There are some days when you've just got to have the right accessory.
I'll tell you, being kidnapped by the Riddler presents a serious fashion challenge. (have you seen how he dresses?)
Still, that's no reason not to look your best.
So my addition to the Batkid Tech series on Instructables covers using a computer-controlled embroidery machine to create a classy custom-embroidered gag.
Step 1: Gathering the Materials
Tip: Don't look for embroidery machine bobbins in a store. Those are way easier to find online.
Here's what I needed:
- Shiny cloth (very very green)
- Textile spray adhesive
- Embroidery hoops like the ones in this set.
- Polyester embroidery thread (in "Prussian Blue")
- Lightweight fabric stabilizer
- 80/12 sewing needle (mid-weight)
Step 2: Choose Your Designs
There are many embroidery designs available for free on the web, but I was in a hurry, so went to embroideryLibrary. They've got many nice designs, ready to go.
The Riddler is a guy who likes to question everything, so I used Hana 3" Question Mark, Hana 1.5" Question Mark and Fancy Flourish Punctuation 1.5" Question Mark.
Step 3: Prepare to Embroider!
First, we need to reinforce the fabric to support the very dense and multidirectional stitching of the embroidery. Otherwise it'll just get destroyed. To do this, we attach the stabilizer to the fabric with a light coat of spray adhesive.
When pressing it into the hoop, make sure that the fabric is taut and has no wrinkles, or else the machine will pull the stabilizer into the bobbin area. If that happens, the only way to free it is to cut the fabric. Yikes.
Also, match the size of the hoop to the size of what you're going to embroider. I used the smallest hoop that would still fit the work, and the machine auto-centers, which makes things easier.
This step needs to be done for each of the question marks.
Step 4: Activate the Machine!
In order to use this, the design needs to be loaded onto a USB stick, and then uploaded to the machine.
- For this machine, you need each .pes file to be in its own folder. Otherwise the machine can't find it.
- Note that (as in the close-up above) you will have a pretty big border around each question mark, so plan to have extra fabric and extra stabilizer, so that you can completely cover the hoop area, and extend beyond it.
This machine is pretty easy to use for light fabric like this, but I've had some challenges trying it on leather. That's how I know what happens in Step 2 if the fabric's not taut enough.
The design software (to customize patterns) is several hundred dollars, but really I just needed a few question marks, which I managed to find for $1 each. Lucky for me the Riddler's not into custom logos.
- The larger question marks (3") took about 20 minutes each, and the smaller ones (1.5") were about 8 minutes each, so best to bring dinner to the shop.
- You will need more than one bobbin. I needed three, because coloring in these things requires a whole lot of thread. I blew through my first 225-yard spool before I was even 25% finished, and was glad I had 1 km of thread in my bag. Not kidding. Also wind your bobbins first, and bring extra spools.
Step 5: The Result!
Overall, the stitching ended up looking very sophisticated and Riddler-esque. When gags come into fashion, I'll be all set.
Last step is just to trim the fabric, and sew a hem to keep it looking nice and prevent fraying.
Tip: The fabric will be very tacky if you iron it after removing the stabilizer, as there will be remnants of the adhesive! Don't iron your favorite silk blouse next, or it'll be tacky too.
Nothing left to do but let him tie me to a dangerous glowing techno-trap on the cable car tracks and hope Batkid shows up to save the day!