Obsessed with Embellishment

Friday, November 03, 2006

Embellish Without Fear - Part II, Machine Embroidery

I've noticed recently there's been a backlash against machine embroidery and I can understand why. The start up costs are high for both a machine and materials, and once they get into it, sewers seem to be quickly get stuck in a design rut.

At the moment, there are hundreds of thousands of designs out there. A site like Embrodiery.com has more than I can even imagine. So how do you decide which one to use? I have a simple rule:

Embellishment Rule 2: Avoid the "Motif" look

You've all seen these - a design embroidered smack in the middle of a sweatshirt. The design is totally self contained, it stands alone, and it often can't be manipulated or varied in even a simple way (flipped, rotated, repeated, mirror image)

However, the delightful baby sweater dress above (from the winter 2006 Hanna Anderson catalog) perfectly sums up a great machine embroidery design used creatively.

For example, If you used this design instead:

You would loose some impact in the final garment. This design is from Anita Goodesign, and while it's a really nice holiday motif, it's more suited to a non-garment project, such as dinner napkins or a table runner. If you tried to use on this on baby dress like the one above there's not much you can do with it other than to flip it as a mirror image, and as such it's not really meant to be used for a garment.

The Hanna baby sweater dress works for other reasons as well; the garment design is great to begin with, the color palette is narrow but effective, (there are only three colors; cream, dark red, and green), the cables on the sweater knit are the right scale to the embroidery, and the asymetrical embroidery is a prefect counterweight to the regularity of the cables.

You could make you own version of this dress pretty easily for a little one. The design shown at left is from Cactus Punch and it has a similar line and look to the design used on the Hanna dress. If you're not a skilled hand or machine knitter (I'm neither), this dress could be sewn from sweater knit yardage, or Malden Mills shearling polar fleece.


Blogger Lisette said...

Phyllis, I confess to being a machine embroidery snob. I always thought they screamed "Disney World sweatshirt" and now I know why. I don't see me getting into ME anytime soon more because of the cost than anything else but thanks for giving me the knowledge about why I don't like lots of it and ideas about some that is really nice.

9:26 AM  
Blogger vespabelle said...

holy cow, that is a cute dress. Why have I not seen it at my local Hanna Andersen store?

I've been thinking of adding some hand embroidery to my daughter's outfits. I'd do machine embroidery if I had a machine to do it!

6:43 PM  
Blogger Cara said...

You make a good case for machine embroidery, but not enough for me to want to do it.

I like to make my own designs up as I go along. If I were to do machine embroidery, I would need the software to design my own motifs, and the time to learn it. And would I? I would probably get frustrated by limiting myself to 40 wt rayon. Ew!

I have some 20 wt cotton varigated I want to try thread sketching with. Too many different projects.

I would like, however, to get faster at embellishment and I am talking myself into and out of another machine so that I can sew different stitches and use different fibers in the bobbin. My Jukis only sew straight stitch, but fast.

10:45 AM  
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