Wednesday, August 05, 2009

You knew there'd be a bird

Still experimenting with this doodly idea and seeing what works and what doesn't. I've had a few questions and comments, that I thought I'd try to answer.

Q Jo asked, "Are you using a "regular" sewing machine using free-motion or are you using a long arm? and how did you get the dots that aren't connected to anything? Are those by hand? "

A I use a regular sewing machine—a Janome 6500 to be precise. I love this machine! Its only variance from "regular" is that it has an extra wide harp which makes it better for quilting large pieces, but that is irrelevent in this instance. These pieces are quite small. Each is approximately 8.5" square. I am free-motioning the stitching, which means I use a darning foot, lower the feeddogs and then "draw" by moving the fabric under the needle.

The dots. When I made the first two pieces I added "dots" by hand. Each is a French knot, done with two strands of embroidery floss. On the the third piece I tried adding the dots using my sewing machine. Here is a closeup—hand knots on the left, machine dots on the right.

I prefer the hand done French knots and went back to that with this newest one.

Q Barbara asked "So what happens to this square now? Does it get framed or does it become part of a larger project? Is it destined for Etsy?"

A For now these pieces are being stacked up on my work table with no particular plan. I am just enjoying the process of experimentation. At some point I will decide whether I want to try to sell them or keep them. I do think they might work in a frame, mounted on a piece of black mat board. They may show up on Etsy. Too early to know.

Q Well not really a question, but a comment. Jeri said I was on a "slippery slope" to becoming a machine embroiderer and Margaret referred to it as embroidery, reminiscent of Rebecca Crompton, an embroiderer from the '30s.

A Well, I'm flattered by the Crompton comparison, though I think the similarities are very slight. I don't think of what I am doing as embroidery. It is, quite strictly speaking, machine quilting, not unlike machine quilting I have always done, except that I am making it a more pronounced design element by using black thread and incorporating the designs into the design of the applique. The stitching is done after the top is layered with a flannel backing, though I might try using a thin batting and backing. It is a new-headed way of quilting for me for sure, however, as generally I try to focus on adding texture with the quilting, now I am quite consciously adding "line" with the quilting.

I confess I have a bias, unfair though it probably is, against the whole idea of "machine embroidery." Hand embroidery is one thing, but machine embroidery conjures images of programmed Tweety Birds and His and Hers pillowcases. Sh-sh-shudder!

Q Lisa asked what size thread I am using.

A I don't know what the size is because the label is gone, but it is the most ordinary thread you can imagine. Star Thread, 100% Egyptian cotton in 1000 yard spools. It is not fancy, but I love it and have been using it for years. I buy it at the Mill End Store.


  1. Love the mini's. The free-motion stitching is fabulous. Adds so much to the finished mini!

  2. I love your bird and doodle quilt! Very nice!

  3. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions - I have a Singer but have never been able to master the embroidery feature but it does mean I can drop those feed dogs and free you have inspired me to give it a try...after all, it's only thread...Keep up the fabulous work!

  4. I understand your image of "machine embroidery" as I had the same one. When I started studing with Gail Harker, under the City and Guilds of London system, Embroidery included everything needle related, including "Patchwork" (thought it is now my understanding that these are somewhat separate,) and as you know Linda Kemshall or Ruth Issett would certainly not be accused of doing "Patchwork" in the American sense of the word. So I look upon it as my calling to broaden peoples perception of "embroidery" be it hand or machine just as you have done so well in adding to the richness of "patchwork".

    We need more "ahhhs" and "what ifs" in the world.


  5. I think you are on to something here. These are really beautiful! Can't wait to see what you do next.

  6. I love these. You are having so much fun. Love you FME. Enjoy your blog. Keep playing.

  7. Love it! I think this one has more depth, even though it is a simpler fabric design.

  8. Anonymous6:07 PM

    Beautiful! I call this type of work sketching by machine. I have never been good at drawing but have just started practicing "sketching" trees with my machine. I am not nearly as accomplished as you are but it is a lot of fun. Love your blog and your birds :).

  9. If they are Etsy-bound, please let me know so I can pick before they're all gone!

    I keep lamenting the fact that you are thousands of miles away and I want to be your apprentice! How about giving a week-long crafts camp for old people like me some time? I would hop on the first plane!

  10. Love the 'doodles'...very unique.

  11. All of your doodles are awesome! What a fun way to play. I've been trying to make some small quilts for a mini quilt wall, and I think I just might take your idea and jump with it. A great way to use up scraps too.

  12. So far I love the bird the best. I love the color of the bird against the background. Please, keep going they are awesome.

  13. I absolutely love your "doodle" pieces. They make me so happy!!

  14. I came to visit from Christine's. I love that bird, and the wonderful use of your machine. I would not call that machine embroidery, I look upon it as art with a machine for an implement. I loved you answers!