Monday, 1 June 2015

Chapter 4 : Machine Stitchery

I've really had to persevere with this, looking back at my Module 2 machine stitching to reconnect with the designs I was able to make then.  I've reread  and covered my machine manual in post it notes and created fragmentary samples.  Through doing these I've very gradually felt more adept, though I can understand why it's suggested that 10,000 hours practice are needed to become good at any skill.

There are so many aspects to consider when machine stitching: good light, relaxed shoulders, smooth movement of the embroidery ring, footwear -- trainers were not a success.

Then there's the innumerable thread and needle combinations, to say nothing of tension, an issue not likely to help those shoulders.

Those delicious colour combinations hovering in my imagination cannot be translated without all of the above being right.  Maybe I forgot to breathe!

 In essence I suppose what I'm saying is that I'm trying to achieve a piece of cloth which looks intended.  I neither expect nor want uniformity in my spirals and whirls, but something fluid and expressive, something nearer to my hand stitching results, which I felt were responsive to the cloth and the markings on it, not sitting on the surface the way many of the samples below are.  And, of course, this brings me neatly back to daily practice and beginning to accumulate those 10,000 hours.

4:5 above shows simple spiralling swirls.


 4:6 and 4;7 show interlocking spirals with a closely matching thread.

4:8 shows the effect of increasing the top tension whilst using the same interlocking spirals..  The thread this time contrasts with the fabric.

I like the impression of tracery on the above three samples, or maybe it;s a akin to rock art.


More samples of tight top tension and very loose lower tension. In sample 4:9 the lower bobbin was filled with metallic thread, the upper a near match for the fabric which emphasizes the glinting marks. In 4:10 the top thread has simply come away -- a pretty effect, but not very stable.

The samples 4:11 - 4:15 illustrate some of the challenges I faced with couching, though they seem to tell a better story than the one I experienced at the time.

The only thread which travelled reasonably happily through the couching foot was the viscose tape (4:13) which the machine stitch caught at intervals creating rounder looking swirls. The sari waste (4:11) and gimp seemed to pull through in a way that created straight lines amongst occasional swirls.  The silk lopi (4:14), whose sheen I liked so much, split for the most part though the sample below worked quite well. The rounder viscose cord (4:15)was quite effective because the machine movements were larger and even when the stitching doesn't catch it acts like an echo of the cord.




And now for text.  This says "at the turning of the stair".  My design ideas are based on spiral staircases and though the use of text appeals I rather think using it is a whole new area of study.  I've been reading "Text in Textile Art" by Sara Impey and it has felt very tempting to go off on another tangent.  Though I can imagine some text spiralling round a tube of some sort, with my current level of skills the text would need to be embroidered on to a straight piece of fabric or soluble stuff.

The final samples below show combinations of spiral stitches in a range of threads.


In both 4:17 and 4:18 the thicker threads create a nice 3D surface contrasting with the subtle tracery of the finer threads.  I'm not entirely sure that the two marry well.  It's also interesting to notice the difference using a frame makes. Whilst a frame was used for the central part of 4:18 the final spiral was stitched without one creating puckers and ripples.

All machine stitching has been done on fabric backed by Stitch and Tear.

And what may you ask of velvet? -- a complexity too far, I decided.


  1. Totally empathy with all thoughts and samples!!!! Have to say I just love 4.10...always the problem how do you replicate wonderfully unexpected results...enjoy the moment and as you say breath or take that breathe and remember feeling! cheers judith

  2. Looking good, Lesley, love your colours in 4.18.

    1. I think the ice blue prevents it from being two moody! On to cords now -- very slow progress I'm afraid.