Friday, 31 May 2019

Chapter 5. Free machine stitchery to interpret drawings

The brief for this chapter was to look back at my drawings in chapter 1 and then translate these into stitchery using free machine embroidered techniques which bring a fabulous range of textural effects.

The threads used include different types and colours which relate to my drawings including matt and metallic / shiny varieties [see chapter 4.9]

The fabrics were selected from any of those coloured and decorated in chapter 4 or any of the others collected which created which create similar effects to my drawings.

The needle size was generally 100 unless I decided upon a very fine fabric in which case I used a 90.

As is usual with free machine embroidery I worked with the feed dog down.

The stitch types were related to the type of marks made in my drawings and I experimented with different stitch shapes including straight stitch, zigzag or others available on my sewing machine.
Each sample had to exploit one one type of stitch or effect. Stitch effects include whip stitch or cable stitch both of which produce fabulous textural effects achieved by altering the upper and lower bobbin tensions.

I decided to make a set of samples for each set of drawings selected being sensitive to the colour, tone on the fabrics selected whilst staying true to the drawings

Samples 5.1

Sample 5.1.a
I used monoprinted calico [corrugated card print] as a base which was placed in an embroidery hoop.
I worked whip stitched zigzag in varying stitch lengths whilst moving the hoop to produce the wave shapes and rhythmic effects. I used mid to dark blue threads to bring colour, shape, rhythm and tone.
A tiny suggestion of orange added vibrancy. I left the uncut threads which added a sense of movement.
The white areas of the background print suggest the reflection of light whilst also adding to a feeling of movement and volume to the water

Sample 5.1.b

For this sample I used a monoprinted chiffon [bubble wrap print] with a single layer of polyester wadding and a background of calico. All these were placed in an embroidery hoop.
I worked a whip stitched zigzag in mid to dark blue shades of  machine thread. The fabric had a hint of orange which I added to with stitch. I left the threads ends uncut again for energy and movement. This sample produced a softer effect.

Sample 5.1.c

This is a felted wool background with a faint monoprinted effect. I didn't use a hoop but added vilene to the back for support. I experimented with a cable stitch which is worked blind using a tapestry wool and then stranded cotton in a very loose lower bobbin to produce gorgeous textures. I've added some zigzag in ordinary machine thread between the cabled textural effects plus some darker smaller zigzag right next to the cable to suggest depth and tone. Uncut threads left to drift!

Sample 5.1.d

I decided upon a plain coloured but textured synthetic fabric overlaid with netting, all supported by Vilene on the back. The netting was secured and manipulated as I stitched using a whip stitched zigzag. I used tonal shades of Gutterman machine threads leaving some of the extended threads uncut across the surface uncut. This sample lacks areas of dappled white and helped me appreciate how effective these areas in adding an illusion of light and reflection.

Sample 5.2

Sample 5.2a

This is a monoprinted chiffon [bubble wrap print] and was supported within an embroidery hoop.
I worked different sized spirals in straight stitch using light to dark machine threads and whip stitch for effect plus some orange thread added at a late stage [in the lower bobbin] for a real 'pop'. A slight distortion of the fabric occurred with the addition of layers of stitching which gave a slight rippling effect.


This is painted silk with salt dispersal effects. I've used a size 90 twin needle with variegated blue and mid blue machine threads in the twin needle and a darker thread in the lower bobbin for a whip stitch effect. The sample is worked in an embroidery hoop. I added a gold metallic thread via the lower bobbin but didn't achieve the whipped effect I desired so introduced a yellow gold metallic thread through a single needle on the top with much more effect and fusion of colour. A wonderful distortion of the fabric suggests movement of the water.


This is a sample using space dyed linen and threads supported within an embroidery hoop.
I've experimented with cable stitch with my space dyed stranded cotton in a loosened lower bobbin and turquoise machine thread on the top. Beautiful fusion of colours [ fabric and threads from same dye lot]. I like the simplicity of the stitching with subtle rhythmic patterning of the variegated threads.


I've experimented here with layers of cable stitch on a base fabric of space dyed linen.
For the first layer I've used space dyed cotton perlein the lower bobbin plus blue and orange machine threads via a size 90 twin needle.
Second layer - Chenille yarn on lower bobbin, blue machine thread via single needle on top
Third layer - Further layer of cotton perle in lower bobbin with blue machine thread on top [single needle]. I hoped to achieve dark and lighter tones in rippled water effects.



This is faux Chinese silk coloured with Transfer paints - a lovely subtle effect.
 This sample is quilted with polyester wadding and a calico backing. I've used free machine embroidered straight stitch in pale and mid blue machine threads plus darker blue and orange
threads for added colour and tone.
The quilting has given a softness to the sample and the sheen of the fabric adds to the atmospheric effect.


This is space dyed woollen felt with a space dyed silk yarn used in the lower bobbin for a cable stitch effect. The silk yarn is beautiful but proved too thick and shredded in my machine so I decided to couch this in place.
I worked in cable stitch in the remainder using crewel wool, tapestry wool and linen thread [ the latter is space dyed].

I'm really pleased with the textures of the combined cable and couching and the the random colour tones


This an experiment using stretch lycra which has been coloured with transfer paints. I've used pale yellow and blue variegated machine threads. A lovely puckered and distorted effect was created by repeated layers of stitching


I was delighted with this sample worked in space dyed silk [supported by an embroidery hoop] and threads [silk and linen], the latter was couched in place with free machine embroidery. Then I spotted the glorious fray coming away from the edge of the space dyed silk and decided to couch them in place in circular patterns which were then outlined by couched linen threads. I left some of the extended threads uncut to add a sense of movement and energy.



This is chiffon with a bubble wrap monoprint. I used an embroidery hoop to support the fabric and worked straight and small zigzag stitching in mid blue machine threads. Orange thread was added via the lower bobbin for a whip stitch  effect. There is a slight distortion in the fabric and the chiffon adds a translucency.


This is transfer printed organza [2 layers] which has been supported in an embroidery hoop. I've used mid and dark blue machine threads on a size 90 twin needle and lower bobbin. I've added dark blue and orange threads via a single needle at the end to add some energy and colour vitality. It was fun to see the loopy threads created by the double needle through the translucent organza. The sample is backed by strips of painted silk and printed chiffon  to add a further pop of colour.


This is space dyed scrim which was supported in an embroidery hoop. I used machine threads in turquoise and mid blue followed by a darker blue and metallic bronze on the lower bobbin for a whipped stitch effect. The zigzag stitch was worked in various widths and due to the fragility of the scrim it has tightened into lines of irregular straggly stitching which has, in turn, fragmented the fibres of the scrim. The sample started as a 10cm square but has taken on its own shape as stitching progressed!


This is space dyed silk muslin and was supported by an embroidery hoop. Due to the lovely dappled effects of the space dyeing I felt it lent itself to several stitch types so I couldn't resist going for it!

The top of the sample is true to my drawings and is worked in pale blue variegated, mid and dark blue machine threads plus pale yellow variegated. I've added torn strips of the same fabric [lovely fray] which has been secured with whip stitched straight stitch worked in spiral patterns.

The middle section is a wide zigzag worked sideways for a watery effect using a pale blue variegated thread on top and a darker blue on the lower bobbin [whip stitched].

The lower section is worked in the scalloped stitch on my machine but with the feed dog down for free stitching in wide zigzag. Pale variegated blue on top and mid blue in lower bobbin and whip stitched plus the addition of darker threads to add tone along the 'horizon.'

Sorry if this is a little contrived but it was irresistible!!

The back view was also effective:


This is monoprinted woollen felt, which has a sweeping print across it produced by acrylic paints and the edge of a credit card. I've worked free machined satin stitch in navy machine thread followed by navy with orange on the lower bobbin. The spiral shapes appear to be sweeping across the sample as if caught by the wind!


A scrim sample with spiral shapes worked in straight stitch and whipped in turquoise and mid blue followed by a darker teal and  yellow / apricot variegated machine threads for added tone and colour.
Wonderful distortions and see through effect through the scrim to the stitching.


This is space dyed silk with strips of the same fabric plus some of the gorgeous fray laid across it. I've chosen turquoise and variegated apricot machine threads with the latter on the lower bobbin to produce whip stitched straight stitch in a loop the loop fashion [and then again with the same threads in vice versa]. I've pulled lengths of threads from the end to the beginning of the next row of stitching for added drama and sense of movement.

I've thoroughly enjoyed this chapter and despite having experience in machine embroidered techniques I have been constantly surprised and fascinated by the range of effects achieved simply by changing the nature of the fabrics, stitch types and effects plus the use of a diverse variety of threads. The possibilities are endless!! Bring it on!

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Chapter 4. Fabrics and Threads - Colouring and Bonding

Dyes and Paints
The aim was to produce random coloured effects on fabric and threads using  any  methods of my choice to give interesting colourful backgrounds, using a favourite colour scheme from one of my research samples for stitchery which will, in turn, develop into more specific patterned and rhythmic results. In fact I have several favourites from chapter 2 using my chosen colour scheme - samples 2.1, 2.2 and 2.6!

I've chosen to work with brushing or sponging fabrics with dyes plus space dyeing, silk painting, monoprinting and stamping. I also used space dyeing to colour my hand stitching threads

I used Dylon Intense colour in navy blue, paradise blue, ocean blue and goldfish orange.
For the best intense colour I mixed the dye with 500mls warm water, mixing the colours as desired and storing them in screw top jars.
To fix the dye I used a fixative made up of one part washing soda to 3 parts salt dissolved in a pint of hot water. This is also stored in a screw top jar and mixed with the dye as needed. Once mixed it must be used on the same day.
[See module 2 ch. 6 and module 3 ch. 3].

4.1 Brushing and sponging with dyes:
Top - linen wet brushed
Middle - linen dry sponged
Lower - cotton organdie wet brushed

4.2 Space dyeing:
Calico, cotton organdie. linen, scrim and silk
Fabric placed in a plastic bag and dyes added, colours mixed and left for several hours before being rinsed in cold water.

4.3 Space dyeing threads:
Skeins untwisted but left intact as a hank or unwound, wrapped around a dish and knotted / secured to form a hank.
The hanks were soaked in the fixative solution and wrung out thoroughly, arranged in plastic trays and dyes spooned or poured over them. Colours mixed for a variegated effect. The threads were placed in a plastic bag and kept wet for at least an hour before rinsing under the cold tap and allowed to dry.

4.4 Monoprinting fabrics

I used a selection of fabrics - calico, linen, muslin, cotton organdie, chiffon, scrim,and woollen felt.
Acrylic paints [ aquamarine and turquoise plus red and orange mixed to orange] and fabric medium.

I used bubble wrap to add paint to a glass surface and laid the fabric over using a roller to ensure even pressure before the fabric was carefully lifted to reveal a gorgeous watery print! Especially effective on chiffon and cotton organdie. Other methods included swirls produced with the edge of a credit card or corrugated cardboard or shapes created by cardboard stamps and added in a random fashion.

4.4 a. Left to right:  bubble wrap on chiffon, cotton organdie, swirly pattern on muslin and more bubble wrap on scrim 

4.4 b. Linen and cardboard stamp, linen with cardboard stamp plus bubble wrap, calico with cardboard swirls and then bubble wrap.

4.4 c Monoprinted woollen felt fabric: cardboard swirls and bubblewrap
These worked really well with beautiful soft printed effects.

4.5 Silk paints

I used a selection of silk fabrics including french silk, cotton / silk mix, bamboo silk, habotai silk, silk muslin. Each sample was mounted onto a wooden frame [old picture frames] secured with masking tape.  Jaquard Silk Colours in Sapphire Blue [with some turquoise Brusho added to adjust the colour] and Apricot. Fabric dampened and silk paint added with bubble wrap and natural sponge. Salt crystals sprinkled. The colours continued to spread and blend beautifully together until they dried whilst the salt crystals dispersed the colours in serendipitous ways across the blended colorways. Fascinating!

And salt crystals:

4.6 Painting transfer adhesive: 

This exercise involved experimenting with different ways of adding colour to transfer adhesive including oil pastels, Markel oil sticks, Inktense sticks, paints acrylic paints and Brusho paints.
This in turn is then transferred by heat onto a plain coloured background fabric

As numbered: 1. Brusho paints 2. Acrylic paints and brush 3. Acrylic and bubble wrap 4. silk paints 5. diluted acrylics 6. Markel oil stick frottage 7. oil stick and Brusho frottage  8. oil pastel and silk paint frottage 9. Markel oil stick and Brusho frottage 10. Markel oil stick and silk paint frottage 11. oil pastel 12. Water and Inktense stick 13. water and Neocolour 14. oil pastel 

Most effective - oil pastels and Markel sticks plus combination of these with silk paints. Inktense sticks also vibrant.

4.7 More effects using blue on to an orange background:


And finally:
4.8 A selection of plain coloured fabrics:

silk, velvet, polycottons, rayon, textured synthetic, chiffon and synthetic sheer fabric.

4.9 My selection of threads:

Including space dyed, plain coloured threads of various thicknesses, plain coloured and variegated machine threads

And in the next chapter - stitching into my fabrics! Bring it on..................

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Chapter 3 Free machine stitchery

A series of free machine stitchery samples are used in this chapter to demonstrate different textural effects.

The idea is to densely cover small spaces of fabric [about 3cms] using words describing different effects of rhythms to inform the stitching, especially those inspired by my drawings in chapter 1.
I've done a quick brainstorm of words and  sketched some drawings below to represent those that spring to mind and posted my sketchbook page below.

 I'll talk about each of the samples individually as I go.
I've worked on calico which I've stretched in an embroidery hoop and have used a size 100 needle throughout.

Sample 1 Straight stitch using a polyester machine sewing thread. Equal tensions on upper and lower bobbins

Sample 2
Straight stitch with whip stitch which is achieved by tightening the upper tension and loosening the lower bobbin.
I used  polyester sewing threads, blue thread on top bobbin and yellow below. Top tension slightly tightened and lower bobbin tension loosened.
I keep a separate bobbin case especially for whip stitch so I can fiddle with the tension without jeopardising the one I use for normal sewing.
I changed over the colours half way down [my bobbin thread ran out!] but it was good to see the difference.
I've always loved whip stitch and it's serendipitous qualities and textures. Lovely subtle, soft and calm effects in this sample.

Sample 3
Zig zag stitch with whip stitch [bobbin tensions as above] and polyester sewing thread. Red on top bobbin and blue below [ reversed half way down]. Wonderful dramatic contrasts and textural effects.

Sample 4
Part straight stitch, part zigzag but this is cable stitch which means that the underside becomes the right side and brings some lovely unexpected results when turned over to reveal the stitching below.
Polyester thread. I've adjusted the upper tension [lower tension normal]  as I worked to give varied effects. Blue thread on top bobbin and red below.

I've added the upper [wrong side] too as this was also lovely and interesting to look at.

Sample 5
Cable stitch worked with a range of threads on the lower bobbin. The tension of the lower bobbin was loosened according to the effect I was hoping for. Polyester sewing thread used on top throughout.
Top row. From left: a. no lower bobbin tension [screw removed] with stranded cotton and straight stitch.
Lovely dense and textured effect although my sewing machine not happy!;
b and c. Stranded cotton and straight stitch
Row 2: a. Stranded cotton and straight stitch. b. zigzag c. tapestry wool, slight zigzag stitch
Row 3: a. Boucle yarn and zigzag b. tapestry wool and straight stitch c. with zigzag
Row 4: a. Mohair yarn with zigzag b. and c. tapestry wool and zigzag
Row 5: a. and b. Cotton yarn with zigzag c. straight stitch

I love the wonderful textures achieved with cable stitch and shadows resulting from the build up of stitching gives interesting contrasting effects.

I also tried using a chenille yarn but my machine wouldn't tolerate the thickness of the yarn even with the loosest bobbin tension

A very enjoyable chapter and I look forward to applying the stitching to fabrics in later chapters.