Cos I’m Free – To Do What I Want – Any Old Time…

free machine embroidering
Free like a butterfly, free like a bee, it’s nice to be free, it’s nice to be free…


I have discovered something new this week. And I am very excited to discover it. Anyone who has been in the vague vicinity of me in the past week will know what I’m talking about here, and hence the irritating reference to the Soup Dragon’s song which has been buzzing around my head for days but I have broken FREE from the constraints of normal run-of-the-mill sewing. Yes I have. And yes you may very well say – but Anne – you have only been sewing for about a year, how can you be rule breaking already? Well I am… I’ve dropped my dogs and gone skipping off into the wonderful world of ‘Free Machine Embroidery’.

And what a wonderful world it is too. I like to sew yes? You may have picked that up if you have been paying attention to this blog thus far, and I also like to draw. Put them together and what have you got? You’ve got Free Machine Embroidery that’s what. Or Free Motion Embroidery or whatever you would like to call it. But basically it means you drop your feed dogs on your sewing machine and hoop up some material and off you go – using the needle like a pencil and drawing stuff on material.

Now I have to say a big shout out thank you to the lovely Poppy Treffry here for her wonderful book ‘Free Machine Embroidery – Learning to Draw with your Sewing Machine‘ now I was mightily excited to read that title I can tell you as the concept of drawing with thread just totally floats my boat. I bought the book, I soaked up the contents, and I faffed about for days, on the pretence that I couldn’t possibly start actually trying this out until I had the right embroidery hoops that were on order from Amazon. Then they arrived and I faffed about some more. Then I realised that I was scared… So excited was I to discover such a fun sounding thing that I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do it, or I would hate it, or I would break my lovely machine.

Now there is only one way to deal with fear isn’t there? You gotta just dive in. So dive in I did.

First of all, as recommended by Poppy, I did some scribbling…

free machine scribbling
And I had quite a few snarl ups and my poor Janome made some quite concerning growling noises… and I played with my tension and I learned that you have to keep an eye on what is happening with the flappy bits of material around your hoop, or you end up sewing all your material together in a big mess on the back…
And believe me when I say, you do NOT want to unpick this stuff! So then I tried having a play with some applique pieces as in the main photo above. And nothing went too horribly wrong… So I tried making a couple of birthday cards for my friends whose birthdays are coming up this weekend.


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My good friend Mandy really likes owls, and it so happens that I have some owl fabric left over from a dress I made for my daughter last year. So I thought for a start, I would try a ‘cheat’ applique and see if I could draw around the owl shape. I even added some eyelashes to the girl owl… clever huh?

The Happy Birthday bit is very wobbly indeed. Maybe a little more wobbly than could strictly be classed as ‘charming’ but hey – it is my first attempt – and I know Mandy is very forgiving and won’t mind me practicing on her card, I am sure she will be greatly honoured to have the very first Free Machine Embroidered masterpiece off of the production line!

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Then I made a card for my friend Rachel, who is super dooper amazing at making cakes. So I thought a cupcake would be appropriate. And my writing is slightly less wobbly… I made a bit of a mistake with the cupcake case… sssshhh don’t tell anyone but there is actually two layers of cupcake case as the first one went wrong as I sewed it on before the cake layer… ooops. Not to worry, you can easily patch over the top. I was quite pleased with my daring change of stitch type to zig-zag to make the top of the case.  Shame I didn’t think of that to start with, then I wouldn’t have had to unpick the straight line I did originally…. 🙂

brownie applique
My next project is a notebook cover for my daughter’s brownie badge book. She is always trying to steal my notebooks… that girl is very organised for a 9 year old and has notebooks galore for all her cunning plans. Now she wants one for plotting which brownie badge she is going to go for next.
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So I have been inspired by the lovely Josie Day over at Sew for Soul and used her brilliant tutorial to create a notebook cover for a cheapo notebook from Wilco’s. This time, following Josie’s advice I have dispensed with my restrictive embroidery hoops and just used some interlining on the back to avoid too many puckers and just went for it free style! Much easier.And not too shabby for a first attempt, even if I do say so myself.Might be brave enough to attempt some thank-you teacher notebooks for my children’s brilliant teachers next.

It’s quite funny, because before discovering this technique, I was already doing similar stuff, as on my son’s applique pirate curtain and my peg bag and a few cards I made for folks at Easter and for mother’s day… but I didn’t realise it was an actual ‘thing’. I was just feeling a bit renegade and using my sewing machine to sew on applique and blast through card and pivoting like mad because I didn’t realise you could drop the feed dogs and be free!
easter card

Life before free machine embroidery

So big thanks to Josie and Poppy and Google and Amazon for helping me realise this was a thing. I have not stopped grinning and humming happily to myself since I started. And hopefully with a bit more practice – who knows what I can draw?



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