Making Gum Leaves from silk threads

posted in: Arts & Crafts, Textiles, Tutorials
embroidered gumleaf 1 ©KarenSmith
embroidered gum leaf with mulberry silk strands

Free motion embroidery on water soluble film

I recently experimented with water soluble stabiliser, a film that is used in the machine embroidery process. I came across it on an internet wander, and I suddenly realised that I could use it with some Mulberry silk strands I bought nearly 2 years ago at a Halls Gap craft fair, from a company called Feltfine, to create some embroidered gum leaves.

The stabiliser film is available in most haberdashery stores, I bought mine from Spotlight for $6 per m, it feels very flimsy to handle, but you can draw on it with markers, and its remarkably robust when embroidering onto it.

I began by drawing the outline shape of a gum leaf on the film, then separated some silk strands and sandwiched them between the film. I then placed the film/silk sandwich in a small embroidery hoop (approx 15cm).

Using a dark green cotton thread in my machine and a free motion embroidery presser foot, I followed my leaf outline with free motion stitches, going over each line at least 4 or 5 times, essentially you are creating a new piece of fabric from silk strands and tying it all together with the stitches from your machine.

I paid particular attention to the top and bottom of the leaves, creating a dense cluster of stitches to add strength. Then I carefully cut around the outside of the leaf with small sharp scissors – this is mainly to trim the silk threads – if I wasn’t creating a fabric sandwich, i could just loosely cut out the piece of embroidery from the film.

I dissolved the film in cold (20C) water, just gently patting the water onto the piece until all of the film dissolved, it goes a bit sticky and slippery at first, then it should all wash off.

I laid the wet piece of embroidery carefully onto a piece of heavy calico and then with another piece of fabric on top – I ironed it dry, this is because I wanted a flat leaf, I could also have just let it dry naturally on a flat non porous surface, but I would have ended up with a more curled leaf.

The result was a delicate shimmery leaf, the machine embroidery acted as veins containing the colourful silk strands.
Now I just need to think what piece of artwork to incorporate them into.

Karen’s top Tip
Remember the stabiliser is water-soluble, its very sensitive to moisture and sticks together easily with just a splash of water, so have very dry hands when handling it.