If you are into machine embroidery and haven’t seen Machine Embroidery Geek’s website, I really recommend taking a look. There’s lot of great resources but definitely my favourite part is where she justifies the cost of buying an embroidery machine with ‘how much you will save on gifts’. Perhaps I am a particularly miserly and uncharitable soul, but this seems like a very weak justification for which the maths does not add up, unless you attach a monetary value to the fun and joy that comes with making gifts on the machine.
I love giving cards. I think everyone appreciates getting something in the post that is not spam or a bill but there are so many beautiful and artistic cards that you can always find something beautifully suited the receiver and they are a very unobtrusive and discrete gift, and I think an ideal way to say ‘thinking of you’. Apparently it is very much a UK cultural thing (and US and Australia – any thoughts, dear readers?) to send cards to mark so many occasions throughout the year, but it seems a universal thing to appreciate receiving one.
I used to do a lot of (not always very successful) paper card making but these days I am more about the fibre-things and cards make an excellent medium for testing new ideas, including a shiny new embroidery machine. To make this one, I decided to use two built in designs that came with the machine for the card as they are all very well digistised so stitch out with minimal fuss and some of the built-in lettering is really beautiful. The designs included with the machine do seem to err on the large size but resizing is always a possibility.
If you want to combine a few designs, there are two ways to do this – either on the computer using embroidery design software (the free Bernina ARTLink software would be way) or, if you have a machine with a fancy interface, directly on the machine itself.
If I had a complicated design or cared very strongly about having the design elements aligned in particular way, I’d probably opt for using the computer but I find the Bernina’s touch screen interface generally quite intuitive to use. Some of the symbol choices for actions (such as favourites, saving designs etc.) are a little odd but there aren’t an overwhelming amount of choices so you can make it through trial and error fairly efficiently when their meaning escapes your memory. Everything is sufficiently sensitive that dragging around design elements feels very easy, and there are plenty of options for mirroring and resizing available that the possibilities are somewhat endless.
Rather than just having plain fabric, I wanted to put to use some of the ice-dyed fabrics I’ve been making recently as I have endless amounts and it is easy to make more so it doesn’t make sense to conserve them as some precious resource. Plus, one of the advantages of doing a lot of different types of craft means that one day I have to have the dream of a project where I’ve spun the threads, to weave the fabric and embroider it, everything has been hand-dyed and maybe a few different bits of fabric made and sewn together, just to get some patchworking in!
I overlaid two different designs and did a test stitch-out on two pieces of calico. Having been working with stabiliser a lot recently and testing different kinds, stabiliser is generally better and much more forgiving. Hooping it feels a little unnatural, but it does what it is supposed to do and give you nice crisp stitching very well. However, if it’s not feasible and calico is all you have then that will work fine in a pinch.
I had to adjust the stitch tension a little but, as well as being reassuring that the machine was in a good mood and we weren’t about to enter bird’s nest hell, I realised that the design wouldn’t fit in my card aperture area so was going to need to be reduced to 80 % of its original size.
The stitch tension was a little too high to start with (I changed needles between the stitch out and the ‘real’ design, plus the ice-dyed cotton + calico backing is much thinner than two layers of calico but didn’t change from the optimised setting for the previous run) so the running stitch looks more ‘bumpy’ and textured than it should. I think the effect works though and as there was no puckering I can live with it. Everything else went very smoothly and felt like the machine did most of the work.
The card blank came from Deb’s Cross Stitch, who have excellent customer service, and I very much like the texture of the paper for this one. It goes very well with embroidered pieces. I’m still looking for a good supplier of aperture cards that are made from more heavyweight paper – I know I’m fussy when it comes to these things but I think heavier cards and envelopes make for a much more ‘quality’ feel.
At the moment I just use Prym glue to stick the fabric in. I haven’t had any disasters yet with it running into the design area but even with being patient it doesn’t always hold as well as I’d like. I am considering whether it would be worth stretching the fabric a little more over a thin piece of card to somewhat approximate proper mounting but with a good iron beforehand and some care, this seems to work well enough!