Preparing for an embroidery project. Embroidery tips.
Before embroidery can begin, a great deal o f thought must be given to the various elements involved in the preparation.
Choose good quality fabrics, which are a generous size for your project. Check there are no dirty marks or
flaws on the fabric and always inspect the centre fold carefully to make sure this is not dusty or damaged by
being folded for a long time. W hen choosing fabrics it is a good idea to have a small second piece o f fabric large
enough to go into a ring frame; this will be useful for trying out stitches and effects. It may be appropriate to
dye your own fabric, or you can buy small pieces of space dyed material from specialist suppliers. These
make lovely and very original backgrounds.W hen the fabric has been chosen, it should be
pressed with a steam iron and then rolled 011 to a cardboard roll ready for use. If the material is fine it will
need to be backed to give it more body. This backing fabric should be washed to shrink it first. W hen damp
dry it should be ironed and put on to a cardboard roll to await use. If fabric is not shrunk first puckering can
occur between the sections o f embroidery when the work is finished.
The choice of threads obviously depends on the technique to be carried out. It is a good idea to store
your threads in clean polythene sweet jars in ranges of colours. This helps you sec at a glance the threads you
have available. This m ethod is particularly useful for a technique like blackwork or whitework where you need
a range o f threads in different thicknesses. These threads could include all types of embroidery threads along with reels and cops o f cotton, silks and synthetic threads. Metal threads must, o f course, be stored in airtight
tins in a generous am ount o f acid-free white or black tissue. Because this makes it difficult to see what threads
you have, it is a good idea to make a pattern card o f all your threads and keep it on the top o f your tin so you
can see at a glance the threads available, and any extras you may need to buy. Gold thread should be handled as
little as possible to prevent damage and tarnishing. Lurex threads, o f course, could also be stored in a ja r as these
will be unaffected by handling.
There arc many useful books on how to produce design for embroidery and a list is included at the back o f this
book. It is m uch better to take advice from design books than to turn to other people’s embroideries as a
source of inspiration. They have probably taken their design as far as it can reasonably go, and it is always
unfair to copy other embroiderers’ ideas. Instead, go back to the real design sources, looking at flowers,
animals, fruit, vegetables and trees. Textiles and architecture are a wonderful fount o f ideas. Look at shell
patterns and butterfly wings to find interesting patterns to inspire you. Make sketches o f the areas you like; try
enlarging these sketches and isolating a section with a window m ount. Now trace the design lines inside the
m ount. Try repeating this tracing.You will find that enlarging the design is also helpful.
You may be surprised at your results. When you have your design, make a good accurate copy on heavyweight
As professional embroiderers at the Royal School of Needlework, we nearly all invest in a tool box or fishing
box. These are light to carry to classes and have a wonderful range o f little compartments in which to put
all the various things an embroiderer needs. We always have in our boxes a range o f needles o f every shape and
size, including large bracing needles; scissors, small sharp ones for thread, a small pair for gold thread only, paper
scissors and scissors for cutting fabric; beeswax; tape measure; thimbles; pencils, rubbers and rulers; a pair o f
compasses; dressmaking pins, glasshead pins and drawing pins; masking tape; a pot of powdered charcoal and
cuttlefish; pricker; button thread for framing up and a ball o f string; dumpy screwdriver for loosening screws
on ring frames; a tiny baby’s hairbrush to remove unwanted pieces of gold thread from work; a 10 cm (4 inch) square board covered in velvet for cutting gold thread on; a thick duster – this can be folded up to prick
designs on, or used to remove pounce from the fabric or pricking. Many other little things you use from time to time can also be included, such as tacking cotton, a small pot o f PVA glue, stiletto for w hite work, dissolvable fabric and a small ring frame, about 10-15 cm (4-6 inches) for trying out stitches. The bigger the box the more we all find we must have in our box!
Square frames and framing up
One o f the most important ingredients for successful embroidery is careful framing up on a square frame. The
size of the frame depends on the project to be under taken. It is wise to avoid the frames with screw fastenings as these arc impossible to tighten satisfactorily. The professional square peg frames will give the best results and will keep your work clean, fresh and unpuckered.Background fabric will be chosen to work with each technique. Some will need backing and some won’t. Details are given for two methods here and each technique will refer you to which m ethod to use.The size o f the background material should be thesize of the finished project plus 10-15 cm (4-6 inches) turning allowance for mounting or making up the piece when the embroidery is complete. C ut the fabric by the grain and press with a steam iron or damp cloth.Backing cotton material should be prcshrunk by washing first before cutting out. Allow 12 mm ( / inch) turnings on all sides o f the fabric for stitching to the frame. Cut the fabric by the grain.
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