Creating Imagery with Freestyle Machine Embroidery
In this class participants of all levels will explore imagery and surface design using freestyle machine embroidery. Cotton canvas will be used as a base, but other materials will be incorporated as well. After a few exercises created to help students understand the process, each participant will work on individual projects. Participants should bring designing materials for their projects. Design materials will vary with each individual and might include such things as markers, colored paper, magazine pictures, colored pencils, glue, etc. After creating a design, participants will sketch out their designs on cotton canvas with acrylic paint, and then develop their idea with thread. Students should not worry about having any painting skills as the paint only serves as a guide for stitching. We will apply heat-transfer images to fabric as well as working with fabric collage and/or dissolvable stabilizers, and participants may use other materials according to their wish.
Emphasis in this class will be on creating a surface saturated with layers of thread. Individual styles of “mark-making” through shading, hatching, and visually mixing thread colors will be stressed. Techniques for accommodating large pieces, options for finishing and mounting work, and techniques for troubleshooting will be discussed. There will also be informal discussions about developing ideas and evaluating work. Participants may work either three-dimensionally or two-dimensionally.
Supply List for Participants
- Sewing machine (ordinary home machine – fancy stitches and electronics are not needed) – preferably recently serviced. It is best if the feed dogs can be lowered.
- Bobbins to fit your machine - at least 5, more would be better
- Regular foot for your machine
- Darning/free-style embroidery foot for your machine (regular foot won't work for free stitching)
- Sewing machine oil (if your machine requires oiling) and machine cleaning brush
- High quality machine needles -#16/100 or #18/110 sharps ("jeans") 16-20. Do not bring Universals or Ballpoint needles. Make sure the needles you bring fit your machine. (#14/90 will work, but are a little more prone to breaking.)
- *Light weight (extra fine) machine thread for the bobbins. This will show less on the right side than regular weight thread. [Note: I try to have several values (shades of light and dark). Don't try to match all the colors you would use on the front. Coats and Clark fine (lavender spool) in white, black, gray, and blue is good. Aurifil, Madeira, Mettler, DMC, and other brands of #50 are also good.]
- *Regular weight thread – Cotton, cotton wrapped polyester, or high quality polyester. [Note: Good threads include those similar to Gutermann, Mettler, Presencia, Kismet, and the older cotton/poly Coats and Clark. The new 100%polyester Coats and Clark is okay but is a duller thread. However the new Coats and Clark provides more subtle and grayed down colors than Gutermann currently does. Avoid bargain thread such as Trusew or Excell.] Bring many colors including several shades and variations of each color if you can. They do not need to be all the same brand. Example: If I want a blue sky I often use several shades of blue as well as lavender and turquoise. I personally use no rayons, metallics, or shiny threads, but if you would like to bring some, that would be fine as long as you have a very large selection or are also bringing a full range of cotton/poly threads.
- *Ripper and tweezers (handy for mistakes)
- *Paint brushes (paint will be provided). [Note: I find a flat ½” and ¼” or round #4 suit most of my needs.]
- Mixing containers for paint such as used film canisters, plastic lids, styrofoam trays, yogurt cups, butter tubs, etc.
- *Small sharp sewing scissors (larger fabric scissors or paper scissors are optional but could be very handy)
- Small pieces or scraps of additional fabrics if you desire, for experimenting and collaging
- Designing materials: bring a variety (your choice--you don’t need all the things suggested, just a few, such as pencils, paper, colored paper, glue stick, Prismacolor pencils, crayons, pastels, whatever you like to use. You could also bring photos/book or magazine pictures that you think might work as embroidered images-these should not be too complex.)
*Rotary cutter and cutting mat (optional but handy))
*A black ultra fine tip Sharpie marker can be very handy for clarifying image before stitching.
*Fabric glue stick or quilt basting spray (only if you already have it and wish to collage with other fabrics)
Variety of fabric scraps that could be used in fabric collages
Any work that you would like to share or discuss, or photos of your recent work
Low profile embroidery hoop (one that will fit under your darning foot)--handy when using dissolvable films, otherwise we will make “hoops” with corrugated cardboard.
*Items marked with an asterisk are available for purchase in the Shakerag store.
No sewing experience is needed for this class – just a desire to create and explore imagery using a basic sewing machine. All levels are welcome, but basic sewing skills are necessary. Participants should bring their own sewing machines: a basic zigzag sewing machine in good working order is needed. The machine should be able to lower its feed dogs and needs a darning or a free style embroidery foot.
Carol lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, and has worked in freestyle machine embroidery for 23 years. She earned her BFA from the University of Colorado and her MFA from Arizona State University. She has taught many workshops across the United States and has also taught at Arizona State University and Mesa Community College in Arizona. Her work has been in numerous books and magazines and is in several public and private collections, including the Museum of Art and Design in New York and the Denver Art Museum. Carol was a prizewinner in the 2009 International Pfaff Embroidery Challenge and authored Freestyle Machine Embroidery: Techniques and Inspiration of Fiber Art.Artist's Statement
My current work focuses on the natural landscape as well as on the aging and decay of buildings and other human artifacts. I concentrate not only on tactile surfaces and the visual changes brought on by time, but also on the moods evoked by place. I am interested in the control and isolation of information given by point of view. Equally of interest are the moods created by the quality of light within a composition.
My process begins with photographs, which I take myself. I alter these on the computer, and transfer them to fabric. Then the piece is stitched with a basic sewing machine. None of the stitching process is computerized. The stitches, which completely cover my canvas, are like pencil hatching. I lower the feed dogs so that I can move the fabric freely as I sew to achieve the length and density of stitch wanted. Different colors of thread are layered throughout each piece to enrich the colors. The stitching is so dense that ultimately none of the original image or fabric shows in the final work.