Machine embroidery isn’t all greetings cards and monogrammed towels. It turns out you can make some rather complex things with it! I’ve been really interested in doing some stumpwork for a while, and made a start on a project, but doing hand embroidery of lots of small fiddly pieces, to go through the heartbreak of cutting them out and risking nipping a few threads is a rough way to learn!
I’d wanted to have a go at working with organza on the machine and so when I came across this charming tutorial for a 3D Organza Rose complete with design. I liked the idea of getting to be lazy and not having to figure out the construction part so it seemed like a good challenge.
Onto the materials. I am completely besotted with this organza. I ended up buying it in store but I think it might be this one listed on the website. It’s definitely expensive especially compared to synthetic organza but it’s absolutely fabulous. There are these lovely metallic threads in the weave that make it wonderfully shimmery and it turns out it’s quite tough and tear resistant to. The one thing it doesn’t survive is too hot an iron… Don’t ask how I found that one out!
Then it was a case of threads and needles. Here, there was a contradiction between my favourite reference book and what was recommended by the Urban Threads site. The choice was either between a size 70 embroidery versus a size 75 sharp, which mentioned online. Not entirely sure what a Sharp is but the 70 Microtex worked beautifully. Good quality organza is not a material to be scared of it seems, just resist the urge to adjust it in the hoop or iron it too hot and it’s not nearly as delicate as it looks.
What I hadn’t anticipated was quite what a thread guzzler this pattern was. I’d had something of a dilemma choosing between two Mettler PolySheen 4071 and 142, two fantastic greys. I know I probably repeat this every post but Mettler PolySheen is so wonderful for embroidery, the surface coverage seems to be a lot better than their silk finish threads too. It’s perhaps more ‘garish’ than the silk, but I like the vibrancy of the colours and the ‘pop’ they have.
In the end, I went for the darker 142… then ran out and had to opt for the lighter 4071 anyway! It’s fate. The outer, larger petals were done with the lighter thread and the inner ones the darker, and it’s an interesting effect. Thankfully it doesn’t look like I was rummaging around the thread cupboard in desperation for any odds and ends I could find but it’s a surprising difference how different the petals do look given they are made from the same fabric with just the change in thread colour.
It turns out just because it was a machine that made thousands of stitches rather than your own two hands that doesn’t make the piece-cutting process any less terrifying. At least a mistake will just be a waste of fabric and some more machine time but finding the balance between cutting close enough so you don’t have a scraggy fabric halo and not so close that don’t take stitch casualties is hard. The example in the Urban Thread’s tutorial had, what looked to me, like a decent excess around the edge but had been cut so the length of the excess from the stitch line was the same all around. I am not great with scissors so decided to live much more dangerously close than that as I wouldn’t be able to keep an even spacing.
The machine did most of the hard work for the embroidery, and very well too, but the construction was the time consuming part of this project. I like my stitching to be so secure the seams wouldn’t come apart in a hurricane so it took a while to get the craft wires in and stable and all the various layers firmly in place.
The tutorial is quite good but I didn’t find the petal overlap instructions particularly clear. I think the only round you sew a ‘face to face’ seam to join two petals is on the outermost layer and on all the others it is about gradually reducing the amount of overlap between the petals. I will warn you, if you don’t get it right on one of the early rounds, you’ll be stuck fairly quickly in terms of the ‘space’ you have to fill. I would err on the side of overlapping ‘too much’ on the earlier rounds as I think mine were technically too open.
However, flowers aren’t perfect and are no less beautiful for it. The one I made is the smallest size of the pattern which is a little more ‘cramped’ than the bigger, more open roses but I still really like it. I’d tried to make sure the layers couldn’t rotate around the axis of the wire but not to put so much stitching in they were stiff. This is nice as you can do a lot of primping and preening of the petals as required. I wish I’d been able to find some heavier gauge craft wire (and places that sell craft wire, why can they sell them with no information on dimensions or gauge, arrrgh!) as this is much too thin. It is fine as a starting point for the petals but wouldn’t make a strong enough stem if I wanted it to stand.
I think it’s a really charming piece. It’s very tactile. The hand stitching took me longer than it should have done because I was being fussy and kept wriggling things around. Quilting clips came in very handy for securing all the sides at the same time so I didn’t accidentally change the amount of overlap and then distort the overall shape. The organza was robust enough that when I was starting to get a lot of bulk with more and more layers being added I was happy to peel back some of the previous ones to find spots that it was easier to get the needle through as well.
…now what other things can I make…?