Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sometimes My Embroidery Machine Hates Me

The project I'm working on now is Vogue 7828 (see my last post for a picture). After the fitting muslin, my next step is choosing thread color for the embroidery. (Note that I didn't use the embroidery I showed in the last blog entry.  I went with the Flowerful design set instead.  My friend, T used the other set and I wanted to do something different).

I was happily surprised that I took only three tries to come up with a combination I liked. Usually, choosing the exact right colors is a process analogous to how I imagine Michelangelo approaching painting the Sistine Chapel. I see him pondering color samples and throwing on trial strokes of color. My usual process consists of days of sorting through threads, stitch-out after stitch-out, agony over the multitude of choices, then finally a decision, my hair noticeably sparser with clumps sprinkled around the sewing room floor from my unconscious pulling.

However, this process was quite fast for my current project with only 3 stitch-outs and one clear winner.

With the colors settled, I commenced the embroidery. In my own tart-it-up style, I chose to have lots of embroidery on the blouse. Queen Victoria would be proud of my lack of restraint when it comes to decorating my pieces. I planned a line of embroidery running next to each of the seam lines on one of the fronts, a line down one sleeve and embroidery strewn quite liberally across the back.

I have a pretty good relationship with my embroidery machine. It trusts me to use good thread, stabilize correctly and to use designs that aren't too dense for comfort. In return, I trust my embroidery machine to stitch each color of a design from start to finish without breaking thread or needles or stopping indiscriminately.

The system works most of the time. Usually I can set a design stitching and walk away to do something else. When I'm really on a roll, I have all 3 embroidery machines going at once, my own team of sewing elves working independently while I finish something different. Unfortunately, today the elves rebelled. Maybe it was commentary on my color choice or the sheer amount of embroidery for the piece, but during the last quarter of the third line, things began to go wrong.
The first two lines were challenging. The top line had to follow a stitching line which bends up at a 30 degree angle. (The stitching line's angle creates a dart, pulling the edges together at the armhole.) To make sure I was sufficiently challenged, the next two lines required precise placement so they would each be centered between seams.
Line 1 stitched perfectly, even the bend. Ditto line 2. It was in the middle of the third, that things headed downhill.

First - I left  the room for just a few minutes to take a shower and dry my hair.  When I came back the machine was stopped with a broken needle dangling on the thread. Why, Machine? Why?  Of course there was an answer. The thread had twisted around the thread stand freezing up the feed. The thread pulled tight and zip - the needle broke.

Never underestimate the power of me as a disgruntled worker. Before I broke the second needle I had a major "operator error." I changed out the needle and rebooted the machine as I usually do. Unfortunately, I was particularly spacey when I fast forwarded the machine to the color I thought should sew next and I skipped color 3. It wasn't until I was totally finished with color 4 that I realized the rather major error. At first I thought I could stitch color 3 after color 4 but machine embroidery is not that simple. There are bunches of places where color 3 stitches from one part of the design to another. These stitches will be hidden under the flowers of the later colors, many of those flowers are color 4 flowers. So... if I stitched color 3 after color 4 it would stitch right over the flowers.  Shoot.  Time to break out more fabric and start again. Good thing I purchase fabric in leviathan amounts.

I re-threaded and started up again. I wasn't 30 seconds into this stitch-out when I heard the dreaded ka-thunk.  Needle number two was in two pieces. This time it was because I was at the end of my bobbin. The last teeny bit of thread clung tenaciously to the bobbin causing resistance and another broken needle. Unfortunately, this needle breakage jerked the fabric out of the hoop which meant starting yet again. My pile of extra fabric wasn't looking quite as massive.

Needle Number Three's unfortunate demise was a direct result of Needle Number Two. In the process of finishing off the late Needle Number Two, the threads had tangled around the bobbin and nudged the throat plate just a little out of line. Funny, the reaction of a needle hitting a solid surface like a throat plate.  That Poor Number Three didn't have a chance. Ka-thunk again.

Sometimes I think the machine breaks needles just to tell me to change my needles more often.

I'm pleased to say that I've finished the embroidery and I love it. I did finish with three versions of the left back panel, which enabled interesting comparisons. When I first started this project, I sewed out a couple of color options. Now I have two more variations and I like them both. I'm not unhappy with the final product but I like the other two as well.

Kind of put a crimp in my feeling of omnipotence as far as color choices. Looks like there were lots of other ways I could have gone. The obvious choice doesn't seem so obvious anymore.

Stay tuned for the next installment from the Needle Graveyard, with plenty of pictures.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Good thing you're tenacious! Cool new design choice and colors. I don't embroider so I had no idea about the needles breaking. Better the needle than the machine...