On Overstitching

In her latest newsletter textile artist Lyric Kinard writes about the six-month slump brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Her words struck such a chord that I quote the first paragraph of the newsletter in full:

I ran across an article last week that talked about the six month slump. It was written by an individual who has spent his life with a humanitarian organization working in war zones and refugee camps. He said that no matter which place, which time, which situation, that month six was where everyone hit a slump of exhaustion, depression, and sometimes hopelessness. He didn’t have a solution, other than to tell you that you aren’t alone. It’s normal. And that you just have to power through and that – the hope and determination WILL come back.

Lyric Kinard, 26 October 2020

She goes on to offer some remedies, one of which is to commit to doing something. So I took myself to my sewing machine and stitched a cushion cover — something small and manageable.

And after it was finished I felt better. This is not the first time I have cut out motifs from decor fabric samples and appliquéd them onto a plain background by using overstitching. I must credit textile artist Anne Kelly for the idea. She overstitches her fabric collages and I learnt this trick from her when she gave online workshops for Stitch Club. During the workshop she demonstrated on the same Bernina 1008 that I use, and I watched closely as she changed the stitch settings to her signature stitch, which is a diamond patterned overlocking stitch. I opted to use the simpler wavy zig-zag stitch, partly because I did not want to be too much of a copy cat and partly because my second sewing machine, a really old Bernina Record with metal innards, does not have the diamond shape overlocking stitch. I prefer to use this more solid machine for the overstitching as the machine works hard to close stitch over the layers of the motifs, the background fabric, and the batting beneath that. Here’s an in process photograph.

The most difficult part is arranging the cut-out flowers and foliage. Once happy with the pinned-up arrangement I start the machine overstitching. Here one can switch into neutral gear as all that needs doing is to guide the foot in a more or less straight line, and to make sure that there is no puckering of the motifs.

I got a bit carried away when photographing the cushion cover, so here are some shots that show off the bright flowers of the Cineraria annuals that obligingly seeded themselves from last year’s plants.

Finishing Line

Seeing as I am writing about my new-found techniques of close overstitching by machine, here is a recently finished machine stitched, layered work. Offcuts of decor fabrics provide the backdrop for a stylised tree made from gold commercial braids and canopied with ‘bird’s nest’ silk threads. It is called Tree Pose, after the yoga position where one tries to stand tall and find balance. It’s a tall, skinny quilt that measures 100 x 36 cm.

16 thoughts on “On Overstitching

  1. I love the juxtaposition of the cushion with the plants — same-same-but-different

    You say “The most difficult part is arranging the cut-out flowers and foliage.” You’re kidding! If i tried to appliqué it would be a mess…

    As always, thanks for sharing 😘


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