Creative Inspiration: Fusing Machine Embroidery and Quilting
About five years ago I was asked if I would ever try machine embroidery. My answer straight away was “Nope, no, definitely not!” I was not interested in machine embroidery at all; my obsession at the time was free-motion quilting and I couldn’t see a way of combining embroidery without it looking like it had just been plonked in the middle of a block.
Fast forward a few years and I can now say that machine embroidery is my new obsession! As I’ve told you many times before, I like to constantly challenge myself. I get bored if I just do the same thing all the time, so mastering a new technique is one of my favourite things.
When demonstrating on show stands around the country, I was constantly told that “the machine was doing all the work, so machine embroidery was cheating”. In reply, I would say that machine embroidery is a new skill, it’s a new technique and while I love doing hand embroidery, I don’t always have the time.
A few years ago I designed and made a block-of-the-month quilt called Happy Dayz. I designed it as a needleturn-appliqué project and after working on it for a few months, I had a beautiful finished quilt. A few of the shops that wanted to sell my pattern asked if I could do a version with fabrics that were still available for purchase in their shops. I decided that making the quilt again as a needleturn project was just not possible — I didn’t have two months to remake it — so I decided to digitise the design and make the blocks using my embroidery machine. In just over a week I had a finished quilt!
A lot of people I’ve spoken to don’t realise that embroidery machines are capable of so much more than just stitching out a premade design. You can make amazing appliqué, create stunning labels for your quilts, and you can even quilt your quilts in the hoop!
One of my favourite ways to use machine embroidery in my work is to embellish a quilt. I’ve even been known to build an entire quilt around an amazing design. This project is actually a wholecloth. I drew in a grid and added the flower design using the machine’s design positioning system. I finished it with free-motion quilting.
My absolute favourite fusion project is the Cadence Court quilt designed by Sassafras Lane. I made this quilt for the Husqvarna Viking show stand. Our theme was astrology, so I found a really cool design on the Urban Threads website and asked my digitising guru friend, Letitia Moore, to blow up the design so it would fill the entire centre of the quilt. It turned out so much better than I expected! I’m thinking about adding some astrological designs to this quilt, which is another benefit of this technique; even a year after I thought I’d finished my project I can go back in and add more details!
So how do I use an embroidery machine in my quilt making? So many ways! You could embroider individual blocks and then piece them together. I’m in the process of making this quilt on my embroidery machine. It was designed by the amazing Australian team at Sweet Pea designs and I absolutely love everything about this project.
You could embroider through the quilt top when it’s finished to add embellishments, as I did on the Cadence Court quilt. You could even use the embroidery as quilting!
This is a really simple quilt to make using charm squares. I have a special hoop for my embroidery machine called a magnetic hoop. All I do is lay the basted quilt over the hoop and use the magnets to hold it in place. That way I don’t need to try to get the bulk of the quilt into an embroidery hoop. It makes the processes much quicker and easier!
Personally, in most cases I like to construct the quilt top first, but you could make individual blocks and embroider them before constructing your quilt. I like to embroider onto both the quilt top and a layer of quilt batting. Other designers who I admire greatly use water-soluble stabilisers or tearaway as their stabiliser.
I find it easiest to choose my designs first and then construct the quilt to fit those designs. This can be the difference between a magnificent show-quality quilt and what I call a stitch and plonk type of quilt. I also like to combine embroidered quilting designs and free motion to give it a more natural look, rather than a computer-generated look.
The options really are endless, so why not have a think about adding some machine embroidery to your quilts.
Until next time,