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Highlights of 2019

It's that odd time between Christmas and New Year when even if you're unlucky enough to have to work as I am, hopefully it's not too busy.  I know if you work in retail then this must be one of the busiest times of the year, but thankfully I'm an office worker and today I've had a grand total of 3 emails to answer!  It was quiet on Monday and Tuesday as well, so I feel like I'm actually catching up a little bit. 

And as I seem to have my day job a little bit under control (today at least!) I thought I'd do a quick blog post about the highlights of my year, sewing wise. 

This year started off pretty well with this blog after I made the decision to focus on free motion embroidery rather than dressmaking.  Unfortunately as has happened before my day job became ridiculously busy and stressful and I ran out of brain power for blogging and my posts became even more eratic than previously.  I can't quite make the decision to give it up completely though. 

Anyway, on to my top three sewing highlights of the year.

In third place is the class I taught at the Knitting and Stitching show back in March, which you can read about here.  

Just before the class started!

It was slightly nerve-wracking having to take a huge suitcase full of kits on the train to Olympia, and I'm sure my fellow commuters didn't thank me for that!  The set up was a bit rushed, but once I'd settled in to the class I really enjoyed it and I got some great feedback on the kits I provided. 

In second place, something I haven't blogged about before.  Back in April I had an email out of the blue from Enfield Embroiderers Guild asking if I would like to visit them and give a talk about free motion embroidery.  As the date suggested wasn't until November I agreed, thinking I'd have loads and loads of time to work out what I wanted to say!  In reality I left most of my preparation until about a week before hand.  I was quite nervous as I'd been told to expect an audience of between 30 and 40 people, and it's a long time since I've had to speak in public to a group that size.  

On the day the group were lovely and welcoming and once I'd got started I found I thought of more and more things to say.  I talked about my sewing journey as a whole to begin with, then focussed in on free motion embroidery and what I love about it.  I was told afterwards that one of the things that resonated most with my audience was the dilemma of pursuing a career that follows your passion v. doing the day job and keeping what you love as a hobby.

Public speaking isn't something that I would normally put myself forward for, but I really enjoyed the experience and would definitely do it again. 

And finally, in 1st place has to be this...

The Little Book of Sewing by Karen Ball
Seeing my illustration on the cover of Karen Ball's The Little Book of Sewing. Seeing my name on the back and the book on the shelves in my local Waterstone's was pretty cool too!



You can read the interview that Karen did with my for her blog shortly after the book was released here

Again, this was something I had never done before, and had never even considered a possibility, but would love to do again. 

I wonder what new experiences 2020 will bring?



Should You Share Your Skills?

If you're a crafter of any description I'm sure at one time or another you've shared some of your skills with others, whether that's showing a friend how to do something or teaching a group of strangers in a formal class. 

You probably know I occasionally teach free motion embroidery and it's something I really enjoy.  I love passing my (mainly self taught) knowledge on to others and seeing their joy as they "get it". 

Me, about to teach a group of 12 people at the Knitting and Stitching show.

That's why I was particularly shocked recently when I came across an Instagram story by a gold work embroidery artist I've recently starting following saying that she'd been told on several occasions that either she shouldn't teach gold work at all, or if she did, she shouldn't teach people to do it properly. 

I rarely comment on the IG stories of people I don't know personally but this time I felt I had to and when I mentioned I couldn't believe she'd been told that, she said that it was a comment she'd received not once but several times.  She should teach people "poorly" or not show them everything, presumably so that they couldn't copy her work.  This particular person is a graduate of the London College of Fashion, so I seriously doubt that anyone taking a one day workshop with her would be able to copy her work,  but even so she said that she took pride in her teaching and wanted to pass on as much knowledge as she could.



I feel the same.  While I'm not a graduate of anywhere what I do know I want to pass on to participants in any class I teach as fully as possible.  I want them to know what I know, and love free motion embroidery as much as I love it.  

As an occasional attendee of a craft or art classes myself I would always trust the teacher to teach me well, and it would never occur to me (or wouldn't have until now) that information may purposely be given incorrectly or only in part.

And at the end of the day, if I teach them poorly it only reflects badly on me.  If they can't produce a piece of work they're pleased with because I've only told them part of my method then at the very least they're going to get disheartened and give up.   Or they'll think that it's my fault because I haven't taught them properly, or that actually I'm not very good at what I do.  

I also think the more you put into teaching a class, the more you can get out of it yourself.  I've made some lovely friends who I've initially met when they've come to one of my classes, and I'm sure that wouldn't have happened if I'd taught them poorly.  I've also learnt from people attending my classes, on more than one occasion a question a class participant has asked has prompted me to go away and experiment more myself. 

2 happy students!

As with so many things in life I think you get out of teaching what you put in, if you're not being open and honest with your students, then it's not going to be an enjoyable experience on either side. 

I'd love to know what you think.   Do you think a class tutor should show you everything she knows about the technique she's teaching, or should she keep some "secrets" to herself?

David, Adam and Madonna

Gosh, so long since my last post once again!  I was determined that once I'd changed my blog to focus on free motion embroidery I would post more regularly.  I didn't imagine my day job would suddenly become even busier than it has been and that when I finished work for the day all I'd want to do was flop in front of the television. 

I've been working on bits and pieces here and there and now have a total of three free motion embroidered portrait kits for sale in my Etsy shop.  Currently you can choose from David Bowie:




Madonna:


and today I've added Adam Ant:



The kits contain pretty much everything you need to stitch the portrait from backing fabric, to templates, all the applique fabrics (which in most cases are Liberty tana lawn) and a hints and tips card as well as full instructions. 



They come packaged in a kraft card box and I have to say I got great feedback on them when I used them for a workshop at the Knitting and Stitching show. 



I plan on adding more portrait kits to the shop as time goes on, so let me know if there's anyone you'd love to stitch and I'll see what I can do!

I'm also planning on adding a small range of mini kits, which will be perfect if you've never tried free motion embroidery before and just want a little taster.



Fashionable Lady - 3D Free Motion Embroidery Tutorial

At long last I have a new tutorial for you!  This is a favourite design of mine, and was originally featured as part of a tutorial for a tote bag that was featured in Love Sewing magazine some time ago. 



Today I'm just going to show you how to create the stylish lady and her fabulous three dimensional frock, then you can decide if you would like to place her on a tote bag or maybe frame her. 

You will need:
  • Medium weight plain fabric for the embroidery base (approx. 10 x 12 inches).
  • Small piece of floral cotton fabric for dress (approx. 8 inches square). 
  • Small piece of hessian for hat (3 to 4 inches square). 
  • A few inches of narrow lace. 
  • Iron on interfacing (approx. 8 x 10 inches to back your embroidery, plus a small piece approx. 4 inches square). 
  • Small piece of Bondaweb (approx. 8 inches square).
  • Black thread. 
  • White tissue paper/thin tracing paper. 

Start by downloading the templates from this link.

Following the manufacturers instructions, apply the iron on interfacing to the back of the plain fabric you will be appliqueing and embroidering onto.  Put this to one side until you're ready to use it. 

Trace the bodice template onto the reverse of a piece of the printed fabric and the hat template onto the reverse of the piece of hessian. 

Trace the skirt template onto a piece of iron on interfacing and cut out.  Press the interfacing piece onto the wrong side of a piece of printed fabric.  Cut out, leaving a ½” border around the sides and bottom of the skirt piece.  Press the border to the wrong side, and sew a line of stitching along the “hem” of the skirt piece.  Set aside.  

Dress and hat pieces prepared with Bondaweb and interfacing.

Following the manufacturer’s instructions, apply Bondaweb to the reverse of the bodice and hat pieces, peel off the backing paper and cut out.  Set aside. 

Trace the solid lines on the figure template onto a piece of tissue paper.  Make a light pencil mark where the top of the hat will come.  Pin your tracing onto the right side of one of the plain backing fabric, making sure the figure is positioned centrally.  

The traced template pinned in place for stitching. 

Thread your sewing machine with black thread, lower your feed dogs and put the darning foot on the machine.  Using free motion embroidery stitch over the tracing, going over the lines twice.  At the start and end of each line, stitch up and down on the spot a few times, snip the thread and pull the front thread through to the reverse to secure.  

This blog post might be helpful if you need a refresher on how to do free motion embroidery. 

Stitching complete, tissue paper still in place. 

Once all the lines have been stitched, carefully tear away the tissue paper.  You may find a pair of tweezers helpful in removing small pieces caught between stitches.  

Stitching complete, tissue paper carefully removed. 

Using the dotted lines on the figure template as a guide, position the bodice and hat pieces and press in place with an iron. Stitch around the edge of the hat and bodice piece.  

Hat and bodice pieces ironed on and stitched. 

Pin the sides of the skirt in place, then loosely pleat the excess at the waist and pin down.  

Skirt piece pinned in place. 


Stitch down each side of the skirt and across the waist.  Do not stitch the skirt hem. 

Glue or hand sew a small piece of ribbon or braid on the hat as a band, and around the waist of the skirt. 


You can use this lovely lady as an embellishment on a tote bag or she looks equally as special mounted in a box type frame.