Today we’re chatting to Jo Hill, of Jo Hill Textiles to learn about free motion embroidery and how to get started. Jo is a textile artist and designer based in the Staffordshire countryside, making luxury textile wall hangings, cushions, lampshades and chairs inspired by British wildlife. Using a lovely selection of sumptuous fabrics together with free motion embroidery, all pieces are lovingly made by Jo herself, from the initial sketch through to the finished stitched design.
Jo began her sewing career making little outfits for her teddy at the age of about five. At age 13, her sewing teacher indicated that she was not even worth entering in for a qualification! That was fine by Jo as, to use her words, she didn’t feel inspired to make a “drab, boring apron for the exam anyway” and has never been one to stay ‘within the lines’, much preferring to run away with her own creative enthusiasm!
During her degree in Textile Design, Jo won several design awards and later went on to sell her woven creations to Habitat.
what is free motion embroidery?
Free motion embroidery is an exciting technique where you are able to ‘draw’ with the sewing machine by lowering the feed dogs and moving the fabric around under the needle. This is a technique that I have really refined over the years and I use it in all my textile pieces. It’s a great technique because you can incorporate patchwork fabrics to appliqué onto the design which adds so much interest and makes your design unique.
Do I need anything special to do it?
You need a sewing machine and a ‘have a go’ attitude: it’s a really addictive technique! Free-motion embroidery also requires a special type of foot called a darning foot (also known as an embroidery foot) that allows the fabric to move around freely so that you can move it in any direction. It’s also helpful to use an embroidery hoop to hold the fabric in place.
What can I use free motion embroidery for?
Ooh so many possibilities! As you know, I create interior textiles such as cushions, wall hangings and lampshades and this technique works really well on homewares. As well as images such as animals, you can create your own patterns or flowers and it’s a great way to personalise your work as well. You can use free-motion embroidery to write names onto fabric, or dates for personalised wedding and anniversary presents too.
If you make your own clothes you could use the free-motion technique to embellish a pocket of a dress, or when you feel more ambitious, why not adorn the front of a plain tunic (before you make it up) with a free-motion design? You’ll have a wonderfully unique creation to wear!
How do I get started?
You’ll need a darning/embroidery foot which can be bought in haberdasheries. I’d also recommend an embroidery hoop. Practise on sturdy fabrics such as calico or canvas to begin with.
If you’d like to practice at home, ‘Make It by Jo Hill’ kits are also now available from my website. Get 10% off by using the code WCDN at the checkout.
What are your top tips?
Like with anything sewing-related it’s all about practice! You may find that things seem a bit hard to control at first but keep persevering. It’s a very different technique to regular sewing but you will soon get a feel for it and how your machine responds to different sewing speeds. Start slowly at first but your aim is to get the needle moving fairly quickly as this produces the best results.
Check out Jo in action here
Jo has a brand new range of homewares which includes cushions, lampshades, wall décor and kitchen accessories such as tea towels, coasters and placemats. They are exceptionally high-quality prints taken from Jo’s original textile designs. Choose from a luxury collection of British wildlife designs including hares, birds, stags and countryside landscapes.
Jo also runs a varied programme of workshops throughout the year, teaching classes in free motion embroidery – find out more here