Decorating clothes with free motion sewing: a tutorial

Daisy top for Daisy

It’s been babypalooza around here. No, I have not been delivered of any more of my own (“delivered of” – love that phrase,  used most recently by Buck Palace to announce bonny Prince George’s arrival), but friends and family are popping them out all over the place.

Most recently, my darling brother-in-law and his bewdiful wife had a baby girl.

To celebrate I made her this little top using the free sewing technique I’ve talked about before when I made these napkins, and these personalised paper gift bags.

Now as you can see, this is not a neat and perfect art. By its very definition free motion sewing gives a sketchy, scribbly look which I adore but won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

Close-up free-motion Daisy

But if it is, then that is awesome on a stick and here’s a little how-to.

What you need:

  • Garment to sew onto (duh!)
  • Free motion sewing foot
  • Eraser pen for fabric
  • Your design.

What to do:

1. Print your design onto paper and trim it down so you can slip it under your garment.

2. Trace the design using your eraser pen. If the fabric is too thick to see the pattern underneath, you may wish to use another method for transferring your design like a transfer pencil and hot iron. However be aware that not all transfer pencils wash out so make sure you use one that does.

Flower pattern

3. Fit your free motion sewing foot to your sewing machine. I have a standard Brother foot that I modified using this really excellent tutorial. You don’t have to modify your foot – just makes life a bit easier. I’m all for easier.

Modifiedf free motion sewing foot

4. Sew over your design.  Free motion sewing can take a little bit of getting used too so you might want to practise on some scraps first. Here are some good tips and here’s a video of a guy doing a free motion sewing portrait. It’s amazing but his fingers seem to go so very close to the needle it makes me shudder. No blood on the fabric – that’s my rule.

T-shirt for Daisy

You’ll notice how the fabric has puckered – especially around the flowers. That’s what happens with stretchy material and, again, I like it because it gives texture. However, if you want a flatter result, simply iron some tear-out or wash-out stabiliser behind your design before you begin.

So can you guess my niece’s name?  And no, smart arse, it’s not Roughly-Sketched Indeterminate Flower.

And I’m worried you might think they called her Carnation.

Free motion Daisy with stem

It’s a daisy, people. And so is she.

PS: Alex and Jo own and run the fabulous  and beautiful St Isidore on the NSW South Coast. The restaurant is in both the 2013 Gourmet Traveller’s Restaurant Guide and the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide. Do go and give it a go if you’re in that part of the world and tell ’em I sent you. It’s a cracker.

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How fabric serviettes will convert waves of chaos to nightly fine dining.

I have this vision of gorgeous family dinners where my handsome husband and I sit down with the girls and we all eat nutritious, home-cooked food, laugh, chat and dab at our mouth with real fabric serviettes.Or napkins if you prefer. No judgment here. From me, at any rate. I can’t vouch for what my mother will think of you.

The reality is that the girls are fractious and hungry by 5.30, I’m not hungry and the handsome husband isn’t home. So most nights, there’s nary a fabric serviette in sight. And more frozen fish fillets than I care to admit to.

But I am forging ahead anyway on the basis that if I build it, they will come. Eventually.

So I made these little napkins (using my very own free motion sewing technique*) for the girls and while they’ve enjoyed using them for their early dinners, one day I hope we will all be sitting down together and they might be using these napkins to wipe not only their food but also their tears – tears of laughter – from their eyes. Because the sooner they realise how hilaaaaaahhhhhrious their mother is the better.

* WARNING: This is cowboy sewing at its most extreme. Not only did this linen fabric from IKEA come ready hemmed on one side, but to “write” the girls’ names, * I removed the presser foot, dropped the feed dogs and just whirled that fabric around like it was my bitc… bit of good fabric. You WILL sew through your finger if you attempt to do this after a glass or two of red wine when you’re not concentrating.