I may have gone slightly ‘in the hoop’ project mad… as you can see from this week’s bookmark! An artful blend of fabric engineering, custom digitising, tassel-making and rope making! This was another of my classic, ‘oh this seems like a good idea’ projects that snowballs into some concoction of complications.
This bookmark is a John Deer design but I have added some monogramming to the back and done a little bit of my own digitising to add on the satin stitch vine embellishments. I just opened the original design files in Hatch, doodled a bit, and there you go. I really enjoy how quick it is with machine embroidery to go from idea to product. I took some screenshots of the design and ported them into Adobe Illustrator to do a bit of doodling with the graphics tablet to see how any embellishments would fit with the monogram etc. Once I was happy, I just screenshotted it back into Hatch, ran the lines of stitching and voila, done.
The fabric choice for this one was rather interesting. The top layer is a very nice polyester satin but I didn’t want the finished bookmark to feel thin and flimsy. I used Maderia Cut Away stabiliser for the two halves of the bookmark but also added a layer of Vlieseline H630 batting which has given it a lovely, puffy texture and added a bit of an extra dimension to the embroidery. It holds its shape relatively well and is flexible without being flimsy. The H630 is low-loft so while it is far from the skinniest bookmark, it’s not so puffy that it just falls out of the book.
Everything went very smoothly with the embroidery (including the parts I had added! That felt miraculous especially given I didn’t do any test stitching beforehand) and so it was just a case of the dreaded cutting and assembly… While John Deer has a very nice tutorial for how to use his embroidery designs, the problem with using other people’s templates is, unless you really nerd out and work out the satin stitch lengths from the digitised design, you don’t really know what their definition of ‘cut close to the line’ is and how big the tolerances are. Longer satin stitches are more forgiving in terms of catching the edges of the shapes but longer stitches come with their own problems…
Most of the design went okay apart from one edge where the holding layer of zigzag stitches were just missing, so I manually babysat the machine and stepped the hoop tracking as it went down the offending edge every few stitches so there wasn’t an obvious transition and I didn’t miss anything. It worked surprisingly well, the only problem is that the machine is very obedient and when you tell it to stop, it really does stop nearly immediately which can cause some issues with the stitch tension.
I was pleased that by some miracle all the edges did end up stitched together and the satin stitch was mostly okay – not beautiful and I did have to tack down a few loops by hand – but it is functional. I do love the rest of the embroidery on this one though. Apart from the pale green thread ending up a bit discoloured from the spray adhesive, which I’ve never seen before, and there still being some residual water-soluble stabiliser that I couldn’t face any more rinsing to get rid off but on the embroidery side it has all come out rather well.
My little extravagance for this project was the tassel with the handmade cord. It’s fairly simple to make very nice cord from a fringe twister, but I didn’t have anything in that I felt would be suitable. Out came the warping posts to make up four ropes in matching colours that I could then twist to make the cord. It was a bit of a pain as the embroidery thread is very fine and likes to go everywhere but it is a lovely soft, flexible cord. It got a bit crushed by the sewing machine as the sewing line ‘spread’ the cord.
Putting the tassel together was fun. If you like silly but incredibly well-made gadgets, Clover are your friends. They have a whole series of these adjustable tassel making frames and I love that they’ve thought of all the things you’d think of making on of these (somewhere to park starting and finishing threads securely) and all the things you hadn’t (a groove to get the scissors into when it comes to cutting the tassel off the frame. It’s an unnecessary indulgence when card will also suffice but it does make the whole process much easier. That was very welcome as the metallic embroidery thread I used here is very stiff and so a pain to handle while you whip the ends into place. I also managed to put the cord in the wrong place… I ended up just sewing it through the top of the tassel to secure it and I think it looks okay!
One of the things that put me off machine embroidery was the idea of just churning out something very generic. It’s fun doing your own digitising but, unless you are very adept and confident, often it’s easier to buy someone else’s cool design and run it through the machine. However, there’s a lot of customising you can do and I love projects like this where I can get out the kumihimo kit, go rummaging through both the quilting supplies (batting) and the fancy fabrics (satin) and get out the hand embroidery to fix it all and finish it off.
I like this one – I absolutely want to use more satin in the future. It had far fewer issues with puckering and looking wrinkly than I expected and looks very luxurious. I refuse to ever cut anything by hand when the machine could do it ever again. It is not worth it. Bernina knows best. Although some of the satin stitching isn’t perfect, I do like this one and think I could have probably achieved a better effect just by making a few more manual tweaks to the design. Sometimes it’s fun doing too many crafts and here is the evidence!