Hi! I’m Rachel and I have a recently-rediscovered passion for sewing.
Those of you based in London and readers of Sarai’s Coletterie weekend reading post will no doubt be aware of the arrival of The Cornershop in East London. For those of you who have not yet discovered this little sewing marvel, the Cornershop is a derelict convenience store taken over and given new life by artist Lucy Sparrow. All of the shop’s 4000 plus items, the till and pricing gun have been handmade, sewn and stuffed by Lucy.
As a self-professed lover of textile art I hopped on the Overground to Hoxton and made my way to the Cornershop at the earliest opportunity.
Working predominately in felt and wool, the entire shop’s stock took seven months to assemble. Each store item has been meticulously recreated by Lucy, my personal favourites are the aluminium cans which are re-imagined in a plastic coated material. You can really catch their shine in the below image:
The newspapers and magazines are another highlight for me. Each one has been carefully observed and an appropriate cover selected, these are often aligned to their political leanings. For non-UK readers, the Daily Sport (centre bottom) is spot on.
All of the shop’s stock is made up of familiar grocery store items – from the newspapers and magazines above, to cigarettes, cat litter and bin bags. The contents of the freezers brought me right back to my childhood, the Mr Freeze ice lollies, Fabs and Twister ice creams a firm favourite for any school kid growing up in the nineties.
Lucy’s work has a serious message as she seeks to playfully question some of the realities of contemporary living and our relationship with consumerism. The art show seeks to engage the local community by providing an accessible experience, with the particular aim of reaching individuals with autism or groups who are often excluded from traditional concepts of art.
The choice of everyday items and the venue of the corner shop, a traditional hub of the community, increases the relevance of the art show and it’s value to the local neighbourhood.
I absolutely loved my visit to the Cornershop and my “Fluffy Shopping Experience”, I urge you to visit before it closes on 31st August. For more details on how to visit, check out the The Cornershop blog or Lucy’s website.
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.