What materials do you use to draw with? You can use a wide variety such as graphite, acrylics, and watercolors. Also, thread can be used to complete your artwork. A single strand of thread on a piece of fabric becomes a bundle of strands, which becomes a fluffy and soft picture. Depending on the size and use, these drawings can be transformed into a coaster, rug, PopSocket, and other items with different designs. This SMT reporter got to experience the art of tufting, which is the process of creating a picture by embroidering threads with a special gun.
Welcome to the world of tufting
Tuft means a bunch of something that is attached, like grass. Tufting, derived from the word "tuft," is a textile craft that involves using a tufting machine to create multiple strands of threads on a fabric, and it ends up looking like grass planted firmly in the soil. It's a weaving technique that originated in northern Europe during the cold winters and was designed to fill the inside of gloves with fur. As technology advanced, machines called tufting guns were invented that could be used to embroider threads quickly onto fabric. Their name comes from the gunshot sound they make. This tufting process became popular in the carpet industry at the time, where it was used to create fluffy and durable carpets. This process also creates a cushioned and comfortable surface covered with lasso, as the threads come up on the opposite side from where they are being sewn. The durability and fluffiness of it has led to its use not only in carpets, but also in a variety of furniture pieces, such as wall clocks and sofas.
Tufting has become an art and design trend in recent years, with many artists, including well-known fiber artists and furniture designers, using tufting guns to create artworks. Much like painting on a canvas, the tufting technique allows artists to use threads to represent any desired color or material. In this regard, the design flexibility of tufting is now being used to create practical coasters, cushion covers, bags, phone cases, and more. It is becoming increasingly popular with people who want to creatively decorate their homes according to their own personal style and taste. Also, the sound of the tufting gun and the fast and dynamic movement of the thread seems to relieve people's stress. In recent years, tufting has been featured in various media, including social media platforms such as TikTok and YouTube, as well as TV programs and the drama, stimulating people's curiosity about tufting. For this reason, one-day classes for people who want to create their own props and relieve stress through tufting have sprung up.
Be precise to make it fluffy and soft
To experience tufting, the SMT reporter chose a one-day class at Sorosoro Tufting Workroom in Mangwon-dong. Among the one-day classes, which allow participants to make mini coasters, mini rugs, medium and large rugs, or rug mirrors, she chose to make a mini rug due to its practicality. Three days before the class, she had drawn a design for her mini rug on a black and white checkerboard background with leaves to add her favorite color, green, and sent it to the tutor. The tutor had then reconfigured the design to size and penciled it onto the base of the vertical machine. Before tufting, she practiced tracing the straight lines, circles, and curves her tutor had drawn on the base to get the hang of using the tufting gun. Getting the tufting gun, which weighs about 3kg, to move in the right direction was more challenging than she expected. Since the gun is activated with the push of a button, force control is crucial. For this reason, it's necessary to keep the gun and the base in close contact to ensure that the stitches are even in length and do not float. Carving the thread at a moderately fast speed is also a highly concentrated task, as slowing down to achieve uniformity can result in multiple stitches in the same place, causing kinks and bunching. Accordingly, she found it very difficult to create the perfect curve, as she had to change directions several times while controlling the force at the right speed. Once you're done with this exercise, you can choose a thread in the color of your design and embroider it from the inside out. The workroom offered a variety of tones and colors of thread, and she chose a light ivory color to define the leaf veins in the middle, so she threaded the tufting gun and got to work.
The leaf's veins were difficult to tuft because of their small area and detailed curves, but the tutor trimmed the front part with scissors to make it look more like a leaf vein. She embroidered the leaf in green, and then filled in the border of the checkerboard in black. The shape of the checkerboard is square, so she felt comfortable as she continued to stitch straight lines with the tufting gun, creating a dense layer of thread. It was difficult at first, but as she felt more at ease with the tufting gun, she could concentrate on making sure her stitches were even, which made her feel satisfied. It was also interesting to observe the movement of the threads in time with the rhythm of the tufting device, which felt like a gunshot. Even though there were some areas where the tufting was sloppy due to poor force control or slow speed, fortunately, since this was the back of the rug, the tutor kept trimming the excessive gathering of threads on the front with a clipper. To complete it, she evenly covered the back of the rug with latex and dried it. Then using the bond to glue the black non-woven fabric all over the back, the edges were finished with bias tape, and the rug was done.
Make each stitch with all my heart
The art of tufting requires a high level of concentration as it is important to make the threads tight. Also, endurance is necessary to withstand the weight of the heavy tufting gun. Although the process was challenging, the SMT reporter enjoyed the process of watching the needle move, concentrating, and listening to the sounds while tufting, as well as the sense of accomplishment of seeing the finished product. If you want to focus on something, or if you don't have a lot of dexterity but want to make your own cute accessories, tufting might be an interesting and new experience for you.