Last week’s post marked a dangerous turning point in my machine embroidery confidence where I realised that doing multi-part construction wasn’t so bad after all and, while getting things aligned with dielines wasn’t fun, it was feasible.
This opened up a huge number of possibilities then for some really silly projects with machine embroidery, including this rather adorable little cat. The good thing about this little design is that it is raw edge applique, so rather than the edge being secured with satin stitch, it’s just left uncovered as is.
Challenge number one of this one was making the templates. I don’t have access to a printer at home, so I just print out the dielines on some tearaway stabilised calico and then play my favourite game of thread chicken trying to cut them out as best I can. The tricky part was transferring them to the dark blue felt. This is some 40 % wool felt I picked up at some point and I just transferred the design by trying to draw around the template with a black biro. Thinking about it I don’t know why I didn’t use my nice new white tailors chalk but we’re all wise in hindsight…
I had a lot of fun picking the materials for this project. In the original design, the loop is some ribbon but it turns out in my stash, I don’t actually have a very extensive ribbon collection. Shock horror! (Dear worried readers, I have since taken steps to rectify this problem). Digging around my craft cupboard though I did find some silk cording that I thought might look okay, and then I came across this pile of awesome cord I picked up in Korea. It looked a little excessive and bling and I was seriously concerned about how the machine was going to make it over the lump of bulk but I thought it might be a fun experiment.
I don’t really like cutting very much and it turns out cutting out felt is even less fun. I am inclined to agree with Rachel from VirtuoSew’s comment last week on working with felt of ‘every time I’ve been reminded why it’s occasional’. How can something being bulky, fluffy, pill-y, fragile and generally such a nuisance all at the same time? As the outline of the cat was quite a complex shape I did try switching from scissors to scalpel, only to discover that felt and scalpel do not make for a happy combination as it’s very hard to get a clean cut and then you end up with fluff everywhere. If you have fluff, do not pull. It will not end well for your poor little cat!
Cutting-woes aside, I used Maderia’s cotton soft tearaway for embroidering the front and back felt pieces. I switched to a Microtex 70 for this as the stabiliser was going to have to deal with quite a bit of trauma and I wanted something fairly fine and sharp to make it through the felt. Even for the applique heart section in the centre and for putting the back piece on at the end, this seemed to be a winning combination with no snags and problems.
I think the cutting probably took more time than the entire rest of the project! The raw edge meant my cutting inaccuracies of the cat shape were forgiven and, while the heart wasn’t perfect, I could give the shape a trim after the first securing line of zigzag stitch went down, so the next row of satin stitch just covered it. Phew.
The construction for the back piece was a little strange, as you had to glue the back onto the back of the hoop, then stitch out the outline shape, which felt very unnatural. This is also where the cording for the loop went in. I taped it down with several pieces of washi tape, envisioning all sorts of horror scenarios where the machine would struggle with the bulk and it would ruin the registration and make an unsightly mess. I turned the stitching speed right down and sat and watched intently as it went over this region, only to find the Bernina did not even bat an eyelid, in fact it was so unperturbed by the big lump it had to make it through, I couldn’t even tell it was stitching through a more challenging region from the sound. Phew!
There were a few little issues with how I’d cut the back and front templates, but all he needed to finish him off was some lavender, toy stuffing and hand sewing the opening at the bottom. I had reduced the design size from the original by 10 % so it was a bit tricky to get any stuffing into the tail but he’s puffed out nicely. I don’t do a lot of hand sewing and I’m always surprised by how tricky it feels compared to embroidery, and while my stitches aren’t quite as meticulous as the Bernina’s, I don’t think I did a terrible job.
Some craft projects you just love, even if there is a bit of raggedy felt or imperfections in the cutting and this is one for me. The blue and gold cording makes him look like a ‘Louis Vuitton cat’ according to one commentor, but I absolutely love it. He could use a bit of a trim but I’m not sure I can bring myself to risk tidying him up but he’s such an adorable, slightly wobbly little lump. The cutting was the only part I didn’t really like and I think I have a somewhat ingenious solution to fix that… so I’ll report back whether it works out or not!