Adventures in Machine Embroidery - Part 1

Computerised embroidery machines have intrigued me for a while. The only things I ever see them do are cute pre-programmed motifs on baby blankets or monogramming flannels, but every now and then I see something on Instagram or Pinterest that makes me stop and reconsider how the machines could be combined with drawing and collage to create something a bit different. Despite thinking about how they could be used with my artwork it is not something I have ever tried as I don't have space for one, and the cost is prohibitive for something to just 'have a play' with. However, couple of friends have recently acquired a machine so I nabbed myself an invite to try it out. Nicole and Melinda run Brighton Sewing Centre, a shop in the North Laine that sells sewing supplies, machines and run classes (as the tutor, I can recommend the quilt ones!). They have lots of different machines, but the Brother PR1050X is their newest addition. 

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Hello Jane

A lot of my teenage years were spent with my nose in a book. There wasn't a lot to do in the Hove suburbs, so without the distraction of a mobile phone, reading, playing hockey or drinking cider in the park were pretty much the extent of a social life. And it was reading that took me into another world. These journeys were varied, while at home I loved Sylvia Plath and Dorothy Parker, I worked Saturdays in a bookshop and used to read the latest bestsellers between serving customers at the till. SAS heroes, or cheesy romantic novels, everything was fair game to take me away from grey Boundary Road in Hove to a more exciting world.

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Houses and rooms

At the end of last year I made a big decision to change my work situation to give me more time to stitch, and to develop my work in a new direction. I was not reckless enough to devote myself to my stitch work full time, but adjusted my work into what I enjoy and pays the bills, but also allows me some regular time and thinking space to be creative. So what to do. Finish all the quilts I am currently making, or start something new? Of course the answer was to work on a new project (while diligently ploughing away at the wip pile). I have always loved applique, and like the way it offers possibilities of being illustrative with fabric and thread, so the question was what theme would I explore. 

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Landscape Workshop

There is something cosy about running one-day workshops in winter. With the lights on, heating turned up and kettle on the go it feels like a little retreat from the damp and grey world. So, when Sussex Quilters got in touch last summer about the possibility of running a February workshop I thought 'oh, yes!'. The group, who meet in Southwick, decided on my 'developing applique motifs from photographs' workshop, and chose to focus on landscapes. I asked everyone to bring along their own image which made it much more interesting - we stayed local on Southwick Green, took a trip up to the Downs, popped along the coast to Worthing beach, and then nipped across the English Channel to France. They are a talented bunch - as you can see here...

Playing with print

popularpatchworkfeb17

I have long been a fan of lino printing. I don't consider myself an expert - it is a few years since I have made a reduction print, but I do like to dabble every now and then. It is cheap, easy to learn and clean. The latter is very important in my workspace (aka 'the desk') where I also write and sew. The last thing I want is stray fabric paint being a pain and getting on everything.
My first experience of using this technique was at university, where printing on paper was as important as printing onto fabric - it is a great way of creating greetings cards or wrapping paper. 
A few years ago I used Softcut for the first time and instantly became a convert. It behaves in a similar way to lino but is much easier to cut into. Last month I wrote a four-page guide to printing with Softcut for Popular Patchwork magazine for the February issue which is on-sale now. As it is a textile magazine I focused on printing onto fabric, and spent a very enjoyable day playing with designs to photograph for the how-to's.
Here are a section of photos from that session. I worked most of the designs in repeats which I think makes them look more usable in quilting making. You can also create wonderful placement prints - they look great in the centre of a Log cabin block. If you fancy having a go, full instructions are in the magazine.

Cutting out the 'Dice' design

Cutting out the 'Dice' design

Creating a tile effect with the flower design

Creating a tile effect with the flower design

Inking up a flower design

Creating a border print with the flower design

Creating a border print with the flower design

My 'Eighties Hearts' design

My 'Eighties Hearts' design

I called this design Retro TV' as the shape reminds me of televisions

I called this design Retro TV' as the shape reminds me of televisions

My 'Dice' design

My 'Dice' design