanted to share with you a few tips and tricks from my Textile Art study and for my first act I’m planning to teach you all to write with the machine.
In true Blue Peter style, here is one I made earlier:
The Cheatsheet free machine series will have its official launch next week so in the meantime I just want to make sure you have everything you need to begin.
Firstly and most importantly you will need to purchase an Embroidery or Darning foot – I’ve included a picture of one below. It is of course entirely up to you but I would recommend purchasing the official foot for your machine manufacturer. I have been caught out before by purchasing cheaper universal feet only to find that they don’t quite fit and fall off mid stitch.
Fitting your embroidery foot for the first time can also be a bit of pain but does get easier with time. To fit to my Janome 525s I need to release my presser foot and unscrew and remove the foot holder. The ‘hook’ (in lthe absence of the official name!) of your embroidery foot should wrap around your screw and be tightened into place.
To avoid the dreaded needle through the finger I would recommend that you purchase an embroidery hoop as this will make moving the fabric even easier. You may ask why I don’t use one, in my case I prefer not to use the hoop unless I am working on a image with heavy detailing – this is definitely at my own risk!
For those of you who can you will need to drop your feed dogs (or as I call them – teeth) so you can move the fabric freely underneath the embroidery foot. My feed dog lever is located at the back of the sewing machine.
I am aware that there are a number of machines which do not allow you drop the feed dogs, but fear not pre-May 2014 I too was in the same boat. Below is a crafty little guide for covering your feed dogs.
You will need:
1 x Hole Punch
1 x Piece of Plastic (mine is from a chocolate box)
1 x Scissors
1 x Sticky Tape
2. Using your hole punch, punch a hole in the middle of one of the shorter sides like so:
3. Attach the plastic to your sewing machine, the longer side of the plastic should cover the feed dogs and the needle should go through the hole you have created in the plastic. The image below isn’t great but should be able to give you an idea for the placement.
4. Get ready to sew!
This Cheatsheet will be continuing on Tuesday so in the meantime you should take a look at Grayson Perry’s The Vanity of Small Differences for Textile Art inspiration. The Vanity of Small Differences consists of six tapestries which were woven by a computer controlled loom. We won’t be able to recreate such detail on our home machines but its a great example of what you can create with textiles.