#pic2stitch #1 The Man Engine

For my first #pic2stitch challenge, I decided to focus on The man Engine.

For anyone who missed it, The Man Engine is a mechanical puppet of a miner which is 4.5 metres tall when crawling and 10 metres tall when standing.

We were lucky to be able to travel to St Austell during one of the puppet’s transformations.  There was a big crowd, so we couldn’t see at first, but the organisers were really good in encouraging the crowd to keep moving to let people further back view it too.  Phill managed to take some pictures and it was from one of these pictures that I decided to create my first picture to stitch transformation.

cropped and smart fix

I wanted to create more of an outline of the Man Engine, so i used Photoshop Elements to edit the picture.  I erased a lot of the background data to make it easier to work out which parts were Man Engine and which weren’t!

I quite liked the image on the left, where I’ve used the water paper effect after deleting most of the background.  However, I stuck with my original plan, and used the photocopy effect to create a black and white version of the photo.


As this was a big project with much detail, I decided to use a water soluble pen to mark out the details on the edited photograph.  With the pen and a window, I traced the design onto calico.

The photo selection, editing and then transfer to calico took around 3 hours.  In the afternoon, I began to stitch the design, which took around 4 hours, including short breaks to relax my eyes and wrists! I took a couple of hours to decide how to frame it, looking at different frames online and trialing the design in ones I had at home already.  In the end I went for the box frame below, which is a 3D frame, but is the perfect size for it.


Here is the end result.  I was considering using some embroidery strands to highlight the puppet’s ropes, but in the end I decided to leave it how it was.  I did add its name, the year and my initials – I can’t seem to resist a bit of freehand writing with stitch!

I really enjoyed this make.  It was nice to spend the day on it and finish with a completed piece.

If you would like to view how I made this finished piece, I did record the machine embroidery section and have uploaded it onto youtube here.  I will warn you that it’s quite a long video despite speeding it up to ten times the actual time it took me!

For more information about the Man Engine, there is a useful article on the BBC website.  There was a website set up for the Men Engine’s tour but it now advises to check Facebook and Twitter for an update on what’s next for it.  There’s also the Cornish Mining Heritage website, who funded the project.


Recording a card design – the stag card

This week I’ve been quite industrious (well, more than I have been anyway!) and have managed to complete quite a few things for Clobber Creations ranging from fruit protectors to bath hats!  However, I want to reflect on the process of recording my free machine embroidery.

I find recordings of free machine embroidery quite mesmerising, and I’d voiced an interest in having a go at some point.  My dad pointed out that my camera could record video as well as take pictures, so the lack of video camera was not an issue.  I just needed to think about what I wanted to record and when to do it.

I thought that this aspiration was something I would play around with in September.  However, I began to put a Christmas card design into practice this week and thought, “why not record it?”

Fortunately, I have a tripod, which meant I could set up the camera behind me to one side.  I began with a full recording of the design make, from tracing the design to stitch ‘n’ tear, to colouring in.  However, I noticed the image was quite far away, so I had a go at recording zoomed in too.

A few things I learnt from this experience:

  1. Manual focus.  I thought that I would want my camera to do auto focus, but for the close up version, it kept focusing on my hands instead of the design.  manual focus meant that the camera stayed focused on the area surrounding the machine’s needle.
  2. Time Stretch.  This is what it’s called in Adobe Premier Elements.  I wanted the clips to fit into the length of a song and my free machining speed is not quite on par with this!  Using time stretch helped.  The close up video was sped up by 250%, which is a nice speed (and meant that people didn’t believe it was sped up), but the main video had to be sped up by 600%, which is a bit jarring…
  3. Public domain music.  I figured that most people wouldn’t want to hear the loud thuds coming from my sewing machine, so I searched for music which I could use for free, which I found at Free Music Archive.  I was surprised and delighted to find songs which were appropriate.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It is very early for Christmas but I couldn’t resist publishing the videos and card straight away.  You can view the close up and start to finish stag videos on youtube.  The card is available on etsy.

Comic Strip Stitched

Recently I decided to revisit my doodles through free motion stitching.

Doodling can happen in all sorts of circumstances.  You could be on hold chasing up an order over the phone (or in the case of my first job, being the advisor on the other side of the line), waiting for a meeting to commence, sitting in the audience of a presentation or passing the time on the train.  Sometimes the doodling is abstract, and sometimes it turns into a miniature piece of artwork.

Many of the doodles I made when I worked as a customer advisor in a call centre focused on the more abstract sketches of wiggly lines and rough shading, punctuated by the odd cartoon cat.  We had green paper to use to make notes while we were on the phone, which we had to throw away as confidential waste at the end of our shift, so I don’t have any of those scribbles anymore, and I doubt there were many of interest from that job either!


However, I have kept some of the sketches I’ve made over the years.  I decided to use these to practise my free machine embroidery.

I used a water soluble fabric pen to trace the whole design onto my scrap piece of calico.  However, I found that once I got a gauge of the letter sizing, I began to ignore the template.  I was concerned about writing with stitch so small, but it worked out well in the end.  I probably wouldn’t attempt it when I’m tired though!

finished office crafting

Overall, it was an interesting stitch.  I find that I prefer joining up letters when I stitch, whereas I found it difficult to allow the writing to be joined up, possibly due to the style  and format you normally see comics portrayed in!

I have some more comic strip ideas drafted, including a short series based on being a graduate and job interviews, which I will use to practise my machine embroidery skills with as well!