I don't have a fancy embroidery machine. I don't even have a new model machine. Most of my sewing is done on a 30-stitch Kenmore manual machine or on a semi-industrial Bernina that I purchased two years ago for production sewing.
And lately I have been getting a hankering to do some embroidery on garments. So many sewing periodicals focus on embroidery that it is no wonder that I am beginning to want one of those top-of-the-line machines. That stuff really looks like fun.
But, if you are like me and thinking perhaps you should buy another fancier machine, ask yourself first if you are using your present machine to its fullest potential. Probably not. I have, in the attic, a 25-year old Kenmore that has 30 cams - these are little plastic disks that you drop in the top of the machine and then you can sew little daisies or ducks and lots of really nice stitches. I never once used any of those stitches. What a waste. So I looked at my present machine and thought what can I do with this that I haven't tried before? The built-in stitches of course. With a little imagination and some planning, you can really have some fun with whatever your machine does.
This project began with a lovely piece of fabric that was a shade of green best described as Granny Smith apple green. Not quite lime green but close. I kept looking at this fabric and thinking "do something with it". Then I was plagued by the thought of combining green and navy. I take a while to work things out in my head first. Then a search through my patterns brought out this one, which I had purchased last year and never made up.
This pattern, Kwik Sew 2809, has a dress and jacket that calls for a small amount of contrasting fabric. Well, the project took shape. Embroider those sections that are in contrast fabric. So I began playing with some scraps of fabric and navy thread, trying various stitches to see which I liked and how the fabric reacted. The first attempt was terrible, as you can see.
This is a double thickness of fabric with no interfacing or stabilizer being used. Since this fabric is a combination of linen and cotton with 3% lycra added to it, the fabric stretched and puckered mercilessly. Who wants a bubbled linen jacket? Lesson one - always stabilize your fabric. So I fused interfacing to the linen and tried again. Much better, but the results were even better when I also placed a tear-away stabilizer under the fabric as well as the interfacing.
I then began to draw on paper what I wanted. I finally decided on a diamond pattern to be repeated around the bottom of the jacket. After several attempts (which I didn't like), I at last used overlapping diamonds cut out in paper, then pinned to the fabric all around. I then stitched just outside the diamonds to transfer the shape to the fabric. If you have never used the triple straight stitch on your machine, give it a try. This is a stitch which sews first one stitch forward, then one back, then another forward. The result is a heavy line of top-stitching which really stands out well especially when using a contrasting thread. Then I simply moved the fabric over so that the first line of stitching was on the outside of the presser foot and stitched the diamonds again. This time, I had to eyeball where to turn as I had no template to follow. So what I ended up with was the original line of stitching, another one on the inside of the diamonds and a third line on the outside of the diamonds. This gave me spaces in which to then sew a diamond stitch. This was a stitch that is built into my machine. I played with it a while to get the width and length right - I wanted a pattern that would show up well, I ended up stitching it with a width of 5 and a stitch length of almost 0. This is the result.
This was a long slow process, as I really took my time. I didn't have any spare fabric so the first attempt had to be the final. When sewing the band around the bottom of the fabric, I fused interfacing to the pieces first, then sewed the side seams of the band and then attached the band to the bottom of the jacket. Then I repeated one part of the pattern around the edges of the collar. This stitching was done to the top collar only after it had been interfaced. To be sure that I had it positioned correctly, I basted all around the collar at 5/8" from the raw edges, then I knew where to start embroidering so it would be an equal distance from the finished edges of the collar. After the embroidery was finished, I then constructed the collar and attached it to the jacket.
This pattern is an unlined jacket, but I don't want to see all the inside work so I am going to line it. Lining a jacket is fairly easy and I will explain how in the next article. In fact, lining saves you all the trouble of finishing the seam allowances. Not to mention the fact that the jacket slips on and off more easily and looks like a quality garment when you remove it and casually drape it over a chair. The lining is navy Bemberg - I would never find the same shade of green in lining fabric and I think a contrast lining looks terrific inside a jacket. In fact, couture garments are always lined with a contrasting fabric to make them look even more spectacular.
This sewing project has been really enjoyable. The construction of this jacket is very simple; it is put together like a blouse, rather than a tailored jacket so anyone with minimal experience could attempt it. The fun part has been designing a piece of embroidery for it and watching it take shape. The final touch will be covered buttons - they will be done in the green linen, but will also be embroidered with a diamond pattern.