Last weekend a 2 day Embellishment Workshop was run in my local Australian Sewing Guild region. The workshop was run by Rhona Feeney who owns Bernina Sewing shop at Chatswood. Rhona is a very talented person who does amazing textile pieces and has been a member of the Australian Sewing Guild for many years.
During the workshop we worked on turning a simple printed flat fabric panel into a 3D piece of artwork. On the finished sample Rhona had transformed that once flat panel with embroidery, beads and shrinking fabric (texture magic) It looked stunning. There was so much texture and colour in it.
We learnt all about shrinking fabric (which I had never heard of before) and were given a demonstration on how the shrinking process worked. The fabric is plastic and shrinks down about 30% Anything attached to the fabric (ie sewn on to it) shrinks with it. It was like watching a magic show seeing it shrink down.
We started to embellish our fabric using free motion quilting to highlight the different areas of the panel. I’ve done a small amount of free motion before but nothing like this. I’ve only ever used tone on tone fabric and thread to fill in the background of a piece, wanting the quilting to blend into the background and disappear. This time I had to really think about thread colour and where I was putting the stitches. Rhona explained it as colouring in but with needle and thread instead of a pencil. I’ve never been able to stay within the lines. I found this really challenging. I’d try to stick to a feather and go off it. I found myself going sideways across the panel instead of following a line down it. You had to think about how it would look once it was shrunk down. Any areas without stitching would puff up. You had to fill in the area with more long narrow stitches rather than circles and shapes unless that’s what you wanted the final piece to puff up. It was really hard to see your stitched lines so you had to keep turning the fabric over to see where you had sewn. I was happy with the amount I’d gotten done day 1
At the start of the day Rhona demonstrated how to attach beads with a spring needle. Spring needles were again another item I’d never heard of. It’s basically a regular sewing needle that has a spring down the shaft. To attach it you remove the foot shank and insert it in like a regular needle (it has a flat back) The spring needle is the only attachment on your machine. The spring allows you to stitch in the centre of the bead.
We continued colouring in our fabric then had an attempt at beading. At first it feels very foreign. You have to manually turn the handwheel to do the stitch inside the bead to secure it. Once you get your head around it then you have to work out how to hold the beads whilst you stitch them. Tweezers are a must. Even though I’m right handed I’m used to using my left hand so I was able to hold the tweezers with the left hand and operate the handwheel with my right. Once you get the hang of it beading is very fun.
In some areas I was a bit drunken sailor with my stitching, as I mentioned I struggle to stay within the lines. We were told the shrinking process is forgiving and disguises minor errors.
I never got the panel finished but I did get most of the beading done. The most important thing was I enjoyed the workshop. I had an inspirational teacher, were among lovely company and I learnt some new skills. I really like the concept of the shrinking fabric, I brought a piece of it as I’d really like to use it in something. I don’t really do decorative stuff but it can be used in some many ways. Rhona showed up a jacket she had which had a peacock down with shrinking fabric appliqued onto it, a native flower broach where each petal was done with the fabric. I’ll have to put my thinking cap on….