Adding a bit of “Zen” to machine embroidery
Several years ago, a dear friend introduced me to “zen-tangle”, a free form of sculptured doodling inside specified shapes/areas. I must say that I fell in love with the concept. Some of my earlier “zen-tangles” were awkward meandering lines, but over time, I learned to relax and just let my mind concentrate on a given area and doodle! The idea of using the same concept in machine embroidery designs came to my mind, but I couldn’t get past the interpretation concept. On a piece of paper, it was all fine to just draw, but in machine embroidery, I had to limit my self to a theme. Moreover, I had to figure out how it could lend itself to just being plain line art. That is exactly what Zen-tangle is all about, it is an interesting word for line-art!
To be honest, there are a gazillion line art or one color designs out there. Why add to what already exists, so I came up with the idea of creating my “zen-embroidery” using multiple methods. The first method used for plain simple applique. Applique is an extremely easy technique, based upon three steps. The first is the placement outline, which stitches out directly on your fabric without adding the applique fabric. This becomes the guide if you want to place your fabric in a fussy way, specially if using batiks and other specialty fabrics. Once the placement outline stitches out, just place your applique fabric onto the stitched out shape and the machine will stitch out the second step, known as the applique tack down. Applique tack down stitches out the shape but with secure stitches so the fabric wouldn’t come away from the edge, when the trimming is done.
To show you the method: simply hoop your stabilizer. Now, note that I never hoop my fabric, always only the stabilizer. The fabric is either pinned to the stabilizer or I use fabric glue stick to hold it down. The choice is yours, you may do as I say or hoop both fabric and stabilizer. Stitch out the first stitch: placement outline. Now place your applique fabric and stitch out the applique tack down. Remove hoop from machine (do not remove stabilizer and or fabric, just the hoop) and place on a flat surface. Trim away excess fabric from outside the tack down stitches. (see left).
As far as applique scissors go, I prefer the smallest blade scissors. Simply, because the smaller the blade, the closer you are to the trimming, which will be amazingly neater than if you were to use scissors with larger blades. The best that I have found can be found at Famore. These scissors are indeed tiny, but have a look at the trimmed image above. It trims closer to the applique tack down stitch leaving the applique neat. Btw, I also use the same scissor for cutwork designs.
The third and last step is the applique itself. This can be done in a variety of ways, satin stitches, motif stitches and or simple zig-zag stitches. Very rarely do I prefer satin stitches for applique, so you will see a variety of motif stitches in my applique designs. The same is in this instance. After you have trimmed away the excess fabric, place the hoop back in the machine. The reason why I’m so adamant about placing the hoop on a flat surface, rather than in your lap…(yes I know it’s easy) is because a slight shift in the hooping can distort the design. After placing the hoop in the machine, go ahead and stitch out the rest of the design. In step 1 and 2 of the applique process, use the same color thread which will be used for the applique. So, in my case, I used dark brown for step 1 and 2 and step 3.
Are you ready to try some “Zen-Embroidery”? Go ahead, the designs are perfect for fall and if specialty metallic threads are used, these same designs will blend well for the holidays. There are five design files: Border (this is the curly type continuous border designs); leaf 1 (this is one color leaf applique design); leaf 1 non-applique (this is one color line-art design); leaf 2 (this design has two colors, different for the leaf and vines/and the stem); and the last one leaf 2 non-applique (same as leaf 2, only this is a line art design). I hope you enjoy my version of mixing Zen with machine embroidery.
Note: Each zipped file has multiple formats. Use the “save as” option to save the files to your computer/external drive rather than “open” option.