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Free machine embroidery and badgers

Free Machine Embroidered Badger

Free Machine Embroidered Badger

I’ve been hankering after giving the old free machine embroidery a go for some time and then in my day job, I was asked to design a new website for Little Crab Designs – I’ve since finished her redesign and the new site is now live but you can see she and her business partner do a bit of the old free machine embroidery which inspired me to finally give it a whirl and am getting a bit addicted. Most of the projects I’ve done I haven’t taken photos of. A number of book covers have been whipped up for friend’s birthday presents and finished late at night when the photos all come out too dark.

One method I’ve stumbled on by chance which I quite like is to use several layers of lightweight muslin. This came about really because I bought the muslin to make dress muslins out of – you know the test runs you make of a new dressmaking pattern to test the fit and how it works. Well this is all new to me and I’ll get onto that in future posts but it basically resulted me in buying this lightweight muslin not realising it would be a nightmare to work with to cut accurately or to do accurate seam allowances with. I tried a Collette Ginger skirt with it and it worked to see how the process of the pattern went together but as far as fit was concerned? Total disaster. So I have a few metres of this stuff sitting around and it seemed a good rough fabric to experiment with machine embroidery.

If you fancy having a go, you simply get about three layers of lightweight muslin and use an embroidery hoop to stretch it making sure you stretch it opposite to how you do for normal embroidery – instead of the right side of the fabric being on the top of the hoop, the bit you’re going to embroider on, is what would normally be your wrong side. It’s so that the fabric sits flat against the foot plate of the machine as you work.

Then just draw your image with an air erasable or water erasable fabric marker pen and stitch away. Then when you’ve finished, you cut out your embroidered shape/picture and if you want, you can fluff up the edges a bit more by cutting into them.

I got my youngest to draw a butterfly and we then made this for her summer holiday book using the same method about where we saved a butterfly we found in our back bedroom.

Youngest daughter drew a butterfly for a bit of embroidery

Youngest daughter drew a butterfly for a bit of embroidery

We ended up embroidering the front cover of her book too. She drew it and then I helped her embroider it. We then glued the fabric to card and used it to cover her book.

free machine embroidered book cover

youngest daughter’s book cover


September 5, 2013 at 10:21 pm Leave a comment

Catching Up Part 4. AKA Attempting some patchwork curtains

I know from reading other crafty people’s blogs that we do have a tendency to hoard save things which may come in useful in the future and my fabric stash is starting to overspill out of the cupboard. I bought some new curtains in the sale for my daughters’ bedroom but as we live in a Victorian house, they were just not long enough. I rummaged through my stash but had no fabric nearly large enough to make curtains. It seemed an obvious and simple solution to go the patchwork route. Please note the ‘seemed simple’ thought was prior to any experience of a larger patchwork project. The most I’d rustled up was a small pencil case and a small baby blanket for a friend but how hard could it be?

I measured the window, scribbled down the measurements, drew out a rectangle and worked out how many squares and at what size they’d need to be. I worked out about 96 squares and remembered to include the seam allowance in my calculations. Then we got busy choosing and starting to cut out the squares.

patchwork curtain squares

20 squares cut out. Just the 76 to go then…

I think at this stage, I should fess up that this cutting out stage actually took me weeks to do. I know all you who have any experience at all of patchwork would have been laughing at my naivety the second I mentioned the words ‘simple’ and ‘patchwork solution’ in the same sentence… Well I learnt the hard way and I’m sure some googling would have probably turned up a faster method of cutting out the squares. I did get a rotary cutter which was a revelation to me. I felt like I suddenly got a super power of super accurate slicing ability.

patchwork square curtain preparation

Eldest daughter helps count and organise the squares for me

Finally about a month later, all the squares were cut out and it was time for the fun bit of planning the layout.

patchwork curtains planning

planning the layout of the patches

Also it seems that Dylan, the cat doesn’t seem to have lost his super power ability of being able to lie in the most inconvenient spot at any given moment.

Dylan 'helping' guard the patches while I try to use them

Dylan ‘helping’ guard the patches while I try to use them

Then it was just a case of sewing each line into strips and then sewing the strips together. I actually managed to complete this step in just one evening and was v grateful again to the rotary cutter as with the nice even edges, it made it much easier to sew nice straight even seams. Eldest daughter was most helpful too and happily pressed each of the seams open for me. She was desperate to get them finished and is still at the age where ironing seems a lot of fun.

patchwork curtains

Almost there. The 96 squares finally all sewn together

Amazingly the 96 squares are finally all together and mostly all lining up despite my admittedly starting to rush a bit. I do like how it’s been possible to use a number of favourite fabrics in these and both girls were able to choose some of their favourites. Owls and deer seem to be featuring heavily in all their favourite fabrics right now.

Then I made tabs for the top, cut out some lining fabric, sandwiched the tabs between the lining and the patchwork curtains and sewed the top of the curtains. It was at this stage where I decided to bind the edges in silky ribbon for the contrast of texture and also because I realised I hadn’t allowed for a wider seam allowance at the edges and didn’t want the outside squares to look a bit squashed and out of balance with the others. I like how sometimes mistakes can end up with something even better than would have ever happened if it had all gone to plan.

Finally it was time to hang them up and when the sun shines through, even with the fairly thick lining, you get a patchwork stained glass type effect. If they start to fade, I may put some blackout fabric behind them but the girls like how they look right now and I’m happy they’re happy and it may be some time before I tackle a larger patchwork project again. Although now a few months on, I’m already thinking how nice a patchwork throw would look on the bed…

Ta Da! Thank goodness the seams are reasonably even  and my cutting wasn't too wobbly. If it hadn't been for that rotary cutter, this would have been a lot messier.

Ta Da! Thank goodness the seams are reasonably even and my cutting wasn’t too wobbly. If it hadn’t been for that rotary cutter, this would have been a lot messier.

September 5, 2013 at 9:47 pm Leave a comment

Catching Up Part 1

Aaaaagh! I have massively neglected my poor old blog. There I was starting with all good intentions and then life ran away with me. I won’t be boring with too many details but in short there was a year with a minimum of 25 hours a week commuting and a slight change of career from print design to digital design which involved a pretty steep learning curve plus the usual hectic mum stuff.

I’ve now settled into my new job which is local (no more heinous commute) with a great team and have been devouring sewing blogs sort of like man vs food but more woman vs sewing blogs and it’s made me miss my blog. Also I really don’t want to annoy my non crafty friends on Facebook by bombarding their news feeds with my sewing shenanigans.

So to catch up… I’ve sewed a bit, taught myself to crochet and am starting to learn how to sew clothes. The crochet learning came from getting a free gift on Mollie Makes Magazine. Can I just pause there a minute to say… OMG – can you believe how many cool crafty mags have launched in the last couple of years??? Mollie Makes was one of the first but has blown open a whole new market for modern craft magazines. I still get excited when each new issue plops through my letterbox.

Thankyou YouTube for being there for the crochet learning. Also the book “Stitch ‘n Bitch Crochet. The Happy Hooker” by Debbie Stoller was amazing and full of clear diagrams and all the instructions I could ever need plus more on top in extra helpings.

My first ever granny square

My first ever granny square

Amigurmi crochet bear

So with a granny square or two under my belt of course I had to make a cute creature.

August 21, 2013 at 9:32 pm Leave a comment

Ok so I’m still in Comic mourning…

Another week has gone by and not a huge amount of making has been occuring. I was sick as a sickything last week plus eldest and youngest daughters both had a turn at the head in bucket style statement. Then that unfamiliar yellow disc appeared in the sky and called me out into the garden to mow, weed, prune, dig, edge, fertilize, mulch, pull, shape. I’ve battled with thorns, bushes and soil and filled two wheely bins full of lovely green waste. I even filled a vase with flowers from some pretty flowering bushes that had just got a bit over enthusiastic and were flowering all over daughters’ slide.

So today after the yellow disc had disappeared and the two terrors were tucked up in bed, I got on my computer and saw this post from Warwick Johnson Cadwell who was the other most regular illustrator for The Comic and thought I’d share. He has an magical knack for making people/animals/inanimate objects/aliens/plants/whatever you can think of have real character plus I’m sure he has some time machine up his sleeve as I’ve been known to send off the e-mail to commission him and these amazing roughs come pinging in my inbox 10 minutes later.

Once I noticed the rough had come in on his mobile. I mentioned in my reply that I hoped he was having a nice day out and about and it turned out he was with his friend in A&E. I immediately had visions of said friend bleeding to death or similar whilst Warwick’s like, ‘Hang in there mate, just got to get this drawing off. Won’t be a minute.’ and continuing to scribble away in his sketchbook. Not to mention all those scary signs saying to turn  mobiles off or risk interfering with life support systems. I like to think that no-one was hurt or killed during the making of The Comic but it was good to know Warwick would always make the deadline.

Can I now also send official apologies to the rest of his family for when I didn’t know they were all on holiday in rural France and so sent off my usual Monday request and Warwick never mentioned the holiday until I’d approved roughs and he said that final artwork may be a little later than usual as he needed to drive miles to the nearest town in order to get an internet connection abandoning his family  to do so. So please can I say sorry to all Johnson Cadwell clan for possibly ruining lovely family holiday. But also thank you thank you thank you for everything. The snails, the bees, the fake sick etc. It was fun.

I promise to post up some makes and ‘how to’s’ soon. Eldest daughter has been battling an ever increasing brood of stuffed toys on her bed. They’re worse than rabbits in their rate of breeding. Also am assuming they share some dna with lemmings in their enthusiasm for jumping off top bunk into chasm of bedroom floor below. So I want something nice and attractive to go in her room and keep the little darlings off her bed so she gets some sleep. Plus to keep teddies off the floor and to help save them from themselves in their desire to hurl themselves from great heights. Watch this space for my solution. Currently thinking along lines of big bag on wall with card backing to stiffen…

April 6, 2009 at 10:08 pm Leave a comment

The Comic, making smartphone catchers and other related things

Well it’s Monday which would normally mean getting on with the next Saturday’s issue of The Comic and I’m here instead contacting old art director chums scouting for some freelance design. Have rather scary meeting scheduled on Wednesday with Simon Esterson, he of designing Guardian, Sight&Sound, Blueprint, Domus, New Statesman, NZZ etc etc fame but even  he says things are quiet right now so not crossing too many things in case I cut off the circulation and end up losing an arm or something too.

As my mind is on all things Comic today I thought I’d share my leaving card which was so good I did actually blub a little on opening it. The illustration is by Jonathan Edwards and words are by Sarah Habershon, John-Henry Barac and Andrew Stocks (all art directors extraordinaire).

The maze is by John-Henry. It was a regular Monday morning occurance for me to text both Perri and Sarah with a progress report on my train journey which invariably was sabotaged by malfunctioning train doors, snow, floods, mad people, etc. On one occasion the bus driver of the replacement bus transport managed to lose his way.

Particularly impressed by Jonathan managing to get the correct number of iPhone handsets which I’ve managed to help on their journey back to their maker. Kicker line of ‘iPhone Catcher – make your toilet smartphone proof!’ is totally inspired.

So without anymore waffle from me – here is the lovely card…

The Comic Emma leaving card

P.S. Youngest daughter managed to correctly identify all parts of image. She thinks of the penguins as Caitlin’s now as she helped me make them and they’re on her shelf in her room. So she was a little perturbed as to what the penguins were doing and how Jonathan knew about them to draw them. I think she thinks he has magical  powers which of course he does.

Oh and the five tiny things to do today? 1. Buy chocolate on way to work 2. Eat chocolate for mid-morning snack 3. Have lunch 4. Buy chocolate from canteen 5. Eat chocolate for mid-afternoon snack. Easy peasy.

Thank you everyone.

March 30, 2009 at 9:28 am 3 comments

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