Friday, 20 June 2014

Freehand machine embroidery

A good friend gave me a couple of tops that she no longer wears. They were good tops, but not quite my usual taste, and a little too defined in their commercial style. However, she knows me well (I've made some items for her in the past), and she's very generous. When I asked whether she would mind if I altered or adapted them, she replied that that would be no problem at all.

Hurrah! Out came the scissors and sewing machine. Also, out came the free-motion embroidery foot for the sewing machine. I've had it for a while, but not quite been brave enough to start playing with any conviction. This seemed like the ideal opportunity, as I had neither sentimental attachment to the clothes, nor a fear of wasting good fabric. If things went wrong, I wasn't going to feel too bad about it.

Firstly, off came the hood! I'm not averse to being a "hoodie", but I think I'm getting a bit too old for the look. The top had a fairly low neckline, so I cut off the hood and replaced it with a contrasting border.
 There was also a rather nifty overlap detail where the hood joined. This allowed me to make a feature of the transition between the original neckline and the added border.

Incidentally, all the red fabric pieces used in this project are cut from one of hubby's old work-sweatshirts. I used the reverse side so that the colour was fresh, and actually this added an interesting texture to the pieces too.

Next, I cut a selection of organic shapes suggestive of leaves, flowers and circles. I arranged them in a satisfying pattern on the front of the top, before setting to work with the free motion embroidery foot.

I made a couple of valuable discoveries as I worked.
 Firstly, and probably most important, I discovered that the texture of the reversed sweatshirt fabric didn't swallow  the machine embroidery detail as I had feared it might. Instead, as I mentioned above, it gave an interesting texture.

 Secondly, I discovered that by simply trying to embroider in a spiral radiating from the centre of a circle, and then following that same line in again, I was able to produce an effect not dissimilar to a Charles Rennie Mackintosh rose. This gave me a huge sense of satisfaction. I love the Art Deco style, and I also love it when a simple technique produces beautiful results.

In fact, by using some really basic and naive shapes in the embroidery, I was able to produce some satisfying effects. For example, just defining the petals and centre of this flower shape in black thread created a hint of naive folk art in the style. This can be heightened by stitching twice (or more) over the pattern.
Combined with the unfinished edges of the shapes, this gives the whole piece a feel of deliberate shabby-chic.

I had to be careful not to get carried away with my ideas, so restrained myself when it came to embroidering the leaf shapes. For these I simply followed the outline of the shapes.

I then added the red embroidered swirls onto the black background to tie the whole aesthetic together. I used a tailors chalk to pre-mark the lines, and then embroidered over them with the same double line I had used when embroidering the shapes. 

Finally, I added the circle and swirls to the back of the piece, to give some continuity throughout. 

I wore the top when I next met up with my friend. "Recognise this?" I asked, and after squinting hard at me for a couple of seconds she shrieked, "Oh my God, yes! Wow! That looks great!"
I already quite liked the piece, but it meant a lot to get her seal of approval as well.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank-you for your comments. It's great to hear from fellow crafters.