Free Machine Embroidery

pb090056So I finally finished my first attempt at a large piece of machine embroidery. When I started this I was making the technique up as I went along which lead to some errors. During the course of creation I got a few tips about machine embroidery from my course which improved my technique. Later I bought myself a free machine embroidery foot which made the process much easier.

The image is based on a section of a picture I saw online, a microscopic image of diseased ivory. The purpose of this exercise was for me to try colour mixing with threads – so I translated the online image into a cyan-magenta-yellow in my sketchbook, and later into a doodle using the Gimp where I created each colour as a layer to allow me to see where I’d be laying each thread.

I wasn’t able to get hold of pure cyan, yellow or magenta threads, so I made do with reddish pink, yellow and blue.  The colour mixing worked best with light thread over dark, so the yellow and blue, or yellow and red merges are the best looking. The red and blue merges are not very perceptible as both colours are quite dark and overwhelm each other.

The mistake I made of using a single thickness of fabric meant that the piece became very distorted by repeated working. When finished and stretched across a frame there were two sections that just would not sit flat – the small swirl in the top right and the large area of blue and red on the left. The solution to this was to make the distortion into a ‘design feature’. I have the piece stretched over a painting canvas and I stuffed the area between the piece and the flat canvas surface with stuffed toy filling, making the distorted areas behave somewhat.

It was interesting to see how the picture evolved. I had deliberately not looked at the original source photo since I took a coloured pencil sketch of it in my sketchbook. The subsequent transformations – to Gimp picture, to fabric sketch, to stitch – all took place with guidance only from the previously drawn image and memory. Comparing the finished article now with that photo I can see the resemblance mostly in the shapes. The gorgeous colours of the original were lost: my experiment in colour mixing potentially a failure.

I’m happy enough with the result. I’d hang it on my wall – which is more that I could say for the painting that was on the canvas before I used it to stabilise this piece. I’m going to get my trusty wood worker to whip up some framing wood to put around the edge and hide the stretched cloth at the side, and then the job’s a good ‘un.

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2 Responses to “Free Machine Embroidery”


  1. 1 Anne November 26, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    Wow! You have more patience than me – I could never sit still to produce such an intensity of stitch. Whilst a second layer of backing can help with the distortion, along with a hoop and appropriate foot you may never get it to lie completely flat. This is a “feature” that the artist Alice Kettle incorporates into her work. Though the requirements of her hanging in the Winchester Resource Centre meant that she had to minimise this as much as possible as she only had 5 cm of depth to play with which over a 16x3m piece was a bit of a challenge.


  1. 1 Inspiration to creation « The Philomathic Kat Trackback on November 29, 2008 at 6:33 pm

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