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Conversational Threads

Cretive stitchers?

JanF | Posted in Creative Machine on

I have been watching the posts to see if any new ones come up re. creative free-motion embroidery – and am surprised that so few seem to be posted.
After saying that – I don’t have anything to post as such – just a general query as to why so few of Threads readers seem to use their machines in this very creative way?
It seems to me that a lot of people like the use of the ready made designs re. machine embroidery – which I refer to as “set embroidery stitches” but are a little afraid to actually use the machines in a freer style.
Is this because a lot of people feel a little inhibited about their ability to think as you do?
I would be surprised if this was the case because it seems to me that lots of the posters are infinitely creative with dressmaking embellishments and other “Crafty” skills but appear to fall short of going the “Whole way”, dropping the feed on the machine, and letting go.
I find kids at school love “drawing” with the machines and this is used a lot in my school, probably because I like doing it, but why so few adults?
Ive just realised I cant spell – not good for a teacher is it!!

Edited 1/29/2007 1:04 pm ET by JanF


  1. Josefly | | #1

    I would love to do more of the kind of stitching you're describing. My un-tutored attempts have been less than satisfying. Someone has told me it just takes practice, and I'm sure I haven't practiced enough, but also...something I'm doing is just wrong, and I need someone to watch me and show me what it is. There's a video tip on this Threads site about it, but I can't seem to duplicate what I see. I can draw out a design and trace over it with the machine, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, but that's my limit. I keep promising myself I'll really sit down and learn how, but for now I've promised myself to fit a pants pattern, finally.Guess what I'm saying is, I'd love to learn how to do free-motion stitching, and would love to see what others are doing with it. It appeals to me much, much more than using an embroidery machine with programmed designs.

    1. georgiagg | | #2

      I am so glad to see someone mention embroidery with out the computer. I have seen people do the free hand on a quilting show and it has motivated me to learn something new.  I am taking a class this weekend called the Upside Down Embroidery.  The decorative threads come from the bobbin. I am excited to learn to do this and other kinds of machine embroidery, too.  Can see many avenues to use this to embellish garments and such.  It will take some practice but then so does sewing.  Will let you know how it goes.

      1. JanF | | #6

        I'm glad you responded to my first post - I love using the free - motion skill on the machine. When i first learned to do this I was at college and didnt know you could do this with a machine! Mind u was 1972!!
        In college we were taught that the thread had to be on the spool because fancy machine threads hadn't been around then.
        We used to use Coton a broder and I still use this at school cos its very good thread to learn with. At the moment I'm using this upside down method to teach pupils to do some sashiko work, but not with free motion - that is the next stage!
        Enjoy your course - It will inspire you - or I really hope it does!!
        I would be interested to know what else you do on the course - how the skill is developed. I'm always open to finding new ways of doing things in relation to teaching, albeit that I am getting to the end of my official teaching career!
        Good luck - Janet

      2. Noelle | | #15


          I'm interested in seeing what you do, or at least "hearing" about it!

        I just bought Designer SE (Viking) last week--have lots to learn.  Am

        doing monograms right now.  Love creative stitches idea! 

        1. JanF | | #33

          As I promised - Ive tried to attach these thumbnail photos before - but no joy - so trying again - apologies if not clear enough - but a selection of what I have done with freemotion embroidery - PS - I do not really look as old as in my portrait! Now wear contacts - and they improve my ageing photos!
          Phew - that took a while! Ive probably got too big a size of photo now for anyone to see anything!

          Edited 2/8/2007 2:11 pm ET by JanF

          1. Josefly | | #34


          2. fabricholic | | #35

            Hi Jan,Awesome. What is the first one, a book? It looks like you used metallic threads. I don't have much luck with metallics, even though, I use the right needle, but the liquid stuff on it, it just ends up breaking. You are so talented. Very nice.Marcy

          3. JanF | | #36

            Thank you - I dont think the pic shows it up quite correctly as I used metallic fabric(in fact stretch metallic lycra fabric - sandwiched between cotton evenweave and a synthetic lining fabric!) The actual stitching was ordinary machine polyester thread too. Not a combination I would ordinarilly use 'cos I'm not a fan of synthetics usually- but I wanted the metallic fabric to give the contrast to the dull yellow surrounding fabric.
            Also it was stuff I'd got to use up!
            I can't say i would usually mix - or recommend mixing- different types of fabrics for a full piece of work but I wanted the sparkly effect. I just attached ready - purchased, sparkly cord around the edge of the book. The book I use at school to keep lesson plans in - and for the pupils to see working examples of what they could achieve.The design was a drawing I did of the end of a pew in my local parish church which I just reproduced 4 times, turning 2 upside down.
            Like you I find the metallic thread annoying because they do split easily even with the correct needles too - but I tend to limit metallic stitching to small areas for effect or to highlight some sections.
            Also after 28 years of being married to a Yorkshire man - about whom the saying goes [that they are "careful" with their brass(money)]it obviously rubbed off in that I never throw stuff away and recycle fabric snips and resent paying loads for what seems to me to be very expensive threads!
            It pays off though - this year's exam preparation question for my class, is to do with recycling - so at least Ive got loads of examples of what is possible, to help them prepare for the exam!
            Thanks again -Jan

          4. fabricholic | | #37

            Hi Jan,Am I correct in assuming that you teach different kinds of sewing? The book is beautiful, no matter how you achieved the effect. That would have to inspire students.Marcy

          5. JanF | | #39

            yes - ur right - I teach what we call KS3 and KS4 (11-16yrs old in old money! - sorry I realise that won't mean anything to you - its a reference to before we went decimal with our coinage!!and people still use the saying to refer to the "old days")
            I have to follow the National Curriculum for Ks3(compulsory) which means that I teach textiles skills alongside task analysis, research, design specification, designing from 1st - development - final design (all evaluated)making and final evaluation.
            I do this using whichever textile skills I feel I want to promote/or like /or am good at!. My personal slant is that I want them to use a sewing machine well, so applique/reverse applique, free motion etc do feature quite highly. At the mo. I'm working on sashiko work and African style cushions in Ks3.
            The KS4 pupils chose to follow my subject, but the exam board set the course.
            If anyone is interested they could go onto http://www.aqa.org.uk and it should explain what I have to do, gives past exam papers for the written exam, and I think also examples of work. The title = Textiles Technology (under Design Technology)
            If I was working full time I would also teach "A" level D and T, but i chose to work less hours and have a bit of sanity and time for myself.
            A sign that retirement is becoming increasingly attractive!
            I think a lot of members to this site seem to be garment orientated, and I do have to do quite a lot of this at KS4, but money can be an issue for pupils and my capitation allowance!! so very often - apart from time, this can limit what I am able to do.
            Also i'm one of those who cannot bear doing the same thing every time too. If you think that any year group is split between 6 different media areas ( eg. food, textiles, resistant materials( wood, metal, plastic), systems(electronics)and IT ( and the pupils rotate around these) - it means that I can be teaching the same scheme of work 6 times in a school year. In fact I can be doing it 12 times cos the school intake is split into houses - which means I can be teaching 2 groups in any 1 week, for each year group!! Clear as mud??
            Lets just say that after 1 year of it - I change my scheme!
            It suits me though 'cos I need to keep up with trends etc. and it stops me from being bored! I've seen enough posts regarding boring teachers who turn pupils off textiles by insisting they make aprons etc!
            Anyway - hope the explanation wasn't too boring!!!Just to say - just checkedlink - you would need to go into publications - then specifications to find out what i teach!

            Edited 2/11/2007 12:02 pm ET by JanF

          6. Josefly | | #41

            I thoroughly enjoyed your description of your job, and I'm impressed with the British school system. I didn't know what Sashiko was until I just now googled it, and wow! Where've I been that I haven't seen this beautiful stuff? I want to try it, but not now, no, no, no, I've got pants-fitting to do. Bet your students love your class.

          7. JanF | | #44

            I must own up to the fact that I didn't know what sashiko was until about 8 years ago!I think i found out by looking at something done by hand at a local quilting fair - and then researched it. Also i do like to look at textiles from other cultures - although not always to my taste etc. i can adapt colours/motifs etc. I'm sure most of us stitchers have a library of reference books too. I sometimes cringe to think of the amount of money Ive spent on illustrated books, but ive done that since the late 60's. Its my reasoning for always telling my husband Ive got no money!
            Probably we've all done pieces of work - to sell them to then buy some more fabric/thread or a book -- to go on and make something else to sell/give as pressies or wear - and then run the circle again and again!!
            Ive a horrible feeling that although being able to make something to sell or to make something for someone to wear has at times been a life-saver for me, It has also been my biggest area of spending!
            nice to chat - janet

          8. user-217847 | | #53

            OH Jan,

             WOW you've blown me away, beautiful. I'd be happy with half your talent, congratulations.


          9. amapola | | #38

            Thank you for sharing your beautiful work. You've inspired me.

          10. JanF | | #40

            It would be nice to think I did - but in reality I do the same as others - look for inspiration around me, books etc - even seeing how others do some things that I do but in a different, often easier , way. I've realised after joining this group that there is a lot I dont know about textile work - even at 57!! and 30 years of teaching!
            Too easy to get stuck in your own groove I often think - hence looking forward to my own time - no school orders of work - just what I want to do!!
            Happy sewing!

          11. FitnessNut | | #42

            What beautiful work! You can teach me anytime!!!

          12. JanF | | #45

            Well!! if in about 12months time you fancy a holiday in North Wales, coupled with learning/acquiring/perfecting skills in some textile area I might possibly oblige!!
            i'm definitely taking the plunge and setting up a business with my daughter to run courses (residential if poss)so watch this space!!
            Hope u dont mind my "tongue in cheek" advertising. My daughter is telling me i have got to self promote but as yet I cant do it without feeling cheeky and too "in your face"!!
            perhaps by next year when Ive got to self finance my "textile habit" I will have learnt the art of promotion - definitely will be a steep learning curve!

          13. User avater
            blondie2sew | | #47

            Dear Janet.I just got through reading through this whole entire Thread!! And all I can say is "you go girl" I have learned more in these 47 posts then some of the classes I have taken for free motion..I don't have an embroidery machine I have one with a ton of decorative stitches. so in the gallery when I post my stockings I have always just did free embellishing if you will... I have taken a class on Machine Beading which I have to say was fun and I got the hang of it!! I have just frozen up when it comes to the thread painting and free motion. Scares the spit out of me...Don't know why like your very first few posts I am too very creative and I just hang up on it all!! Some advice to me was have a glass of wine!! Basically don't get hung up just relax!!We have a group here in the NW called MEOW....Machine Embroidery of Oregon and Washington..This is totally free motion and I have been wanting to join just to be in a group with ladies for the ideas! Hopefully next year when my lil one is full time school. The neat part of Free motion is you are not limited to wear you can go!! Anyway I love it and I so appreciate your School instruction to us!! You Rock in my book!! You get paid for your instruction and yet you gave so freely of your heart and time to really go into detail with us!! We are truly blessed to have you around. And as for your work like the other post "WOW"From my Heart to yours You are incredible!!Connie

          14. Josefly | | #48

            Amen to Connie's message.

          15. JanF | | #50

            I'm happy to oblige - but I'm conscious that it is a 2 way thing! ive learnt quite a lot from other posters!
            Thanks Jan

          16. JanF | | #49

            Thanks for your vote of confidence - it is quite nice to be able to pass on a little bit of knowledge and keen sewers are much more receptive than youngsters sometimes! i like your idea of the group meeting - but I had to snigger to myself at the MEOW !!
            - could be that you dont say it in the states but women here say that, when they want to say that they are, or someone else is, being "catty" about other women! Its a play on the fact that women love to gossip about others not present at the time!
            of course i'm sure that wasnt what was intended with naming your group!!!
            Was it??
            Well if it was I think its a great name - but that might be my slightly warped sense of humour!

            Edited 2/18/2007 5:35 am ET by JanF

          17. Cherrypops | | #51

            I too thought 'catty' in reference to MEOW...You are not alone in this warped sense of humourous world we live.

            I agree it is a great name for the group and do hope the gals only get their 'claws' out when their machine goes awry not their counterparts in sewing.

            I have enjoyed reading through this thread. Please continue.

            :) CherryP

          18. User avater
            blondie2sew | | #52

            How funny "MEOW" in may different languages..Yes actually over here in the states we can say she is the real Cat's Meow which in turn means she has it going on...usually in the man department. But I don't know if you are any other countries are into the who shorten down and acronyms.(spelling?) anyway. It is funny. When we type sometimes we forget the whole. There are other countries other cultures that are probably going "What!!!" I know I have done that in some posts around here. And then usually one of us ( I think mostly from the US will ask the question..what does that mean)I hope I clarified a bit. Like Tigger says (that's Winnie the pooh)
            TTFNTa Ta for NowSmiles

          19. JanF | | #54

            Just a thought - Ive never done any machine beading - how difficult is it to start? Could you recommend any good books - or pass on any good practical tips for me to start trying this out?
            i understand the principles - but need a little help getting basics sorted out - in very simple terms?
            Whenever you have a few spare minutes would u kindly point me in the right direction?
            Thanks Jan

          20. User avater
            blondie2sew | | #56

            Hi Jan,Yes I would be more then happy too. What I will probably do is attach a Word Doc with all the info for you..So then you can easily print it out and I won't be taking up a ton of space on this thread!! Thanks for asking. I haven't done this in a while and after you asked me well I just might have to start playing again..Ok Here it is done sooner then I thought!! I am hoping this is clear and precise like you have written your instructions to us! Please let me know if you are not understanding a part or so.
            I wish I could snap shot some pics for ya but my honey has the camera and well that is in NZ until next week. I am hoping I did a job well done for youBlondie

            Edited 2/20/2007 8:11 pm ET by blondie2sew

          21. User avater
            blondie2sew | | #57

            Ok after I edited my post to you I realized I couldn't attach on my edit so here is another post for my attachment. Blondie

          22. JanF | | #58

            Thank you very much - I have had a quick read and it seems straightforward enough - although I can see why you said it takes time to practise - but it gets quicker!
            I'll let you know how I get on - In a way it might not be too difficult for me to get started cos I was taught to do free embroidery without a presser foot on the machine - albeit years ago - but I think I will need to actually admit to myself that my glasses are not going to be good enough for me any more and get a magnifying glass attached to my machine!
            I would like to perfect some method of attaching beads by machine though, cos I want to bead a few corsets and they take ages by hand!
            And yes your explanation was fine and easy to understand - Thanks very much Janet

          23. User avater
            Becky-book | | #60


            Not sure when I'll get around to trying it but now I can't excuse myself for lack of instruction!


          24. cree9 | | #43

            The pictures are wonderful and the skills to do the beautiful work are awesome - I have only one sample of the work I used to do free hand and now that it is framed I may not be able to get photo - I made pictures in thread on material rather like the woman except that I used threads more like paints and covered the material with often several layers of various colored threads and used decorative stitches to get ragged effects and so on - this was before hoops, stabilizers or anything like that - all stretched by hand and done with feed dogs down so I controlled the speed or placement of thread or whatever without any help from any assists.

          25. JanF | | #46

            Thank you - I'm interested in the term thread painting! Do you think its a different form of free embroidery - on its own - or is it a development of the free-motion stuff i do? Possibly it relies on the amount of threads actually used, and I assume it refers to completely covered areas of fabric - am I correct?

          26. cree9 | | #55

            I will try to take a picture of the framed piece that I have - thread painting essentially covers the material with thread in several layers to get colors - I used all sorts of decorative stitches and it was done without hoop or stabilizer with feed dogs down - I sketched drawing on the back of the jacket and then used threads to create a picture - the threads survived repeated washings - the piece that I can send a picture of was on the back of dark brown corduroy jacket (pre-made jacket) the corduroy has holes in it even among the stitching and I cut the piece out of jacket before it was thrown away as unusable - if I were doing this today (and I may try this again) I would try to enlarge picture on computer and then use tracing paper or some such to copy onto whatever material I was using - I am experimenting with this kind of thing so am not sure exactly how I would go about this. I will get some batteries for my digital camera and then try to get a picture that I can attach to this thread and show you what I am talking about. I am trying to get some pictures on computer that can iron onto t-shirts but so far haven't had too much luck with this project.

          27. JanF | | #59

            I think by thread painting you must treat your needle a bit like a paintbrush? It will add colour but also texture?
            I can see how this is a more "painterly" approach to the work, but I guess blending in the colours must be quite important? I do use this technique myself but just thought it was an extension of free motion stuff.
            I also assume that you must engage the presser foot and feed to do any of the programmed stitches on your machine?
            I've tried to use the set embroidery stitches from my machine without the feed in position and it is just impossible to get a recogniseable pattern - unless I actually move the work back and forwards in a somewhat similar fashion to the feed dog - but not so accurate!
            I thought " b.... this! you might just as well use the ordinary sewing set up!
            Am I missing something?

          28. cree9 | | #62

            I always use some form of foot - I have used embroidery foot - spring loaded with clear round hole in middle - anything that lets you see what is happening when you sew - have also used other presser feet sometimes whatever is on machine - the presser foot is down - most machines don't sew at all if this isn't happening. I use the decorative stitches without worrying too much about having a solid piece of the stitch - usually I am trying to add color or shading to existing stitches so that there is some dimensionality in the appearance. I do NOT use feed dogs at all - all the stitching is done by moving material with my hands - unless I am doing basic outline when I may still use the feed dogs. I haven't done this for many too many years and I can't find batteries for my digital camera so I can't try to take a picture of the only thing I have left.

          29. JanF | | #64

            This sounds interesting to me - if u get the chance a few photos would be interesting/informative to see.
            I would like to feel more confident with my colour choices/mixes too - as sometimes I get this quite wrong - and this is where I think thread painting is a little more skilfull than what I can do with free embroidery.
            I suppose its a step in the right direction if I at least KNOW something looks "wrong"?
            Ithink you also must be a little more "freer" with your work than me - if u can do all the machine stitches without the feed up presumeably the resulting texture is your aim - not pattern?
            Not sure which post u refer to as showing examples - but I'll trawl back a few to find it - thanks Jan

          30. cree9 | | #63

            Just scrolled down and there is discussion about thread painting right below this one with 2 entries one has address for article on thread painting which might be helpful - I skimmed it and will think about it and go back and reread it soon.

          31. JanF | | #66

            Cree - this might not b ur name - but I had a girl last year in my class named Kree so thought it just might be!
            Thinking about your post - got me thinking about ways of doing free embroidery - led to checking the site mentioned - which just reminded me of agreat book I have about Raised Embroidery - or Stumpwork. To me what she is doing is very like creating 3D pics this way.
            The fantastic book is called
            New Designs in Raised Embroidery by Barbara and Roy Hirst ISBN 1 85391 578 5
            Dont know if anyone else has this book - but it gives great instructions how to add figures etc. i'll try to add a photo - but i'll have to post this one first and then edit - 'cos i know i'll lose it before scanning the pics in!

          32. JanF | | #67

            These might just be useless!

    2. JanF | | #5

      Thanks for your reply - it made me think of the pitfalls that happen to pupils at school when trying it out. If I have got any advice ( and others might disagree, cos I think once people have the basics of free - motion - they usually go on to find their own ways of doing things) the secret is regulation of speed. Too slow makes it impossible to do well and you might be surprised if you can pick up speed a little. My advice would be not to start with a shape to follow - that is difficult to do.
      Just put your fabric in a machine embroidery hoop - keep it tight and flat to the bed of the machine - drop the feed and go. My kids usually start by trying to do their initials/house and developing a Celtic looking pattern in and around it. (Bear in mind I'm in Wales and we have to cover Welsh curriculum)but think flowers, hearts and bows but dont be afraid to try without an outline first(or draw the free outline with the needle itself first!)
      Oh ####! I just cant stop sounding like a teacher! Apologies!

      1. User avater
        Becky-book | | #7

        Thanks for the idea!

        Now for the questions... do you think it could be done w/o the machine embroidery hoop (use my wooden one instead)?

        my machine does not have a control to 'drop the feed' but I do have a little plastic cover that snaps on over them called a 'darning plate', would this be sufficient?

        My grand kids would love to have things with their name or initials on them!



        1. JanF | | #8

          Yes you could use the wooden one - but it might be too thick to slide under the darning foot - in which case take off your presser foot and put hoop with fabric in it, in place, then put darning foot back on to start.( I forgot to say you must put it in with the flat surface against the bed of the machine - a space is not what u want between fabric and bed of machine)
          You will need the plate in place - this covers the feed to allow you to move in any direction - hence the name I suppose ?
          You can work without the hoop - and I do usually - but you have to make sure the fabric is strengthened somehow to keep it flat, and also you need to be able to hold it easily to keep it moving. If u work too much in 1 place it might break a needle as it builds up the thickness too fast in 1 spot for needles to penetrate the fabric.
          I would recommend a frame to learn - but develop speed and control before moving onto fabric without a means of keeping it tight.
          I would also say cotton fabric to start with too as it has the strength to take the stitching - but not too thick a cotton - perhaps cotton sheeting would be ideal and cheap enough for a start.
          Happy experimenting!

          1. User avater
            Becky-book | | #9

            Thanks,  now one more question...'darning foot' I think I have seen these, but I don't have one, am I stuck?  I do have a small plastic foot called a button foot in my instruction book, might this work?


          2. JanF | | #10

            Sometimes called a free motion foot - it does not come right down onto the surface of the fabric - just a little above it and is usually a circular metal ring. If u dont have one - you can do free motion without a presser foot - but be careful - keep fingers away from needle (best to hold the frame)and you must not forget to lower the presser foot lever even though there is no foot - otherwise no tension!

          3. Josefly | | #11

            Oh, gosh, am I laughing at myself. No wonder my efforts were such a mess. Like Becky, I have no darning foot, and can't lower the feed dogs on my machine, though I can raise the throat plate to prevent feeding the fabric (this of course decreases the thickness of fabric I can squeeze between the raised throat plate and the bottom of the presser foot). So I kept the presser foot raised! And the tension is only applied when the presser foot lever is down? Oh, I can't wait to try it again. How nice to have your tips!I'm assuming you're talking about using a satin zig-zag stitch, when you warn not to let thread build up too much in one place? What about straight-stitch?What is the darning foot for if it doesn't touch the fabric - just to keep fingers away from the needle?

          4. JanF | | #12

            Unless you know beforehand , none of us really know by "osmosis" how to do something and I am a classic case of trying something before knowing all the ins and outs of a skill!
            Of course I do tell my pupils that I know everything!!
            You can use straight or zig zag, but set embroidery stitches in your machines don't work well because you need to regulate them somehow. I have tried - but not 100% successfully.
            In fact I would recommend using straight stitch only, for a while, to get the "feel" of the skill and control.
            The darning foot keeps fabric more in situ than without one - but as i might have said - when I was taught to do it - we were told to remove the foot fully and just engage the tension by lowering the presser foot lever.
            However, it is safer with a foot on, 'cos it is too easy to forget where your fingers are, especially if u don't hold the frame. Also its too easy to stitch too close to the frame and - bang - needle broken!
            Expect to break more needles than usual - I use a universal needle - about size 12 to start with - but of course this can change when you gain expertise and chance more adventurous fabric rather than "bog - standard" cotton.
            I've just remembered that you can buy special needles - ones that have a spring to them that allows you to stitch a little more easily without a presser foot (and of course - now I'm home after a long day slaving away, and with a stinker of a cold, the name of it escapes me completely!! - Not age related of course!)
            I'll post this to everyone so I'm sure someone will be more on the ball than I am and can advise you of their name.
            As I've said - happy experimenting!
            This refers to free - motion embroidery by the way to all others on posts.

          5. Josefly | | #13

            Thanks again for those tips about needles, etc. I'm going to play with it this afternoon.

          6. zuwena | | #14

            Ditto Thanks for all the wonderful information and tips. I am totally new to the entire embroidery/free motion concept as my initial forays (years ago) were totally unsatisfactory. With all of your advice and tips I feel invigorated about the idea of trying again. This has been one of the best postings. Thanks for raising the question and providing some much in the way of "amswers." Z

          7. User avater
            Becky-book | | #16

            Thanks for asking if anyone was doing "free motion", and helping us who "had not a clue" how to do it!  I feel like a kid who has been given a new box of crayons and a blank sheet of paper!! (and my first attempts look about the same) Hope to have time to "scribble" some more today (ice on the roads in GA!), not going out for any reason!!



            PS Hope your head cold gets better.


          8. JanF | | #17

            Thanks Becky - I'm still sniffing and snortling - in fact a good job hubby away - cos I'm not 100% user friendly to be around at the moment, what with coughing and head bunged up feeling - but i'm sure when hubby gets back my cold will not be half as bad as his was!!
            I'm glad u r finding my posts helpful - in fact I did actually think it might be ok for me to post some instructions for basics I use at school - so I might try. However - that would mean I'd have to get to grips with scanning in a worksheet, and trying to attach it to my post - which might take days for me to get to grips with, my head being somewhat befuddled at the mo!
            What is wrong with "scribbling" anyway? Its a great way to perfect technique - just try adding zig zag into some of your more rounded scribbles!
            If you get cocky - try cutting a hole in the fabric and sewing straight across the hole with straight stitch to anchor the other side (dont go too slow) ... then back again at a different angle .. and so on until you create a sort of web....and then sew in the centre of the web in a circle to trap the crossing threads! It can look a bit like a spiders web and then looks ace if you put contrasting fabric at the back of it!
            Try adding writing - see my 1st. corset photos in messages.
            If I think on, I'll drip feed some ideas for u to try every so often!
            This is before we go on to stitching on dissolveable fabric!
            OOOH ice - are u hoping for snow? It seems to be very elusive for us over here this year - not even a light dusting yet!

          9. FitnessNut | | #19

            Scribbling is an excellent way to get the feel of free motion. The first time I did it, I was able to sign my name (not perfectly, but still could do it) within about an hour. I also found unwashed denim scraps to be a good thing to practise on, without a hoop or stabilizer if heavy.Now I'm getting excited. I really must pull out some stuff to experiment on later.

          10. MaryinColorado | | #30

            There is a book called Thread Magic by Ellen Anne Eddy that has instructions and beautiful photos.  Also, some of the Sulky booklets have instructions for freemotion and  threadpainting.  Love it love it love it!  Mary

          11. User avater
            Becky-book | | #24

            The ice predicted for Atlanta did not come as far south as Sharpsburg so we were spared that trial, but it did rain, cold nasty rain; thunder storms predicted for today.

            After I have practiced scribbling for a bit I hope to be able to put names on tote bags for the 'Grands', one in particular is enamored of bags at the moment so I want to get this done 'while the fit is on her', before she changes her mind (which is VERY strong). Love her lots; she is the one who chose "Mum" for me as my granny name.

            Must run also, Ladies Bible study this morning,


  2. solosmocker | | #3

    Appx 10 years ago I did a lot of free motion work. I loved it and found it addictive. It just puts you into the zone. I haven't done much in recent years as my focus was on more tailored work pieces and now in retirement, on heirloom and smocking. So far I have felt that machine embroidery was not for me, but I have seen some very creative applications lately. I think you have to consider it another tool in the toolbox. Maybe one day I will look into it but for now I enjoy my hand work immensely and am very happy with the status quo.

    1. JanF | | #4

      I do agree with you - just lately I have even caught myself thinking about doing some knitting - not done sice children were young, apart from samples etc for school lessons. Somehow I never fancied machine knitting though. It is horses for courses though - at the moment free motion stuff is where I enjoy myself the most (oh dear - does that sound a little sad?)and I still dressmake - though not so much for myself these days. I spend so much time at school with it - I get home and dont have the energy or enthusiasm for it and I think part of that is my age - at nearly 57 - I want to do more "art" stuff for want of a better description and not make clothes which for me I can buy cheaper at stores. That is a sad reflection of the state of dressmaking here I think. Over here clothes are much cheaper to buy than make, so I go for the easiest option. Perhaps when I finish teaching I might do more for myself - but I suspect grandchildren will appear and they will be the focus - its a long time since i did heirloom, smocking in any quantity!
      Thanks for replying - no doubt chat again! Janet

  3. FitnessNut | | #18

    I love free-motion embroidery, but haven't done it for quite awhile. Thanks for bringing it up - I may just have to have a go at it on the weekend!

    1. JanF | | #20

      I hope u r prepared for the "thief of time" - I sometimes only realise Ive been sewing away for so long'cos of the awarness of hunched shoulders or pain in the neck. In fact I have been known to wrap a towel under my chin to keep my head from dropping too far forward - so i suppose what I should be doing is posting a Health and Safety warning too!
      Enjoy yourself!!

      1. Josefly | | #21

        I had some time today to play with scribbling. Amazingly, there are instructions for free-motion stitching - for darning, which explains why I've never tried it - in my 40-year old Singer manual. I managed to write my name, but had forgotten to lower the presser foot lever (again) and the threads were loopy underneath. Even when I remember to lower the presser foot lever, which isn't often I confess, somehow my thread is getting caught beneath the (raised) throat plate around one of the feed dogs. I can stitch for maybe 40 stitches, then I get hung up. I think it's the top thread that's getting caught, not the bobbin, but it's hard to tell since I have to cut the threads between the fabric and the throat plate to get underneath to see what's happened. The instruction manual said to get started, hold the end of the upper thread while lowering the needle through the fabric and back up, pull the bobbin thread up through the fabric, then hold both threads with one hand while lowering the needle again to begin stitching. It recommends a stitch-length setting of "fine" on my machine, but why would this matter since the feed-dogs are effectively disengaged? I don't think I've been using the right needle though, now I think about it - the needle is too large, and seems to be pushing and pulling the fabric up and down as it goes - so would that cause this tangling problem? Just using some light-weight poly-cotton gingham. I'm also using my straight-stitch throat plate, per the instruction manual. I hope you don't mind my simple questions - I'm so tickled to be able to ask someone who knows how to do this, and how to teach it.

        1. JanF | | #23

          Just off to school in a min. so quick answer - will try later to digest your question properly - but the "popping" usually happens when the fabric has been lifted up from the surface. Keep the fabric in a frame if u can - its easier - and then make sure that the underneath surface of your fabric does actually lie flat against the machine bed(throat plate)
          When u r moving it around you just might be lifting the fabric up. You are right in suspecting that the needle might also be a problem. Check top tension - I very rarely alter tension for my pupils when learning - and if I do I only alter the top tension if possible.
          You should bring both threads to the top of fabric before starting to stitch, but it also will work if u dont - just harder to get going!
          So continue to bring it up 1st.
          Your fabric could be a little fine too for learning .
          Probably loads of other posters might be horrified - but I put a sheet of old newspaper under the kids first trials so they have some strengthening that is easy to remove. The extra layer helps and is free cos I recycle my daily paper! I know this will eventually blunt the needle - but not for a long time - my machines are sometimes working max 5 hours a day - and i mean really working!
          Must go cos i'll be late in otherwise - speak again soon!Jan

          1. Josefly | | #25

            How kind of you to take time before classes to answer me! I think you've given me some good hints to practice with. I am using an embroidery hoop, but because my throat plate is slightly raised to bypass the feed dogs, I kept running into the edge of the plate with the hoop, and lifted the hoop and fabric to try to move it...I'll just practice to improve my technique. And try different fabric, also the newspaper. I would be very pleased if I can learn to do the stippling I see on quilted garments. Headed to Florida for a few days, though, so I won't be back at my sewing machine until the middle of next week. I wish it were going to be warm there, but they're having some cold (for them) and wild weather themselves, where I'm going.

          2. JanF | | #26

            You have no idea - how exotic it sounds to me, to be able to say "I'm just heading to Florida for a few days!!" You are so lucky- no matter the weather! and you know how preoccupied with the weather we are supposed to be over here!
            On that note - woke up this morning to about the 1 and only heavy frost we have had this winter so far!
            Have you tried a small machine embroidery hoop? I do sometimes use small spring loaded ones ( about 3 1/2 inches diameter) Outside ring is a rigid plastic - metal spring inside ring that you squeeze to open and close!
            The problem with them is that of course it limits your work surface - but they are very slim in profile.
            The stippling on quilting will work without a hoop, once you have learnt the control on smaller pieces. You can buy holders to use on the fabric - in fact I think I first saw them in Threads! but I think when i investigated the article they were not available over here - so of course I never pursued it any further.
            Perhaps some one else on the "gatherings" might remember the article - cos of course as hubby is busy putting up kitchen cupboards today - bought from IKEA - I am about to be called to give my opinion on them etc. so I don't think he appreciates my looking through all my magazines whilst he is putting up "my" new cupboards.
            I'd better finish using the computer and go and help!!
            I will keep in touch after your lovely break in Florida.

          3. Josefly | | #28

            Yes, even though it's windy and "cold" (about 54 degrees this morning) it's lovely here in Florida. I grew up here, and sort of take it for granted, I'm afraid. We're here to check on my elderly mother-in-law, just a quick trip, and it is much better to be here than in Atlanta, where we've had a week of below-freezing lows and expect them for another week.Thanks for more guidance on stippling. I intend to play some more when I return home.

        2. solosmocker | | #27

          I think this is what you need to do. Set up your fabric and lower your presser foot as you have. Now hand turn the wheel for one stitch. Pull on the top thread tail until you see the loop of the bobbin thread coming up thru the fabric. Now pull the bobbin thread loop until the entire thread tail is on top of the fabric. You now have both thread tails on the top surface of the fabric. In your left hand snugly hold these two threads pulling toward the rear left of your machine. Hold them snugly while you engage the foot pedal and start stitching. Take a few, maybe 5, stitches and snip them off. Now proceed to your hearts content. Hope this helps.

          1. Josefly | | #29

            Thank you for those clear instructions. I'm not sure what's causing my problems with hung-up threads, but will take all these tips with me to the sewing machine.You, together with JanF, have a very nice talent for giving clear instructions - I can easily visualize what you describe, and it's very helpful. Not just in the previous post, but in others as well, I've noticed.

          2. solosmocker | | #31

            Thanks, I used to train people years ago and always tried to be as clear and logical as possible and put myself into the shoes of the listener/trainee. JanF has that ability for sure!

          3. JanF | | #32

            Thanks for the vote of confidence in our method of giving instructions!
            Believe me - Its not easy to get them right and I can still make some dreadful mistakes. Ive just had a student teacher on a placement with myself as her mentor, and this forced us both to really question how you give instructions. Its quite easy for people to read something in a completely different way than you predicted - especially students of mine!
            For those of you who have followed this strand I will try to attach some pics of some work of mine - but I might not do it correctly. Its just a sample of what I had at home - lots of my stuff goes to school as visual teaching aids and I am not sure if they do me justice - or if they will show clearly enough my ideas - but its a start!
            Oh - b...r I keep doing this!! I go to attach pic files and it shows me a series of file numbers - and Ive got loads of pics that would mean nothing to any of you - my hols and family etc. So I will have to open 1st. - select appropriate ones and then attach - so I will have to do it tomorrow - DH wants to go on the net before 9 o clock - when we both want to watch a detective programme - called "Waking the Dead" so got to hurry!

  4. cree9 | | #22

    I was just buying a new machine and was advised not to get embroidery machine as I don't do much of that but I have often done freehand embroidery on jackets(and other items - napkins, placemats and the like) - I used to do fairly complicated ones and I charged $50(for sewing on provided jackets) - which shows how long ago that was - I need a self threading machine now otherwise I spend all my sewing time trying to thread needles - I traded in my Singer 401A which I loved to death and also worked it hard - it had all the plastic disks to change the stitches and I just framed the Lion that was sewn on dark brown corduroy jacket - the jacket was worn out from washing and wearing even had holes among the embroidery but the sewing design was in great shape - I look forward to doing more of these along with the quilting and other sewing stuff that I mess with. I am not sure what one can say about this kind of stuff - you have a drawing and choose the threads and start sewing - I haven't ever used any of the fancy backings or newer products - an embroidery foot or something that you can see through or around is a help and so is some way to control the feed rather than counting on the feed dogs and the machine - go for it!!!

  5. cannee | | #61

    Hi.  I'm a retired school teacher (K-2,4).  I have made a few "artistic creations" with my old Singer sewing machine with its few stitches.  I really want to get into creative embellishment and am looking for a machine (that doesn't cost an arm and a leg) to have fun with.  I am an artist and really don't want to get into quilting, just wall hangings and placemats and fun stuff.  I know I need a machine with a drop foot feature ( I think that is what you call it for free motion sewing).  I don't know if I need an embroidery machine or just a regular sewing machine or a quilting machine.  Do you or any of the others on this board have any suggestions?  Cannee

    1. JanF | | #65

      If you want to do computerised embroidery - you need a machine with the facility to use eitherA)ready designed stuff on discs etc. or B)one with alink to a computer to download your own images etc.
      If you are an artist I would possibly guess that you would appreciate a more robust straight stitch and zig/zag one (possibly industrial?)that has a drop feed. This would cope a little better with thicker, larger material which you might possibly use.
      I could have that completely wrong though! Its easy to misinterpret questions I find sometimes!
      Also I live in UK and don't have much experience with some of the machines others quote.
      I am a devotee of Bernina, but I think its probably in the eye of the beholder. Lots of other members will probably give you much more detailed advice of machines available in USA.
      All I know is - dont make a choice until you have spent a lot of time trying them out!
      So where is your nearest shop?

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