Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Practicing Free Motion

I was determined that, before the year was over I would tackle my sewing machine and practice free motion/threadwork.   Never mind that I haven't even learned the basics of machine sewing,  what I really needed to learn was how to embroider on my landscapes with my sewing machine.   I have been having some pain in my fingers, wrist and shoulder from all that hand stitching and need to give it a break, although I am reluctant to lose the 'label' as exclusively a hand stitcher.  After doodling on pieces of felt for a couple of hours, I decided to jump right in.   I figured it would be easiest to try stitching on some ready made flowers before trying to create my own so I cut and fused flowers onto a background (I actually used craft bond as if I was making them into art cards).  And here are the results of number 1 and number 2 sample.  The stitching is pretty basic but I had fun learning to follow the veins in the petals and leaves, trying to control my speed and the direction of my stitching. I had no trouble with stitches, thread or needles. I even tried a zigzag stitch.

 Since I do a lot of grasses, trees, bushes and water, I next drew a pattern with mountains, grasses and a stream running through it inspired by some of my photos, and went to work.   I used solvy stabilizer and a hoop for this one.  I like using the hoop to move the fabric even though it can be cumbersome and I needed to re set the piece inside the hoop several times.   I really stitched the heck out of it and had fun trying different threads (like the multicoloured one that I used for the section below the trees.   I finished by hand stitching individual grasses and bushes.  I had actually found sketches of various grasses in a photography book about the prairies and tried to emulate some of them.  I also looked at various embroidery stitches in my handy stitch book but ended up inventing my own simple stitches.   So here is the finished product.

 I have prepared a few more fused pieces because this weekend I am going to a quilting retreat and will bravely try to machine stitch in the presence of 11 women who are experienced machine quilters.  Yikes!   The first piece is from a theme that I used before in a hand stitched piece called The Tenerife Challenge.   I'm using it again because the photo has these lovely long grasses in the foreground, bushes, water, trees and mountains.  It's all ready to start stitching.

 Then I prepared a piece inspired from a photo I took at Mud Lake with lots of trees, rocks, water, bushes and cattails.  I sketched in some of the areas that I want to stitch with white pencil.

I have a couple of other pieces ready to work on (one of underwater rocks and another swamp piece) as well as my hand stitched colour challenge piece so I'll have lots to do this weekend (besides eat and drink wine).

Two observations - When I was reading about machine stitching, free motion and thread painting I got pretty scared about thread!   Top thread, bobbin thread, fine thread, heavy thread, silk, metallics, cotton, poly, will I ever learn all this?    So I said to myself, this is an experiment and I tried every thread that I could get my hands on, even metallics and fine silk.....and most of them worked!!  Once I learned how to re set the tension and how to read my errors ie too tight or too loose, I was off to the races - literally.    I learned why you need a finer needle with finer threads (to avoid big holes in fabric) and why you need to loosen tension (bobbin threads showing through on my pale beige fabric).   So my advice to anyone starting out is to not be too afraid of it.   Early on I had a few thread pile ups but soon learned how to control that.   It was fun - but pretty intense.

The second thing -  On several of these pieces I used Elaine Quehl's multi coloured hand dyed fabric and boy, does it make the scene pop, especially if you don't stick to blue for sky, green for grass, etc etc.  I love colour and find that hand dyes and batiks can give a piece extra pizzazz.  I am inspired by other art quilters' use of colour.  One example is Gloria Loughman's luscious pieces (see her book 'Luminous Landscapes').

I'd better get packing.  Maybe I'll have something to post on my return.


  1. Look at you just zooming right along on that machine! Very proud you jumped in and took the plunge for experimenting. That is exactly the way to go for it. I love the flowers of course, but think the landscapes are going to be fabulous when you get done. Build of thread is always a problem on the bottom....I use a lot of free motion zig zag stitching and get very interesting results. Can't wait to see how these turn out.

  2. What a great idea to start on ready made flowers! It is one of those "why didn't I think of that" moments! lol I have just started dabbling in freemotion and threadwork as well. I look forward to seeing what you create. Thanks for starting to follow me at Twistfully's nice to start getting followers =D

  3. Your thread work is just gorgeous. I love the two flower ones.


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