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 adding monograms to 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. 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 an embroidery 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. 

The first thing I noticed is that it looks far different to the domestic machines I am used to, or even the long arm machines I have tried. It has a whopping TEN needles, which means you can stitch multi-colour designs. Being a disco girl I love the way there are lights under the reels of thread that light up when it is selected, or used, so you can double check you are stitching in the correct colour. But I digress from the stitching. It has a large screen to the right of the stitch mechanism, and that is where we started.

As there are so many things the machine can do Nicole focused on showing me how to scan an image, edit it on the machine and then stitch it out (I love that machine embroidery term, makes me want to sing it along to Taylor Swift). I decided to start with some of my landscape images and took two very different ones along to try.

Below is the first one we tried, the original image, and then the stitched picture. Nicole said to bring in a drawing in biro. Yep, just a black pen on printer paper, nothing swish. This design has a light line, and I wanted it to look like a sketch. After scanning and editing the display told us it is 144 x 170mm, has 4273 stitches and will take 25 minutes to stitch. I was surprised by how long it took, but this was due to the number of places it needed to stop and start - the thread is tied off and cut after every section. I am pleased with it, and might add some textile paint to make it look more like a definite landscape.  

The original sketch

The original sketch

The sewn design

The sewn design

The second picture has a completely different feel to the first, with a more definite line sewn with a small satin stitch. It is interesting to compare the two landscapes, the way they were stitched and how they look. This design was far quicker to stitch as the first as there were less areas for the thread to be tied off. It looks a bit heavy to me, but I am thinking about sewing pieces of fabric in each shape to complete the landscape.

The Biro sketch

The Biro sketch

The sewn design

The sewn design

Both images are saved on the machine, so I can stitch the again if I want to. It was a good introduction to the machine, but my head was spinning on the way home - it opened my eyes to a new world of sewing.