Posts Tagged ‘UT Lab’

The Mendhika Chair – Going Big and Bold with Embroidery

I’m very excited today that I get to share with you our latest project from The Laba UT initiative to experiment, collaborate and innovate to see just what can be done with the art of embroidery. These projects are usually collaborative adventures we take to see what crazy thing we can do with embroidery next.

If you follow our facebook or twitter, you’ll have seen that we were very honored to have this featured on Design*Sponge yesterday as part of their before and after series, and already gotten a peek at the project.  Today we’re here to talk about all the fun details and techniques that went into this bold and beautiful piece of furniture, and to share our leap into the world of embroidered furniture.

This project was extra special because it was our first dive into the furniture and upholstery world. We’ve done art, clothing, and fashion, but never this. I had seen beautiful fabrics that brought pieces to life, and even furniture reupholstered using found needlework… but how cool would it be to custom embroider a chair using special designs? Very cool. We thought at least.

For that we needed a little help, so for this Lab project Urban Threads teamed up with local upholsterer Jessica from Nouvelle Vie Furniture. Jessica worked with us to help us along with the one thing we pretty much knew nothing about: upholstering. Embroidery, we got it covered. Upholstery? Not so much. That’s why collaborations are so great!

So, after scouring our local Craigslist, we found this big ol’ medieval throne…

Not bad bones on it, and beautiful woodwork, but it needed an update and a little bit of love. We wanted to take this dark and broody chair and completely reinvent it into something modern and bright. So Jessica got to stripping, stuffing and painting, and we got to work on the embroidery.

With our new Mendhika collection, we knew we had the chance with these designs to do something extra special on our big industrial machines. You see, this chair is pretty big. Like throne big, and if you used just regular thread and our 10 inch size designs, you wouldn’t cover a lot of real estate or make as much of an impact. Luckily, these designs were both light enough and ornate enough to pull of a neat little trick using special thread called Burmilana.

Burmilana is a very thick, almost yarn-like thread that offers beautiful raised textured effects that give the embroidery a wonderful, old world folk feel.

The catch is that Burmilana is so thick it usually has to be used with specially digitized designs to keep the density low. Luckily, by enlarging these designs to take up more room on the chair, it reduced the density enough to use this special thread to wonderful effect. We didn’t need to do anything to the design at all!

If we had enlarged it and stitched it with regular thread, the designs would have looked far too light and thin, but with this beautiful thread, it came out perfectly. OK, so it’s still a bit of a pain to work with. You would not believe the amount of fuzz this stuff produces while stitching! But it worked its magic in the end, so the beautiful Mendhika designs could flow thick and true over a large expanse of the chair. I spent about 7 hours embroidering all the pieces for the chair (there are 6 designs in all), and then handed it back off to Jessica, who carefully upholstered it onto the newly painted chair.

The result is our darkly and slightly worse for wear chair has brightened up into the new bold and modern piece. It keeps the old world bones of the ornately carved wood and the thick beautiful embroidery, but mixes it with bright and modern colors and contemporary embroidery techniques. It’s a throne fit for both worlds and one that I think was a very successful experiment combining large scale embroidery with the world of upholstery. Machine embroidery can be pretty darn neat!

Many many thanks to Jessica for her amazing work on this chair and her fantastic sense of style. She took extra time to make sure all the designs were laid out right and everything came out smooth and beautiful. Also many thanks to my friend and amazing photographer Patrick Kelley for the lovely after shots of the chair that he pulled together in a single afternoon.

Want to give your own piece of furniture a shot? You can grab the Mendhika designs right here. Unless you have a giant hoop and the ability to enlarge designs, I would probably leave the Burmilana thread by the wayside, but these designs still have more than enough punch to bring any piece to life. Don’t be afraid to experiment and think out of the box when you’re trying to decide what to put these on. A chair can be as much a canvas for your stitches as a wall hanging could be.  Stitch something different, ON something different, and see what kind of impact you can make!


This project is part of The Lab, a UT initiative to experiment, collaborate and innovate to see just what can be done with the art of embroidery.
Check out our other projects by searching for the UT Lab tag.

Before & After Design*Sponge Feature

We’re so excited to share our latest Lab collaboration as an exclusive Before & After on one of our favorite blogs, Design*Sponge! For this project, we worked with local upholsterer Jessica of Nouvelle Vie Furniture to create this one of a kind embroidered chair using designs from our Mendhika series.

We used all kinds of special tricks on this one, which you can read a little about on the before and after. We’ll be sharing a full report on the project tomorrow, including how we made those giant versions of the designs! In the meantime, enjoy the post on Design*Sponge here, and raise a little glass in celebration for us.


The Baroque Punk Blazer – The Beauty of Stitches

Today we’ve got another very exciting collaboration project I’ve just been dying to share with you. We had great fun on our last collaboration, the Clockwork Natura Gown, and we wanted to keep pushing ourselves. This time, I wanted to not only see not only how machine embroidery could be applied to traditional fashion, but also to experiment with just what machine embroidery does best: stitch dimension.

So often we rely on design’s bold colors and outlining to define themselves, but real embroidery can do much more than that. Stitches alone offer a sculptural quality that when utilized, can bring a design to life just through their directions and fills. When looking back at embroidery through the ages, I was particularly inspired by the ornate qualities of the Baroque period. I thought it the perfect example of a “tapestry” of stitches and depth.

The test then, is to remove everything but stitch direction, and pull out a design that offers something only this kind of embroidery can… a deep and wonderful texture all of its own.

The Baroque Punk series is all about juxtapositions. The designs themselves are in a classic, ornate style, reflective of embroideries of old. The art itself, though, offers a twist on the theme, as they are heavily inspired by the alternate stylings of classic tattoos: sparrows, skulls, roses, and pistols. The jacket itself had to be a mix of these contradictions.

To pull such a thing to life, Urban Threads teamed up with Minneapolis designer Laura Fulk, whose highly acclaimed apparel has won multiple national awards and walked countless midwest catwalks. Laura wove together a beautifully tailored and modern jacket, juxtaposed with the raw edges of patchworked and hand-dyed fabrics. The embroidery itself was layered on top of the appliqued pieces, creating a rich tapestry and raw texture on top of a sharply tailored outfit.

The result, we think, is pretty awesome mix of styles.

The detail of the embroidery relies only on stitch direction and stitch type. Flat fills are mostly overlaid with thick satins, a stitch that offers beautiful dimension and depth in the light. Each design was crafted so it would both let the design be read clearly and catch the light from different angles.

The Baroque Punk  series comes in a variety of sizes, so even those with small hoops can recreate this larger tapestry effect by laying out these designs in one seamless piece. Place designs next to each other, and mirror others, to create a full collage of beautifully stitched designs. It doesn’t take a giant hoop to create a grand effect.

Most of all, the aim of this project is to get people to reevaluate what they think machine embroidery can do. If you play to it’s strengths and combine it with some seriously sweet design skill, it can really shine, and I hope to see it on more projects like this.

Given all that, one must give some mad props to the team of talent was pulled together to bring this project to life. None of this of course would have had such a gorgeous tapestry to live on if it weren’t for the stylings and skill of fashion designer Laura Fulk, who designed, dyed and stitched this whole jacket together in an amazingly short amount of time. The images were shot by photographer Burt Edwards, with model Lucie Mulligan rocking the look. Rockstar stylist Sara Capers, who made me look awesome for our last shoot, showed just what she can do to turn an updo into a mowhawk. We were all suitably impressed.

In all, this collaboration was a blast. I just love how the embroidery looks on this jacket, and it’s given me all kinds of ideas on where it can go next. From the machine to the catwalk and beyond, I hope.

Want to see just what you can do with the designs? Grab them all right here!

P.S.  Curious about the project? Stay tuned; on Monday we’ll have an exclusive behind the scenes post on the making of this gorgeous jacket.


This project is part of The Lab, a UT initiative to experiment, collaborate and innovate to see just what can be done with the art of embroidery.
Check out our other projects by searching for the UT Lab tag.

The Clockwork Natura Gown – Embroidery & Handmade Fashion

I just want to say, there’s a full in-depth feature on this dress, with behind the scenes shots and a cool giveaway over on Burdastyle today! But if you’d like a peek, I’ll give you a little scoop on the project…

I’m hoping you’ll agree, Urban Threads is working hard to try and change the usual offering of what machine embroidery can be, away from the usual teddy bears and traditional trappings. We love testing new ideas, and with this project, I wanted to see if we can change not just what machine embroidery is, but how machine embroidery is used.

We tried it a little bit with our upcycled Steampunk Coat, but this time, we wanted to go bigger and  design from concept to completion. Our goal: to make embroidery designed for one-of-a-kind fashion.

For this challenge, Urban Threads teamed up with the Victorian stylings of KMKDesigns, a local mother-daughter wonder team with a flair for the dark and dramatic, and who like us, are big fans a lot of steam and a little bit of punk. Together, we created a one-of-a-kind gown meant to show machine embroidery off of potholders and tea towels … and onto something else entirely.

FairShadow Photography    

FairShadow Photography    

FairShadow Photography   

Stitched on the gown are five pieces of the new Steampunk Natura series (see the whole series on SALE here), designed in conjunction with the dress, and created with this challenge in mind.

It was a great way to design from the ground up, with two goals … make something that works for everyday embroidery, and make something that works for fashion design. Essentially, finding shapes that complement form, while still working with sizes and designs made for any kind of embroidery project.

FairShadow Photography   

Don’t get me wrong, we still want to be able to stitch our quilt, bags and tea towels. It’s just, should the inspiration strike, we want to be able to make steampunk gowns and couture clothing as well. Sort of like having your cake and eating it too. Only this involved less calories and more corsets.

FairShadow Photography   

FairShadow Photography   

FairShadow Photography   

FairShadow Photography   

FairShadow Photography   

And boy, do I love it.

Getting all embroidered, sewn, dressed up, dolled up, and photographed was a monumental effort taken on by a dream team of collaborators all working towards bringing you the results of this project. Did I do this all on my own? Hellz no. We need a shoutout here.

I was lucky enough to nab the amazing Etsy sellers and dress design team of KMKDesigns, who worked with me from the very beginning to design something just for Urban Threads. Their skill and speed of creating dresses like this astounded me. From all the ideas they brought to the table, to the skill of their costume creations, I feel so freaking lucky to have these ladies in Minnesota.

I think you’ll also agree with me that though I’m not entirely camera shy, I certainly don’t usually look like this everyday. The exquisite hair and makeup talents of Sara Capers Style was really the only thing that gave me the courage to try out a full on photoshoot (usually I just set my camera on a timer and hide in a studio!) and boy, do I wish I could pull off this look every day.

Finally, none of much of this would matter without the amazing shots from FairShadow Photography, who brought this whole project to life and showcased the dress and the embroidery to perfection. Without her skills, well, let’s just say talking about it wouldn’t hold nearly as much interest.

We could not have done it without everyone pitching in an amazing effort, and there was a lot of fun to be had working with a team like this. Believe me when I say, a lot went in to this dress.

Want to know just how much?

We’ve got exclusive details, dress photos, and behind-the-scenes images on the making of, all in a feature on BurdaStyle!

Not only that, but they’re offering a chance to WIN a $50 Urban Threads gift certificate to start creating your own fashion masterpiece. Just check out the post and leave a comment there to enter!

And of course, when all this is said and done, it all comes down to getting your hands on some embroidery designs, doesn’t it? Want to grab the whole 9 piece Steampunk Natura set? There’s even more designs than what’s featured on the dress.


This project is part of The Lab, a UT initiative to experiment, collaborate and innovate to see just what can be done with the art of embroidery.
Check out our other projects by searching for the UT Lab tag.



The Steampunk Coat

I’m so excited to finally be able to share with you my super-secret steampunk project! If you follow us on facebook or twitter, you got a sneak peek at this coat last week, and here it is in all its gear covered glory…

The project idea for this was to take our designs and see how well we could incorporate them into a full fashion jacket, and somehow (not surprisingly) that turned into a full-on heavy stitched steampunk project!

The coat itself is handmade, though not by me. I actually picked it up at a clothing swap, so I’m afraid to say I don’t know who made it. Should someone spot their masterpiece do let me know, they did a fabulous job.

Everything from planning the designs to get everything to work well with the make of the coat, to figuring out which designs, where, and what colors took a a few hours of fiddling with templates. Then it was another full 8 hours of industrial machine stitching and a lot of praying that nothing would go wrong. Thankfully, it didn’t, which is kind of a miracle, because I’m known for stitching things to themselves at key moments.

The designs on the coat itself are as follows… I used the Clockwork Magic Keys border 8 times around the bottom hem, and an Airship Captain badge on the flap of each pocket with our large Clockwork Magic Raven on the back. Around the cuffs of the jacket are our Clockwork Romance roses & watch parts, hanging from a “pocket” is our Clockwork Magic Pocket Watch, and finally the Key To My Heart on the left breast. I stuck with the minimal color scheme of off-white and metallic copper, and I couldn’t be happier with how it all came together.

I topped it off with some new copper buttons, my trusty old top hat, and some steampunk-y accessories. I’m going to be marching around in it like a proper nerd at our local geek-fest Convergence this upcoming weekend, which this year happens to be steampunk themed! Here’s hoping I can open up some peoples eyes as to what machine embroidery can do.

If you’re in town, and as big a geek as I am, come say hi!

And trust me, this is just a peek of all the awesome steampunk stuff to come this week! Stay tuned…


This project is part of The Lab, a UT initiative to experiment, collaborate and innovate to see just what can be done with the art of embroidery.
Check out our other projects by searching for the UT Lab tag.