Think of your needle and thread as a pen and ink, but instead of moving the pen over the paper, you move the fabric under the needle to create your own unique designs. Two things you’ll need for your sewing machine, a drop-feed dog facility [the feed dogs are the teeth that carry the fabric through the machine, by dropping these out of the way, you have control of moving the fabric in any direction you like] and a free motion or darning foot,
this foot ‘hops’ across the fabric, and allows you to see where you’re stitching. It’s also a good idea to practice on a piece of fabric you’re not too precious about!
Before you start embroidering, it’s a good idea to use stabiliser on the back of your fabric to give it substance and stop it from twisting, particularly on stretch fabrics like this jersey sweater.
Iron-on or tear-away, it doesn’t really matter! You can use a hoop if you wish but you may find it a hindrance particularly on larger designs.
So, dogs down and foot on. Pop your fabric under the needle, foot on the pedal, and start to sew. Lay your hands flat either side of the needle, and move from side to side, up and down, around in circles, swirls, zig-zags, any way you wish but just keep moving! It’s good practice to stop after the first few stitches, leaving the needle down, and snip off the excess thread so you don’t sew over it. You’ll realise as you’re sewing that the faster you move the fabric, the longer the stitch. There are no rules, stitch at a speed you feel comfortable with and like the look of.
When you’ve had a practice, take your work out of your machine and turn it over. You may find that the tension on some machines needs tightening, but check your manual for tension recommendations.
What to draw? Well you may think you’re not an artist, but we’re all capable of abstract scribblings that look wonderful when doodled in beautifully coloured threads! Use an erasable ink pen to draw your design before stitching as with my tea-time table mat,
Or try scanning in a drawing to your pc, maybe some of the kid’s artwork, and printing it onto printable fabric and embroidering over the top. This sewing picture was printed onto transfer paper then ironed onto fabric, before embroidering over the design and displaying in an embroidery hoop!
Try cutting fabric shapes, like on my heart cushion,
and doodling the applique in place. I like the ‘sketchy’ look of going over the outline a few times, and it really doesn’t matter if your lines aren’t straight! My dolly bag was hand-painted with fabric paint, then outlined with stitches.
The patchwork cushion has hearts embroidered in the squares, but I trapped a little angelina fibre into the sewing to give it a bit of sparkle.
Free motion embroidery has a significant place in the quilting world, in fact this is what ‘quilting’ is! You’ll see stippling and texture in many different designs, not just to add interest to the project but holding the layers of fabric and wadding together. The stitches can meander in a puzzle-like manner all over the quilt, or designs like feathers and pebbles which are a little more advanced. As a beginner just doodle!
The main thing with free motion embroidery is to have fun! There’s no right or wrong, and you don’t need specialist sewing skills to achieve beautiful and original designs.