Friday, August 24, 2012

Starting to Stitch Surfaces

 The first stage of the embroidery course I'm doing with Karen Ruane is working with scrim (or cotton gauze) and paper to create surfaces suitable for hand embroidery. This is done using a sewing machine, which took me by surprise, as I was expecting to be doing only handwork.

I dusted off the Elna Lotus SP which was my mother's and hadn't been used for some 20 years (really). I learnt to sew on this dear old machine and I've been so surprised and pleased that the old girl (the machine, not me!) works at all, let alone coping with having the foot removed and doing FME (Free Machine Embroidery).

The grids and circles above are all about creating a more robust surface to hand embroider. While others stitched fabric scraps for added interest, I of course, felt compelled to use old book pages. (These are old books I bought specifically for artwork, but I do confess to hesitating quite a while before I managed to pull out the page).

Below are some pictures of sewing on paper. 
This top one is the back, but I like it better than the front.

Paper has so much potential for use with light.

I haven't mentioned my first trial of eco-printing, which I did just after arriving home. A friend had left us a bunch of roses as a welcome home gift. We enjoyed them for a few days and once they began to fade a little, I put them to creative use. I more or less followed this tutorial.

I'm still thinking about how I want to use the results,  so I experimented with some stitching on this example. This is the view from the back again, and illuminated, below that.

I've really been having so much fun with all of this and now I'm ready to add some hand stitching to these pieces.


  1. Snap! Well almost-snap...I had my Bernina serviced just before I went to England and I think I'll have to take it back.The timing is out of wack, but I did manage some straight stitching on some printing paper.I have plans!

  2. oooo this looks like so much fun!

    (my sewing machine, like my book pile, has seen a lot of arty action over the years - but the machine hasn't been brought out so much lately - I can't wait to get back into it..... moreso when I see all the deliciousness that others are creating with paper and sewing and eco dyeing ...... sigh!)

  3. interesting stuff :)

    Do you know Sara's blog :

    Shes been doing eco-print workshops too and there's also the erosion bundle project which might interest you


  4. Sigh and sigh again... I love what you're doing with scrim and paper and I am absolutely envious. Karen recently wrote in her blog that she doesn't know when she'll run that course again. I do hope she does at some point.

    Wonderful, creative embroidery!

  5. This looks really gorgeous Amanda -I love the back view of the embroidery you show. So much potential here for some wonderfu creations. Thanks for linking to the eco-monoprint tutorial - the process is interesting and the results stunning.

  6. Wow, this is just wonderful! Karens workshop seems to be great.

  7. Thanks to you all for getting in touch. I really love hearing from you.
    Di - that IS interesting - I'll keep an eye out on your blog to see what direction you take.
    Ronnie - yes there seems to be a lot more going on at the moment, but maybe its just because I'm looking.
    Cusp- thanks so much for these links. I did not know either of these bloggers.
    Ersi - you should let Karen know that you are interested. If a lot of people ask, I imagine she will run it. It seems as if she really enjoys it too.
    Helen - I'm pleased you like them too! There IS a lot of potential I think and I'm feeling really inspired to explore.
    Doris- thank-you! Yes, The workshop is great. Such a lot of content and Karen is very available to answer questions. She obviously loves what she does and that is infectious!

  8. Hi Amanda - what a great thing to return to and be so enthused by, and be creating such interesting things with! It looks like a lot of fun - I hope you continue to enjoy.

  9. This is fabulous! I've never tried free motion embroidery on the machine before. You make it seem rather enticing. I'm imagining all sorts of interesting embroidery/book possibilities you might do with this. I'm looking forward to seeing what more you do with the course.

    I used to sew on paper with the machine (nothing this involved!), but haven't been sewing much of anything lately. The sewing bug seems to come and go and then return again. If I keep seeing things like this, I sense the bug might be returning. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Lovely examples, I very much like the first and last. You said the circled were just a preparatory step? It looks interesting to me as it is. And the last one is a really interesting image, the backlit one I mean. I am not sure I understand where and how you used the rose pedals, though.
    Interesting to learn that to get the machine free moving all that is needed is removing the foot. Is that always the case? I didn't know that, I always thought it just wasn't possible with my machine. Doesn't the transportation still work, or is that something you machine didn't have from the beginning?

  11. Hi Hilke! Yes the idea is that you can machine sew on delicate surfaces like cotton scrim, to give you something more solid to work your hand stitches onto. I also like the machine stitching just as it.

    The paper with the rose petals is a slight mistake actually. I use the method shown on the blog link - steaming paper with letters and petals to create prints using the natural dyes in the plants. Once the pages are dry, you are supposed to be able to sort of roll/bend them and the petals pop off. In some cases they did, but in others they seem quite firmly attached, so I just left them there.

    Yes, the transportation on the sewing machine can be a problem with free stitching. Some machines allow you to lower them and others, like mine, have a little plate you can put over as a shield. Before I bought the plate I put tape over the transportation, making sure to leave the hole where the needle goes open. That worked fine as long as I cut round corners on the tape , so they didn't catch the scrim. It's a lot of fun!