Sunday, January 23, 2011

Learning Hands

Things have been a little quiet on the business end of my studio, so I decided to dedicate this time to jumping on those alteration and upcycling projects that have been filling up the room. I did a few alterations, of which i didn't take pics--because changing the straps on a nightgown or the neckline on a tank top just isn't much to write home about, if you will. But once i did those things i tackled my next project--fixing up a pair of my old man's jeans for myself.

He handed these to me a month or so ago, after cleaning out his closet (gasp!) because he figured i could use them to make something for Ben (as i usually do). But on a whim i tried them on, and they were a loose fit, which i figured would be perfect for me to learn to embroider on denim.

First i had to address those knee holes. I stitched around them with a zig zag stitch to make sure they didn't continue to tear in the future. Then i made a few patches with some scrap material
and appliqued them on with a zig zag stitch. Now, before i did that, i had to open the leg seams to allow me to get in there to do that stitching. I opened the straight seam and not the flat felled seam (the classic folded over seam you're used to seeing on jeans.) The straight seam is a) easier to open and b) easier to sew up again without changing the look of the jean. Once the patches were done, i turned to putting a few embroidery designs on the open legs.

Machine embroidery is a science and skill unto itself, and i had never done it on Denim before--which was a learning experience.

My first mistake was failing to use a stabilizer and the right needle--the two main causes of ME(machine embroidery) problems. Turns out the reason denim is so
comfortable--skinny jeans aside--is that its grain is on the diagonal--which makes it "give" when we need it to, adding to it comfort. Great for wearing, not so great for embroidering. Unless it is well stabilized. I used a fusible cut-away stabilizer to make sure the material didn't "give" during stitching. I also used just a heavy duty denim needle instead of an embroidery needle--which gave me more success and neater stitches. I then scattered some
designs around to "pretty" up the jeans and to gain more practice.

I'm a firm believer in making a practice piece when learning a new skill. My grandmother taught it to my mom, who in turn taught it to me. I think it's kinda silly to try something you've never done before and expect perfection--or worse yet, give up if the first try isn't the quality you hoped for. I knew these were just gonna be practice pants, that i would wear around the house if they sucked.
Turns out though, because i employ this practice alot, that they turned out a little better than sucky, so i might even wear them out in public too. But that was never my first intention, so that i could focus of learning this skill. If you are unwilling to make mistakes, then you are unwilling to learn. If you are one of those lucky folks upon whom grace falls on every project you produce, well,, good for you and call Martha Stewart. The REST of us will be busy perfecting our skill so that we can use it later. repeatedly.

Oh, i decided to try another new skill this time around too--patches. my first attempt at ME on these pants ended up with a tension/needle/bobbin thread problem that created an ugly couple of stitches on the front that
would have been a BIOTCH to rip out. I remembered a tutorial on Urban Threads (my favorite source for designs) on how to make a patch. So i followed it, used one of her awesome designs and create my very first patch. It ain't perfect, but it does the trick, and taught me a few things too! I am excited to start creating patches for those items i can't hoop!

All in all, a great learning project, and now i've got a sassy pair of hippie jeans to wear to the store!


  1. I love the hibiscus and the honu embroidery! Looks awesome if it was just practice. :D

  2. yeah-I've been wanting to stitch out that honu for a while now--it's part of a set. I'm glas it stitched out so well.