- A piece of plain, preferably medium-weight cotton or linen (i.e. woven) material. A tea towel or serviette would be perfect.
- contrasting thread (your regular sewing thread)
-An air-soluble fabric pen to draw your design on
Stuck for a design? You don't have to be a drawing genius. Use a stencil! Copy something out of your kids' colouring book! Trace around your hand. You are welcome to use my Bird on a Branch design idea. Draw your own bird, use a free applique design (like these ones) or trace/print the one below if you like:
1. Transfer your design onto your fabric
Using an air-soluble marker, draw your design on. As you can see I've kept it fairly simple. The outer shape of the bird I used here was based on one in a kids' stencil book I was given. See, not looking so clever now, am I? :-)
2. Straight-stitch over your outline
Now you want to 'draw' over the outline with thread, just once, to make it clear on the fabric:
To do this, set your machine on a plain straight stitch, set to its shortest length (this will make it look like one long line). Start sewing, guiding the outline under your presser foot.
When negotiating turns and curves, just go slowly. To make sharp corners (like the beak, above)stop, lift your presser foot, pivot the fabric and lower the foot before continuing to sew along your outline.
TIP: Stop and start as much as you like, but try to do the whole thing with just one thread (i.e. don't pull the fabric out and cut the thread). The fewer loose threads you have, the better.This will probably mean going over some parts of your design more than once to get to other parts, which is fine.
3. Straight-stitch over your outline again. And maybe again!
Now we want to start adding some character and complexity. I think the most simple way to do this is just to sew over your outline again in straight stitch:
Pick up from where you've left off, preferably without removing the fabric or cutting the thread. This time, don't be so careful. Try to follow your design line approximately, but not precisely. (You can lengthen the stitch here if you like, but remember that the smaller the stitch length, the more ink-like your line will look).
Can you see what is happening? Just by tracing around the same thing a few times, you will start to build up texture and movement in your design. It will start to look a little sketchy, a little messy. Go out of the lines a bit, just for fun. Wasn't that naughty? Wheeeee...
Now, if you like, you could do your whole design simply in straight stitch like this. That would look just lovely. If that's what you'd like, read no further... go and get on with it!
4. Add some grunge!
For those who like to live really dangerously, well now it's your moment to shine. It's time to add some splotches and 'ink blobs', a bit of shading and thickness. To do this you will want to go over part or all of your design again, adding a bit of detail largely by varying the stitch length and stitch width:
This is my stitch length dial. For the straight sketching I kept it all between 1-2. For this part, I like to set it on 'satin stitch', which is the 'F' setting.
Choose a simple part of your design to start on (e.g. the branch). Decide on your stitch length. Start sewing, and as you go, wiggle the stitch width around a bit. I like to do this in short bursts, sometimes just going wide for a bit, sometimes cranking it up to maximum. There is no formula here, you have to be brave, have a go and see what it looks like. Here's a snippet of my branch:Just to be clear, here's what I did:
- The top line is a wobbly zig-zag stitch. I have set my stitch length to maybe a medium. Then, as I'm sewing, I have turned the width dial up and back again.
- The second line looks like a regular straight stitch, but it's actually a satin stitch, which is just that bit denser. I didn't vary the width on that one.
- The fourth line is a satin stitch again, this time with the width varied, which produces a nice, thick, inky look. My favourite technique is to go over the design in satin stitch, just every now and then playing with the width dial.And here's a shot of my bird:
As you can see I was fairly minimal on this bird. I did a widening satin stitch for the legs, and a wee bit of zig-zagging on the outline just for variation. I didn't think about where I was doing things, I just wanted to break up the line a bit.
Here's another bird I tried, with different effects:
This time I 'scribbled' inside the bird. You can do this by using a straight stitch and sewing back and forth in an area, holding and then releasing your reverse/back-tacking switch to change directions. You'll probably need to pull the fabric across gently as you sew so that the lines don't all end up on top of each other.
(I don't think this effect suits the design as well, but you need to experiment with techniques to see what you like!)
5. Finish, clip threads, iron, pat self on back.
That's it folks.
Please let me know if this is helpful, and if you do some experimentation. I'm very happy for you to use my design, but please link me in if you're blogging, and if you become rich and famous making 'bird on branch' thread sketches be sure to remember me in your will!