Any non- stretch light coloured, plain fabric will be great. Think charity shop bedding or tablecloth here. Nothing with a very open weave - net curtains are NOT what you want!! You can even use a cheap charity shop skirt or shirt, as long as the fabric is not a stretch fabric, is light in colour, and plain fabric will be ideal for your first time - nothing on the background to distract you. Do give your fabric a good wash and iron before using it. Wash new fabric to remove the sizing, but ironing is crucial before popping it into a hoop.
I love working on linen, but for practice I find muslin / calico (South African's call this plain, cream coloured fabric calico, but Americans picture a small floral print if they hear calico!) a perfect base. When you start getting into painting and dying etc you will find this fabric is great for this as well.
I love to work on unprimed painting canvas that you buy by the meter as this requires no stabilizing due to its weight, and does not require pre washing.
Linen is really good as it can take stitching over same place. Open weave can handle more
stitching, it distorts less and you will have less puckering with layers of thread, looks & feels
good. Cotton a good choice to, and many professional thread painters use silk. Calico is a great
practice fabric, you can get it in different weights.
Starching fabric before you start can help hold the thread better. Be careful not to distort fabric
when ironing it wet.
I buy liquid starch that I either pop into a spray bottle & dilute with LOADS of water, spray on fabric and iron, or I add it to the rinse portion of the washing machine if you are washing LOADS of fabric for FME at once!
I prefer to use the good old embroidery hoops with the inner hoop (the one without a spring on it) wrapped smoothly in 1.5cm strips of bias cut light weight iron on interfacing. I simply smoothly wrap the plain hoop in the strips, overlapping a small amount on each turn, as well as overlapping a new strip if one strip is not sufficient to go around the hoop, and then iron in place with a medium heat set iron. This improves the hoop's grip on the fabric.
You can also use the spring tension embroidery hoops, but I find they cannot take thicker fabrics well, and don't give a perfect tension across the hoop. As the groove in the outer hoop is quite shallow, it pops off as soon as the fabric is a bit thicker. But they are great if you are moving around a large piece of fabric a lot and are not doing stitch intense FME in any one area.
Thread: Higher number = finer threadI like to use machine embroidery thread, I love a 40 weight thread with 30 weight for accents occasionally, and 50 for fine detail. But 40 is what I stick to most of the time.
Rayon and polyester are great for embroidery as the thread has quite a bit of give, so it snaps less. Rayon cannot be exposed to bleach, so if you are adding FME to something that requires washing with chlorine bleach, switch to polyester. (Bear in mind that the optical brightener in many washing detergents is bleach based). Rayon great for finer fabrics, it is a softer, more supple thread, and can be softer on skin. Polyester great for tougher fabrics and thick synthetic fabrics.
There are MANY brands available, some of the brands I have found to be very good:
Superior threads -Magnifico
Fill your bobbin with this same thread! FME creates a slightly different tension on threads, so the bobbin thread can often be sen a slight amount from the top. For this reason, be sure to use matching thread top & bobbin.
I always use Schmetz or Klasse - personal preference.
I like METALLIC or TOP STITCH needles best. The eye of the needle is elongated to help prevent thread stripping, and the shaft has a groove in it to help protect the thread as you sew. Have a read of the Schmetz 'All about needles' as a matter of interest.
If you are interested here is a great PDF about the Schmetz range
If your machine has this option, ALWAYS tighten the screw holding in the needle, with a screwdriver when replacing your machine's needle. Hand tightening may result in the needle working loose as you sew.
FME / Darning / Quilting feet
There are many options, and you will need to check which type your sewing machine will accommodate.
Things to consider:
vs Closed toe
This is mostly a matter of preference, try both & see which you prefer. Open toe can get stuck into loose threads or applique pieces, closed toe has to be threaded. Both have pros and cons.
Bouncing vs stable
This is due to whether the foot has a bar that fits over the needle clamp bar as you install it - and so the foot moves up and down as the needle moves up and down; or if it has a screw adjustment. FME feet do not sit directly on the fabric like normal sewing feet. This allows you to move the fabric as you need to as the fabric is not trapped under the foot. BUT, as you may be moving over areas of varying thickness (due to applique / quilting etc) the foot needs to either lift over obstacles, or be set high enough to avoid them if it has a screw. The screw will mean you have less jumping as you sew, but these feet are generally more expensive.
The only feet I DO NOT LIKE are these ones:
I find they cause needle breaks more often due to the angle they sit at as the foot goes up & down.
But, then again, maybe you will find them ideal....
Check with your machine's manufacturer to see which foot your machine can take. Some machines can take generic feet, while some machines only fit their own feet (for example Bernina).
Fabric marking pens
Use these to draw your design onto your fabric before you start sewing.
Pilot Frixion pens were not actually designed for fabric, but can be made invisible with an iron, so work pretty well for trial work. I would not use these on actual pieces you may wish to frame etc as the ink is only 'made invisible' it is actually still there, and can be reinstated by freezing temperatures. You can also often see a shadow of the original writing.
You can read this detailed post about what the manufacturer said about using these pens on fabric.
Search for 'Vanishing Air/ Water Erasable Fabric Marker Pens'.
Fabric markers slowly fade over time, or are removed with water or the iron.
Be careful of using those that fade with time if you are going to work on your project over a few days as the image may have left before you are done. Or if you are finishing and gifting quickly, your original marks may not have had time to fade.
Chalk markers can be rubbed away easily, and now that you can get them in a 'click pencil' option, they work quite well too.
I tend to use water removable the most. If iron removable ones were more easily available, I would definitely use these the most.
Inspiration can come from anywhere, draw the teacup in your hand, draw your hand, grab a leaf from the garden and draw that. But in case of emergency, these books are a wonderful resource for inspiration for simple line drawings:
Free Motion Foot I like is this one - you can buy it from many online vendors, as well as from many sewing shops. I like the size of the foot, the wide opening means that you can use your machines widest zigzag with confidence - you will never hit the foot!
It also available in an open-toe option
TIP: Unless your foot shank has a hole instead of a U for the shank screw
Never remove the screw, simply loosen it, it is not that easy to align the thread and hold the foot in place, so save yourself the hassle.
Remember: Lefty Loosy, Righty Tighty!
If your foot is pressing into your fabric too much, you can adjust it with an elastic band - watch this video on how to do this.
Darning stitch vs. Zero stitch length
Different machines seem to prefer different settings on this one.
If your machine is set at 0, the feed dogs are not jumping around, and the machine is perfectly set up to sew without the feed dogs.
But, some machines need the tension looser on the thread, and an easy way to do this is to switch to the longest stitch length, which releases the tension on the top thread. If you find your thread is snapping a lot, or stripping, try this setting instead of zero, and see if your machine prefers that.
Good FME Habits
• Completing your stitch cycle
If you watch this video, you will understand how your machine creates a stitch. One complete stitch cycle creates one stitch. By making sure we turn our hand wheel (remember Little Bo Peep) until the stitch cycle is complete will prevent the thread getting hooked on the bobbin race and causing a jam or a thread bunch.
You know the result of not completing the cycle:
Three or four threads coming from the bobbin, and the fabric is trapped.
What has happened? The top thread has hooked on the bobbin case, and now you have many threads coming from the bobbin. If you continue to sew, eventually your fabric will be sucked down and well jammed.
This can all be avoided by simply completing your thread cycle each time you stop sewing.
The stitch cycle is complete when your needle has reached it's highest point, just before it starts descending again.
• Finding the right balance of hand and foot
(how much to move your hoop according to how flat your foot is on the gas)
Move your hoop faster than the needle is moving and you risk trying to move the hoop while your needle is still sunk in the fabric, thereby bending or breaking your needle. Too slow movement of hands results in tiny stitches that start tearing through the fabric and you risk jams.
You need to find a nice balance.
• Make sure presser foot is DOWN before you start stitching
• Don’t rock the boat, skim the water smoothly
NEVER lift hoop while stitching! Get into a good habit of moving your hoop by placing your hands flat on either side of the hoop, and move it like that, rather than holding the hoop as lifting it accidentally happens more often when you hold up the hoop. ‘Rocking the boat’ results in broken needles.
Remember to put your presser foot of the machine down before you start sewing, a presser foot in
the up position while stitching breaks needles & ruins the tension on your work.
• Fast feet, slower hands
• Bring thread to top of work as you start
• Machine two or three stitches on the spot at beginning and end to lock thread in
• If your machine doesn’t have an automated needle up/down, remember to place needle in ‘happy place’ each time before lifting foot to cut thread
• Usually best to work on pre washed fabric so that sizing is removed
• Change needle often. Maximum 8 hours sewing time per needle
· Try all different threads to see the various effects you can achieve
· You can play with your tension on your own machine to see different effects, but make sure you know what the default setting is
ADDING APPLIQUE - video on SkillShare
Tools and Supplies