I was lucky enough to go on a sewing machine embroidery and appliqué workshop yesterday, a lovely birthday present from my husband.
My tutor for the day was Katie Essam, a contemporary applied artist who I met recently at a craft fair. I fell in love with her machine embroideries and when I found out she runs one to one workshops I jumped at the chance to learn a new skill.
Katie only lives about 20 minutes from my house, so yesterday morning I loaded my sewing machine and a bag full of bits and pieces I thought might be useful into my car and off I set.
Katie and her 2 gorgeous dogs welcomed me and after a quick cup of tea we set to work, Katie firstly showing me how to put an embroidery foot on my machine and lower the feed dogs. Once that was done I was given a piece of calico backed with iron on stabiliser and told to go for it! I just doodled initially to get the feel of the technique. It isn’t difficult, but it’s a very strange feeling to be able to feed your fabric under the needle in any direction you fancy. It’s also surprisingly hard to stitch a perfectly straight line! I initially found spirals the easiest to do for some reason.
Once I felt comfortable we set to work creating an embroidery from one of the pictures I’d taken along with me, a pile of old books.
I chose fabrics from Katie’s huge box of scraps. The beauty of this technique is that often you can get away with using the smallest scraps of fabric that would normally go in the bin.
I cut up a copy of the photo I’d chosen to use and traced round the edge of each piece (which I first flipped to the wrong side) on the reverse of the fabric, then cut them out. Next the pieces were arranged in their correct positions on a piece of bondaweb and ironed. We then carefully peeled the fabric pieces off the bondaweb, positioned them on the calico and ironed again to fix them in place.
Then the fun part started! I chose complimentary thread for each piece of fabric and carefully began my freehand stitching around the edges, adding details the spines of the “books” as I went. Because you can stitch in any direction, on a fairly simple shape you can just keep going, and go over areas again to reach the next bit of you need to. Katie recommended going over each stitching line at least twice to give a more defined outline.
Once I was happy with the stitching we moved onto painting, adding shadows, highlights and details with watered down acrylic paints and a fine liner pen. Here you can add as much or as little detail as you like.
Here is my finished pile of books.
After a break for lunch we set to work on another piece, this time a pile of tea cups.
For this piece we used a similar technique initially, but ironed each piece onto the calico separately, behind a tracing of the photo. The tracing was used as a stitching guide and then carefully torn away after all the stitching had been completed. For this piece I used black thread throughout.
Again, I added some detail with acrylic paints, and also a “pattern” to one of the cups and the saucer with some pink thread.
Here is the finished piece, I’m really pleased with this one.
After a fabulous day, Katie sent me away with a handout detailing the process and materials used, and a goodie bag containing pieces of all the specialist materials so I could get straight on by myself.
And I have done exactly that, spending much of today working on an armchair. I used the tracing paper technique that we used on the tea cups, the collage below gives you an idea of the process.
I added some gold thread to the scrolls on the chair, which you can just about see in this photo.
I'm loving this new technique so far and can't wait to do more pieces - I can see all my friends and relations receiving these for Christmas this year!
In other news, I had 2 entries in my post-birthday giveaway.
I don’t want to have to choose between them, even if it is done randomly, so I’m going to send a little parcel to both Jaqc C and Liza Jane. If you could both drop me an email to sam(dot)molloy(at)hotmail(dot)co(dot)uk with your address I’ll get your goodies in the post to you.