Sunday, 19 August 2012

Freeform machine embroidery

My first attempt at freeform machine embroidery.  

I think I might get hooked!

I chatted with a lady at a recent craft show I went to about this technique & returned with some hints & tips on what to do.  Turns out water soluble stabiliser was the ingredient I had never come across before that can make this all possible.
So, got myself some of the soluble stabiliser last week & had a go.

Essentially with this technique you sandwich fibres (wool/threads etc) in between 2 layers of water soluble stabiliser (which looks like a transparent plasticy type sheet) & then use a sewing machine to freeform stitch all over to hold all the fibres together.  Then you dissolve the stabiliser in water to be left with the finished product.  If you have free form sewn enough then it should all be held together as a new piece of 'fabric'.  If not it will all just fall apart!

Here are my scribbles on the steps I took making the small piece pictured.  All a learning process, so next time I will try a few different ways of doing things...

Place machine embroidery hoop over the top of a single layer of water soluble stabiliser.  Work out & mark with pencil the outline of the area you want to cover.  Then begin filling this in with a fine layer of wool fibres & then begin to add other layers of fibres for texture & colour.  I added cut & unwound different shades of craft wools first:

Then metallic gold & red fibres pulled out of a scrap of fabric (these threads were all probably a bit short to be held really firmly, but given the finished design was to be framed I wasn't too cautious).  Then some longer cut metallic thread & some 'bobbly' wool bits from a ball of novelty type wool.  Finally I added another really fine layer of wool fibres over some of the design to help hold things in place.

These pics show the pre-stitched fibres with a card frame I used to check what it might look like finished
Then carefully lay a second layer of the stabiliser over the top to form the 'sandwich' and secure it all in the embroidery frame.  Now set up to freeform embroidery stitch.  
Things I discovered during the stitching process:  
* Standard cotton thread seemed to snag quite a bit, the proper embroidery thread I bought worked much better, even when I had a standard cotton thread still in the bobbin,  
* A new fine (70/10) needle also helped
* A combination of varigated (multicoloured) thread & single colour threads worked well for me for this design
* I went round the edge to catch all the freeform stitched lines creating a border (but made sure this would be hidden under the card frame as I didn't want this to be seen).  Not sure that this was necessary, but figured it must help to hold everything together.
Front side of the finished stitched stabiliser-fibre-stabiliser sandwich
Finished 'sandwich' held up to the light - gives an idea of how fine the layer of fibres is - still see through

Remove 'sandwich' from the frame, cut away excess stabiliser & place into water to dissolve the stabiliser.  Here's hoping there is enough stitching to hold it all together!  Then allow to dry & frame.

Some close up detail shots of the finished product.

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