I am adding a bit of Wing Needle Flourish to the back of a vest I originally embellished the front with my Wing Needle Madness designs. When used with an even-weave woven fabric, my wing needle designs simulate the pulled-thread technique of white work, thanks to the wing needle. Since there is no cutting fabric about any of the embroidery stitches, the fabric on which they are sewn will retain their full integrity, making them well suited for this vest project. It should last you for many years.
You need to stitch four Wing Needle Flourish blocks to complete the project as instructed here.
A Note about #60 weight cotton thread: I use Mettler brand #60 weight thread. I keep on hand a large spool of white, cream, black, and medium gray. I keep gray on hand as it blends well with non-neutral colors – i.e. colors other than white, cream, or black. This light-weight thread makes the seam less bulky, so it lays flatter and drapes better. It is perfect for a variety of tasks, including:
Begin by stitching four Flourish blocks following the instructions that come with the design. I chose to stitch mine all in white. However, you can add a splash of color, using variegated threads, or simply use the four integrated color stops to sew your own custom color sequence.
Before you finish assembly of your four-block embroidery layout, serge finish the fabric edge on each side of the seam. Serge as closely as possible to the seam. In lieu of a serger, set your machine to sew a 2 mm length x 2.0 mm wide zigzag stitch. Sew about 5 mm – about 3/16 of an inch – from the seam line. When finished stitching, trim the excess seam allowance close to this zigzag stitch.
A note about pressing: Press all embroidery face down on a thick folded towel or use a velvaboard designed for this purpose. If you do much embroidery, you may want to invest in one of these.
Backside of assembled blocks, raw edges finished, and seams pressed open
The embroidery block is now ready to add to the back of the Wing Needle Madness Vest.
The assembled embroidery block
Begin by pressing the fabric you will use for the vest back. I used the same fabric as used to construct the vest front when I embellished it with my Wing Needle Madness designs. After you have pressed it, spray starch both sides and press again.
If you are like me, no pattern is a perfect match. As such, I use Pattern-Ease to cut out my vest pattern piece. Thus preserving the original pattern and allows me to make any necessary alterations before cutting into the fabric. Pattern-Ease, when the pieces of the pattern are pinned together, drape well enough to allow me to audition any alteration I might want to explore. If I make a mistake, I need only cut another piece. What's more, I get to write all of my notes about alterations and embellishments directly onto the working copy of my pattern, for both future reference and to keep me straight as I’m working on the project.
Once you have cut out the working pattern and made any alterations you desire, use it to cut out the vest back. Then, lightly press the centerfold of the back. This will be a guideline for placing the embroidery block.
You can do this on a table or use your mannequin.
I used Manny, my mannequin.
For an on-point layout, I placed one corner two inches below the center neckline. Pin the point to the centerfold of the vest back.
Alternatively, for a layout that is not on-point, audition the embroidery block to the location you prefer, remembering to keep the block symmetric about the center seam.
Move the item to a tabletop or other flat surface large enough from which to work.
Pin the embroidery block onto the vest back
Work on a flat surface to avoid introducing any wrinkles or creases into the vest back fabric as well as to keep it and the embroidery block flush with each other.
Hand-press the embroidery block into place, remembering to use the centerfold crease on the vest back as a placement guide.
Once in place pin the opposite corner or center seam (depending on how you chose to arrange the patch) to the centerfold of the vest back.
Now, pin the rest of the embroidery block points to the vest back.
Make sure the block and the vest back are both flush with each other and wrinkle-free. There should be no other creases or wrinkles.
The embroidery block pinned in place
It is now time to choose a wing needle stitch with which to secure the four-block embroidery patch to the vest back. Your sewing/embroidery machine will have some hemstitches programmed into it from which to choose, so take a break and explore which hemstitch inspires you to finish the flourish on your vest.
Figure 10 is a sample of some of my machine's hemstitches. Should you be interested, I stitched this sampler onto sheets of ultra-firm sew-in stabilizer, using a regular top stitch needle, hence the lack of any wing needle effect.
Since this is actually Part 2 of my Mad Flourish Vest Project, I opted to use the same stitch, stitch settings, and needle size as I used in creating the front of the vest front. I chose the Double Overedge stitch shown in Figure 11.
My machine set up is 6 mm length x 6 mm width. However, if the front of your Wing Needle Madness Vest is already underway, I suggest you review your notes and use the same stitch and stitch settings in this stage of the project, to give the project overall continuity.
Should this be your first time using a wing needle with the feed dogs, here are some guidelines I hope will help you with your decision.
“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” – Yogi Berra
Take this opportunity to road test your choice of hemstitches sewn with a wing needle before committing it to attaching your Flourish embroidery block to the vest back.
The practice strip is ready for you to practice sewing hem stitches with the wing needle and with the feed dogs of the machine.
Look at the hemstitches your machine has to offer. You will need to select a stitch that will cover the raw edges of the fabric on both sides. The backside of the project (the vest back) will have a raw edge and the front side of the vest back will have a raw edge, so this design has to accommodate covering both raw edges.
As a review, refer back to your hemstitch sampler. Examples of these stitches are shown in Figure 13.
Examples of hemstitches that will work for this project
Depending on the fabric you are using, the design can be sewn as narrow as 4 mm for lightweight fabrics or up to 6 mm for heavier fabrics. My fabric is linen/cotton blend and considered lightweight. However, the weave is a little coarse and as a consequence I chose a width of 6 mm.
After the sampler is made select one that you like best. For purposes of this tutorial select one that is 6 mm wide. After you have made a decision which stitch you want to use, continue on.
The following two steps are optional. I chose to do it this way because I prefer to trim away the excess fabric from around my embroidery block before sewing the wing needle stitches.
Before using the wing needle on the vest back I sewed the double line of stitching and tiny zigzag 6 mm from the left side already sewn. Why 6 mm? That is the width of the hemstitch I chose from my hemstitch sampler. These additional stitches help prevent raveling of the fabric due to the rigors of daily wear and tear, beyond what the wing needle stitches provide.
To sew the stitches the correct width from the previous stitching, I moved the needle to the left 6 marks. For my machine that is 3 mm from the center. Align the needle with the previous line of stitching. I noted where that is in relationship to the presser foot. Mark the presser foot with a sharpie, because you are going to need this reference point with which to guide the fabric.
Now move the needle over 3 mm to the right of center (that is 6 marks on my machine). This is where you will be sewing the second set of lines. As you sew make sure the original outline stitches stay right on the reference point.
The embroidery flourish block has a ½ inch seam allowance. Sometimes, when sewing the second set of lines, this seam allowance floats up, creating quite a mess, if you don't catch it as soon as it starts. To keep it down flat as it should be I used a flat head screwdriver (that came with one of my old machines). Hold it on top of the seam allowance and it will keep it flat while you sew.
Once you have finished sewing the two lines and the tiny zigzag, it is time to trim away the excess seam allowance from the around the Flourish embroidery block (not the underside – yet).
Additional tack-down stitching 6 mm apart
Use a pair of small, very sharp scissors (not curved) to trim away the excess seam allowance.
Notice the top blade of the scissors is positioned underneath the excess seam allowance that you are about to trim away. By placing the scissors in this fashion you trim as close to the stitching as possible.
I find that holding onto the piece of excess seam allowance as I trim prevents the point of the scissors from getting hung on the fabric, and keeps the fabrics taut making for a cleaner, easier cut.
Now, go back and trim away any unruly threads, clipping them as closely to the stitching as possible.
Now it is ready to stitch the wing needle hemstitch design. Begin by inserting the wing needle, threading it with the (same) machine embroidery thread used to stitch the Flourish blocks, and put in the same type of super fine bobbin thread.
Refer back to your hemstitch/wing needle sampler and set your machine for the wing needle design and settings 6 mm wide x your chosen length.
While this pulled thread technique by wing needle is considerably faster than by hand, it is not “a peddle to the metal process”. If you did not noticed while stitching out your sampler earlier, a bit of patience has its rewards.
Before proceeding, read through the following instructions a few times until you are comfortable with what you need to do. Only then should you proceed with sewing the wing needle hemstitch, slowly and deliberately…at least until you are comfortable with the process.
Sew slowly, watching the needle to make sure it hits its mark on the outline stitches every time. I kept the far left outline stitches aligned with the mark I made on my presser foot with the sharpie. This ensured the hem stitch sewed directly over the outline stitches on both sides.
Flip the piece over and use a small, sharp pair of straight scissors to remove the excess tear-away stabilizer. While the name implies that tear-away stabilizer can, in fact, be torn away, take the time to trim away the stabilizer with your scissors. This is one of those “theory vs. practice” things, on which I hope you will trust me.
Now, to lend a bit of authenticity to your heirloom pulled thread project, it is time to clip away the vest back fabric from behind the Flourish embroidery block. Whatever you do, don't cut into the embroidery. Personally, I find this part of the project is best done after a good night's rest, not in the wee hours of the morning, way past my bedtime.
Trim away the excess vest back fabric, cutting as close to the wing needle hemstitching as possible, without cutting them, of course. It is not necessary to trim the fabric as closely as you did on the front side. The backside will be lined so it will not show.
And a close up…
See you again when I get the other front side embroidered and put the vest together.
If you have any words of wisdom to add, please email me. I am always open to learning new ideas and better ways to sew.
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