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.

Free Motion Embroidery Artists I Admire

There are many different styles of free motion embroidery.  The beauty of the skill is that once you've learned the basics you can do so many different things with it.  I thought it would be fun to share with you some of my favourite free motion embroidery / textile artists so you see some the different styles in a bit more detail.

Firstly has to be Katie Essam.  It was seeing Katie's work at a local craft fair a few years ago that brought free motion embroidery to my attention. As well as selling her gorgeous work she was advertising workshops and I immediately decided I wanted one as a birthday present.  You can read about my experience on the workshop in this blog post.

Katie describes herself as a mixed media textile artist, inspired by everyday beauty.  She combines freehand machine embroidery, appliqué, paint, crochet and more to create her original textile pieces.

Her pieces are bright, colourful and full of texture and detail. 

You can find Katie's website here. She has also written a brilliant book "Layered and Stitched Pictures", which I highly recommend.

Next I'd like to introduce you to Emma Giacalone, a textile artist I discovered through Instagram.  Emma's work is simply beautiful, incredibly detailed and often focuses on positivity and inspiring messages. 

Her food pictures take familiar, often iconic packaging and give it a quirky twist and "Finding Inspiration" maps do the same for the good old A-Z road atlas.

You can find Emma's website here, and her Instagram here.

Amanda Stinton is another Instagram find - it's where I get my creative fix from these days.  Amanda's lovely work is another take on free motion embroidery, which is almost collage like in the way she layers fabrics - sometimes overlapping tiny pieces - and thread to create colourful and highly textured pictures.  She uses coloured threads to great effect and creates shading as you would with different coloured paints.

You can find Amanda on Instagram here.

Finally for today is Ali from Hawkins and Hill, yet another Instagram find!  I think I found Ali through the gorgeous clutch bags she makes, which often feature some form of free motion embroidery.  The pieces of her work I've chosen to share feature a vintage sewing pattern envelope stitched from fabric, and an old school music cassette tape stitched from vinyl, proving once again that it's possible to use a wide variety of materials in your work. 

I love the way Ali has 'coloured in' the pattern envelope design with thread, rather than using fabric applique.

Ali's Instagram is here, and you can find her Etsy shop here

I hope you've enjoyed my little trip around the world of free motion embroidery today.  There are plenty more artists out there creating in lots of different styles, so hopefully I'll do another one of these posts later in the year. 

In the mean time, I'd love to know which one of the artists I've featured today is your favourite and why.

Next week I'll be back with a new tutorial for you.    

* all of the above images are shared with the artists permission.

Teaching at the Knitting and Stitching Show

Towards the end of last year an email popped into my inbox one day asking if I'd be interested in teaching a free motion embroidered portraits class at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Olympia this Spring.

I often teach free motion embroidery and I love doing so, it always thrills me to see initially nervous students suddenly 'get it' and watch their creativity blossom. But I've never taught more than 6 people at a time; this offer was for a class of 12!

Well, after a bit of emailing backwards and forwards to sort out the details - how long should the workshop be? would there be a choice of portraits, and if so, who? and so on - I accepted the invitation.  I'm excited and a little nervous to be able to tell you I'm teaching a free motion embroidered portraits class on the Friday afternoon, 1st March.

As you can see, the workshop is actually called Iconic Fun Portraits, and I hope it will be fun. 

I've made the samples and as the blurb says, you can choose to stitch either David Bowie or Madonna.  I've chosen to use Liberty of London cotton lawn throughout, as I wanted to make the pieces really special.

I'm currently putting together the kits for the workshop, which is a challenge to make sure I include everything!  Normally I teach in a fabric shop so if I've forgotten anything I can quickly grab it, but for this I need to provide everything.

As I'm teaching a workshop the lovely organisers have given me a discount code for entry tickets to share with my followers.  If you use code SWT40 on the website here you can get your entry ticket for just £12.00.  You can also quote the code if you prefer to book by phone on 0844 581 1319.

As I mentioned earlier in the post my workshop is on the Friday afternoon.  I'd love to see some of you there, whether you take my workshop or not.

Let me know in the comments below if you're going on the Friday and I'll try and say hello.