Mr X Stitch presents NSFW Saturday - the naughtiest needlework on the planet!

Hi everybody! It’s Saturday, and you know what that means – before we get too rude, take a moment to enjoy the artistry of Mother Eagle’s Midwinter Fox and then dive in!

WARNING!

NSFW SATURDAYS WILL CONTAIN CONTENT THAT IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK!

IF YOU READ THESE POSTS, AND ARE OFFENDED, WE’RE SORRY BUT WE DID WARN YOU!

The Midwinter Fox Pendant, hand embroidery and birch wood by MotherEagle, on Flickr

[there’s more!]

{ 0 comments }

Ghost in the Embroidery Machine

Density – as it refers to machine embroidery, density is essentially a measure of the space between parallel stitches or lines of stitching. It can also be expressed as the number of such stitches or lines present in unit, as in ‘stitches per inch’.

Contour Stitch Showing the effect of stitch spacing, or density.

It may not seem like the sexiest or most artistic thing one could discuss about machine embroidery, but in my opinion, it is probably the most important and most overlooked measurement in machine embroidery and digitizing. In my mind, achieving balanced densities that cover your ground without adversely affecting the drape of your garment is one of the chief hallmarks of an expert digitizer. Moreover, learning about density opens up worlds of specialty surface treatments as well as software-independent and more effective methods of achieving color blending in your work. The great thing about it is that all it takes to start learning to control density are some simple measurements and a little trial and error testing.

Rough-cut applique showing the use of light density fills.

You may remember in an earlier article that I suggested that embroiderers all learn to use the metric system for measurements- here’s where it is the most crucial; whereas there are measurement systems that count stitches per inch, the most common systems are based either on a metric measurement of the distance between thread or on ‘embroidery points’ which are still a metric-based system where 1 point is equivalent to .1mm. Luckily, the reasoning behind it is easy to grasp. The thickness of standard 40wt machine embroidery thread is roughly .4mm; this will help us define everything we need to know about density hereafter.

Now that we know that our standard thread is .4mm thick, we also know that under ideal conditions, lines of stitching spaced at .4mm or 4 points apart will lead to each line of thread just touch, edge to edge, its neighbor, thus giving us full coverage of our ground material. Admittedly, there are numerous conditions, like stitching on textured, furry, or grained materials, that may still cause havoc even at ‘full’ density, but many of those situations can be mitigated through the use of structured foundational stitching referred to as ‘underlay’ that runs before your top stitching (and which will be a subject of this very blog in the near future). The major take-away is that we should consider .4mm spacing to be our most dense setting wherever possible. There are reasons to create lines of stitching closer together than .4mm, but for almost all standard embroidery your density should be at .4mm or less (meaning further apart).

Patch showing light fills for effect- a crane taking off from Bosque del Apache

If we make our fill stitches too dense, we are forcing threads to try to lay atop each other, which will cause distortion in our designs as the crowded threads roll off of one another, increasing rippling and distortion of the surface as embroidery threads and the threads already present in the ground fabric compete for space. Moreover, as we add details, outlines, or shading atop our fills, we can create patches of thread that get thicker and thicker if we do not leave room for them in the initial layers. Though there is almost always some amount of overlap in designs, quite by necessity, adding full-density elements atop each-other will eventually build up what is often called ‘bulletproof’ embroidery, even to the point of causing thread and needles to break while trying to penetrate the dense patches of built-up thread.

Isometric Boardwalk Underlay Example - this shows how underlayment in embroidery serves as a structure to lift top stitching above the surface and texture of the ground.

The trick is that with certain kinds of underlay, or with certain thread and color combinations, we don’t always even need ‘full’ coverage. The graphic above illustrates the way structured underlays work to lift top stitching above the texture of your ground; the deck is like your top stitching and the beams and slats below like an edge contour underlay with a zig-zag. Underlay forms the foundation for lighter stitching. Depending on the texture of the thread, the amount of contrast between the ground and top-stitching, and the way the underlay holds the thread above the ground, we may be able to use lighter densities (further spaced threads) without sacrificing coverage. If that wasn’t enough, by sampling our particular thread and ground combinations with swatches of stitching at multiple densities, we can easily see just how lightly we can stitch and achieve the amount of coverage we want. Building up these frames of reference with your materials can help you to make good decisions when digitizing. Knowing how far lines of stitching need to be apart to create a certain look or balance between the ground and the visible stitching unlocks the possibility of light, painterly fills and effects just as much as complete and balanced fills.

Light Painterly contour fills show on this lotus design.

Earlier, I alluded to blending colors as well- while many digitizers will rely on a software tool that produces gradients, the coverage achieved by these gradients is never ideal- the threads are not positioned in any exact way, so to get complete coverage, most digitizers will either use a nearly full density in a base color upon which the blended colors are added, making for an overly dense finish and a less flexible piece, or the allow too much of the garment to show through. With some simple math, however, you can choose to blend colors and create gradients manually, even with simpler software. Knowing that .4mm spacing gives us full coverage we can then simply make segments of stitching in different colors with percentages of that full-coverage.

Drag Boat design showing manual blending

Let’s say we want 3 strips of horizontal fill stitching. One with 2/3 orange and 1/3 red, one with 1/2 orange and 1/2 red, and another with 1/3 orange and 2/3 red, but that in the end, we want to achieve a density of .4mm. The first strip we execute in 3 passes, each with a spacing of 1.2mm, 2 passes of orange, offset by .4mm of course, and a third in red, placed so that the lines of stitching fall into the remaining space. For the middle stripe, 2 passes, one in each color, of .8mm fill, and for the third we use the same settings as the first, simply changing one of the orange passes to red. Now we have a simple banded gradient- it might not be super smooth with only three bands, but you can see how to build out these stripes; you simply work with multiples of your .4mm spacing and build layers up to your final density.

There’s no way that in the space of this post that we could deal with everything one needs to know about density and we haven’t dealt with much more than simple fill stitches- that said, there is still a critically important take-away, even from this short piece; if we want flexible decorations and garments with an overall good hand, we must be aware of how densely we cover (and punch threads through) our ground, using only the stitches we need to achieve the level of coverage we want. To be aware, we must know the thickness of our thread and how it behaves when stitched; luckily for us, industrial standards make that easy with our most-used thread. Our work ill only improve when we take the space between the stitches as seriously as the stitches themselves.

–—

Erich Campbell, Embroidery Digitizer Erich Campbell is an award-winning machine embroidery digitizer and designer and a decorated apparel industry expert, frequently contributing articles and interviews to embroidery industry magazines such as Stitches and Printwear as well as a host of blogs, social media groups, and other industry resources.

Erich is an evangelist for the craft, a stitch-obsessed embroidery believer, and firmly holds to constant, lifelong learning and the free exchange of technique and experience through conversations with his fellow stitch-workers.

{ 0 comments }

It's another Stitchgasm from Mr X Stitch - the home of contemporary embroidery

An instant stitchgasm with Penny Nickels‘ latest lace piece “The Endurance Trapped In The Ice”. I just love that gradation effect. So good.
Penny Nickels - The Endurance Trapped in the IcePenny Nickels - The Endurance Trapped in the Ice

{ 0 comments }

It's the Mr X Stitch Make a Cross Stitch Pattern Every Week for 52 Weeks Challenge Thingy!It’s week 12 of the 52 Challenge!

We’ve got general elections coming up in the UK in May and it’s pretty crucial that change takes place for the better. At the moment, and this is my view (other views are available) the country is being run by a bunch of corporation serving buffoons who are systematically destroying precious things like the NHS, while doing all they can to make their rich friends richer by selling more guns and bombs. Magic. Recently Russell Brand posted a great video on his YouTube channel looking at how our main choices for a political party to run the UK are all pretty useless.

But there is hope. Thankfully there’s a party that has radical ideas like protecting the environment, providing social care and making sure that everyone pays their dues. I’m paraphrasing hugely, but with representation in 90% of constituencies across the UK I’m really hoping that people will vote for the Green Party and give the UK a chance to restore balance and goodness to the land.

In honour of the election and to help push forward the idea, I present…
Green Britain Cross Stitch Pattern by Mr X Stitch

Right click on the image and Save As to download the pattern!

 

 

 

{ 0 comments }

Mr X