Free motion embroidery with the Ministry of Craft

I can’t sew in a straight line and don’t think I will ever be able to do so (but that’s OK, I’ve decided everything I make will be characterised by very wonky stitching – a kind of ‘Sarah made this’ calling card). No doubt I’m not the only novice seamstress who has trouble with staying on the straight and narrow and if this sounds even remotely like you, then you might want to sign up for a free motion embroidery class with the kind-hearted folk at the Ministry of Craft in Manchester.

You do need to know your way around a sewing machine a little, but class tutor Sam Moylan runs through the basics quickly before you get going so if you’re a little rusty or still scared of that needle, you’ll get a bit of a refresher course. And then the fun begins! I started by changing my machine foot to a free motion embroidery one (around £8, so very affordable) and lowered the feed dogs on my machine, before finding a cute picture of a poodle that I wanted to embroider.

Tracing the image, I fitted my paper on top of my calico, set it in an embroidery hoop and then got going on the outline. If you’re a bit worried about not sticking to the lines, pick the slowest setting on the machine but, as Sam said throughout the day, free motion embroidery is meant to be scrappy – which was absolutely fine by me! What could be better than a sewing technique where you don’t actually have to be any good at sewing?

Once I’d got my outline sorted and I filled out my poodle’s eyes and nose, I was ready to pick out some fabric and applique it to my material using Bondaweb.

Here’s what I ended up with:

For a first attempt, I was pretty pleased with the end result.

After lunch, I put my poodle away and got started on making a bag. I plumped for a picture of an owl and decided to go a bit vintage with it, picking out a tonne of material (most of which I didn’t use). I ironed some stabiliser to the inside of my bag so the material wouldn’t pucker as I sewed and set about cutting out the various owl parts on Bondaweb and ironing them onto my chosen fabric.

This is the main problem I had with free motion embroidery – not the sewing, but the time it all took to cut out, iron then re-iron everything onto the bag. It’s pretty time-consuming and definitely not something you want to rush.

Here’s what my owl bag ended up looking like (I was going to give it away as a present but I LOVE it, so sorry everyone – it’s mine, all mine!) I also did this without using a hoop, as mine kept popping open when it bumped against the machine, but it seemed to work fine without one.

I used a variety of stitches to get the desired effect, although I’m most proud of my zig-zag stitch claws. Simple yet effective!

Although it was a long day (the class started at 10:00 and finished at 16:30), it was an absolute hoot (pun intended) and I’m definitely going to do as much free motion embroidery as I can, once I get my hands on the right kind of foot. If you’re looking for a class to sign up for, you should definitely consider the Ministry of Craft’s offering as everything was explained very clearly and Sam was able to give  me as much help and attention as I needed. You don’t need to have any sewing skills at all and all the equipment (boxes and boxes of fabric included) is provided for you. I even found some groovy vintage buttons for my owl eyes.

All in all, I had a fab-dab day and would recommend this class to any of you, whether you’re in Manchester or not.

One hot tip from Sam: “When filling in bits of your design, make sure you move the cloth around, otherwise you’re just stitching on one spot and the material will get sucked into the machine.”

Here are the class details if you’re feeling crafty:

Ministry of Craft Beginners Free Motion Embroidery and Applique class

– Course costs £75

– 10:00-16:30

– Next class: March 31st

– Head to the Ministry of Craft website to book.

And here’s a little free motion embroidery video to give you a taster:

So what’s the next step for me? How do I get better? I want to be great at this so any tips would be much appreciated!

13 Responses to “Free motion embroidery with the Ministry of Craft”
  1. Okay, that’s done it! I have to give this a go. I’ve seen this technique used to create a portrait that looked like an artist’s sketch. It looked fab but also very hard to do. I doubt I could knock up something like your owl without a fair bit of practice but this has definitely inspired me to try!

  2. Penny says:

    It’s amazing how much you learnt in a day and the end result of the owl is an inspiration to everyone who wants to have a go. Whilst I can darn, dress make and sew in a zip (boring), I’ve never done any applique and now really tempted to have a go. Thanks Sarah!

  3. Sarah Adie says:

    Thanks, Charlotte! The applique people could definitely do by hand but the free motion side of things I think would be quite hard – and it would take FOREVER! Glad you’re liking my blog – I can’t wait till the weather’s better so I can start rocking my owl bag here, there and everywhere!

  4. Charlotte says:

    Fab post mate, love this idea! It’s probably something most people could have a go at by hand even if they dont have a machine. The method makes every product unique as well.

    Loving the blog 🙂

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