Combining Hand and Machine Embroidery in Seam Treatments

Allison Aller © 2011

   
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I confess: sometimes I don’t have a lot of time to create very detailed embroideries on a crazy quilt project. And sometimes, the piece I am working on demands a less dense “look” without all the intricate stitching that we are used to doing. At times like this I want my seams to have a more graphic line, with the kind of visual impact that comes with larger scale stitching and beading. To meet these goals of saving time and going “graphic”, I combine both machine embroidery stitches and hand stitching/beading. I want to show you some examples and share my discoveries.

But first let me state that I have a pretty basic machine, a Pfaff ClassStyle Quilt 2027. The stitches I use as the base for my hand embroidery are simply the Feather, Cross, and large Zigzag Stitches. To allow the stitches to show up, and to give the illusion of handwork, I use a size 12 thread, a 90/14 Topstitch needle, with a 50 weight cotton thread in the bobbin.

By the time the seam treatments are complete, they don’t read as machine done…at least, I don’t think so. What do you think?

This sequence shows the reinforced Zigzag Stitch combined with a simple Straight Stitch and some beaded sequins.

Note the long thread tails on either end of the seam. This is to enable you to thread the tails and bring them to the back of the work to knot off.

This Cross Stitch is wrapped with a combination of metallic and perle cotton threads. You can hardly tell, but in the third picture of this sequence I have sewn right over the loops with clear thread in a Straight Stitch on my machine, thereby holding those looped threads down and into place.

The Feather Stitch has a Chain Stitch added by hand, and then some beading. The third picture shows a variation on this idea, integrating some lace into the seam.

A simple machine Zig Zag, plus a French Knot encircled by size #11 seed beads. What is nice about this one is how even the spacing is!

Gold machine embroidery thread is used here in this faux Cross Stitch. It becomes a subtle background for the rest of the gold embellishments in this seam.

I compared three different brands of threads in my machine stitching. They all purport to be size 12, but are quite varied in diameter.

Shown from left to right are Aurofil, Sulky, and Wonderfil threads. The Aurofil is the thickest and “hairiest”. I have to say, my favorite is the Wonderfil for its lovely smooth twist.

As you can see from the photographs, the other seams in these blocks have all been machine couched with various fibers and trims. Working by machine means that the decision making of what to add where on a block can happen that much faster, which can be very fun! I’ll show you how the quilt turns out in our next issue.

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