Fabric Manipulation … The Trend of 2013


I have a new fetish for altering fabrics and I am on a mission to test some new and old techniques and see if they will fit into high-end fashion.  Embroidery is definitely high on the list,  and I am not talking about embroidered bunny’s on the front of my sweatshirt or his and her towel’s (although I have to practice somewhere  🙂   I am more thinking about using embroidery to create new fabrics and using that fabric in my garments.  A few ideas I am going to try:

  • attaching two unusual textures
  • quilting silk charmeuse
  • sleeve embellishment
  • embroidered jeans
  • embroidery + needle felting
  • distressing
  • adding faux fur
  • shirring

Just a touch of ideas and I am going to give them a try over the summer, looking into my fall wardrobe.  I don’t expect them all to be a success, but I know this will be fun!  So to kick off my experiment I thought I better learn how to embroider.  These jeans were my first embroidery project last May, not too shabby if I don’t say so myself.  The jean  pattern is an altered version of my Angel Bootcut Jean and the embroidery design I created on Brother’s Dreamweaver  .  Trust me, I had no idea what I was doing but these new embroidery machines tell you what to do!

I sewed the jeans in a little different order starting with the front and back pockets and then the outside seam.  A bit of a risk, after all that work, that the embroidery turns out awful.  Looking back,  you would think I would have tested the design on something, even a scrap of fabric.  I am too stubborn for that.  Each leg took 3 hooping’s and at first the total embroidery hours for both legs was tallying up to be 26 1/2 hours … YIKES!  Then I realized that each color would only embroider for a few minutes and I would have to keep changing threads (this is only a one thread embroidery machine, in case you might think I have the fancy one).   I decided to change the order of color, even if it altered the final design.

The embroidery design:  I changed the design from being a little larger in the top (1st hooping) a little smaller in the middle (second hooping) and really small at the ankle (third hooping).  Minus a few mistakes (which I won’t point out :)) I was really pleased with the final results.

One thing I learned with embroidering stretch denim – after you embroider, the denim doesn’t stretch.  Just keep that in mind and make alterations to your pattern to allow for that non-stretch, especially if you are sewing skinny jeans or jeggings.  I am planning on embroidering another pair of jeans with all one color of thread, I am thinking black fabric with silver thread or something along that line.

Any embroidery tips for me would be greatly appreciated, I have a lot of fabric I want to try (especially silk charmeuse).  There is so much to learn and take into account.  For example, embroidery thread.  There are a ton of choices, any advice on the what’s the best and why?  I would love to know the scoop!

Until then,



14 thoughts on “Fabric Manipulation … The Trend of 2013”

  1. Hi Angela,

    I just read your email regarding your plan for experimenting with machine embroidery. I’m very excited to hear this, and want to let you know that I have be creating machine embroidery designs using Embird for many years. I stitch for myself mostly (I created some very elaborate designs for the Indiana University opera a few years back – multiple hoopings to create a very large design that was stitched onto a Cinderella skirt.

    I know a bit about stabilizing, creating a design that isn’t “bullet-proof”, how to compensate for the push-pull of fabric during the embroidery process, etc. I would love to be available to you to check out any of your embroidery designs or help you resolve issues you might think you are having with a particular fabric or design.

    I’d love to see what you’ve created so far. I’m not wanting to charge you anything. I’d love to help just because i love machine embroidery & the creativity it permits.


    Nancy Crome


    1. Hi Nancy, Thanks so much! There are so many stabilizers to choose from, what do you think of the water soluble? I was thinking of trying this on my silk chiffon. Thanks again for your expertise 🙂


  2. This is gonna be great! I have been wanting to incorporate embroidery in apparel sewing, but I am not sure how to make it look like something dressier than a sweatshirt! Thanks!


  3. Can’t wait to see what you come up with. I too have been wanting to try some designs on jeans in silver/sparkle white but had not gotten to it yet. Looking forward to what you do! Thanks!


  4. When embroidering with metallic thread I found I had to slow down my machine (I don’t know if this is possible on all machines) and use a Metafil needle or else the thread broke frequently. I’m still very much an amateur, so this may be old news to you. :). Looking forward to seeing your creations!


  5. The jeans are great! I also have a Brother machine similar to yours. I also loved metallic threads, but these can be tricky to use. I usually end up slowing the machine right down and have to watch carefully in case the thread starts shredding! Also be aware metallic threads can cause damage to the thread runs which can result in more thread breaks etc. been there already! Good luck & can’t wait to see you results!


  6. Hi Angela! Find the thread that works best for your machine — no snags or breaks. I use Maderia and Isacord. Rayon thread has great sheen but can lose color after washing. Polyester threads are strong and have great color. Use 40 weight on top and a 60 weight bobbin thread in the bottom to keep your designs from being thick as plates. If you are stitching very small or very fine designs, use a 60 wt embroidery thread. Maderia is the only company I know of that sells 60 wt embroidery thread to the general public. Metallic threads need a special needle and expect the metallic thread to break frequently. Someone above mentioned slowing down the machine; excellent idea with metallics. Artistic has a new metallic thread out and they promise it doesn’t break. I haven’t tested it, though. When you embroider, your top thread should cover the front of the design 100% and wrap around to the back of the design so the back of the design is 33% top color, 33% bobbin, 33% top color. If your bobbin thread is showing more than 33 percent, or if it is wrapping around to the top of the design, you have a tension issue. Bobbin thread generally comes in white and black, but some people use cotton or poly 60 wt thread in the bobbin that matches their top color so if there is ever a tension problem, the bobbin thread just blends in and the pattern isn’t ruined.


    1. Thanks so much! These will be great help – I am going to try using the same color thread for my pink Princess on silk (next post) and see if that helps from having the bobbin thread popping out on the right side of the fabric. Cheers 🙂


  7. Hi Angela, Your jeans look great! I started out on a single needle machine, but now use a 10 needle Babylock, because I’m lazy and/or impatient, and I hate to stop to change thread! I prefer Floriani polyester embroidery thread which is 40 wt. It has incredible sheen and there are lots of colors to choose from. It doesn’t fade in the wash. Also, Floriani stabilizer is my favorite and I’ve tried just about all of the other brands over the years I use the water soluble on top for knits and fleece, or Heat N Gone for items that can’t get wet Their No Show poly mesh cutaway is great behind soft knit shirts. Everybody finds their favorite, Ask for free samples from the manfgacturer and they’ll send you a sample pack to try.
    I enjoy watching you on TV! Your instructions are great. Thank you so much!


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