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Fun with Foils

Fun with Foils

Like many of you, I belong to some textile groups that would normally meet in person but this year have needed to find alternative ways to work together. One such group is the Farnborough Embroiderer’s Guild (EG). This EG group is quite unusual in that rather than inviting speakers to talk about their practice, we all take it in turns to teach each other new skills. Three months ago we started meeting via Zoom and I have to confess in some ways I actually prefer it! We aren’t a large group but when we meet in person I often end up only talking to the 2-3 people I am sat nearest to, on Zoom the whole group shares the same conversation which is nice and feels very inclusive. The other advantage is the lack of commute, for me, this means I get to eat before we gather and I can have a glass of wine while we play together 🙂

Last month Sue took us through a technique to create foiled pictures; I don’t know about you but I can’t resist a bit of bling! As we are approaching holiday season it also feels very appropriate to share this with you now, I think it would make some wonderful textile Christmas cards and gifts. I hope you enjoy it and feel inspired to have a go!

Although I have played with foils before it was only as decorative finishing touches never as the basis to create a whole textile picture. Even so, I still managed to make every mistake in the book but was pleased to find foils are remarkably accommodating, if you make a mistake, it can (mostly) be rectified with layering more foil over the top.

Unfortunately it did not occur to me to take photos of the process until I was half way through my picture, I apologise for the lack of photos covering the initial stages of the process. The first few photos are where I went back and reapplied the bondaweb on the beak as my initial application had not transferred completely.

This was the reference photo I used for inspiration:

Some useful tips before you start:

  • set your iron on a low to medium (1 to 2 dots) setting without steam
  • always use a sheet of baking parchment to protect your iron
  • work on an ironing board

1: Cut a piece of medium weight, iron-fusible interfacing / fabric stabiliser slightly smaller than the background fabric and iron it to the back of your fabric. We used black cotton velvet but most non-synthetic fabrics will work (synthetic fabrics are best avoided for this technique as they might melt when heat is applied).

2: Draw out your design with a pencil on the paper side of a sheet of bondaweb. If you aren’t confident drawing freehand, you can trace the design from a printed image. Cut out your design, either as one solid shape or in sections if you plan to create a stained glass effect. For the hummingbird I cut out the whole bird as a single piece.

3: Transfer the bondaweb design onto your backing fabric.

If you are using the stained glass technique you might want to transfer one piece at a time, foil it then apply the next bondaweb shape.

4: Once cooled, carefully peel off the paper backing from the bondaweb.

5: Lay a piece of foil (coloured side facing you) over the exposed bondaweb and cover this with a piece of baking parchment, using the tip or edge of your iron, apply gentle pressure to the areas where you would like that coloured foil to appear.

Allow the piece too cool before peeling back the foil backing.

Tip: you can cut out pieces of baking parchment paper to mask off areas where you do not want that particular colour to appear.

If there are areas where the bondaweb has not transferred so well, or you have already applied several layers foils and want to lay a different colour over the top you can reapply the bondaweb but cutting a shape to match the area, I did this for the edge of breast where I wanted the purple to form a solid line:

If you want a sharp edge in a specific shape, it is also possible to cut the foil to match the shape you desire:

6: Continue adding different coloured foils to your design. If using cotton velvet for the backing it is possible to build up layers of different coloured foils without applying more bondaweb.

Tip: keep the scraps of partially used foils, they can be used to overlay different colours on top of each other very pretty marbled colours.

It is possible to “draw” lines of foil using just the tip or edge of your iron, I used this technique to create the feathers on the wings:

It is not very easy to capture foils in a photo, especially the holographic ones so I shot a short video that I hope shows all the different colours more effectively:

Our group met again last night to add some embroidery to our designs, this is how far I managed to travel in the couple of hours we had together.

…and a little sneak peek of my most recent foiled “painting”.

Have you tried making foiled paintings?

Morning Aspen

Morning Aspen

This is the second in the series of nuno felted landscapes that I am working on. It is the only one that is a horizontal presentation. All the others are vertical.

Here is how it started after felting and before stitching. I wanted to add some aspen trees in the background and red twig dogwood bushes in the foreground. I did several sketches of other ideas but decided that I like this idea best. I originally planned on stitching the trees with white, grey and black threads. But then I decided I would do something more in the style of Wolf Kahn. His trees are always really colorful so I thought I would give it a try.

I started with what I thought was a fairly dark pink thread. As you can see, these trees just sank right into the background and were nearly the same value. So I needed much darker darks and paler lights. Back to the thread box. I should have had a small sample in the same colors to try out my threads but I didn’t have that available. So I just kept going.

Here are the trees after I added more darks and more highlights. You can click on the photo to see a bit closer. I did add some more highlights to the trees on the left hand side. The trees are stitched with a variety of dark purples, reds, pinks and lavenders.

I then added the red twig dogwood bushes. These are stitched with a dark wine red, medium red and then a variegated thread that is red, orange and purple.

And here is the completed piece. The uncropped version on the left and the cropped version on the right. I might crop even a little bit more off the bottom. It’s a very colorful piece and I do like how the colorful trees look like the morning sun is shining on them.

Free Motion Machine Embroidery

Free Motion Machine Embroidery

We were having a discussion on the forum recently about using free motion machine embroidery on felt. I thought it would be interesting to show a variety of techniques that I have done recently (and not so recently) using my sewing machine and the darning foot. I love to stitch on felt as it gives such a nice texture with the tight machine stitching and the “puffiness” of the felt.

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When I first started stitching on felt, I used a method where the design is drawn out first on soluble fabric and then stitched on to the felt. It is an easy way to start as you can get your design figured out and then just follow the lines on the soluble fabric. I did a tutorial on how to do this demonstrating the mountain goat stitched on felt. I use a clear darning foot when I’m doing free motion embroidery because it is easier to see where you’re going. I also did a tutorial on how to stitch a red felt scrap bowl. Free motion stitching does take a little practice but if you start with a simple pattern such as little circles to make a background pattern, it is fairly simple to try. Just put your feed dogs down on the sewing machine, attach a darning foot and set your stitch length to zero. I find it easiest to try a sample on heavy interfacing to start and then you won’t feel like you’re wasting “good felt”. Start stitching with a moderate speed and move your interfacing slowly under the needle. Think of your needle as the pencil and just doodle around on your interfacing. Try writing your name or drawing a leaf shape. The more you practice, the easier it is.

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I have also done a lot of free motion stitching on other projects besides felt. One year, I was in a book page swap and used a lot of free motion stitching on the book pages that I traded with other people. You can use water-soluble fabric to stitch on and then make “thread lace” or three-dimensional effects with thread. I have used a variety of techniques, some in which the entire piece is thread, some the fabric is painted first and some the fabric painted or dyed afterwards. Have you done any free motion embroidery on your sewing machine? We’d love to see what you’ve done. Come join us on the forum and show us your work.

Book Review

Book Review

Here’s another review of a book I have in my fiber art library. The book is called Freestyle Machine Embroidery by Carol Shinn. (I can’t seem to copy the photo from Amazon so you’ll need to follow the link to see the book.) This book is about machine embroidery and is a combination of specific step by step photos as well as wonderful selections from artists around the world doing free motion machine embroidery.

The piece above is a machine stitched fabric page of an old castle ruin that I did using Carol Shinn’s method of machine embroidery. The book is very informative and has beautiful photos of Carol’s work and work of other artists. The chapters are:

  1. Understanding the Process of Machine Embroidery – This chapter covers all the basics including what “freestyle” means, supplies needed, adjusting thread tension, stitch direction and distortion, caring for your machine and trouble shooting.
  2. Color Mixing – The second chapter includes several different exercises to help you learn about mixing colors with thread including layering thread colors, understanding gradation, and planning and stitching a complete design. Carol shows a variety of samples that really illustrate color mixing well.
  3. My Process for Making an Embroidery – Chapter three shows a step by step process with lots of photos of how Carol stitches her pieces. There is an excellent troubleshooting section at the end that teaches you how to correct any possible errors.
  4. Adding Variety – The fourth chapter reviews all the different types of stitches that can change the look of a machine embroidered piece. Again, there are many close up photos to show the different variations. Carol also talks about combining hand and machine stitching, attaching decorative elements, edge considerations, dissolvable films and fabrics and using different background surfaces. There is also a small section about painting the surface and mixed media techniques.
  5. Freestyle Machine Embroidery as an Artistic Medium – The last chapter is a gallery of other artist’s work and brief description of their working methods. It is amazing the variety of work that can be done on the sewing machine and each has their own style. If you’re interested in machine embroidery, this chapter is very inspiring.
The last part of the book has further information in different appendices including your work space and equipment, basic color information, three ways to re-proportion artwork for embroidery and distortion. I really enjoyed this book and experimented with several pieces using her method. I think the book was the most helpful to me in what I learned about distortion and how to control it when adding dense layers of thread.

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