A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday AMAs #4

It's been wonderful getting to know many of you through our 31 Days of Stitch Challenge.  I hope you enjoyed the challenge as much I enjoyed bringing it to you and interacting with you all.

This is our final Friday AMAs (Ask Me Any) Questions for the month of March.

So ask me any questions that have been on your mind during this period.  I especially want to hear from all those who attempted one or more of the exercises or are planning to try them.  Just let me know in the comments:

  • If you're trying them 
  • If you're having difficulty
  • If you're having success
  • If there's a sticky point you'd need help with
  • if there's something you think I could have explained better.

Some of you have asked if I have a course where I teach my techniques. The answer is not right now. But I'm working on one.  So if you'd like to get notified when that course is ready, then let me know by going to Notify me About The Course.

I'll be waiting for your questions.  I hope we have a lot of questions today.
I want to say thank you to all those who asked questions.  For me, the interaction with you was my favorite part of this experience.

Warmest Regards,

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Stitch Design Resources

As we near the end of our 31 Days of Stitch challenge, I want to give you some helpful resources. You can refer to them often on your journey to creating your own original designs with stitching. 

When you learn a new skill the beginning may be a little hard.. But when you practice, consistently over a period of time, it  will ensure that you see progress. Before you know it you will be developing mastery of the thread shading skills we’ve been learning this month.

So just keep at it.

1. I find that it’s easier to learn to draw on fabric by modeling drawing on paper. In this resource, there are several reasons why drawing on paper helps you become better at drawing on fabric.  And no, you don’t need to be good at drawing to use these techniques. And that brings me to the next resource.
2. If you can’t draw, you can trace. So use a photo of your liking and trace it onto paper first and then in combination with the techniques above, trace your sketch onto fabric with these fabric tracing methods.
3.Puckering is an issue that people often face when they start doing heavy stitching on fabric. With time and knowledge, you can learn how to avoid and troubleshoot puckering in your work. Check out this guide on  avoiding seam puckering issues.

That’s it for now.
Let me know if I can answer any questions for you.

Warmest Regards,

Monday, March 27, 2017

Shading/ Coloring with Fabric Collage

Up until now in the 31 Days of Stitch Challenge, we’ve used thread exclusively to color our drawings. Today, we’ll look at how to use fabric to color our drawings.

There are several situations in which you my want to add fabric collage to your work.

1. Background Fabric
When your background fabric is too light or too dark  to effectively show off your thread shading in a particular area.  

Instead of trying to use thread exclusively to achieve the effect you’re looking for, you can employ the use of fabric as an additional coloring or shading tool.

For example in this piece, creating the white petals of the flower on a black background would have required extensive stitching with white thread to cover up the black fabric.  Doing this would definitely have resulted in distortions in the fabric. So instead, I appliquéd white fabric in those areas and stitched on top of the appliqué.

"Luscious Pink" - Fabric Collage and Thread Shading on Cotton by Clara Nartey

2. Focal Point
Using fabric to add a pop of saturated color in your drawing is an effective way to create a focal point in your work and to draw attention to something in particular.

Take a look at this example.  I made the lemon a focal point in the drawing by using fabric to color it.

"Lemonade Makers" - Fabric Collage and Thread Shading on Cotton by Clara Nartey

3. Variety of Techniques
When you want to use different techniques in a single piece of work, fabric becomes very attractive as a coloring tool in addition to thread.
Take a look at this example. It includes, hand dyeing, thread shading and fabric appliqué.
"Bridge Builders"- Dye, Fabric Collage and Thread Shading on Cotton by Clara Nartey

Try the teacup example again. Use fabric to color part or all of your teacup.

That’s it for now.
Let’s go draw.

Warmest Regards,

Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday AMAs #3

It's time for another Friday AMAs - Ask Me Any question.

Here's your chance to Ask Me Any (AMA) questions you have.  It could be about the techniques we learned so far or whatever you need to be answered.

Thanks for all the questions I got last Friday.  As I've said before. I love the interaction.  So keep the questions and the discussions coming.

Are you learning some new things in stitch design, are you encountering problems, are you making some great strides?  Do you find it all above your head and feel like giving up?

Talk to me.  I want to help the best I can. Leave your comments and questions below.  Those who've sent me private messages know, I answered them too.  So don't be shy.  Ask away!!!

Everyone is welcomed to jump in with their answers, opinions and follow-up questions, This is intended to be a community discussion time.  So jump right in.

It'll be nice for you to also share your work in progress. I’ll be waiting.

Warmest Regards,

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How the Background Fabric Affects Your Colors

Hi All! Welcome back to 31 Days of Stitch Design.

This is going to be a short one.  I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much new information. But I thought you’d like to know a little more about how your choice of thread colors and your background fabrics work together. 

When you’re choosing threads, you’ll want to remember that the color of your background fabric affects the colors in your work.

So, here are a few tips about the relationship between your background fabric and the threads you shade with.

  1. A light colored background fabric will not show off a light value thread as well as it will show a dark value thread. 
  2. When you choose a thread color that is close to the color of the background fabric. The pros – it makes the outline stitching fade away when you start shading your design. The con – it’s a little hard to see because there’s very little contrast between thread color and fabric color.
  3. Factor in the color of your background fabric when mixing thread colors. This is because the color of your background fabric will act as though it were one of the thread colors you're shading with. 
For example, when you use blue thread to shade on a yellow background fabric, your shading may look green because the yellow fabric and blue thread will mix as though you were mixing two paint colors and give you a different color.

Look at this effect shown in the example below.

Watch this video.

That’s it for today. Let’s go draw.

Warmest Regards,

PS: I hope you’re practicing and working on your exercises.  I’ll be more than willing to answer questions.  Just ask.

Monday, March 20, 2017

How to Choose Multiple Thread Colors for Shading

There’s a saying in design that goes like this: “Value Does the Work and Color Gets The Credit”

That is to say when you want to create a beautifully colored piece of work, “Think Value, not Color”
The more variety of values you have in your colors the greater your chances of creating a beautiful design.

This week, we’re going to move from using one thread color to several thread colors..  As I’ve stated above, when you’re working with multiple colors, if at all possible, limit the number of colors and rather increase their value variations.

What do I mean when I say that.

Choosing Thread Colors
For example if you choose to work with these three colors of thread - Red, Yellow and Green. Choose variations of the same color to work with.  That is you should choose:
  • value variations of red threads (light red threads, medium value red threads and dark value red threads)
  • value variations of yellow threads (light yellow threads, medium value yellow threads and dark value yellow threads)
  • value variations of green threads (light green threads, medium value green threads and dark value green threads)

Use a limited color palette when you’re starting. (Start with 3 colors, experiment and then increase if you decide to)
Choosing a large number of colors will not necessarily make your work look interesting its the large value variations that will.

Watch this video to see how to use multiple thread colors.

Try the teacup example again.  This time use  different thread colors for the cup, the plate and spoon.

Let me know if I can answer any questions for you.
Let's go draw.

Warmest Regards,

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday AMA's #2

It's time for another Friday AMAs - Ask Me Any question.

I promised to go slowly so that anyone who's really interested in learning my techniques can do so.
Here's your chance to Ask Me Any (AMA) questions you have.  It could be about the techniques we learned so far or whatever you need to be answered.

If you're not following along but you have questions on another topic feel free to ask. 

Everyone is welcomed to jump in with their answers opinions and follow-up questions, This is intended to be a community discussion time.  So it's open to all.

It'll be nice for you to also share your work in progress. I’ll be waiting.

Warmest Regards,

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Thread Shading with Multiple Values of One Thread Color

Every thing you draw will have variations in the values represented in it.  The only way to create a realistic drawing  with depth and dimension is to have similar value variations in your drawing.

We’ve looked at how to use one thread color to achieve variations in value.  Today we’ll take a closer look at value variations and how to use multiple values of one color thread to achieve the same purpose.

What do I mean when I say, multiple variations of one color thread.

Let’s say the single color of thread we choose to use is grey. (You’re free to choose any thread color, of course).  

Then the three values of thread we’re going to be working with will be light grey, medium grey and dark grey.

When you use different values of thread to thread shade, the resulting effect is determined by two things.

1. The closeness between stitches
2. The value of the thread being used.

When you thread shade this way, the resulting drawing is more three dimensional than when you use just one thread.

Here are the steps to do this:
  1. Layout a “shading map” before you start stitching so you know ahead of time where you want to have light, medium or dark shading.
  2. Thread shade by matching your thread’s value (L,M,D) with your shading map
  3. Remember to space your stitch lines according to whether you want light, medium or dark shading
  4. Keep in mind that you’ll be stopping often to cut and change threads unlike with the one thread shading method we learned the other day.

Here’s an example of a piece I shaded this way. 

"Table Top Medley" - Stitched Drawing on Cotton by Clara Nartey

Watch the video and practice using the teacup example from Monday, your own drawing or a photo. 

Compare the two samples. Which one do you like better?

That’s it for today.

Let’s go draw.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Thread Shading with One Thread

Hi and welcome back to 31 Days of Stitch Design. I hope you've been practicing.  I got questions from some of you so I know some have been.

 This week, we’re going to look at how to thread shade you outline drawings.

Introducing the Concept of Thread Shading
Shading is used to show levels of darkness or lightness in a drawing. Without shading your drawing looks flat like the hand drawing we did last week. Shading however, transforms a flat object into a three dimensional form.

The most basic form of shading is Parallel Hatching which is our subject of discussion today.
Parallel Hatching consists of drawing a series of closely spaced parallel lines to create shading effects.

thread shading with Clara Nartey
Illustration - Zigzag Hatching

“Zigzag” Hatching
Since we’re doing continuos drawing with our sewing machines, we’ll have to modify this technique to suit our purposes.  Because we don’t want to stop at the end of each stitched line, cut the threads and then start stitching the next parallel line.

thread shading
An Example of Stitched Zigzag Hatching
So to modify this technique, you’ll start at one point stitch a line to the end point and travel back to your starting point in a “zigzag- like” manner.  The only difference is that in our case we want the “zigzag-like” stitches to be close to each other. That's I coined the name zigzag hatching.

See the pencil  illustration above.

 The left hand side of the illustration shows the shading effect of zigzag hatching when stitched.  The right hand side is a zoomed in version that shows that the shading is actually made up of long  “zigzag-like” stitches.

Also review the stitched illustration above as well.

thread shading a tea cup
Pencil drawing of teacup

Value Variations in Drawings
Every subject you draw will have value variations in it.  That’s to say, you’ll have different degrees of darkness in your subject.

Depending on where the light source falls on your subject you’ll have light, medium and dark values. Some greyscale charts show as many as 31 increments or values of grey.
thread shading of a teacup
Value = Shaded Teacup

For us, we’re going to keep it real simple.  We’ll use only three values  - Light, Medium and Dark.

Pro-Tip: If you’re not using  your own drawing and you’re using a photo, then here’s how to figure out the values in your picture.
1. Make a black and white photocopy of the picture
2. Print a black and white copy of the photo
3. Use a photo editing software to change the picture to a grey scale
4. Use a photo editing software to posterize or separate the values

Then create what I call a “shading map”.  Simply write L,M, D on your photo where you have light medium and dark values.  This will become your shading map. You’ll refer to it to know where to thread shade what values on your fabric.

Thread Shading with One Thread Color

Now we’ll use the zigzag hatching method to thread shade the three (3) different values L, M, D in our reference photo or drawing on our fabric (quilt sandwich). First trace your drawing onto your fabric.

thread shading with Clara Nartey
 A Drawing Traced onto Fabric and Ready for Outlines to be Stitched

 Draw your outlines first before shading.
1.  Helps hold all 4 layers together and prevents shifting when you start shading
2. It helps prevent puckering.
3. Acts as a guide to show you the edges of your drawing

Thread Shaded Teacup - Stitch on Cotton by Clara Nartey
To thread shade a:
Dark Value: Stitch your lines close together
Light Value: Widen distance between your stitch lines
Medium Value: Keep the distance between your stitches mid-way between that for light and dark value.

thread shading with clara nartey
Detailed View of Thread Shading
In order to achieve dark values, you should resist from piling stitches on top of each other multiple times. That’s ok if you’re drawing a single thick line.  But when you thread shade or stitch an entire area very densely, you’re likely to end up with a distorted piece of work which won’t lay flat.

Shading Direction
One way to keep your thread shading looking neat is to stitch in a consistent direction. Zig-zag hatching can be horizontal, vertical or at an angle.  Which ever you decide on, just keep it consistent.

thread Shading
Reverse View of Thread Shaded Drawing
That’s enough for you to chew on today.

Practice Exercise: Feel free to print out my teacup example for practice. Create a shading map, and trace the outlines of the drawing onto fabric.  Then thread shade your drawing in three values with any color thread of your choice.  I used a grey thread in mine, you can use a different color if you want.

See below a video I created for you to further help.

You can also practice with a different drawing or a photo.

I'll be waiting to answer your questions.  All you've got to do is ask.

Let’s draw.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday AMA's #1

Today is our first AMAs - Ask Me Any question.

Here's your chance to ask me any (AMA) questions you have.  It could be about the techniques we learned during the past week or about anything related to living a creative life.

Everyone is welcomed to jump in with their answers opinions and follow-up questions, This is intended to be a community discussion time.  So it's open to all.

 Since this is our first, I’m going to open up Q&A time by answering 3 of the more frequently asked questions I get. Then I’ll wait for specific questions from you.

Question:  What kind of machine do you use?
Answer: I have a JUKI 2010Q and I love it.  It helps me do such wonderful work.  Although I must say it’s an oil- guzzler. Often, when it gives me trouble it’s because I haven’t given it enough oil. When it gets a good drink of oil it puts on it’s best behavior.

Question: How did you become so proficient at drawing with your sewing machine?
Answer: Consistent, deliberate and intentional practice.  I don’t know any other way to say it but to say it’s practice.  I practiced consistently for a long time till I started seeing results.

Question: I’ve got so many creative ideas.  I’ve learned so many techniques but I can’t find time for my creative work.  How do you find time?
Answer: Schedules. I schedule time for my creative work just like I schedule time for doctors appointments and other appointments.  There’s a saying that goes something like, “if it doesn’t get scheduled it doesn’t get done”

Now it’s your turn to give me your questions.  It'll be nice for you to also share your work in progress if you've been following along.  Let's hear about both your frustrations and your wins.

I’ll be waiting.

Warmest Regards,

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Outline Drawing with Your Sewing Machine

In this first exercise we’ll start with a simple outline drawing. The most fundamental of drawings have just the outline to help you see the form and shape of the object being drawn.  Think of drawing stick figures for example. So that’s what we’re going to start with this week.

1. Take a white piece of paper and lay your hand on the paper with your fingers spread out and then with your other hand trace the outlines of your hand.
Hand Tracing on Paper

When drawing the outline of your hand on paper, you can use a pencil first and then go over it with an ultra fine sharpie so it’ll be easy for you to see through the fabric when it’s time to trace onto fabric.

2. Now using a light colored fabric on top of your paper drawing, trace your outline drawing onto fabric.  I use heat erasable FriXion pens. 

Place light Colored Fabric Over Paper Tracing

Please note I’ve found that they leave a faint mark on dark fabrics after heat is applied. But that been a problem for me because eventually I’ll stitch over the marks.  Here are several tracing methods you can use to transfer your design onto fabric if you need help.

Using a FriXion Pen Begin to Trace

3. Using your outlined drawing as the top layer, create your quilt sandwich. The felt (batting) will be your second layer, and the stabilizer your third and the backing fabric your fourth. Fasten all 4 layers of your quilt sandwich together as you’ll usually do. I fuse my layers together. (If your going to fuse and you used friction pens remember not to iron on your pen marks so not to erase the marks)
Put all 4 Layers together to Prepare Your Quilt Sandwich for Stitching

4. Lets draw.
Now bring your sandwich to your sewing machine. With your feed dogs down, bring up the bobbin thread to the top. (Helps prevent bird nests forming under your work). Then carefully trace your outline drawing with your sewing machine. Think of this as drawing with ink and no eraser.

You don’t want to stop and cut threads several times.  Use continuous stitching, so whenever possible just travel over previous line of stitching without cutting your threads. It saves you time and avoids frustration.

Watch this video to see how it works.  https://youtu.be/1vlBuGNLBxE
Let me know if you have questions.

Warmest Regards,

Monday, March 6, 2017

How to Setup Your Sewing Machine for Thread Drawing

Last Friday, you got a supplies list for what you’ll need to draw with your sewing machine.  Most of the items on the list are easy to figure out but I want us to talk a little bit more about how to get you sewing machine setup for doing this.

I get a lot of questions about sewing machine setup, so I wanted to take care of them upfront. This will be a detailed post geared towards the beginner thread sketcher.  If you already have experience in this, then it will be a refresher for you. Let’s get to it.

Your sewing machine is the most important component of your setup. First off, make sure it’s properly serviced. Clean the bottom of all lint and thread tails.  Oil it if that’s what your manual says or take it in for servicing. It pays to take your sewing machine in for servicing when it’s due.

Sewing Machine: I use a straight stitch sewing machine although you can free motion stitch with a zigzag machine too.  For our purposes, we’ll be using a straight stitch machine.

Sewing Table: If you can have your sewing machine flush with your sewing table, that will be best.  However for small projects it doesn’t really make much of a difference if your sewing machine is on top of the table and not dropped down into the table.

Free Motion Presser Foot: You will need to switch to a free motion foot. That involves unscrewing your standard foot and screwing in a free motion foot. Alternatively if you have a Snap-on Shank Adapter, which newer machines have you just snap on the darning foot.

Free Motion Feet (Photo from tv-sewingcenter.com)

Most machines come with one.  If you don’t have one you can find a universal one which will fit your machine. Usually to buy a universal presser foot, you’ll need to know if your sewing machine has a high-shank or low shank or slant. Check your sewing machine manual for specifications.

Free motion presser feet come by different names - open- toe, C-toe, closed toe, O-toe, darning foot and hopping foot. So don’t get confused when you see these names. Get what fits your sewing machine.  I use the open toe because it allows me to see where I’m going when I’m stitching.

Needle Plate:  Needle plates are specific to the model of each sewing machine.  They are the metal plates which cover your sewing machine’s bobbin case and feed dogs. You may either have a small round whole or a line.  The plate with a round whole can only do straight stitching and the one with a line can do both straight and zigzag plus some decorative stitches.  We’re keeping everything simple.  No need to change plates.  

Multiple/ZigZag Needle Plate and Single Needle Plate (Photo from GoldstarTool.com)

Feed Dogs:  Now that we’ve talked about Needle plates, lets take a look at feed dogs.  They are the metal (teeth-like) things in our needle plate.  They help move the fabric along when you’re sewing.  In free-motion you don’t need their help.  You’ll be moving the fabric in the direction you want.  You’re the boss here.  So lower your feed dogs.  If you don’t know how, check your sewing machine manual.

Stitch Length and Stitch Width: Since you’re now the boss lady of your sewing machine, you don’t need your machine to determine your stitch length for you.  Turn down both stitch length and width to zero. The length of you stitches will now be determined by the speed of your sewing machine and the speed at which you hands move your fabric.

Sewing Machine Speed:  Some people recommend setting your sewing machine at the highest speed possible when doing free motion stitching.  I set mine at a medium speed.  I find that setting your speed at a level you can control is important. 

If you haven’t done free motion stitching before, I want you to know that it takes a while to get a knack of the hand-eye coordination. So don’t get frustrated and give up too soon.

When free motion stitching, keep your eye on your destination, where you want to stitch next.  Don’t focus on your hands.  Just like when you’re driving you’ll keep your eyes on the road and not on the steering wheel.

It takes a little practice but you can do this.

Let me know if you’ve got any questions. I love the interaction so don’t be shy to ask questions.  Those of you who’ve already got experience in doing this, please feel free to answer questions too and give your opinions and share what worked for you.

Now get your materials for making a quilt sandwich ready.  The fun stuff starts on Wednesday. We’ll be making and using a quilt sandwich on Wednesday. See you soon.

Warmest Regards.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Supplies Needed for Designing with Stitch

Drawing on fabric with your sewing machine is fun bit it takes a little practice and as with anything else, you need the right tools and supplies.

So in this post, I’m going to share with you the supplies and tools I’ve found useful in my drawing on fabric journey.

So here we go.

Mid Weight Stabilizer: I use a sew-in stabilizer or interface called  Pellon 910.  Any light weight to mend weight interface / stabilizer should work if you can’t find this particular type. You can also use two layers of light weight stabilizer if you can’t find a mid weight stabilizer.

  • Sewing Machine Needles: Universal or Embroidery 80/20, 90/14; Topstitch 90/14
  • Threads: I use light weight polyester threads (40 weight) because I like the sheen of polyester as opposed to cotton. Also, lightweight means I can build up thread in areas where I want dark shading as well as light shading. 

Polyester Threads for Drawing on Fabric

  • Bobbin Threads: I use the same thread in my bobbin as on top. You can use rayon threads as well.
  • FMQ Teflon Mat: I use a teflon mat on my machine bed to help me easily move my fabric around. I initially had the Supreme Slider for a while but when it got worn out, I tried a different one. And I love this new one I got from SewSlip. It’s a little bit bigger 12”x 18” compared to the Queen size Supreme Slider- 11 1/2 x 17 and it’s thinner; which makes it sit seamlessly on my machine bed.

  • Quilting Gloves: I have a couple from Fons and Porter and from Machingers to help me control the fabric and keep a firm grip. I love Machingers the best but its the most difficult to keep clean. However, any type of quilting gloves will do.
  • Batting: - I use polyester felt in my quilt sandwich, you can use light weight cotton or cotton/polyester blend batting if you want.
  • Sewing Machine for FMQ : You'll need a sewing machine with the ability to have feed dogs down and a darning foot attached

Get your sewing machine in good working order, oiled , cleaned, and serviced.  We just need a straight stitch for these exercises. Oh, and the ability to free motion quilt. Use the weekend to get all your supplies. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

I’ll see you on Monday when I’ll help you set up your sewing machine for drawing.
See you soon.

Warmest Regards,

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

31 Days of Stitch Design

Hello everyone and welcome to the month of March.  

This is my first time posting here on the Fire Blog, although I’ve followed the blog for years. My name is Clara Nartey and I’m a textile artist blogging at ClaraNartey.com

This month, I’ll be doing something a little different from what you’re used to. I won’t be doing surface design techniques.  Although sometimes, I’ll use fabric that I created using surface design techniques.  When I use my own hand-dyed fabrics, I’ll talk a little bit about the process I went through to create the fabric.

However, my main focus this month will be to show you how I use thread, rather than dyes and paints as  design elements on fabric.

I  love creative challenges. So, I challenged myself to use stitching as a form of design to create one piece of stitched work every week for 52 weeks.  I'm creating my 50th piece this week. Thus, I’ve got only 2 more to go to finish my challenge. 

So here’s what I want to do with you - a 31-day challenge, where we use our sewing machines not for decorative stitches but for drawing and creating design elements on cloth.

This is not embroidery.  It’s going to be free motion drawing using a sewing machine.  So you don’t need an embroidery unit attached to your sewing machine.

I’ll see you on Friday with the tools and supplies you’ll need to follow along in this challenge.  You’ll have the weekend to get your supplies together and we’ll start working next week. 

For all the other Fridays in March, we’ll do an open Q & A thread, where you get to Ask Me Any question (AMAs).  Sometimes, the internet can be so impersonal it’s easy to lose the human touch.  

So I like to make people know they’re interacting with another human being by not only giving them the chance to ask questions but also, get answers to their questions.  That way you know there’s a human on the other end of your computer screen. :-)

I’ll answer all your questions as soon as I can. Please feel free to chime in with an answer or give your opinion on any question. Questions can be on any topic - creativity, art quilts, blogging, surface design -  any topic. I think Friday AMAs will be fun.

I’m excited to get started with this.

See you on Friday.
Warmest Regards,