Category Archives: Certificate Level 2 machine embroidery

Chapter 6 Hard edge applqué


I couldn’t resist adding eyes to the geese and a few reeds as in the original image.

I only used one layer of padding – two would have been more effective.  I forgot to turn my tracing over so the birds are facing in the opposit direction.  I think I would have preferred them the other way.

The birds are attached simply by stitching an eye.  The feathers were tricky to stitch with all the points.

I have used simplified forms for the resolved piece.  I would have liked to put in wing feathers but knew it would look a mess.  The background was made by printing wax eggs, creasing the wax once dry to get a batik effect, before painting over.  The yellow birds are on hand dyd cotton that I had sprayed with walnut ink through a mesh which had not been very successful.  The two reddish birds are bleached cottonand are padded and together with thefree standing blue bird I made larger to contrast with the others and bring focus to the piece.  I added some shapes in a transparent fabric which I am pleased with as I think they give an added  dimension.  In the end I decided the feathers would spoil the piece so left them out.  I am pleased with the way it has turned out.

Chapter 5 Developing designs for appliqué – rubbings

I assembled various images of flying birds from my image library.

I like the effect on tissue paper – a somewhat ethereal quality, but the design is clearer on the sketchbook page and the rice paper.

I liked the three geese heads (somewhat modified from the original image) and combined these with eggs and feathers.

The double rubbing wors well. I had to scan the border pattern in two goes as it was a bit too long for the scanner.  It looks better in reality.


The above block was too simple, so I separated each piece into further sections which  I think is more successful. Reminds me now of flying geese (the sort on the wall)!



Chapter 4: Resists and Colour Discharge

I love the subtle effects that paintsticks give and how you can blend colours.  In this first example on black paper, some of the paper came away as I removed the masking tape – the lighter areas. The second sample is on black fabric.

In the bird sample below I was worried that the paint had got underneath the freezer paper,  but I rather like the effect this has produced.  I brushed on the orange first, then the blue.

The yellow fabric paint does not stand out very well from the black fabric below, but both pieces have a subtle effect.

Apart from the undesired blobs of wax, I think the two colours work well together here.  The fork gradually changed shape as I dipped it in the hot wax!

Below, the fabric was a bit too thin as the bleach spread beyond the holes.

As I love the effects you can get with compressed sponge I did several experiments with an egg shape.  Below I used bleach on black khadi paper.  This worked a bit too well, not leaving many speckles.

Bleach applied on paper painted with Koh-i-nor.  Too much removes all the colour, a bit less gives interesting effects.

Decolourant brushed on the jeans fabric

Decolorant sprayed through plastic mesh on to a predyed red cotton fabric (an old skirt), that had been passed through an indigo vat.  Only partly successful as I had trouble with the spray.  It is interesting how the greenish colour has appeared out of nowhere!

The compressed sponge egg using bleach – again a bit unpredictable.  The second sample is with Decolorant and works better.  Procion dyed cotton.

Next I dipped the sponge in wax and brushed on blue fabric paint before ironing out the wax.  I did a bit of experimental stitching, using whip stitch for the patterning on the eggs.

This was a tree mask made from freezer paper.  I then sprayed on Decolorant.  I cut a bird shaped stencil which I coloured with Brusho inks.  I added a bit of stitching.  I think this could be explored and worked on further.

Chapter 3 Working with solubles

My first attempts with automatic patterns were not very successful – too many holes. I also found it much easier to use a frame.

The bird design above was stitched using a frame.  I first stitched a simple grid which I then enhanced with a grid using an automatic stitch.  I added a machine cord along one edge.  I was originally going to have the birds the other way up, but felt it looked better this way.

The following designis taken from the egg shapes.  It didn’t work too well not using a frame, the second attempt worked a lot better.

The tassels worked well – I used medium soluble film again.  I can see the potential here for lots of uses.  I like the grids too.  The feathers would work well in appliqué, probably need to be larger.

The birds below were printed onto water soluble paper.  My first attempt at this was a disaster which fell to bits.  On this one the paint still wasn’t thick enough as it has disappeared in some areas.  Without the grid it would not have held together at all.  I find this a difficult medium to use.

Aquabond works well for holding snippets in position for stitching.  I mayve used too much stitching in the second example , it has made a very dense piece.

I love using dyed scrim with soluble film, together with other fibres.


Chapter 2 – Birdlike patterns and textures

The following are sketch ideas for the set of six pieces.  Due to my fractured shoulder they are somewhat limited but gave me enought to work with.

Birds and nests:


Border and feathers:

Egg shapes: the first multiple tracing, followed by simplification.


I decided on an A5 size as this would give me enough space to show the design but not be overwhelmed by the amount of stitching to do.


I wanted to give the feel of a flock of birds, probably crows, milling around, swooping and flying in all directions. I added extra stitching on a wing and head for the focal point.


I started by using moss stitch to suggest the softness of the inner parts of the nest and made two printing blocks, one of the surrounding coarser material and one of the eggs lying inside the nest. Red stitching over one egg print makes the focal point.  The fabric is callico I found that I had previously painted and printed with leaf shapes.  I don’t think the nest shape has worked very well and I could have done more moss stitch, it has become rather lost.


I cut out feather shapes from paper, inked and printed them. I used metallic thread bottom left as the focal point, but actually the red stitching leads you in and around more than anything else.

Decorative border

I used a bone shape which intrudes somewhat onto the stitched edging.  I could have made this border slightly wider so that the motifs sat within it.  I then added a variation of the pattern with different coloured thread.


I don’t feel this has worked very well either – stitch and print don’t enhance each other as they should do.  I now realise I haven’t added a focal point either!


I used whip stitch for the larger stitched footprints, gradually bringing the tension back to normal as the prints get smaller, ending with just a single line of stitching at the smallest print. Focal point is a print going in the different direction in red.

The blocks I made for printing:

Memories of Istanbul – the completed piece

Finally it’s finished!

My evaluation of the piece

I kept to my inition vision of a hanging inspired bythe plaque I had seen hanging by a doorway in Istanbul.  The main difficulty was how to incorporate all the images I wanted to include, but this became easier once I had made horizontal divides rather than vertical ones – this was a huge improvement.  The project grew more and more complex in order to produce what I wanted.  The whole piece took me 104 hours to complete , starting in October 2012, finishing January 2013 and that did not include thinking time.  I spent around 50 hours in the planning, designing and sampling stage, and 50 hours making it, although I was still experimenting and sampling well into this stage as some elements could only be resolved once I had begun to put everything together.  I spent a further 5 – 6 hours on the blog and evaluation. It is difficult to evaluate costs as apart from buying a length of calico, I used materials I already had.  An estimate would be around £15.

This is definitely the most complex piece I have ever attempted.  It was interesting to note how many of the techniques I had learnt through the course came into their own – without my really searching for them.

I am very pleased with the results, though am probably still too close to the piece to really appreciate it yet.  I certainly learnt a huge amount in doing it.

Assessment piece – towards the light at the end of the tunnel!

I love this screen on a window looking out from the women’s quarters in Topkapi Palace and wondered how I might incorporate it into the piece.  I decided that, rather than stitch onto the piece itself, I would stitch onto soluble fabric and wash away.  The photo mockup had potential, but was maybe a bit complex.  Then, when I experimented with this, I couldn’t avoid the spider’s web effect rather than a solid round shape.  Experimenting with vanishing muslin wasn’t much better, so in the end I decided a simple grid pattern would look better – it gives the effect of looking out into the outside world of mosques, but is not so intricate that the eye is taken by the pattern rather than looking through.

The ends of the bars will be stitched down.

I have left the central pattern open, so as to be able to see through more clearly onto the mosque shapes (reflecting today’s more secular society) where I have done a lot more stitching, though felt I needed to extend the grid slightly into it.  I think I will get rid of thetwo dome lines that cross from the left panel to the central one.  I am still not sure whether there is enough stitching,  maybe in all three panels?  Does the stitching on the sides look bitty and does it matter that there is on open area of blue in the top right corner of the central panel?

I have done some experiments on the side border design.  I like the right hand one, though the stitch on this is very rough.  The correct design will be as per the tracing above, with the gold prints done first.

I think the top screened area and the tiles now balance each other quite well, but I am still uncertain how to proceed with the bottom part.  It obviously needs more stitching and I am still drawn to the idea of granite stitch. but I don’t want to totally cover the bondaweb colours or the shapes of the domes.

January 3rd 2013

The stitching is done on the top areas!

I’ve been working on the lower section.  This is a full size sketch.  I wanted the cobbles to recided into the distance so reduced their size from front to back, as well as narrowing the overall shapes.  I then felt the whole thing needed more stitching so I restitched the dome shapes with metallic thread and added roof lines in the same way as the domes in the top area.  I also added a little more colour to the some top areas of the bondaweb to reinforce the idea of horizon.

I am pleased with this border, I think the delicate stitching over the stencil prints is just right.






















I found another photo of a window screen in the Topkapi Palace with curved ironwork.

This traced design shows the effect it would have.  I can’t make up my mind which I prefer.  This one is more authentic  whereas the square grid echoes the shape of the tiles.

 January 9th 2013

Here are the completed screens, having decided the curved shapes work much better.  I have stitched only the ends down so that the body hangs loose and looks more 3-dimensional.

When I looked again at the images of the arches in the Palace,  you could see the blocks done in alternate colours, so I first stitched patterns onto the exisating shapes.  Then I added the appliquéd shapes so you can still see the patterns behind.

The final borders trimmed and ready to attach. I notice one of the beads has slipped slightly.  They are loose at present so i think I will add a hand stitch to secure them in place.

Assessment piece – further work

I’ve done a lot more playing around with the tiles.  I’ve moved the tiles down by removing the third tile on the far right, which gives a much better positioning.  this means the missing moulding paste tiles are no longer correctly placed but I can see where these will go and I will also put a little paste between each tile. I thought a stenciled tile (probably a little fainter than shown here) would work well in the missing spaces and make sense of the middle tile of stem and leaves.  I’ve also reduced the size of the top and bottom red tiles.  I moved the two border tiles on the left into the exterior border.  I then added some torn strips of tile print into the arched shapes at the bottom (second image below) to re-enforce the tile theme.  I haven’t yet decided the final placing of the strips – whether to have them in all three arches or not.  And because I will have a couple of strips extending into the border, I moved the two left hand tiles back to their original placings. The painted bondaweb will extend throughout the whole arch which I hope gives depth to the idea of looking through the arch and I thought to extend scraps of bondaweb into the lower border.  I will shorten the arches slightly so only the right hand border tile protrudes into it. The other tiles will be just above the top of the arches.

I tried out some more ideas on the fabric mockup.  I like the idea of tearing the paper closer to the actual minaret shapes so will do this more.  I inked and then stitched the dome and arch shapes.  The tiles are obviously not in the correct place, but I wanted to try hand stitching one with the edges turned in.  I don’t feel this works – the fabric is so heavy and loosely woven that I didn’t feel it was neat enough, so I have settled on the shape on the right which is machine stitched with a long zigzag in the same colour thread as the fabric so it hardly shows.  I tried the stencil on the border but don’t feel this works, so won’t use it. I’ve also enlarged the border from 3 to 4 cms on the fabric mockup below.  I’m not sure about this but I think the final decision will have to wait until I see the three panels stitched and placed together.

I’m having to rethink the top and bottom edgings.  Just stitching onto soluble will be too flimsy.  I thought of stitching onto scrim and soluble but again too flimsy, won’t look right.  My latest idea is to use felt and burn away the edges.  I want to make small paper beads to hang on the tassels.  I would also have to make holes in the felt through which to thread the tassels.

September 17th

Here is the work I have done so far on the finished piece, with detailed pics below.

I think I prefer the dark background betwen the panels. It is a piece of almost black indigo cloth.  I don’t have enought to do the entire backing with, so will use two pieces where the gaps are sown onto the red fabric which will form the backing ( I would have had to use two panels of red anyway to show the front of the fabric).  I’ve used a mix of gold and copper threads for the stitching on the domes and minaret.  I am undecided whether I need more stitching or whether this is enough.  I want suggestion rather than overstatement.

I only used one layer of felt behind the tiles, having used some iron-on interfacing to anchor the threads at the back.  Possibly I should have used two layers.  The print on to the moulding paste was done with an expanded foam tulip shape to give a faint undefined shape.  I have yet to add the tile images within the domes and I am thinking of adding some granite stitch in gold which will meander into the border.  I haven’t yet decided on the width of the borders, nor have I  experimented with the top and bottom borders.

December 20th

I have decided to have the red borders at 2 cms top and bottom, 5 at the sides.  With the additional top and bottom edge borders I think this will balance well.

I think the experiment below will work well for the top and bottom borders. The tassel needs to be a little longer and fuller.

I haven’t trimmed these borders yet.  They will actually end at the stitching and will be stitched or tacked in place on the main work before I add the backing, so as to get them in the correst place.   The lutradur has been burnt back in places.

This cord will be threaded through the eylets and looped round a pole.





I will use these threads to make the tassels hanging from the bottom border.





This is some paper I ahd left over from earlier work, layering and painting dye spotted kitchen paper and napkins.  I’ll add a bit of copper and gold paint as there is a bit too much pink in the paper.

Chapter 7 Design and composition

I used a motif from one of the tiles in my image bank for the assessment piece.

Foam print block

I don’t think my first attempt below works very well, the second is better.

Distorted images

I used a tulip petal to play around with, drawing on to a pair of tights.

Expanding a motif

This is maybe a little dark and monotone in colour but I like the overall distressed look of the background which could resemble an old tile.


In the stitched samples above, the fuschia, no 3, is too dark, the one belowis more like the buddlia flowers in the image.  I’ve left threads attached where I have used two in the needle so I can see what I used.


In the above piece I started off using white bobbinfill, but as this didn’t give a very good block of colour, I switched to using turquoise in the bobbin as well (halfway through sample 2).

Using these design ideas together

I took one section of the tulip petal and expanded it.  The horizontal lines seemed to break up the image too much so I extended them across the whole piece.

The Fibonacci sequence

Three designs for hangings, using Golden Section focal points