Saturday, October 27, 2012

How do I get my pattern onto that darn piece of cloth?

I've been experimenting with a number of ways to design surfaces for bead embroidery. Translation: How do I get my pattern onto that darn piece of cloth? I've researched it - books, online; I've asked around, and I've tried numerous methods. All have their pros and cons with most of them depending upon the surface I wish to bead embroider. Here are a few methods I've tried, following by comments on their success and failures:

1. Drawing directly onto the surface: This works well if you're really good at drawing or your pattern is geometric. However, if you have a very specific, highly detailed graphic you wish to bead embroider and you're not great at drawing, this method poses challenges.

2. Using transfer paper to transfer designs: This works *okay* if you are beading onto a surface that will accept a design readily. It's a lot more difficult to transfer your design, using this method, onto surfaces such as ultrasuede, leather (rough surfaced hides), or velvet -all my favorite surfaces. I've tried many commercially available papers designed for this use, but with very mixed results. I haven't tried the old fashioned carbon transfer paper only because it's kinda messy.

3. Overlaying your pattern on top of your preferred cloth and poking holes using a felt tip pen: This doesn't work too badly, but it's still a mixed bag of results for me. You need to make sure your felt tip pen will transfer and not bleed into your cloth; if you use permanent markers - remember they're permanent (and on lighter materials such as leather, this may not be a good thing); and if you opt for chalk, well, chalk will rub off as you work. You can use the "washable" "disappearing" fabric markers for this but I've heard that even though they disappear, they return in time adding a yellowed appearance to the fabric, so you need to make sure the lines won't be visible in the finished product.

4. Bead embroidering onto stiffened felt, cutting out the design, and placing on top of desired fabric: This has it's place, particularly if the fabric base is stiff. But if your fabric is velvet, and your desired end product is to be a soft cloth with drape, this is not a great method. Another product I've tried instead of felt is Buckram. It's a nice product except that the edge fibers unravel and must be glued before transferring your design to your cloth. And it's stiff too.
      a. Beading onto a different, lighter fabric and attaching to desired surface: I've tried this method too and it does have it's place (some designs actually call for this). I want the surface of the goal fabric to be visible so I'm a little picky about this method.

5. Printing designs onto a specialty paper and attaching that to the surface of your cloth and beading on top of the paper: I have few things to say about this method. First, make sure you use a very strong thread. Tearing the paper off will cause problems if your thread is thin or your stitches loose (which is the case for fabrics with drape). I've tried regular paper, wash-away paper (the kind that dissolves with water), heat-away paper (iron it to remove it), and tracing paper. They all have their problems either with the paper, the removal method, or the effects of the paper removal process on the fabric or the thread. (Note: you don't want to dip your leather into water or iron it; likewise for velvet).

6. Basting: I've also tried printing out my design, tacking it down to my surface, and basting the design with thread, then removing the paper (theoretically, leaving the basted design on the cloth). Removing the paper is the key here. See #5 above. 

I'm sure I've missed a method - so feel free to add one if you like. I've probably spent well over $100 in materials and supplies, not counting my time, trying to find a method that works best for me. You will be pleased to know that what I've found is possibly the lowest tech, least expensive method available (isn't that how it always works?). Here's what I do and you'll need a printer for this (preferable color, but not necessary).

Tissue paper, velvet, felt: taped & basted 

0. Make a copy of your image onto an 8.5in x 11in piece of paper. 
1. Get some white tissue paper.
2. Cut the tissue paper to fit on top of a piece of standard 8.5 x 11 paper. I cut my tissue at 8in x 10.5 inches.
3. Center your tissue paper onto a piece of plain, white paper. Tape the edges of the tissue paper onto the surface of the standard paper. 
4. Place the copy of your image onto the printer's glass. Place your tissue paper/standard paper into your paper feed tray according to your printer's instructions (side up or side down). You want the tissue paper to be the side printed on to.
5. Print your image onto your tissue paper.
6. Remove the tissue paper by cutting along the tissue paper edge - where the edge meets the underlying paper. Do not remove the tape! You want to leave it on the tissue paper because you are going to baste on top of this and it gives your tissue paper strength!
7. If you are backing your fabric with a second fabric, now is the time to prepare that second fabric.
8. Place your tissue paper on top of your desired fabric. Place your backing fabric under your desired fabric. Tape lightly together (to hold for basting).
9. With thread and needle, baste your layers together - being sure to baste along the taped section of your tissue paper.
Back of project showing taping and basting
10. You are now ready to bead embroider your image. NOTE: You must be careful not to tear your tissue paper. I'm pretty careful but just the same, I outline my image in beads first before filling in with beads because this ensures I have the image down. The good news too is if you tear your paper by accident, you can repeat the above and just baste down the torn part, matching up the image.
11. Removal of tissue paper: It's easy. Gently tear it off. If your beads are attached well (I use a couching method) you can remove most of the paper. If you don't want any paper in the middle of your beaded designs, outline the design first and then remove the paper before filling in with beads. (See image above with part of tissue removed).

By the way, using the tissue paper method, you can also "transfer" a design by tracing the design with a sharpie on the tissue paper. That's because the sharpie goes through the tissue paper. Note that some fabrics will not take this method (I have no luck with this method with Michael's stiffened felt, for example) and sometimes the sharpie will bleed a bit. But it has worked for me nicely on cotton velvet.

Good luck!