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Conversational Threads

Design-stitching in Threads 127?

Josefly | Posted in Creative Machine on

Has anyone tried the technique in the last Threads issue, “Topstitching adorns a felted jacket” by Susan Kesler-Simpson? I love the jacket shown, and want to try to do something similar on a boiled wool vest. It seems like something I could do with my old Singer zig-zag sewing machine. The author describes tracing a design on Golden Threads Quilting Paper (which I’m unfamiliar with), laying a contrasting fabric (for a facing) under the fashion fabric (both fabrics are felted wool), and pinning the paper design to the top. Then the design is stitched through the paper and both layers of fabric, and the paper is torn away.

Playing around a little with my fabric, I tried a long straight stitch, as in top-stitching, on two layers of the boiled wool, and noticed a good bit of stretching, especially on the cross-wise grain. The top layer stretches more than the bottom. When I tried a bit of decorative satin-stitching, the stretching was even more pronounced. I had my presser foot set at the lowest pressure, but did not have a walking foot, which the author recommends. I used no stabilizer. I’m willing to buy a walking foot, assuming I can get one for my old machine.

Would the paper used by the author for tracing and stitching the design, together with the walking foot, be enough to keep the wool from stretching? Or does some other kind of stabilizer need to be used? I’m relatively ignorant about the vast, confusing array of stabilizers out there these days. Are there other techniques for sewing on this type of fabric? The author didn’t do any satin-stitching or other embroidery, but did do some of the random stipling stuff seen on many quilts so I assume she had more control of the fabric than I’ve had thus far. Is “boiled wool” a totally different kind of fabric than “felted wool?”


  1. fabricholic | | #1

    Hi Josefly,Did she have the feed dogs engaged?Marcy

    1. Josefly | | #2

      The author of the article didn't say anything about machine settings, except for the walking-foot recommendation. That's a good question about the feed dogs. Did you see the article?

      1. MaryinColorado | | #3

        I haven't read that article, but, have you tried using a double needle?  I have stitched through tissue paper but it can be a pain to remove it all so I use the water soluble stabilizer and tear away as much as possible then  steam or soak away the rest but it has to be water tolerant fabric.  Another thought is to use a fabric spray adhesive to hold the layers together for stitching. 

        For fleece fabric, I use an iron on or stickyback stabilizer on the wrong side of the fabric to prevent the stretching.  I use the serger so often that stretchy fabrics on a sewing machine aren't my forte.

        1. Josefly | | #4

          Thanks for your suggestions. I'll experiment. I'm afraid of making the seam allowances stiff or distorting the seams by tearing off paper. But as I mentioned earlier, there are many new - to me - products out there that are probably much improved over what I've tried in the past. It's mind-boggling and takes time to familiarize with the features and uses of each one. I may just get a walking foot since they're not as expensive as I assumed. Times like this make me envious of you serger-owners and your differential feed. :>) And the knowledge you have about how to use them! And here I was thinking this was a beautiful and creative project I could tackle without special equipment like embroidery machines and sergers! Oh, well...yet to see!

        2. Josefly | | #5

          Also, as I'm going to need to trace off the stitching design on paper anyway, I'll have to sew through that. I know you said that picking it all off is a nuisance, but do you think it prevents the stretching? Guess I just need to sit down at the machine and try it, instead of just thinking my way through this!

          1. MaryinColorado | | #6

            Do you know how to do bobbinwork and freemotion embroidery?   Are you going to draw a freeform design on paper and stitch through the paper onto your fabric?  If you trace/draw a mirror image of your design onto stabilizer, put that on the wrong side of your fabric, you could drop the feed dogs and freemotion embroider with the bobbin thread.  Here is a website that describes how to do DigiBobbe which is similar.  http://www.bonniemccaffery.com I was thinking that then you could use the heavier topstitching thread in the bobbin for the freemotion embroidery to match the topstitching on the vest. 

          2. Josefly | | #7

            That sounds beautiful. I don't know how to do either of those, but I plan to check out the link you provided. Yes I'm thinking of doing as the author did, drawing the design on paper and stitching through it onto the fabric and an improvised facing. I'm thinking of something simpler than the design shown in the Threads article...some straight stitching, perhaps a take-off of the zig-zagging line-designs shown, and stitching around a simple leaf design which would then be cut out to show a contrast color underneath. I haven't had much luck with the freeform stippling as is shown, but then I haven't practiced much, either, so will probably not incorporate that into my design. I'm intrigued by your suggestion of using a double needle. Were you thinking of that as a solution to the stretching problem, or as a decorative accent? In researching boiled wool in Threads Magazine index, I saw reference to double-needle stitching on boiled wool in an earlier issue which I don't have. Number 87, I believe. (Wow, have I enjoyed looking through my old issues - I'm seeing things I don't remember seeing the first time through!)I have some time to play around with the boiled wool while I mail the muslin for the dress bodice back and forth to my daughter. Still no word from the Burda technical people on the problems with the pattern measurements. My daughter liked a sample of some decorative stitching that I can do with my old Singer, a kind of scrolling design, but the satin-stitch really stretched out the fabric. So I would have to stabilize it somehow as you've suggested. As you can tell, I'm still flirting with different ideas, and I love all suggestions offered.

          3. MaryinColorado | | #8

            I signed up for her newsletter so I get to hear whenever something new comes out.  I really enjoy her podcasts and video instructions.  The newest one is very clear about how to do bobbin work.  I also am a very happy customer of hers.  I have downloaded all the videos so I can see them anytime in full screen size.  Enjoy!

  2. FitnessNut | | #9

    Boiled wool and felted wool are different fabrics.....felted doesn't stretch and boiled will. So the project you have lined up is a bit different from that in the article. If you wish to use the stretchy fabric, I think you would definitely need a stabilizer to keep it from stretching while you stitch. I would test different stabilizers, but I think I'd start with an iron-on one on the wrong/inside.As to the question of presser feet, if the author used a walking foot, then she most definitely had the feed dogs raised. There would be no point in using the foot otherwise. The walking foot would prevent the fabric layers from moving independently of each other whilst you sew. I could see this as being a useful method for this type of quilting, though not necessarily for the stippling. Perhaps that was done afterwards?Anyway, the gist of my message to you is to test, test, and test again!

    1. Josefly | | #10

      I'm mentally slapping my forehead - of course the feed dogs had to be engaged. But maybe the author did the stippling after all the other stitching, to fill in blank spaces, without the feed dogs. I'm not going to try that...just straight stitching and maybe some decorative satin stitch if I am successful with stabilizer. I will try different stabilizers. My pattern calls for no facings and only a narrow strip (5/8") of self-fabric sewn on top around the outside edges, but I'm thinking I will substitute wider inside "facings" to support the kind of work shown in the article. So the stabilizer should go between the outer layer and the facing layer, right? I will need to improvise somehow in the areas where I use the cut-out designs which show a layer underneath, since I won't want stabilizer to show.Thanks so much for your advice. Fortunately, I have some time for testing.

      1. FitnessNut | | #11

        Yes, that's what I was thinking about the stipple stitching - that she went in afterwards to fill in blank spaces.A facing is perfectly appropriate in this application, IMO. You could use an interfacing between the outer layer and the facing, but that isn't what I meant. A stabilizer, such as you would use for machine embroidery, is removed after the stitching is complete. So you could still cut away fabric if you desired and it would not show. Check out some online info about machine embroidery (they probably have an article on stabilizers on the Threads website) to see some of the variety in stabilizers - you would be surprised at just how many there are. You would want one that could be removed, either tear-away or water soluble (which can still be torn away, after all). And they come in a multitude of thicknesses for different fabrics. It would require a little experimentation to find the perfect stabilizer for your fabric, but once you do, the project will become so much easier!

        1. Josefly | | #12

          That is so clear and useful. I did a brief, un-thorough search on "stabilizers" in the Threads archives, after I read your earlier post; found a chart excerpted from Threads #103, but it lists interfacings, categorized by woven, non-woven, fusible, sew-in. I've seen some of the "wash-out" stabilizers, I even have some Solvy, some Sulky Totally Stable, and some Sulky Sticky, none of which I've ever used...so I have some things to try out.Thanks so much for helping me figure this out.

          1. Estancia | | #13

            I made the jacket and I think it came out very well.  I used 100% wool flannel from Fabric.Com, washed it twice in hot water and then dried it on hot.  I did an art neauveau design on the back over the shoulder and around  to the front .  I drew the design with pencil on examining table paper.  I  basted the felted layers together and just pinned the patern to it.  I did all of the stiching free motion except where I had straight lines on the edges then I used the walking foot and just finger eased the top layer as I went along.  There was a bit of picking of paper bits out but  not that much.  I would post a picture but I don't see how to attach one here.  Give it a try it was great fun!

          2. Josefly | | #14

            That's so exciting! Thanks for those tips. I would love to see your jacket. Did you use cut-out designs on yours as well? How did that work for you? What fabric and stitching colors did you use? What kind of thread? Oh, you've got me determined to do this! There's a button at the bottom of the screen which comes up when you type in your reply to messages...the "Attach Files" button. I've never posted a photo, so I don't really know if that's the answer, but there was a recent question (in the last month) about how to attach photos, under the Photo Gallery section of messages, listed way down at the bottom on the left-side scroll of message topics.

          3. Estancia | | #15

            I tried it it so photos might be attached.

            It is Lavender on the top and the cutouts are a deep plum.  I used an old McCalls pattern 4152.  I used regular thread in the bobbin and Machine embrodery thread with a sheen on the top (Brother's Brand).  The cut outs are really easy to do you could go crazy.  But unless you live in a cold climate two layers of felt over much of the garment will make a very heavy jacket.  I could see this being a great way to do a cape.  Do it you will have fun!!!

          4. Ralphetta | | #16

            Your jacket looks beautiful.  You've convinced me to try the technique on something.

          5. Estancia | | #18

            Thank you. Have fun

          6. Josefly | | #17

            Thank you for those beautiful photos! I love the design you chose. And the colors. I'm eager to try it, as soon as I get the pattern fitted to my daughter - a few difficulties there, still. But your work is very motivating. Congratulations on a great jacket.

          7. Estancia | | #19

            Thank You. Good Luck

          8. MaryinColorado | | #20

            Very creative work!  Love it!!! Mary

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