[Note: Part three and four of Gilded Gardens provide a greater amount of technical information than most of my tutorials. Therefore, I would recommend that you read them through at least once before beginning the second level of thread work.]
The final stage of this secondary thread work involves working with perle cottons #3 and/or #5. These heavier threads cannot go through a machine needle so we must use other methods. The most common way of using these decorative weight threads is through bobbin work.
Before the day of specialty bobbin cases, I would simply bypass the tension mechanism on my Bernina 1230 and bring the bobbin thread up directly. This worked okay for very heavy threads and ribbon floss, but wasn’t ideal. I then purchased a second bobbin case and made adjustments as I mentioned in part three. Sewing machine companies now produce specialty bobbin cases, and if you like using decorative threads in your work, they are a nice accessory to have.
To begin the second phase of heavy thread work, hand wind your bobbin with perle cotton #3 or #5, place it in the specialty bobbin case (or adjusted secondary bobbin), and set up your machine for free motion embroidery (according to your previous test results), making sure the feed dogs are in the down position.
Specialty Bobbin Case
Turn your work to the backside and position the needle at a point on the circumference of one of your circular flowers. Sounds like geometry, doesn’t it?
Now check to make sure the bobbin thread tail is positioned towards the back of the machine so that it doesn’t get caught up in the securing stitches and make an unpleasant mess on the front side of your work. Take a few slow securing stitches moving every so slightly forward, clip your top thread tail, and then begin working your way around the circle. Before the second pass, clip your bobbin thread tail. On the second pass, work some spirals, scrolls, and circles in the areas surrounding your flowers.
Surface View of Bobbin Work
When you are happy with the decorative bobbin work around your flowers, go back to some of the flowers and fill the interior completely with stitches, working in a spiral motion. Next, work some vein stitching on one or two of your leaves.
On other leaves, work a row of stitching down one side and continue in a winding motion past the tip of the leaf.
An alternative to free motion bobbin work would be standard bobbin work. Keep your feed dogs in the normal up position and sew around your flower circles from the back side of your project. It’s possible to make scroll designs around your flowers using this method, but you will need to keep your lines simple.
Another alternative would be to use a couching or braiding foot and couch the thicker threads around your flowers.
Couching and Braiding Feet
Couching allows you to use a contrasting top thread color to add even more interest to your work. Make sure you switch to a needle plate that allows for zig zag stitching and adjust your stitch length and width. Leave a small top thread tail and sew over it in your second pass.
Couched Perle Cotton
Work slowly so that you can keep your thread close to the previous round of stitches. When you complete your couching, do a few stationary zig zag stitches to secure your thread and then clip it.
My favorite way to apply heavy threads is with the Bernina Free Motion Couching Foot #43. I hope other sewing machine companies will produce a similar foot for their machines because it’s a wonderful accessory that I wouldn’t want to be without. The look of free motion couching is quite similar to bobbin work. I did free motion couching on two of the leaves in Gilded Gardens. (This design work can also be created through free motion bobbin work.)
Bernina Free Motion Couching Foot
If you have this accessory, I recommend that you move your needle one position to the right and set your machine on a zig zag stitch width of 1.1 mm. This helps to catch the threads or yarns with every stitch. Some decorative threads are too thin (perle cottons #8 and #12) or too thick for this foot, but many work well. I especially like using this foot with perle cotton #3.
One of the special stitches in Gilded Gardens is the pod stitch.
This stitch is formed by building repeated rounds of stitches on top of each other. I created some of my pod stitches with the Bernina Free Motion Couching Foot and some with bobbin work. Your feed dogs must be down in order to work on such a small design.
Begin by forming your outer circle and then spiral in towards the center, allowing the thread to build up on top of itself. You can only go so far with this before your machine needle or bobbin case will say “enough.” By that point, you should have a nice round pod decoration formed on the surface of your work. I would suggest that you practice this on a test piece before attempting it on your project.
So, with all the above options, you’re sure to find one that suites you well and aides you in completing this phase of the project.
Your work should now look complete. However, we still have several flowers and leaves that beg for further embellishment, which they will receive in part five.
N. Rene West