Freestyle Embroidery - Doodle Art With Thread
No Pattern Needed
Designing With Needle and Thread
Embroidery with colored threads is a craft that has been used to decorate and embellish cloth items for centuries.
With the easy availability of modern embroidery threads, it is an easy skill to learn. Most often a commercially made pattern is either drawn or ironed onto a piece of cloth and the lines are stitched over with a needle using colored threads.
Some modern sewing machines can be set up to sew programmed designs or monograms on pillow covers, tablecloths and clothing.
Though the results of commercial designs can be very pleasing, you might find even more pleasure in creating something absolutely unique with your own hands.
Freeform embroidery does not use a pattern and may not even have a subject in mind before you start to sew.
It is almost like doodling absent-mindedly on paper.
Sew a line, straight or curved. Add to the line. Change colors if you wish. Add another line. See what shapes are evolving.
Fill in a shape. If you don't like the line, you can snip the stitches, pull them out and start over.
You might start with a subject or shape in mind. A heart? A rainbow? Maybe a bouquet? How about just some organic shapes of vines or branches?
My walking hat is old, frayed, patched and mended. The original embroidery design is coming apart which, I think, makes it more interesting. When I wear it in public, someone I don't even know says, "I like your hat."
You Need Thread
Cotton colorfast embroidery floss comes in a very wide assortment of colors. It is pre-shrunk so it doesn't do something funny to your fabric when you wash it. It comes in skeins about eight or nine yards long in a strand consisting of six threads.
Cut the strand to a useable length (two or three feet) . If you wish to have a nice bold line, you can sew with all six strands -- though it is easier to separate the threads and use strands of two or three threads. It is like using different sized pen points, depending upon if you wish to have a heavy or delicate line.
It also depends on your fabric and the detail of your design. If you are using a heavy denim and sewing a bold image, you can use four to six threads. On lightweight or delicate fabric you will use fewer strands. You can also vary the number of strands you use in different parts of your design.
- Embroidery needles -- Embroidery needles have a larger "eye" , making it easier to accommodate multi-thread strands. Larger, heavier needles work better on heavy fabric; smaller needles are good for more delicate materials.
- An embroidery hoop -- is a two-part ring or oval made of metal or wood. One is smaller and fits inside the other. The fabric to be stitched is placed between the two parts and they are squeezed together to hold the fabric taut, so you are not bunching up the material each time you make a stitch.
On the shirt a the top, I didn't even use a hoop most of the time, because the fabric was sturdy enough for me to hold it straight. The hat was also sturdy enough to not need a hoop.
- A small, sharp scissor with pointy tips -- for cutting thread and for "erasing" a line you don't like. If you are not using a pattern, you might stitch a line that doesn't quite look like you want it to. By carefully slipping the pointy scissor under the stitches and snipping in several places, you can pull out the "mistakes" and start again.
- An like the one shown above for colored thread makes the project a lot easier. They are not expensive and will save you lots of time and frustration in finding the colors you want. organized storage box
On the shirt above I have started a design by establishing a few lines in the direction I wanted the design to flow.
I wanted this to be a little more subtle than the "rainbow shirt", so I have chosen more subdued and related colors, ones that don't stand out too much against the background color.
The form is an organic doodle, reminiscent of trailing vines, starting just under the right collar point. You might want to try something more geometric -- remember it's your doodle.
I have used a very basic embroidery stitch. If you have never done embroidery before, don't worry. You can learn an easy stitch or two, use a plain running stitch or improvise your own way of doing it. Remember, you can undo anything with your tiny scissors or seam ripper if you don't like the way it looks.
Continuing On . . .
I next added a few darker colored "buds" to the end of some of the vining stems.
I don't like the way the open flower bumps in to another vine near the top. So I probably will change that later by removing the vine and making one that runs a little higher.
The orangy-gold color running stitches, continue to trail downward. Right now they are only an indication of where the design may go. I will probably add to them, too.
If you want to try something like this pick out an older piece of clothing, something casual and not too expensive, to practice on. I have done it on a shirt that had paint spots on it. It disguised the stains just fine by making the spots a part of the design.
Chose Your Basic Color and Direction
Your thread doodling might just start by choosing a few colors that look nice together.
Establish a few lines or shapes with your stitches and build on whatever image or design you see emerging.
Is it a flower? A butterfly? Even a totally abstract arrangement of shapes, or color blocks can work for you.
Remember to tie the end, or the stopping point of each strand, securely on the "wrong" side of the fabric. If it looks messy on the back, don't worry. Concentrate on the look of the front side.
How do You Know When to Stop?
The Rainbow Shirt has a row of scallop shells floating over the top of the rainbow.
I have debated whether to fill in all of the sections of the first shell on the left in the picture, but I kind of like it that way. Besides, I can always do it later if I change my mind. You decide when it is finished, or if it will remain a work-in-progress.
The shells are important. See, it's a "row" of "shells". It helps me remember my name.
One of the fun things about freestyle embroidery is that you can personalize your design to include things that are meaningful to you.
It is kind of like a personalized tattoo, ecept you can take it off or put it on when ever you want to.
The Flip Side.
On the other side of the rainbow shirt, you can see the trailing end of the rainbow, which flows over the sholder-- just because that's where my thread doodle wanted to go.
A bit of the vegetable garden, the pea pods, grew over the right shoulder.
And in the center is the sun, which grew outward from the center and developed swirling rays on its outward edges. My horoscope is a "sun sign" and I grew up in sunny Southern California. I like warm weather.
So What Do You Think?
Freestyle embroidery can be fun and relaxing. There's no such thing as a mistake when you follow your own inclinations. Anything you stitch can be easily undone if it's not quite what you want.
If you like having something to do when watching TV, you might surprise yourself with the unique and interesting designs you can create with no patterns and no rules.
Do You Like to do Needlework?
© 2012 Rochelle Frank