sewn images

Meet the Maker

If you're on Instagram you've probably seen the #marchmeetthemaker that lots of creative people have been involved in this month.  I started doing it, posting a picture for each of the daily prompts... and lasted less than a week!

If I'm honest, I'm not that great with photo challenges and that type of thing and often fail to complete them but I really wanted to do this one.  Unfortunately my day job has been crazily busy recently - even more so than normal - and I've had little time to think of anything other than fire risk assessments.  I've even been dreaming about them!

So what I thought I'd do would be to do my own version of Meet the Maker with a bit of an "about me" blog post.  I've gained a few new followers over the past couple of months and I thought it might be good to tell you a bit about me. 

I'm Sam, as you probably will have gathered from my blog name if you didn't already know.  By day I work for a housing association as a fire risk surveyor, doing exciting stuff like inspecting fire escape routes and fire doors and writing reports. It's a job I never imagined myself doing to be honest and some days I'm not quite sure exactly how I came to be doing it.

Outside work I love all kinds of creative pursuits but sewing, and more often than not, free motion embroidery is my favourite.  I've been sewing for as long as I can remember and have made everything from soft toys to wedding dresses.

However my favourite thing to make is free motion embroidered portraits. I started doing them a couple of years ago with a series of David Bowie portraits and have a constantly growing list of other people to stitch.  My ultimate aim for a purely personal project is to stitch David Bowie in every one of his distinctive looks.  The next one I'm planning is the Goblin King from the film Labyrinth.

I love using quality fabrics in my work, with the exception of the black fabric used in the jumpsuit of the third portrait in the above line up, all the applique fabrics are either Liberty print cotton or small amounts of silk dupion.

I teach free motion embroidery at a couple of local sewing shops and recently taught a free motion embroidered portraits class at the Knitting and Stitching show, which went better than I could ever have hoped for.  You can read about that here.

Following that experience I'm currently working on some new portraits with a view to selling kits similar to those that we used during the workshop.  I'm working on images of Prince, Boy George and Adam Ant at the moment, with more to be added as time allows.

I still love making clothes when I have the time and my next dressmaking project will be a Spring coat using the Trend Patterns Drop Shoulder Coat pattern and some jade green cotton moleskin I bought recently.  I'm hoping to start working on that in the next few days and am trying to be good and make a toile before I jump in and cut my good fabric. 

I will also have some news about an exciting project I played a small part in soon, so watch this space!


Iconic Fun Portraits at the Knitting and Stitching Show

Yesterday I had the pleasure of teaching a workshop at the Knitting and Stitching show for the first time. I was contacted towards the end of last year by Wendy Gardiner who organises all the workshops to ask if I'd be interested in teaching free motion embroidered portraits and after a bit of emailing backwards and forwards we settled on this workshop, offering a choice of David Bowie or Madonna.

This was the sight that greeted me when I arrived at the workshop area at the show early yesterday morning, confirmation that my workshop had already sold out.  That was great, but it meant I'd have 12 people to teach, double my normal class size.   

Sold out! Eeek!!

My class wasn't until the afternoon, so me and the friend I'd dragged along to help me (thank you again Jo!) spent the morning shopping and chatting to exhibitors.  I spent my money on three patterns from Trend Patterns, some gorgeous hand dyed embroidery threads from Paintbox Threads and 3 metres of chocolate brown linen for a Spring/Summer dress.

I'd spent the last few weeks putting together kits for the workshop, which were transported there in a rather large suitcase.  I don't think my fellow commuters on the train were that impressed by the amount of room it took up!  I'd decided to make 12 kits in each design, just in case my class sold out (it did) and just in case everyone chose the same one (11 of them chose David Bowie).

Not a great photo, but kits piled up ready to be packed into the case.
I wanted to make the kits really nice (I've been on workshops at events like this before where the kits were awful and actually put me off wanting to do the workshop I'd already paid for), so I chose Liberty print fabrics for the applique and packaged them up as nicely as I could, including templates, instructions and of course all the fabrics.

Part of the kit, without fabric, as I don't think I'd cut it all when I took this photo.

I've been so busy with my real job recently that I hadn't really had much time to think about the workshop other than preparing everything I needed to take with me, but when it came time to get started yesterday I was really nervous.  The previous workshop in my teaching area had over-run slightly, so it was a bit frantic setting up and I also had to contend with a noisy upcycling challenge taking place in the open area behind me.

This was me right before the workshop started, begging my friend to take the photo quickly so I could get going!
Once I got going though I was fine.  As I mentioned above, 11 out of the 12 participants chose to stitch David Bowie, so I was very relieved I had taken the decision to make 12 kits of each design.

I had a great group to teach, everyone was really enthusiastic and kept telling me how much they loved what they were learning.  Some people got on quietly and others chatted to their neighbours as they worked.

And the kits went down a treat, everyone loved them and asked if I sold them elsewhere and if I did any other designs.  That's something I had been thinking about - I was certainly going to put the "leftovers" in my Etsy shop - so I'm now in the process of deciding who to add to my little collection.  Once I've decided I can start stitching, and photographing, and writing instructions, then finally listing them for sale.

If there's anyone famous you'd love to have a kit to stitch, please let me know in the comments below.  I can't promise to make everyone, but if there are a few names that come up a few times it's a distinct possibility I'll stitch them and turn them into a kit.

So free motion embroidery is great, but...

... what can I do with it?

OK, so you've tried your hand at free motion embroidery and you love it.  You want to do more, in fact you want to free motion embroider the hell out of everything you can lay your hands on.

Well that's how I felt after my first experience of free motion embroidery anyway, and I'm sure I'm not the only one to feel that way!

But what if you want to do more than just embroider pictures of teacups and saucers for friends and family, until they (and you) are sick of the sight of them?

Here are a few other ways I've used free motion embroidery in my projects.

Having always been rubbish at drawing people, I discovered a love of stitching them and now one of my favourite ways of using free motion embroidery is doing portraits.  I tend to do famous people, below is 80's heart throb John Taylor from Duran Duran, but you could do a family members portrait as a unique gift.

I've made several cushions using free motion embroidery - in fact I teach free motion embroidered cushion workshops.  This is one of my favourites:

Clothing and accessories can both be embellished with free motion embroidery as well.

You could practice your skills in miniature and make a badge or brooch.  I used a large self covered button for this Ziggy Stardust one.  (The pink haired lady with glasses is by Jennifer Jackson Dolls.

And a tiny touch of free motion embroidery is all that's required to make my Cheeky Face make up pouch that was featured in Love Sewing magazine a few months ago.

Going into a bit more detail again, here's a portrait of Debbie Harry (can you tell I like 80's pop stars?) on a denim tote bag.

And finally to round things off, a sweatshirt embellished with free motion embroidery.

The only thing to watch out for if you're putting free motion embroidery on items that will go through the washing machine is that the raw edges of the fabric will fray to a certain extent.  However I made this almost three years ago and it still looks good, the frayed edges actually give it a bit more individuality I think.

I hope this short run through some of my previous projects have given you a few ideas on how you can use free motion embroidery yourself. 

If you have any other suggestions, I'd love to know.

60's Lady Free Motion Embroidery Tutorial

As promised I have another tutorial for this week.  This one builds on the hot air balloon from a few weeks ago by showing you how I stitch areas of detail where there is no applique fabric to guide me.

You will need:
Backing fabric to embroider and applique onto
Medium weight iron on interfacing
Applique fabrics (I used scraps of Liberty print silk)
A small piece of Bondaweb
Greaseproof paper
Thin tracing paper or tissue paper
Good quality black sewing thread

Start by setting your sewing machine up for free motion embroidery by lowering the feed dogs and changing to a darning foot.  Thread the machine up with black thread and a matching bobbin.

I used this image to create my embroidery, which I found on Pinterest.

Start by tracing your chosen image onto a sheet of thin tracing paper or tissue paper.  It needs to be thin because you're going to stitch through it later.

Once the image is traced, cut the dress and clutch bag out from your original print out.  Keep the tracing intact.  Select the fabrics you want to use for the two pieces and apply Bondaweb to the back.  Remember to place some greaseproof paper between your iron and the Bondaweb and fabric to protect the iron from the excess glue!

Peel your fabrics off the Bondaweb backing, and draw around the templates you have cut out.  I always draw on the back of my fabric with the template face down.  This way you avoid pen marks on the right side of your fabric.

Use a couple of pins to secure your tissue paper tracing to your backing fabric and carefully position your cut out applique pieces on the backing fabric using your tracing as a guide.

Press with a hot iron to activate the glue and stick the applique pieces down.  Now you are ready to stitch.

Start by stitching the traced lines in the areas where there is no fabric - on this image, the head, arms and legs.  Go over each line twice for a more solid look and stitch up and down on the spot a few times at the start and end.   At this stage you don't need to stitch the areas where there is fabric to guide you.

Once you have completed these sections you can remove the tracing.  Do this by carefully pulling the paper away.  Tear slowly and hold the paper close to the stitches to prevent putting too much pressure on them.  Most areas should come away quite easily as your stitching will have perforated the paper.  Stubborn pieces of paper can be eased away with a stitch unpicker or a pair of needle nosed craft tweezers.

You can now stitch around the dress and bag and add extra detail into the hair, or fill the shoes in should you wish.

This technique can be used anywhere you need to add some detail that can't be guided by the edge of your fabric.  It works well for text as well as "drawn" areas and is particularly useful if you need something to be very precise.