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Embellishment: A Short Discussion, Part III

02/12/2009

Of the methods of embellishment I have shown you thusfar (and of all I have planned to share), embroidery is my favorite. If you are one of the lucky folk with an embroidery machine, I salute (and deeply, deeply envy) you. Lacking such a wondrous machine, however, I can only bloviate (ooo, good word) on hand embroidery.

And bloviate I shall.

Hand embroidery is the perfect craft for the income-challenged like yours truly. Aside from your embellishment target, be it shirt or jeans or bag or something entirely more unique, the craft requires only three things: a needle, embroidery floss, and a hoop. All can be acquired quite literally for loose change.

Once stocked on supplies, remember two things: a) you can split embroidery floss apart quite easily to produce a thinner strand to work with, which is quite good for detail and b) a shorter thread does not knot up as easily as a longer thread, and it’s far easier to start a new thread when you run out than to untangle a pernicious knot.

There are many different stitches you can use in embroidery, but one or two basics should get you comfortable through any project. Tutorials and guides, per usual, abound online.

Back stitch
Split Stitch
Stem Stitch
Satin Stitch

And while we’re at it, French knots are fun too.

I tried to use different sources for each tutorial link above; browse around those sites and you’ll likely find more. For other techniques and ideas and such, be sure to check out Primrose Design’s Stitch School posts and the plethora of online stitch dictionaries and artists who are just a Google away.

A Dragon of Thread
A Dragon of Thread

Armed with knowledge you will next need a pattern. The internet is only too glad to provide for such matters; I have a particular love for Sublime Stitching and Urban Threads (the latter of which also provides awesome machine embroidery patterns for the properly equipped). The above is one part of a shirt I’m working on with Sublime Stitching’s Chinatown pattern, by way of example.

But don’t limit yourself to commercial patterns: any line art can be converted into a lovely piece, and my line art source du jour is my own two hands.

Barn Owl
Barn Owl

The above is another part of the previously-mentioned Mixtape Barn Owl outfit, and features a hand-drawn owl.

So you’ve got your line art, now you’ve got to get it onto the project. There are many options for transferring your own line art to fabric:

Marker (Fantastic for free-handing a design directly on the fabric; remember that they fade in 24 hours or so, so you’ll have to either work fast or periodically refresh the design)
Carbon Paper (I find carbon paper works best if you can put something big and hard, like your backbreakingly evil Molecular Cell Biology textbook, behind your fabric)
Futuregirl’s Method
Transfer Pencil

One last note: embroidering on elastic fabrics is slightly more complicated and will require stabilizer.

Rarr.
Rarr.

Whew. Hope I got all those links right.

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