Have you ever tried something that looked so easy only to find out it was an uncontrollable challenge? This was my lesson in free motion sewing machine embroidery. I watched a few YouTube videos, thought I knew what I was doing, and failed miserably. Modern life, ha!

I decided to practice everyday for 20 days and document my progress just for fun. Turns out that along the way I ended up learning a lot more. My friend Ileana owner of Ixchel Studio asked me if I wanted to come to her house and see her new old 1940s free motion embroidery machine. I jumped at the chance to spend time with a friend, learn something new, and see another artist’s house. Not only did she let me lay hands on this magnificent piece of American history but she also made me Mexican hot cocoa and we had pastries.

This Singer model 114 W3 from the 1940s is a rare machine. It only does free motion embroidery but it does it really, really well. You need one of these machines if you are going to make a country western Nudie Suits, add letters to a letterman jacket, or any embroidered art.

This Singer uses a special heavy thread that is quite beautiful.

There are so many neat things about this machine! It has a long metal rod that a very strange looking extra long machine needle fits into. This needle goes through the fabric and hooks onto the one and only thread on the bottom of the machine. No bobbins?!?

That needle pulls the thread up to make a chain stitch or moss stitch.

The size of the chain stitch depends on these little caps, called nipples, that go over the needle.

The weirdest thing to get used to is the knob under the desk that you use to guide the machine and move it around. Your hands do not move the fabric at all!

Do you see the little lights? Ileana said this machine can go super fast and at some point a little computer was added to slow it down. I had no idea!!

My favorite part is how well this machine is made. I can see all the intricate machinery as it works. I assume this was to maintenance the machine yourself.

Thank you so much, Ileana.

Here is my 20 day progression of embroidery practice.


Behind the scenes~

It’s been a busy summer. I ordered my first and only industrial machine.

Reclaimed my old home sewing studio which I promptly painted and decorated.

My fall classes have been listed and you can sign up! Kettering also gave my business a full page ad on my Pattern Reading and Layout class.

Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream it! Sew it!

Tracy McElfresh
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