In The Thick of It
really love adding a bit of surface interest to my sewing projects.
Whether it's through screen printing, appliqué, or embroidery, adding a
bit of flair to an otherwise plain fabric is a way to make a project
technique I really love is free-machine embroidery. Using your sewing
machine like a drawing tool gives you the power to add fabulous organic
shapes and interesting textures to your project. It's also a great way
to loosen up and let your creativity flow!
While flipping through the digital pages of in Stitches 4, the latest eMag from our sister publication Quilting Arts,
I was intrigued by an article by Elin Waterston about drawing with your
bobbin. Using your bobbin thread as the focus of your embroidery? I had
never heard of this technique before, but now that I have I'm excited
to try it on my next machine embroidery project! Here are the steps so
you can try out this technique on one of your own projects.
Drawing With Your Bobbin
drawing is a technique of machine stitching from the back of a quilt,
so the bobbin thread shows on the front of the quilt. This is a fabulous
opportunity to use all of those gorgeous heavy threads that you might
not be sure what do to with.
a thread is too heavy to fit through the upper tension discs and/or the
needle, you can still machine quilt with it, you just have to use it in
the bobbin. Because you are able to use heavier-than-normal threads,
bobbin drawing is a great way to achieve a strong line and add some
dimension to your work.
this method requires you to work from the bottom, you can't see what
you're getting as you sew. Also, thick threads don't always behave
themselves the way thin threads do, so no matter how careful you are,
you may get some irregularities in the stitches. Just have faith that
it'll be okay, and then be okay with whatever you get!
The Stitch Process:
1. Wind heavy thread on the bobbin, by hand or (slowly) by machine.
Loosen the tension of the bobbin case. Oh, so scary! Not really, it's
just a screw that you can tighten and loosen at will. Just do it
carefully. If this technique is something you decide you love and want
to do all the time, it's worthwhile to invest in a second bobbin case
that is dedicated to bobbin drawing. When adjusting your bobbin-case
tension, turn the screw a little bit at a time and test the tension each
time, until you get the desired tension. When you pull gently on the
thread, there should be a little drag-the bobbin should move easily, but
not spin out of control.
Thread your machine with regular-weight thread. You can use either a
matching or contrasting thread in the needle, depending on the desired
effect. Since the bobbin thread is thick, it will tend to sit or float
on the surface, therefore the thread that runs through the needle will
show as little dots. If you want the bobbin thread line to appear solid
and unbroken, use a thread on top that matches the bobbin thread in both
color and sheen.
another look, use a contrasting thread. With a contrasting thread,
the dots will show a bit more. For instance, if the bobbin thread is
black and the upper thread is white, the black line of the bobbin
thread will be broken up by little white dots-a cool effect! Invisible
thread is also an option for the upper thread.
Before starting on your actual project, do a test and practice a
little. Determine the appropriate stitch length when you're working
with a walking foot and get accustomed to the speed of your movement
when free-motion quilting.
When you're ready to begin stitching, place the front side of the quilt
sandwich facedown (against the throat plate) so the back side is up.
Sink the needle through the quilt sandwich once and draw the bobbin
thread through to the upward-facing side. Leave a tail of thread that
can be knotted later. Hold on to both the bobbin and top threads for the
first few stitches and begin sewing your desired design.
End your stitching line by drawing the bobbin thread to the
upward-facing side again and leave a tail. Knot your beginning and end
threads and either bury the thread between the layers or just trim the
How cool! I really love the bold graphic lines that are possible with bobbin drawing, and I'm excited to try it out for myself!
Download the latest issue of in Stitches for lots more info and step-by-step video about this technique and try it out on your next project!