Category Archives: TUTORIALS

Tute: machine stitching on solubles

EDIT: DO NOT PIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I was asked recently if i would share the method i used to create the “lace” on “The Difference Between A Plum”., Originally posted on the StitchinFingers site in the Machine Embroidery Group, i’ve replicated it here as well.

This is for when you are more confident of your abilities, though the technique can still be applied to “solid” fabrics :) I’m also assuming that firstly you know how to free motion!

This wonderful water soluble is similar to the Pellon brand,ordered from Tristan Threads in BC. You can easily draw on this one without the moisture from your marker dissolving it right away! I drew my design on the soluble and attached fabric to all sides so it would fit in the hoop.


Then i hooped: not all will fit in the hoop of course, so when you put it inside the rings, be careful not to tear the soluble. (You needn’t worry about this if it’s an actual fabric you have drawn on.)


For this i chose a very narrow zigzag–i find it easier to “grab” the threads this way on a soluble. If you are using solid cloth, you can use a straight, or this for more texture. I am using a free motion foot, but the display shows a regular foot–make sure you have the proper foot on! I don’t worry about the length either as the feed dogs are down and are not going to help the regulator grab the material.


Then i worked the design, going over and around at least 4 times on each section. This variable can change depending on the thickness you want on the soluble, or what effect you want on a solid fabric. If you are doing this on a soluble, keep your passes close to each other: if any weak spots are on the finished piece, it can fall to pieces because the thread hasn’t attached itself to the previous pass.


Here’s a part done. I try to complete that section before i move the hoop, so i don’t have to reposition too often. This lessens the chance of tears on the soluble.


And the back of this part: i have used a finer thread in the bobbin and it’s barely noticeable. The needle thread was a 20wt cotton (also from Tristan who i highly recommend for a LOT of products for us Canadians!), the bobbin is a regular polyester type.

Move the hoop to the unworked portion, again being careful to neither tear the soluble, or distort the previous stitching.

I then widened the stitch a fraction and went over the whole thing again, with one or two passes on each section–some were weaker than others so look at the back if you need to determine what those areas are.

Trim off stray threads before you remove from the hoop: there’s nothing worse than struggling with a floppy snarled mess otherwise :) Take it out of the hoop.

BEFORE i washed away the soluble, i cut the piece where i intended. Because i am adding this work to something else, this saves using long lengths of soluble. (Again you could do this with solid fabric, depending on the end effect you need.)
These will be used end to end so you can see the advantage to not having to use long thin strips of soluble. There were a few areas that i had run over the cut line on, but because the threads are stabilized with several passes, cutting didn’t present a problem (this time :) )

Dissolve the soluble:

Here’s the piece folded over to show the difference in the front and the back. If you are using this for applying to something else, make sure you get the right side up! Left side is the front, right side is the back, showing the bobbin thread:
sol8This was then hand stitched to these little beauties:

ecobags1bAnd here’s the work that i did on TDBAP:

arleebarr_TheDifferenceBetweenAPlumcwAnd a detail as the work was in progress:

detail of TDBAP

I’m also posting this a reminder to myself to do some machine work again! I scored a few large pieces of a sheer from the share bin during residency, and once the red work is half done (:P), will start on that.


Posted by on July 2, 2014 in TUTORIALS


going in circles, how to

Re-inventing the wheel today :)

I was in Wallyworld one day and a woman dashed by with a circle template marker for quilting,  whereupon i tracked her to a line up and asked how much and where. Try as i might i could not find one anywhere in that store, or in any other subsequently. (And NO i am not looking for one now, so please don’t tell me where or how much.). Good thing anyways, because when i thought about paying 25 bucks for it if i did find one, i didn’t feel comfortable spending that on something that wouldn’t get used too often.

Of course, now i need something like that! This will suit my purposes adequately and with the expenditure of only a few minutes, some paper and some fusible, and a couple of pencil marks, good enough.

circle and cut out It’s not rocket science, and yes i could have just used my compass to mark lines, but everytime i need the compass, i can’t find it. So while tidying up today, i thought i’d take advantage of FINDING it, and USING it! And besides, it never fails that the lines are too faint or too heavy (and can’t be removed) when i use the darn thing.

I could have used cardstock, except i didn’t have a large enough piece. I used cheapola paper and a thin layer of a fusible webbing between the folded sheet, to make a stiffer paper to work with. It’s firm enough to have body but not enough to be unwieldy when cutting or storing after.

circle done

Use the protactor as well–angles are important for quartering and “eighthing” :)

circle angles

At first i was going to cut the circles out–if i did that though i’d have some rather floppy circles that would no doubt slip, slide and tear. Instead i took the bigassest needle i could find and punched all the circle edges, then two separate areas to delineate a quarter circle and an eighth circle, and marked what was what.

circle back

circle marking holes

I just use a fine point pencil (or marker if i know the line will be solidly covered with stitch, or hidden or folded under or layered…) to make marks through those holes, the ol’ prick and pounce method updated. Easy peasy and ready to go.


Posted by on February 20, 2013 in TUTORIALS


machine embroidery on soluble (tute available)

Nell had sent me a sample of a new soluble to try out and WOW, am i impressed with the stuff!! It didn’t tear, was easy to draw on without leaving marks on the threadwork, and dissolved right away with no sticky residue, and not having to rinse and rinse and rinse. Awesome stuff. (see Nell’s phenomenal work here –scroll down past the shop, and another artist i admire also who uses this product, Sharon, here. I’ve posted these links before but oh my are they worth looking at again!) Mine looks rather plain in comparison, but i have plans to try more intricate work in the future :)


I’m using it for the finishing touches on La Ugly ecoprint, and should be finished that by the end of the weekend coming.

I posted a tute on the StitchinFingers Ning site, in the Machine Stitch Embroidery group. I don’t know if you have to be a member to view it, but if you do, signup is free.


Posted by on January 30, 2013 in media experiments, True Artists, TUTORIALS


simple discoveries: needle turn

Maybe you’re an experienced hand appliquer (?is that a word?) already and know these things, but i had to share with those who aren’t.

I struggled to get those teeny edges turned under, creasing heavily with my thumbnail. They kept flipping back out and the needle kept slipping if i used it to turn with. Then i noticed the seam ripper could be a good candidate, grabbing more than a needle does (i shall have to call this “seam ripper turning” from now on :) )

seam ripper trick 1

Look at that–the perfect size to roll it under!

seam ripper trick 1b

The second circle on this panel will probably turn better as well because the first one is already anchored. At least i was smart enough not to cut the two circles before stitching, having nightmares about shape shifting and bias stretch.

anchor needle turn circle c

Also noted that the cut out shape has to be damn near perfect! See the area between the pen and pencil?

imperfect circle

Just enough of a straight line that this wouldn’t turn easily.

If i don’t trim this second one properly, it will do what the first circle did:

imperfect circle result c

I’m leaving those tiny imperfections though on the completed ones, because in the end, it will help illustrate the story this one is going to be telling.


Posted by on December 16, 2012 in lessons to learn, slow cloth, TUTORIALS


faking the bouillon stitch, an easy mini tute

First of all, let me correct myself–it’s BULLION! I always want to call it a bouillon/chicken/broth stitch for some reason: sometimes my spelling becomes fractured french, living in a bilingual country as i do :)

Marg was admiring my roses from a previous post but those are actually buttonhole bars, not bullion. I do however have a method to fake the bullion stitch, as i’ve never had luck with the real thing. And to Marg, a big apology for promising this a week ago!

All i do is lay my bars, then wrap them! You have to be careful to make sure each wrap is taut and snug against the previous wrap, or the threads will create bunchies and twists.  Drop your threaded needle once in awhile so the thread can untwist. (I do this with EVERY kind of stitch as twisted thread can really change the look and coverage–which sometimes can be interesting too— but i digress..) This method uses more thread than a conventional bullion, and you must make sure your initial length is a good size as it’s impossible to add halfway through, but the look is worth it, i believe.

Here are some on one of the GIRL pieces:

First, lay your bars. These can be in any configuration you like, but for my purpose today, mine will be in a straight line as a stem accent:

I left one on its own and have “joined” the rest with a back stitch. This breaks up the line a bit, but still carries the eye. The back stitch also anchors the bar better so it doesn’t pull up too high from the fabric when being worked.

At the end of the line, i come back up to the end of the bar:

Without going through the fabric, start wrapping the thread around the bar:

Make sure each wrap is snugged up against the previous one.

Occasionally a wrap will try to go over a previous wrap–just wiggle it down with your needle until it’s properly placed:

Continue until bar is covered with the wraps. Don’t force more than will fit comfortably. I find that a half inch bar will accommodate 8 wraps of this 6 strand embroidery floss. Then take the needle back down through the end of the bar and start on the next one.

The line done:

With a little practice, these work up really fast, and add a wonderful texture, especially when piled. Work them over each other as well for real dimension!


tutti frutti threads, and mucking with metallics

YUM yumsh YUMSH if i do say so myself :)

sandalwood, brazilwood, indigo, some overdyes

Can’t wait to work with these–wonder though if i can work them into a UFO so i’m not cheating on the plan to finish 1 a month, rather than starting something new????????? Nah, maybe on one of the “planned piles” pieces–ooo ooo ooo, yeah! With the sandalwood hexagons!

Sigh, just make the pile bigger, and go dye some more, arlee…….

I did do some tests with these, especially the metallic sparkled cotton perle. Working with anything that has a “metallic” in it requires a different handling. Friction caused by pulling the thread repeatedly through even the finest silk will snag the shiny bits and sometimes the twist will come undone as well, resulting in separation from the main thread. The best stitches to use with this type of thread are laid stitches, weaving and laces, any stitches that are raised over bars, couching  and stitches with most of the effect done on the surface rather than than going back into the fabric many times. Note too, that most “metallics” these days have nothing to do with metal at all: most are plastics! In true metal thread embroidery, most of them don’t pierce the fabrics at all.

You can’t tug hard on these threads either, ease them through and manipulate with your fingers to control loops, weaves and direction, depending on your stitch. Remember to “drop” the threaded needle once in awhile too so that it untwists–too much spin on your thread can cause snags, knots and uneven tension. I use a large eyed needle, rather than fighting with an “embroidery” needle, and often use a blunter ended one as well, so it doesn’t catch or pierce tight spots.

Working with these is slower, but sometimes that’s a good thing!

(These could also be used in machine work, but i would use in the bobbin as my machine doesn’t like anything different going through the needle! Or couch on, using that special piping foot you keep losing…)


Posted by on July 16, 2011 in embroidery, media experiments, TUTORIALS


mini embroidery tute, and oh my gawdz i used a hoop!

PHOTOS PINNED WITHOUT PERMISSION–see the sidebar over there–NO PIN stated TWICE—you don’t ask???Then you don’t pin! MY work, mine.

Idly watched a Martha Pullen sewing show while stitching today. The hand embroidery they demo’d didn’t work for me so i dug through my ancient needlecraft book, looking for something new and thought i’d try the raised buttonhole stitch. Sometimes looking at the drawings is confusing, and the result looks a little less than interesting! This time though, i’m rejoicing in a new dimensional stitch to add to my repertoire.


Here are photos of the way i did the one on the left. A. Draw a shape if you’re not comfortable eyeballing it. B. Choose your direction: (i could as easily have gone with bars up and down the length) and evenly place stitches across–i also alternated each side for more interest, though i’m not sure it really makes a difference when using variegated thread this way. This was one time i found it handy to hoop, something i rarely do even on a blue moon. The tautness will give more control for evenness, tension and ease of working (and later for the needle weaving should you choose to add that too.) Frankenstitch will have its place here, but not everywhere :)

keep making a buttonhole stitch over each bar, going UP (or down or sideways depending on how you turn and work in your comfortable direction!)

a ridge is being created along the edge: this will happen with each row, giving some lovely texture

go back down into the fabric at the end of each row and back up and out again to begin next row

because of the curve in this shape, some rows will not be worked to end: look for the spot where bars are still visible and go from there (almost halfway down here in the blur–sorry, glasses fell off)

the completed rows, worked UP and DOWN not sideways like needle lace

I decided to do needleweaving on the other half–i think this lay would not show any division if done the same both halves and i do want some variance visible:

raised buttonhole and needle weaving done

And to give you an idea of the actual dimension, here’s the shadow cast when i move the orientation in the sun (OMFG WE HAVE SUN TODAY… ahem..)

Clear as mud? Just remember you are buttonholing up and down the bars, not going sideways as usual with this stitch. Lemme see yours now :)
AND IF YOU HAVE ARRIVED HERE DUE TO A “PIN”–PLEASE, leave a comment, a credit, something–it would be nice to be acknowledged for the work and sharing that went into this!!!!!

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Posted by on April 18, 2011 in embroidery, media experiments, TUTORIALS


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what to do with naturally dyed and eco printed fabrics, part 5

I’m still working on the hearts motif for this piece of fabric: it has become about the bonds of love. Sometimes they’re bright and shiny, sometimes soft and calm. They’re not chains, but they are links. We all have broken or had our own broken or have breaks and cracks in our hearts, whether drama driven or life’s little normalcies and that’s what the suture across the top is about.

bonds of love start

Progression is very slow on this one; i’ve ripped out portions, redone them and redone them again. It’s just a start and who knows where it will go. I almost changed the background behind the cutout to the bright yellow, but decided instead to add yellow in various tones in a different manner. Needlelace is quite easy with some dextrous patience and practice, being really a type of buttonhole/blanklet stitch that attaches into itself.  I thought i’d show you how i got those large picot thingies. I made them up as i went along, not a hard thing to do with this form of needling!

start with a row of backstitches

Bring your needle up above the first stitch–you can go left or right depending on your handedness and what feels comfortable. Just remember as it faces you that if the loops are made above that line, the lace will be above the line.

lay a dowel as a form

This will give you an even loop–you’ll go over this once and through the third stitch from the start (–leave a middle stitch for spacing–) and go back around to where you started. Take the needle through and come back up near the same spot so the double loop is anchored somewhat.

start buttonholing through both loops as one

You’ll develop a feel for how many times you should add the buttonhole stitch–too few and it will be floppy, too many and it will stand on end! It also depends on what thread you are using–mine here is a 6 stranded embroidery floss.

almost done picot thingie

Insert the needle back down through the fabric and come up again at the next stitch, readying for another picot. Repeat as many times as you want.

finished picots in line

I’ll probably go back into this line and add more in second and third rows–or not :) Try this in a circle, a waving line, on edges and as inserts too. I suppose one could crochet this as well, but i like the control i get with the needle. You can improvise as you go along too—skip more base backstitches, space farther apart, change colours. This can also be done as a separate ring too—tie a string around something and buttonhole around that for a free standing wheelie. Throw beads in, combine with other stitches. I love dimensional  stitches myself and this can morph into other areas easily.


what to do etc part 4 :), notes and whatifs

Some free association this morning for the bottom of this piece with the ecoprinted cotton. I went from this as a springboard:

from October 2008, watered acrylics, magic marker and oil pastels on handmade tissue paper

To this:

the first version with notes

Flipped it over and came up with this, thinking of layering tulles and the sheers:

the second version, still an idea only, not the final plan

which made me think of some much older work:

hoodoo sampling Aug 2008

So, now i have a very distinct idea of what the bottom will look like. I’ll layer the silks and maybe some tulles for shading and shadows over a darker ecoprint motif. This will obscure it, but give more depth. It  won’t be as dark as this above, and will definitely be a leaf shape but more realistic than the sampling sketches here, so stay tuned!

(These entries are also listed under “TUTORIALS” but they are not really how-to’s in the strictest sense, more to get you thinking about possibilities for your own work. They could be applied to commercial fabrics as well, i suppose, especially ones that you love but are unsure what to do with or to cut and stitch as!)

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Posted by on February 8, 2011 in hand dyes and ecoprints, in progress, TUTORIALS


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what to do with naturally dyed and eco printed fabrics, part 3

I’m not deliberately being slow with these posts, but i am being deliberate in my choices, and deliberating a lot! It’s a slow go with this–i want to make the right choices, and i want you to see the possibilities with these one of a kind fabrics.

I decided against cutting out both hearts. The lower one was separated from the base and moved over slightly to centre the heart idea and to add some visual depth with the hole behind.   I auditioned 3 colours to fill in the space left:

too dark

The sheer green hollyhock dyed silk i used over the darker green isn’t even visible–pointless.

Next up, some turmeric and tansy dyed cotton:


The sheer shows better, but it’s just too bright.

Next up, a nettle ecoprinted scrap that was too good to throw away but perfect as an underlay beneath the sheer:

perfectThe space shows, but not glaringly, and the nettle can be seen through the sheer in a close-up:

I intend to do something through the bottom of the background, as that area is a little bland. More silk sheers, these are my colour choices:

naturally dyed silk habotai sheer

I may extend that idea up the sides as well, as i feel the whole is slightly too narrow for its subject. I’ll probably embroider by hand and machine on those areas. I’m thinking too of combining needle-lace around the hole or partially over, with a rougher Frankenstitch embroidery in other areas. The dark bar on that heart just cries for a suture! The top heart shape (above the cut out) will probably be accented with hand embroidery delineating the leaves and stems eco printed there.

I’ll share some sketches and notes in the next installment :)


Posted by on February 7, 2011 in hand dyes and ecoprints, TUTORIALS


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