sewn images

My Favourite Free Motion Embroidery Tools


A while ago I posted a tutorial showing how I stitch detail in free motion embroidery pieces, either to add fiddly, precise features or when I don't want to have an applique fabric 'edge' to follow.  This technique involves stitching through a layer of tissue paper with the design drawn on and then carefully removing the tissue once the stitching is complete.

Today I thought I'd tell you a bit more about some of the tools I've found helpful in getting a neat finish.
The first is a common or garden stitch unpicker / seam ripper / whatever you like to call it.
As I showed in the tutorial, it's really handy for gently poking the tip under the tissue paper you need to peel off and easing it away from the stitching. It's much easier than trying to find an edge you can lift up with your fingers!

Once you've removed most of the tissue in this way, you'll probably find you're left with tiny bits in between lines of stitching, or stuck underneath individual stitches. A pair of needle nosed craft tweezers is brilliant for getting rid of these tiny bits.

I got these in the card making section of my local craft shop, as you can see from the photo below the points are really fine.  You can use them to gently scrape out the tiny bits of tissue you can't get with the unpicker or your fingers, and then lift them away.

The final tool I'm going to recommend is not just useful for this technique, it would be handy anywhere you need to cut threads really close to your work. 

These are curved blade micro snips.  I bought this pair on Amazon for about £6.00, the photo below shows the curve on the blade, enabling you to cut threads very close to your work without fear of snipping the work itself.

I've found they make a lot of difference to the neatness of my work and they're very light and easy to handle.

I'm currently trying to justify a pair of these Tula Pink Hardware ones, at about 4 times the price of the pair I bought.  No difference in how they work, but they're much prettier!

I hope you've found this useful.  As always, if you have any questions, please ask them in the comments below and I'll respond as quickly as I can.

The Best Thing I've Made for Ages

Hello, I hope you're enjoying your Saturday.  I've been working this morning, but have decided enough is enough and I'm going to relax for the rest of the day.

I'm here today to show you a dress I made last weekend.  The last few things I've made myself haven't been blogged because they either haven't been finished (because I don't like them) or they turned out not as nice as I thought.  I know in the interests of honesty I should blog the failures as well as the successes, but I can't be bothered.  Sorry!

Anyway, this dress is one of those projects that turned out even better than I hoped it would, and I had pretty high hopes for it.


The pattern is the Closet Case Patterns Kalle dress, which I'm sure needs no introduction.  I made a couple last summer, both in the half buttoned style.  The first time I used the longest length option on the pattern but it was to short for me, so on the second outing I lengthened it by a couple of inches.  I'm not tall, but I don't like to show my knees, and the first one fully exposed them. 

Ever since then I've been wondering about making an even longer version and when I saw this fabric I knew I had to give it a try.

The fabric is supposedly a viscose crepe from Barry's Fabrics in Birmingham.  I was in Birmingham a couple of weekends ago for a gig* and decided it would be rude to drive home on the Monday without visiting a couple of fabric shops.  I went to Barry's and the Fancy Silk Store, walking across town from my hotel near the Jewellery quarter.

Anyway, as soon as I saw the fabric I thought "maxi dress" - it was only on the way home that I thought "long Kalle shirt dress" instead. 

The alteration was easy.  I basically took my already slightly lengthened pattern pieces and added another ten inches onto them, the rest is made exactly as the pattern.  The fun part was trying to do the burrito yoke with the lengthened body pieces, it was a bit of a squeeze I can tell you, but it worked!

As you can see I've got it belted here, I wore it to a managers meeting during the week with a cropped black jacket.  I forgot to photograph it without the belt, although I'll probably wear it like that when the weather warms up, and I think it could also be worn open over a pair of cropped trousers and a top. 

I have to say, I love it.  It's slightly shorter than I anticipated a dress from this fabric being, but I think it's the perfect length for the style, belted or loose.  I've actually got some lovely fabric I bought at the Sewing Bee Live last year that I'm tempted to make into another exactly the same. 

* The gig was Nick Hodgson (ex-drummer of Kaiser Chiefs) who has recently released his first solo album.  It was an amazing evening, here is a video my friend took during the gig. 

The Craft Pot Subscription Box

I'm back with something a little different today, a review of the new craft subscription box, The Craft Pot.

The Craft Pot's About Us page begins:

The Craft Pot was set up to give everyone an excuse to actually use their little breaks during the day as breaks, and not time to check emails, wipe down the counter tops, or any other little task "that'll just take 5 minutes"

Katie Betty contacted me a few months ago, introducing the idea to me and asking if I'd be interested in reviewing a box.  She told me that The Craft Pot's main aim was to get people to 'Take Time and Make Time' for themselves, in this case in the form of crochet.  Her email emphasised the benefits of crafting on mental health, and as that's something I've written about before and feel strongly about and know has helped me personally, I was only too happy to say I'd review a box.

My box arrived last week and I was excited to see the contents. Each box contains everything you need to create a crochet project, along with a few tea bags to enjoy while you're creating.

This months project is "Not your nan's Granny stitch hat and mitts".  When I opened the box I was greeted by two cheery balls of yarn.

Underneath the yarn you'll find the pattern for the project, then the tools you'll need and some individually packaged tea bags. 


I haven't started crocheting mine yet, but the pattern looks detailed enough for a confident beginner crocheter to follow, with suggestions of places you can look online if you need additional information or assistance.

From the information and photos included it looks like the hat is a nice slouchy one and the mitts are little handwarmers.  Very cute!

The box costs £12.99 a month including UK delivery.  I think it's a great idea and as an advocate of crafting of any sort to aid good mental health I wish Katie Betty and The Craft Pot huge success. 

If you like a bit of crochet - or would like to learn - and a sit down with a cuppa, or feel you need to create yourself a little bit of me time, I'd suggest you take a look at what The Craft Pot have to offer.

You can follow The Craft Pot on Instagram here, Twitter here and Facebook here.   

* Katie Betty kindly provided me with this box free of charge in exchange for a review, but all views expressed are my own.

Free Motion Embroidery - Stitching Detail

I'm back after another extremely long break with a free motion embroidery tutorial for you.   It's actually something I've been meaning to photograph and write for some time, but a question from a participant of a recent workshop I taught prompted me to get on and do it.

Kim emailed me after the class and asked:

In the pieces you showed as illustrations there were several where there was no applique and I was wondering how you approach this - it’s more a true freestyle?  For example on your illustration with the woman in the red dress with the large window behind, how did you embroider the window - is this completely freestyle or do you draw on the fabric & sew over it?  How do you get the perfect layout?  Any pointers on this aspect would be greatly appreciated!

 The picture she was talking about is this one, that I created some time ago.

Sadly I didn't have time to recreate something similar, so I've done a tutorial using a slightly simpler design.  

I started by cutting the main pieces of the image out of the fabric I wanted to use, and adhering it to my backing fabric with Bondaweb.

I used a copy of my original image to trace the details I wanted to add with thread onto a piece of dressmakers tissue paper.

I then pinned this in place over my backing fabric and main applique pieces and used the outline to place additional smaller pieces (in this case, the headlights and hubcaps).

I then start stitching as normal, with my embroidery foot on my machine and the feed dogs lowered. 

At this stage I only stitch the areas where I need the traced outline as a guide - I don't stitch "edges" or areas that can be sewn without the tissue paper in place.  The reason for this is that the more stitching you have over the tissue paper the more fiddly it becomes to remove it.

Once I've stitched everything I need to I carefully tear the tissue paper away.  Normally it comes away quite easily, the stitches have already perforated it, which means it comes fairly cleanly away from the sewn lines.

However a stitch unpicker is useful for getting under pieces of paper that are fully enclosed by stitching, and a pair of needle nosed craft tweezers can help pull away tiny pieces of paper that get stuck under individual stitches.

Once all the tissue is removed, I continue stitching the remaining areas as normal. 

I noticed on this piece that I'd forgotten to sew the offside front wheel when the tissue was in place (because I'd actually forgotten to trace it!) so I carefully drew it in with a pencil.  You could use an air or water erasable pen - but if you decide to use one of these please test them on a scrap piece of fabric first to make sure they really do disappear!

And finally, the completed piece.

You can use this technique to stitch large areas without fabric underneath or a completely fabric free piece.  It's also useful for just adding very small amounts of detail on a fabric-heavy piece, and it's great if you want to add text or lettering that needs to be particularly neat.

I hope you've found this tutorial useful.  If you would like more information on basic free motion embroidery techniques, I have a tutorial here.