Swirls of Colour - Spring 2021

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Tell me more about the course

These machine embroidery swirls all start with a paper collage as a background to stitch. I love stitching on paper, because it’s easy: it doesn’t pucker up and you don’t need to use a hoop. So the first thing we’re going to do is make a paper collage background.

The swirls and lines we will stitch will be organic – they'll grow and develop naturally once we stitch that first line, so don’t worry about having an idea in mind when you start. I have some easy design rules that I’ll go through with you, which will help you achieve an interesting design that is unique to you. 

I'll share with you the simple stitching techniques I use, and all the techniques build on those learnt in the previous lesson. I want to give you the tools and confidence to develop your designs in a loose, creative way. 

The course is suitable for beginners, and fun for those with more experience of machine embroidery who want to try something a bit different. It's also an excellent way to explore your sewing machine, and discover stitches that you may have never used before! I want everybody become more comfortable and confident using their sewing machine: while I often like to challenge those with more experience, that’s not the aim of this particular course.

You'll benefit hugely from being part of an active group, taking the course together. You'll be able to leave comments in each lesson, and join the (optional) closed Facebook group for feedback and to share your work and work-in-progress with me and the other participants.

Here are the Swirls from the autumn 2020 Swirls course, to give you an idea of what's possible!

What’s included

  • Immediate access to the first section of the course, so you can get set up ready to start, and meet your fellow classmates
  • Immediate access to the (optional) Facebook group, a more relaxed place to meet and chat with your classmates - a virtual coffee break room!
  • Personal feedback and support for 8 weeks
  • Access to all lessons and resources for six months
  • Nearly 40 bite-size lessons with clear instructions and video
  • Learn my four biggest design tips for creating wonderful work
  • Gain confidence in working in a spontaneous way - I'll guide you!
  • Learn how to incorporate paper in your work
  • Become confident using your sewing machine - including free motion embroidery
  • Learn how to stitch with thicker threads
  • Use up all those scraps and snippets of fabric from your stash
  • Get to go to town with beads, sequins and washers!
  • Create something you'll be proud enough of to frame 
  • Helpful handouts to download and keep 
  • Comment and receive feedback and guidance within the course
  • Private Facebook group for class community, sharing, discussion and feedback 
  • Gallery of completed works within the course
  • Your finished work featured in a gallery video on YouTube (like the one above!) at the end of the course

Course Contents

Helpful tips!
What you'll need
Tech issues
Preparing your background
Preparing your background fabric
Making your paper collage
Priming your paper collage
Painting your paper collage
Sealing your paper collage ready to stitch
Starting to stitch
If you're feeling anxious about starting...
Marking the first line
Stitching the first line
Cutting and stitching the first fabric strip
Continue adding strips


“I'm thoroughly enjoying Isobel's Swirls workshop. It's perfect for me as Isobel explains every step very clearly, I can work at my own pace and drop in at anytime.”

"This is the best online course I have done! So easy to follow and lots of information - Thank you Isobel"

"I am so enjoying this course Isobel. It is addictive, the more I do, the more I want to do. Thank you for your clear and concise instructions and videos. This is such an enjoyable course, I love every minute of it."

"Excellent class!"

"The videos were excellent - clear close-ups and you explained the process clearly as you were working, with lots of little tips and reminders"

"It was lovely having the lessons clearly set out, step by step"

"Loved the stitching on paper"

"Excellent - I wanted to feel more confident in using my machine for creative stitching and I've definitely achieved that"

"You allowed me to revisit my roots of machine and hand embroidery. I was excited to be stitching again. I will be doing more"

"The videos were bite size and very easy to follow"

"Your manner and approach is so friendly and inviting in the videos"

"Great fun"

"Thank you Isobel, I feel inspired to do much more"

"Doing the course in your own time was a good idea - rather than small sections of regular set daily times. It meant that I could think about the next step without rushing"

"The course organisation was excellent, and I'd definitely recommend it to others"

"I really liked the very prompt and constructive feedback from Isobel"

"I thought the course was excellent and so colourful! Isobel's teaching style is so easy to follow and the lessons were so clear and helpful. It was so nice to be able to work at my own pace too and to get my swirl finished rather than ending up with another 'ufo'. I learnt a lot of new 'tricks'. I would recommend this course to anyone. Thank you!"

"I would definitely be interested in more of your online courses in the future"

Frequently Asked Questions

How much is the course?


How long do I have access to the course?

You have full access to the course, with my feedback and support, for eight weeks. All the course materials will be available here from 12 April for just over six months, until the end of October. The Facebook group is open for the duration, but will be archived at the same time as the course: you will still be able to view posts - you just won’t be able to create new posts or comment.

I do strongly encourage you to aim to complete your swirl by the end of the first eight weeks - particularly if you would like my prompt support and feedback, but as I know that life can sometimes get in the way, the course material is available for six months in total.

Why can't I have access to the course indefinitely?

While the videos may be pre-recorded, I am at the end of an email and available throughout the course to advise and comment on your work for the first eight weeks. I check in several times a day, to reply to everyone's comments individually and promptly. I try my hardest to make sure nobody is left hanging waiting for a response. I'm sure you can understand, I can't keep this up indefinitely! I also know from experience that most people work better to a deadline - if you want to receive feedback from me and the other course participants, and have your Swirl featured in the class video, having a cut-off will help you finish the course and achieve your goal of a finished Swirl!

The course materials will be available for six months in total, so you will still have four months of access after the interactive element of the course has finished. This is ample time to make many, many swirls and find your own style using what you have learned.

What materials and equipment will I need?

You'll need a sewing machine! Make sure it's in good working order before you start the course - when was the last time you cleaned and oiled it? And start the project with a new needle if possible; I use Schmetz 90/14 topstitch needles.

For free motion embroidery, you’ll need a free motion embroidery or quilting foot, and the ability to lower or cover the feed teeth.

You'll need plain, strong and sturdy cotton calico or canvas, firm paper-like embroidery stabiliser (like Stitch'n'Tear), fusible adhesive (e.g. Bondaweb), papers (old book pages etc), a tiny amount of gesso (or white household emulsion paint), watercolour paints, acrylic wax or other sealer (like matte medium), a couple of brushes and a jam jar.

Then you'll need fabric scraps and strips, a few all-purpose machine threads, some machine embroidery thread, invisible thread, some thicker threads and yarns, embellishments and trimmings of your choice.

Because people will be taking this course in all parts of the world, I can't advise on where to find materials: you need to find your local or online supplier. Most of my fabrics are recycled cottons, and I can't resist buying sari silk ribbons! I buy my threads and sewing machine needles from a trusted online haberdashery retailer. For the paints, we can work with what you have already - even a child's watercolour paint set would be fine for this, or even watercolour pencils.

NB By calico I mean strong, plain cotton cloth, not loosely woven cloth - that's what I would call muslin! It needs to be FIRM to take the volume of stitching we're going to do.

I only have a basic sewing machine, with limited stitches - can I still do the course?

Yes! The essentials are straight stitch, and some sort of open pattern other than zigzag. The one I use most is a utility stitch for dressmaking/household sewing, not a decorative pattern. Most older machines will have something suitable.

Free motion embroidery is sort-of optional, although you will be missing out if you can't do any. You can work round it, but it will be awkward. 99% of machines will be able to do it: you'll need to be able to cover or drop the feed teeth, and preferably, have a free motion embroidery or darning or quilting foot or similar attachment to be able to stitch with ease.

If you can't drop the teeth, and/or haven't got a suitable foot, there are still ways that we can try and make it work!

If you've never tried any free motion with your machine before, come on in and give it a go, you won't regret it!

How much time will I need?

The course is based on an intensive one day workshop, but students do not finish completely in that time, and take a few more hours at home to add finishing touches.

I suggest taking a couple of hours at a time over the course of a week or so, but it's really up to you how you pace yourself. That's what people like best about learning this way - the course is there for you whenever it suits you and your schedule; you can fit it around all your other commitments.

Are the classes weekly or can I have instant access to all the lessons?

The first section is available immediately on enrolment, so you can gather your materials ready to start. The bulk of the lessons are then released when the course officially starts - Monday 12 April.

It is self-paced. Some people may race ahead, but there's no pressure to do that if it doesn't suit you - complete it when you have the time. You could finish the whole thing in a few days, but you don't have to.

If could be that you enrol now, and then get stuck in when you're ready, even if that's at the end of the summer. Not everyone can start right away, so there's no need to miss out if that's you. And while I'm on hand every day for the first eight weeks, after that I do keep an eye on things, so I can still assist if you come unstuck.

Just remember that the course material is only available for six months, so make sure you watch everything before the end and download any PDFs you want to keep.

What techniques will I learn?

You’ll learn how to use simple stitches to add curving lines of fabric, and investigate the different preset patterns available on your machine to build up areas of colour and texture and to couch thick threads and yarns.

I’ll show you how to set your machine for free motion embroidery, and how to use a thicker thread in the bobbin (cable stitch, or bobbin work).

You'll learn an easy way to transfer images or printed text to fabric, to make it ‘stitchable’. You'll learn how to stitch sequins using the sewing machine, and how to embellish your work with a little hand embroidery, beads, trimmings, and other bits and pieces from your stash!

We'll also discuss different ways you can finish your work for display.

Do I have to be able to draw?

No! The only drawing you will do is one line.

What's included in the course?

There are six sections, with six or seven mini lessons within each one. Most mini lessons have a short video, and a few have a PDF to print off.

You'll be able to comment and upload photos within the course, as well as take part in the discussion group on Facebook for feedback and camaraderie.

You also have access to my support and feedback for the first 8 weeks. I’m at the end of an email, I check in with the course several times a day, and also the Facebook group. You won’t be waiting long at all for me or another participant to be there to comment or advise, even if you’re in a different time zone!

And that’s the beauty of online courses - you can make friends with people all over the world and compare notes. Whether you’re an early bird, an owl, or an insomniac - there’s sure to be someone else up and about creating their Swirl too!

Can I share content, videos or PDFs from the lessons?

As I am sure that you will appreciate it takes a lot of time and energy to prepare and run online courses. Please do not share any of the content. All the information is for the sole use of the individual subscriber and not to be used in any form without written agreement from Isobel Moore. This includes direct teaching to others.

I am happy for you to share your completed work on social media so long as you tag/give me a mention, and don't share the details of the process if you post any work-in-progress.

I still have a question, how can I contact you?

I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have. Click on my name (at the top of this page) to email me. Or send me a message via my website

As part of the course you will be invited to join a closed group on Facebook, this is where you can share your work and ask questions - to me and other course members.

What if I'm unhappy with my purchase?

Once you have signed up, I am not able to give refunds. But if you're really unhappy with the course email me.

Please note: this course is intended for all abilities, including beginners. If you have a lot of machine embroidery experience, and you’re looking to learn more advanced techniques and be stretched, this may not be the course for you. However, you may enjoy it as a chance to try something different, to use materials you haven’t tried before, or just for fun!

Will you be offering the course again?

At the moment, I have no plans to - this is probably the last time to do this course. I want to explore new things.

This all sounds great. Where do I sign up?

As soon as the course is open for enrolments, there will be a big pink button here to click to sign up! In the meantime, make sure you're on my newsletter list to be notified as soon as the doors open. Sign up here:

A little bit more about me and the course

This was one of my first EVER videos, and I do look terrified! Since I filmed it, this past year of experience in delivering online courses, and all the positive feedback I’ve had from previous course participants, has given me the confidence to know that if you decide to sign up, you’re going to really enjoy it and make something wonderful. But if you’d like to know a little bit more, I hope this gives you an idea about what the course covers, my approach, and the materials needed. 

If you have any questions, please get in touch! You can email me by clicking on my name at the top and bottom of this page, or by sending me a message here

A little bit about me

I’m Isobel Moore, textile artist and teacher. I’ve taught hundreds of people in adult education, my own weekly classes, day workshops and residential courses over the last eleven years since I completed my own City & Guilds Diploma in Machine Embroidery.

My background is in plant science, and I care deeply about the natural world. My favourite materials are old papers, fabrics and beads, and I like to use as much recycled material as possible. As well as doing my small bit for the planet, I do like the faded colours and textures, as well as the serendipitous mix of colours from using what I can find or what I have already.

If you want to find out a bit more about me and my practice, have a look at my website where you can find all my social media links, and sign up for my newsletter.