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Artful Machine Embroidery

Artful Machine Embroidery Book by Bobbi Bullard

This week we welcome guest blogger Bobbi Bullard. She is the author of Artful Machine Embroidery which you can win this week by commenting below!

 – Thanks, Eileen

I have never been mistaken for Michaelangelo as when I take pencil to paper my drawings rival the scribbling of a five year old. Despite my limitations, my house is littered with notebooks, each filled with pages and pages of almost non-recognizable fashion drawings.  Why do I do it? Why do I feel compelled to add volume after volume of doodles to my collection?

Even stranger, why do I preach to my students that they, as burgeoning fiber artists, should scratch and scribble as I do, no matter what their levels of artistic ability? I contend that these drawings do not have to be true-to-life, or even close to accurate as representations of the human figure for them to be a) art and b) useful in the journey of a fiber artist.

One technique I find particularly useful for enhancing creativity is to draw 3, 4 or 5 copies of a line drawing of a potential project.  Once I have completed the line drawings, I start doodling on them.  The drawings below are of Vogue 1330 which is in my queue for an upcoming project.

This was a fairly easy project for embellishment as the large sleeve is a semi-sheer rectangle. The biggest challenge for placement on that is to make sure that the embroidery will show at those times when you’re not actually holding your arm straight out to the side.

Here is an example of doodles that have made it to a completed project. The pattern is the Saf-T-Pockets pattern, To The Point.  I started this project with the idea of using the designs included in my book, Artful Machine Embroidery.  I was determined to make something (anything) that included the square free-standing lace design.

My first thought was a row of the squares down the back of the jacket.

I wasn’t kidding about my drawing ability not being exactly high-end. But the drawing did its job.  I could tell that I wouldn’t be happy with a lonely line of lace down the back of a jacket.

Next, I added more embroidery, little motifs also from the design set that goes with the book.

As I had no bookings for clown jobs, this version didn’t appeal to me. The next idea was to put less of the lace in the jacket.  I tried it as an insert on the front.

Ahh….  Much better.

I still had to deal with the back, so I returned to my line drawing and sprinkled the little motifs around.

Houston, we had lift-off. This was the answer. I did make the jacket.  I added a cut-edge design to the front lapel and more motifs sprinkled around under the lace (all designs that come with the book). And it all started with a poorly executed drawing.

Now I’ve gone public, “Hi, my name is Bobbi and I’m a doodle-holic”.

Here’s your assignment this week:

Do you doodle? Do you dream? Tell us how you get your inspiration from your head to a finished product and you could win a copy of Bobbi Bullard’s new book, Artful Machine Embroidery. Good luck!


The winner of last week’s assignment is:

The designers at the Sulky Embroidery Club want you to win a FREE Gold Membership. Just leave a comment below about why you’d like a membership in the Sulky Embroidery Club. To find out more about the Club and this $150 retail value, just click the ad. If you win, we’ll create an account for you, already loaded with 500 points, so you can begin shopping immediately. Choose from Joyce Drexler’s latest creations, called “Spoolies”, Carol Ingram’s new designs – just in time for the holidays, or the freshest embroidery designs from Team ES. There are hundreds of extraordinarily high-quality designs and projects to choose from, including fill, appliqué, outline, and 3-dimensional. New designs are added each month, so good luck!

Sulky Embroidery Club

And the winner is… “I was just now looking at the fabulous designs on the Sulky Embroidery Club website. They are stunning! The projects are so Cute. I would love to try them all. The tissue holders are just what I need for delightful gifts for my friends. I love all Sulky products too so I know that the designs will sew out perfectly first time” – Martie

Congratulations Martie! Enjoy your membership to Sulky and we hope your tissue holders turn out grand. 🙂




  • Sandi Copeland

    I loved to hear about the doodling! I have been a chronic doodler (mostly during boring business meetings) for a long time, and hope that now that I have retired I can bring my doodles to reality!

    • Judy

      I’m a doodler; however, I doodle & draw my version of flowers on folded up paper towels as I’m waiting to do things. Then I transfer them on watercolored paper & put them on cards. Guess I should try doodle clothing designs.

      Really liked her doodles.

  • Linda S

    Wow! I don’t doodle. But I will!!!

  • Linda S

    I usually start by finding a technique that I find interesting and intriguing. I play with it and I mull it over in my mind for awhile – sometimes a few months before I start to design. I don’t usually sketch the design but begin by putting pieces of fabric together to create the background cloth. I play with the embroidery designs sometimes combining designs and techniques such as applique with embroidery to make eyecatching fabric. Some of the embroidery and embellishments may be put on the cloth prior to cutting out or sewing the garment and some will be added afterwards. I also like to include some beading on my garments despite the fact that I lke to consider myself allergic to hand sewing, I do enjoy adding beads to my wearable art – it seems to add the finishing touch! I gues you could say that my work progressess as I go – I have an idea and build on it as I go!

    • Bobbi Bullard

      Hi Linda,

      I loved hearing how you work. What you’ve written here is a great description of a creative process.

      As for me, doodling is only one of my ‘modus operandi’ for initiating a project. Sometimes I start with fabric, sometimes a pattern, sometimes it’s something I see in someone else’ work. Sometimes my processes sound a lot like yours. That means those stacks of fabric and threads sitting on the sewing room table are really the beginnings of works in progress.

      Thanks for putting other ideas out there.

      Bobbi Bullard

  • Diane Stump

    I’ve recently started doodling again. I was shopping for fabric for a Christmas Tree skirt and wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. I pulled out my data planner and sketched a little design. I’m terrible at drawing but I got my drift!

  • Susan

    Very inspirational. Maybe I could actually do it!!

  • [email protected]

    I’ m always cutting out “ideas” from catalogs and “doodling” on a mock up of a pattern I want to try.B obbies book looks very interesting to help you develop a “doodle” into a great looking garment. joyce

  • Bonnie

    I look in clothing catalogs to see where embroidery is being used on current garments. I never thought of doing it the way Bobbi described here. Need to try it.

  • Donna G.

    I’ve been a fan of Bobbi’s for many years. Her projects are all so stunning! I get inspiration from magazines, catalogues, ready to wear, and jot ideas down for when I’m ready to begin a project. And after reading Bobbi’s blog, I’m going to try doodling!

  • Carolyn H

    I love Bobbi’s idea of doodling to decide where to put embroidery on a garment. When it is finished it will be something that you like. I sometimes wonder if I’m putting too much embroidery on a garment or if it is in the right place so as not to look amateurish.

  • Gail Beam

    Bobbi’s doodling turns out awesome designs! Wish I had the same talent!

  • Sharon Aiken

    I had forgotten how much I used to doodle. Haven’t done it since the last ice age. Thanks for reminding me. I’m going to start doing it again.

  • Annette

    I do Doodle, but putting projects together is a hit or miss. I do a lot of procrastinating. Then when I have some extended time to myself, I play! Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. I believe in trial and error. The doodling is an important part of the planning though.

    • Bobbi Bullard

      Hi Annette,

      Trial and error is a very valid way of working. I call “Test” a 4 letter word, one I can’t do without. I think it’s very important to be able to step away and look at what you’ve done and make appropriate changes.

      Bobbi Bullard

  • Leah Stewart

    Wow, again Bobbi you have impressed me with your creativity. I have worked with your designs for years and to get the insight as to your beginnings is really making sense. Doodling has always been on my agenda but I have never put it into such projects and why not…thank you Bobbie for more inspiration. That book looks like another necessary addition to my library of your designs.

    • Bobbi Bullard

      Hi Leah,

      The book has a variety of ideas on ways to begin your projects as well as information on what makes good design, embroidery tips, etc.


  • Brenda Howard

    Wow, I didn’t realize that doodles could be so beautiful. I think that I doodle some but not anything that ever gets to that point or completion. I would love to learn though. 🙂

  • Tris Thompson

    I do most of my doodling while trying to sleep at night or when washing my hair in the shower.
    I wish I had more to show for my “doodling”.
    I need to finish a few of these prjects.

  • Charlene

    I have been a doodler for as long as I remember! Way to keep inspired and remember what I think (way too forgetful. Thanks for ideas of improving the design process.

  • Pam

    I have lots of doodles for projects for my granddaughter. Just haven’t had time to take them to the next level. Hopefully I will in the new year as I am retiring from my accounting job tomorrow! YEA!!

    • Bobbi Bullard

      Congratulations! Retiring is awesome. But… I have to warn you. Most of my retired friends are just as busy as they were when they worked. – They just enjoy it more.

      Bobbi Bullard

  • M Kirby

    Is there a class in remedial doodling? Since I love to embroider on things, I’m glad to have the suggestions for getting the embroidery on something usable–the towels are already done. Thanks for the hints–I really appreciate the idea of using a free-standing lace block in the garment construction. (And congratulations to Pam on retirement!)

  • Terri

    Fascinating! I have doodled off and on for years. And, although it has been a while, I have worked to bring some of my doodles to life. Thank you for the inspiration and the permission to start doodling again.

  • Glenda

    Cock-a-doodle-do! Doodling is fun and a good way to get your brain to relax and flip over to the right side where your creativity is. You never know what will appear when you start moving that pencil around.

  • Lorel Maple

    I’m inspired by Bobbie’s process for design placement as my own “art to fiber” ideas tend to get stuck on the back of the garment. Bobbie’s book can inspire all of us to reach out and grow.

  • Kate Petrosky

    Bobbi — I’ve been searching for a cut-edge scallop like the one you used on your jacket lapels. where can I find this one?

  • Rosemary O'Koren

    I look for inspiration in store advertisements. Isn’t the best form of flattery is imitation? For those of us who are really drawing challenged, someone suggested enlarging the line drawings from the pattern envelopes so you can draw your ideas on the line drawings so you can keep the scale accurate.

  • Kath Fox

    I like to use embroidery on the front neckline. the big challenge for me is to get designs that will flow around the neckline curve. I do copy the templates and la them out but mostly i just have been using inexpensive tee shirts and experimenting. I also am trying to learn to get the color right for me.

  • Kate Petrosky

    Bobbi — I’ve been looking for a cut-edge scallop design like the one you used on the lapels of your jacket. Can you tell me where to find it?

    • Bobbi Bullard

      Hi Kate,

      That cut-edge design is one of the bonus designs that comes with the book. So… easy to find. : )

      And… the book gives instructions on how to get the cut-edge around the curve of a collar.

      Bobbi Bullard

  • Cindy Amend

    I was once a Kindergarten teacher and I would have the students describe to me how to draw animals, bugs, etc. I would then do as they said and would end up with pretty accurate pictures. I was unable to do this by myself. Leave it to a 5 year old. They see things clearly. Now I just need to have my grandchildren help me doodle.

  • Judy Abbott

    It is fascinating to see how the doodles ended in a gorgeous jacket

  • Joni Weed

    Part of the fun of doodling is to let your fingers and your “unconscious” mind start it out. You never know what will appear! Your doodles are great Bobbi- I guess I need to harness more of my doodling, lol.

  • Nancy B

    don’t doodle….but maybe I should start. Inspiration comes from the fabric itself….I let it speak to me. Also get inspiration from the fashions I see on the street…..

  • Patty Sack

    I was taught by an artist to doodle a different way. You close your eyes and just let go with your pen. You don’t know what will come out of the pen and it is very relaxing and you don’t have to worry about being an “artist”! I love it. You can also do it with another person. The first one starts it and then the next person picks up at where the first one stopped. Then you look at it and see what you can “see” in it.

    • Bobbi Bullard

      I love this idea. What inspiration! I bet you come up with beautiful lines doing this. Obviously you can’t have prep-conceived notions of what things are supposed to look like. Thanks for sharing.

      Bobbi Bullard

  • Barbara

    This is so inspiring! My doodles make Bobbi look like Rembrandt, but I’m ready to try. My former model for project planning was to talk to myself — and sometimes to argue as well — but I can see that sketching is a much better approach. Thanks for the insight!

    • Bobbi Bullard

      You had me giggling with this one. I think talking to yourself is productive. The reason I don’t see it working for me is I have no memory and would immediately forget what I’d just come up with. : )

      Bobbi Bullard

  • Pamela Seigl

    Love to doodle and design stuff no one eles has.

  • Jean Lowenberger

    So there is value in doodling! My husband doodles all the time, he is on hold on the phone to make an appointment, and there he sits with pen in hand waiting for the receptionist to come back on the line and he has his sketches all around the edge of the paper! When I ask when the appointment is, he has to go back through his sketches and find where he wrote down the date and time.

  • Patty Fiske

    Oh my too many ideas not enough time

  • Robyn Morris

    I just had a lovely friend of mine return from a weekend fiber artist retreat. Guess what the first words she said??? YOU HAVE TO DOODLE. Amazingly we had taken a sewing class in doodling early in the spring. Now I need to get the notebook out and get with the program!!

  • Marla

    Wow! These are so stunning! I really need to start stretching myself and trying some of this type of embroidery. So far all I’ve done are simple applique designs or in the hoop projects.

  • Kathryn Stowe

    I recently bought a book meant for keeping a journal. I call it my book of idea’s. I began sketching (rather poorly!) different things I wanted to make. It helps me visualize things in my minds eye what I want, even if it does not look very clear on paper. It was amazing how once I began sketching, how many new ideas came to mind. I also plan to add a picture of the finished project to the book as I finish them.

  • Tecla Shaffer

    I’ve always loved your artist touch in placement of embroidery on your garments. I now love knowing how you come up with the ideas. Who would have thought to make a doodle sample for placement, reminds me of making a sloper….

  • Lyn

    I have doodled off and on for years. But maybe I should doodle more! I like to execute my own “rif” on designs and projects. Some have been fantastic, but some have ended up as donations or been re-created later. I Love the ideas you post… you always have more inspiration…


  • Karen Jautaikis

    I doodle constantly in my head. Need to get it on paper.

  • Clem

    I usually get an idea… look for fabric that I “think” would work and dive right in… when I say “dive” I mean it usually is about 2-3 months from the idea to my “dive” and then redo redo redo…. until I like it. Sometimes it turns out completely different from my original idea.

    • Bobbi Bullard

      Sounds like a great way to work. I’m a firm believer in allowing fabric and ideas to mature before working with them. I, too, often end up with a different project than I thought I would at the beginning.

      Bobbi Bullard

  • Donna F

    I’m a doodler. It’s only been in the last few years though that I’ve started doodling projects, pillows, window treatments, scarves, etc. I have a stack of them. I need to rework some and try actually completing one.

  • Lynn

    I dream of looking great, but have no artistic abilities, I look to books and great designers for inspiration.

  • Susan Wilson

    Wow!! I remember doodling on a very small scale many years ago, and I have certainly been inspired to take it up this new year. Thanks so much for the post.

  • Genene

    Bobbi! We have similar levels of ‘doodle drawing skills’. My ‘doodles’ never look like the vision in my head. My ability to execute the process from doodle to done is limited to say the least. I NEED your book, Artful Machine Embroidery to guide me through!

  • Connie L

    I love seeing the process of your doodles. I use a crocuis to start. I learned this from fashion sewing. It helps me to visualize on my body shape. Thanks for the info.

  • Barbara (Tiny) Giamportone

    Bobbi, Love all of your ideas/designs & have most of them in a notebook. I have always doodled. Use to doodle while on the phone. (Gee don’t tell anyone.) 🙂 Most of the time I start with an outline of a fish & go on to eyes or other animals. Would love to transfer my doodling to fabric & my own clothes. More ideas, more ideas. Would love to have your Artful Machine Embroidery book as it will give me lots of info & help.

  • Judi Haines

    I’m a daydreamer, so doodling goes hand in hand. I’ve used my doodles to come up with company logos and designs for embroidery digitizing, as well as other art projects. I have limited drawing ability (ie prospective out of whack most of the time!) but the ideas definitely take shape on paper. As I tell my kids, there is no “bad art”. Just get your creative juices going and you’ll be surprised what’s in you, waiting to come to life! Thanks Bobbi! I would love to read your book!

  • carroll

    I love to doodle. I’ll never be a great artist but I do enjoy it. Sometimes I like to paint the flowers. But sometimes I need to have some inspiration thats why I would love to win your book.

  • Judy Gilmore


    Just love all of the sulky threads and books. Got away from sulky for awhile, but now I’m back to stay. Ready to try some more new designs.

  • Marcia

    I wouldn’t even have an embroidery machine(s) if I hadn’t met Bobbi! Now we know the secret to her “artful” garments. The book is a terrific guide to creativity. Thank you again Bobbi for being such a great teacher. Your workshops and lectures always inspire.

    • Bobbi Bullard

      Thank you Marcia. You’ve made my day by saying this.

  • Julie

    YES!! Doodling design ideas can help you come up with great projects – no matter what your drawing ability.I can’t ‘draw’ to save myself, but a quick doodle of an idea helps me to be able to ‘see’ the design better.

  • Mary Gordon

    I doodle projects – like building a blouse with the bodice of one blouse pattern, add a totally different (maybe fluffy) sleeve style from another, and then maybe a still different collar or neckline arrangement from another (a little tweaking is required to make it come together in reality!) but then with the foundation/idea drawn, I can scan and make copies from the computer and then start playing with embellishment ideas.

    Mary (Marysewfun)

    • Bobbi Bullard

      What a great combination of ideas – combining pattern pieces, scanning the combined design then printing from the computer to set yourself up for embellishing.

      Bobbi Bullard

  • Paula Roney

    I dream up my projects while I am doing areobic tapes every morning in my sewing room. While I’m marching, kicking, and lifting weights, I hang a piece of fabric or picture on my design wall and concentrate on how I want it to look. It makes the excercise go faster and I usually come up with a new idea or two!

  • Beth R

    Most of my projects are fairly simple – so I can visualize what the design will look like on the garment or bag I have picked out. I will usually print a template of the design on paper and position it on the item I am embroidering so I can see what it will probably look like.

  • lynnswanson

    I started doodling when I worked in an office and had to sit in boring meetings. First it was just circles and squares – then I started doodling usefully and creating design of what I would embellish with or create when I next went to my sewing studio. Now it is just a natural part of my creative process – love it

  • Mary Haggenmaker

    I doodle once in a while..when I’m not sewing or embroidering. My inspiration was from Al Capp, the cartoonist who drew Lil Abner way back when. Sometimes I actually do make it through the design stage to a finished project. My finished projects are not as grand and beautiful as what you have shown above and in your “Designs for Machine Embroidery”. If I read enough about it, though, I just might get inspiration juices flowing.

  • Susan Burns

    My doodling has been until now my little secret, as there is nothing artful or pretty about it, but more like my way of putting my plan on paper, just enough to transfer my many ideas and remember what I want to do.

  • gayle

    Doodling is great, never know what you might come up with. The designs are stunning and would really like to try them.

  • Mitzi

    I like to make paper dolls of real models, and then sketch clothing to fit the dolls. I’ve really wanted to use my embroidery machine more to create beautiful one-of-a-kind clothing, and this book and design set looks like an excellent launching pad.

  • Leandam

    The only way I can design is by doodling what I see in my head. However I am a less than gifted drawer. Lucky I can still see in my head what I want to achieve in these drawings. Not sure if other people could see it though. Glad to know I am not the only one who does this. The book sounds amazing and I would love to win it.

  • Donna Street

    Until I read this, I had forgotten how much I liked to doodle and sketch ideas that happen sponaneously or are inspired by things I see around me. I need to get doodling and sketching again. Thanks.

  • Heidi S

    I love how your doodling led to such a beautiful garment! I sew formals for teenage girls and am forever doodling to add bling. I love the embroidery. I meed to try this! Thank you for the ideas!!

  • Berenice

    I used to get in trouble for doodling during class in junior high. I found it easier to concentrate while adding pictures of the evil Mr. Boyd to the sides of my US History notes, ha ha ha. Even over 35 years later, I gotta doodle little stuff everywhere. Didn’t Michelanglo start that way? Mine aren’t as cool, but they get my point across!

  • Darlene Hanson

    I have always doodled as far back as I can remember and took it to higher levels with some artwork, then let it lapse. Then about 20 years ago I started quilting which required drawing out some designs. I never was one to stick to a pattern so it was the doodling that took it from my mind to the sewing machine. Recently I have taken up embroidery with a 6 needle machine and while it has been fun embroidering items it still left me wanting to do more artistically. Recently I got the idea to combine quilting and embroidery! I envisioned my first “Pirates Life” baby quilt in my head, scribbled it on paper, went looking for designs to match. I sewed together backgrounds (think islands surrounded by sea), then embroidered designs on them, put it together as a quilt top, quilted and bound it, then presented it to baby and the mom who absolutely loved their unique gift! I can hardly wait to scribble out the next design already percolating in my head…

  • Lou Hurst

    O my goodness when I saw your book I said this is what i need for more inspiration I’am not much of a doodler but I do get ideas in my head and then I do draw them so I won’t for get most of my ideas come at nignt or in the early morning while I am still in bed. I have been known to get up in the middle of the night to go write things down.I like to have garment that is different than every one else has. My most favorit TV show is Project Runway, I wonder some times why they don’t use more embroidery It makes garment more elegant.I would like to get your book even if I don’t win it. I would like to know where.

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