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Freestanding Machine Embroidery

Freestanding Machine Embroidery

These Popular Designs Offer Creative Opportunities to Embroiderers

Freestanding machine embroidery designs have been cleverly created to give lacy openwork patterns that do not require fabric and can be used in a variety of ways.

Freestanding machine embroidery patterns, (also known as freestanding lace) offer the machine embroiderer the opportunity to get especially creative. As well as providing beautiful lacy patterns and designs, which can be used to create luxury lace edgings or inserts, free-standing lace designs will work well if embroidered onto water-soluble stabilizer without fabric. When the designs are finished, the light lace pattern allows light to shine through the open work, making this a useful adornment for a variety of projects.

Freestanding machine embroidery patterns have been cleverly created so that the stitches overlock and hold together. This is extremely important as this ensures that when the lace design is worked on the water-soluble stabilizer, the stitching does not unravel.

The designs are stitched out in the hoop and then gently soaked in warm water until the water-soluble stabilizer dissolves and starts to disappear. This might entail a little gentle scrubbing to remove any residual stabilizer. The design should be laid flat to dry. If it curls slightly after drying, then it will benefit from lightly ironing (iron on the rear side and use steam if necessary).

Using Free Standing Embroidery Designs

There are many freestanding lace designs available, and these can be used to make doilies and coasters, lace tray covers and also large items such as tablecloths. Small motifs can be used for jewelry. Delicate lace designs can make a striking collar.

Freestanding lace can also be used for ‘in the hoop’ projects. An ‘in the hoop’ project is a project which is entirely stitches within the hoop of an embroidery machine. These often include little lace boxes, bowls, bookmarks and even purses. These are great projects for making something a little special and for exploring in more detail the opportunities that your embroidery machine brings.

Seasonal Decorations

Freestanding machine embroidery patterns can also be used to make interesting seasonal decorations. These include Valentine hearts, Easter bunnies and eggs, Halloween pumpkins and ghosts, and of course Christmas decorations. These patterns are stitched out in the hoop, and then when the water-soluble stabilizer has been removed, they are ready to hang and enjoy.

Where to Buy

There are many designs available. Some designers offer some free designs to allow you to try this technique before purchasing designs.

  • – Wide variety of designs including lace bowls
  • – Freestanding lace and crochet designs (including free crochet design and tutorial)
  • – Lots of designs including doilies

Have fun and experiment with freestanding lace. It brings a new dimension to your embroidery and allows plenty of scope for further creativity.

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Learn How to Dye Cross Stitch Fabrics

Learn How to Dye Cross Stitch Fabrics

Tips for Coloring Embroidery Canvases

You don’t need to buy specially colored fabric for your cross stitch and embroidery projects. Why not dye your own canvases?

Unless you live near a needlework shop, chances are you’re limited to only white cross stitch fabric. It’s not hard to dye your own cross stitch fabrics.

Of course, you can choose from the many commercial dyes on the market. However, it’s much more creative to color fabrics yourself.

Kool-Aid Dyeing

The 44 assorted Kool-Aid flavors offer a variety of colors. Or, if you can’t find just the right shade, mix colors. Just be sure to first experiment on a scrap piece of fabric. Blueberry Kool Aid is excellent for skies and water. It certainly beats stitching all that blue floss for a background. Simply soak the fabric in a solution of Kool Aid and warm water. Continue adding more Kool-Aid crystals until you have your desired shade. Besides Kool Aid, Crystal Lite works just as well.

Coloring Fabric with Tea or Coffee

If you don’t mind fabric eventually fading with years, then try dyeing with it with tea or coffee. For an older, more muted look, tea or coffee works well. Unfortunately, the acids in tea and coffee degrade after about three to four decades. If you wanted your work to last longer, the coffee-dyed fabric would last 75-100 years. While tea renders a grayish look, coffee is browner.

Tea dying

Using tea bags and hot water, tea dyeing stains fibers, giving it an antiqued or “dirty” tone to your fabric. Use this dyeing technique for your smaller projects as tea bags are used, and you don’t have that much coloring. What’s more, it gives an imperfect or uneven color. For larger projects, use commercial dye.

Because tea dye is semi-permanent, it won’t wash out easily, although it can usually come out with bleach. Tea dye only works on natural fibers, including cotton, silk, linen, and maybe wool. Polyester will not take color. Tea dye is reddish brown, so it’s not a good choice if you want a creamy look.

Tea dye is semi-permanent, meaning it won’t wash out quickly, although you can usually remove it with bleach. It may also fade in sunlight. However, it is not suggested for use on regularly washed items as detergents are designed to remove the tea stain.

Boil four cups of water per yard of fabric, adding two bags for each cup of water. After allowing the tea to sit for about five minutes, you’ll have a dark brown liquid. Then soak your fabric in the tea mixture and rinse under cool water if you want to remove much of the dark color. Continue to soak until you have the desired shade of brown. Keep in mind that your fabric will be lighter in color when thoroughly dry. Then dry your fabric in a clothes dryer (set on high) and tumble dry. Iron on a hot setting to set in the permanent color.

Coffee Dyeing

Coffee also works well. Just soak your fabric in a pot of coffee. Only be forewarned that you’ll be smelling coffee for a long time, whereas tea doesn’t leave a scent.

For a darker color, use unbrewed coffee beams, as well as darker beans. Again, to set in the permanent color, iron your fabric on a hot setting.

If you’re still afraid to dye your own fabric, you can always order just the right colored fabric online. However, you’ll miss out on the fun of experimenting and be doing it yourself.

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Encrusted Pendant Using Button As Cabochon

Encrusted Pendant Using Button As Cabochon

Create A Free-Style Stitched Pendant Using Encrusted Embroidery

An easy-peasy project that could be done in a weekend or two, using leftover beading materials from previous projects and a unique button from Grandma’s button box.

Who doesn’t need new or extra jewelry? Though there are a lot of choices from a brick-and-mortar or online store, nothing would be better than the work of your own hands. If you are a stitcher and a beader, then this project will give you much pleasure while creating it. It is very important that you have basic embroidery knowledge to pursue this project. Be aware that it is an addictive hobby.

For a start, take out your grandma’s button box and pick a piece that signifies your character and personality the most. The button will be the focal point of the pendant. Remember that this is a piece of jewelry that will tell about yourself. Next, gather all your leftover beads from previous projects, as they will be the main ingredients in making this elegant freestyle stitched pendant.

Materials Needed For The Pendant Only

  • a piece of a unique button – the bigger, the better, could be vintage, new or fancy
  • assorted sizes and colors of seed, bugle, and decorative beads (Refer to Photo 4)
  • beading needles – make sure to have extra on hand, at least four pieces
  • nymo thread – in coordinating colors
  • base fabric – could be cotton, silk, or better yet the fancy fabric
  • fabric stiffener – skirtex preferred, but timtex and buckram would also work well
  • tacky glue (optional)
  • basic hand-sewing supplies: needles, scissors & measuring tape (or foot rule)

General Stitching Instructions and Assembly

  1. Determine the shape of your pendant; it doesn’t matter whether you choose an asymmetrical shape, as long as the button cabochon will fit inside the shape.
  2. Once the shape is established, draw it on the skirtex then cut two identical shapes (one for front base fabric and one for backing fabric).
  3. Using the trimmed skirtex as a guide, cut two pieces of fabric with at least an inch seam allowance all around.
  4. Center skirtex on the wrong side of the front fabric. Fold-in the seam allowance then secure with tacky glue or by basting with coordinating thread. Do the same with the backing fabric.
  5. Position the button on the front base fabric anywhere you like. If the button you chose has a shank, trim the shank then attach it to the fabric using tacky glue. If the button has holes, attach it to the fabric by sewing.
  6. Cage the button with seed beads. Note: It is highly recommended to cage the button generously to make sure it will not detach nor move.
  7. Using coordinating nymo threads, fill the remaining part of the front base fabric with various beads using your favorite beading stitches, i.e., moss, seed, or lazy stitch. Note: Make sure no fabric is visible before attaching the backing fabric.
  8. Join the front base fabric and backing fabric by slip stitching or whipstitching. (Refer to Photo 3)
  9. Embellish the entire edge of the pendant generously with coordinating beads to hide the connection of front base fabric and backing fabric. (Refer to Photo 2)
  10. And lastly, attach a metal bail at the top part of the pendant – or better yet, use seed beads as bail.

String co-ordinating beads for the chain or simply use a store-bought metal chain that complements the design.

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Machine Embroidery Tips

Machine Embroidery Tips

Design Considerations, Stabilizer Choices, and Hooping Techniques

With the right hooping and stabilizing techniques and the right design choice for a particular fabric, even a novice can achieve professional embroidery results.

Although machine embroidery appears fairly straightforward – the machine does most of the work – it is important to realize that proper hooping and stabilizing, and proper design choice are necessary to achieve professional-looking results on any fabric.

Choosing the Right Design for the Fabric and Project

Many embroiderers forget that some designs work better than others on certain types of fabric. This can be particularly troublesome when doing custom embroidery for a client who has a specific idea in mind. Still, choosing an appropriate design for the fabric and application can make a huge difference in the quality of the finished project.

As a general rule, lighter-weight fabrics and fabrics that need to drape require lighter, more open designs to avoid drooping and puckering. Fabrics with a high nap, like thick towels, require more dense designs so that the stitches don’t get lost in the fabric. Sturdier fabrics and projects that don’t require the fabric to drape offer more flexibility about design choice.

Uses for Different Types of Stabilizer

The many varieties of stabilizer can be intimidating at first, but each has a purpose. Weaker fabrics require a sturdier stabilizer.

  • The lightweight water soluble stabilizer is used as a “topper” on fleece, terry, and other high-nap fabrics. The water-soluble topper helps the stitches sit easily on top of the nap and keeps individual threads and loops from poking through the embroidery.
  • The heavyweight water soluble stabilizer is used for freestanding lace, translucent fabrics (like organza), and projects where the back of the embroidery will also be visible. In these cases, it is essential that no stabilizer show at all.
  • Tearaway stabilizer is available in light, medium, and heavyweights. Tearaway also comes in wet and stick and peel and stick varieties. Woven fabrics with a light, open designs work well with tearaway stabilizer. Sticky stabilizers are good for very thick fabrics that are hard to hoop. When using a sticky stabilizer, it is important to clean the needle with alcohol if it starts to get sticky while sewing.
  • Cutaway stabilizer comes in light, medium, and heavy weights as well as fusible (iron-on) varieties. Cutaway stabilizers are good for knit fabrics like stretchy t-shirts, thin fabrics or fabrics with a loose weave, and for more dense designs on woven fabrics. Cutaway stabilizer is very sturdy and helps the design keep its shape even through repeated washing and use.

Proper Hooping Technique

Hooping the fabric properly may be one of the hardest skills for new embroiderers to master. Many embroiderers like to hoop sticky stabilizer and then adhere the fabric to the stabilizer without actually hooping the fabric. This is a shortcut and in some cases (very thick fabrics that can’t be hooped) it is necessary, but for the best results, fabric and stabilizer should be hooped together.

Even on low-end home embroidery machines, the needle may puncture the fabric ten times per second or more. This causes tremendous strain on the fabric and may lead to the fabric shifting or stretching during embroidery. When the stabilizer and fabric are hooped together, stretching and shifting are minimized and all stitches land where they are supposed to.

Ironically, thicker fabrics like bath towels and sweatshirts are the most difficult to hoop, but these same fabrics need to be hooped the most. When using a sticky stabilizer on very thick fabric, the bottom of the fabric will be held in place by the stabilizer, but the top of the fabric may still shift causing parts of the design not to line up properly.

For the best results on most fabrics, use a sticky stabilizer, a fusible stabilizer, or spray the stabilizer with temporary adhesive and attach to the fabric. Open the top hoop wide enough to accommodate the fabric and stabilizer together. Place the bottom hoop on a non-slip surface (rubber shelf liner is inexpensive and works well for this purpose). Place the fabric/stabilizer combo on top of the bottom hoop. Place the top hoop on top and slide the fabric as necessary to align the horizontal and vertical axes with the hoop. Firmly press the top hoop into place without stretching the fabric. Tighten the top hoop as much as possible. The fabric should be taut and sound like a drum when thumped. Never try to stretch or shift the fabric after it is hooped. If there are loose spots, remove the top hoop and start over.

For slippery fabrics like nylon, place small strips of rubber shelf liner or double-sided tape around the sides (not the corners) of the bottom hoop before hooping the fabric. This will keep the fabric from slipping during embroidery.

Choosing the Right Needle for the Fabric

Using the right needle is almost as important as using the right stabilizer. For most fabrics, a medium-sized (75/11 or 90/14) embroidery, universal, or sharp needle will work well. More delicate fabrics require a smaller needle. For stretchy fabrics, always use a ball-point needle to avoid runs in the fabric around the design. For specialty applications like leather and denim, use a special needle that is designed for that purpose. There are also special needles for thicker threads and metallic threads that will minimize thread breakage and shredding.

Embroidery is a wonderful way to personalize just about anything and can be a most rewarding hobby. Mastering techniques like proper hooping and stabilizing, knowing the characteristics of the specific fabric and making wise choices about designs, stabilizer, and needles can make the difference between a headache, heartbreak, and overwhelming pride.

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Embroidering on T-Shirts

Embroidering on T-Shirts

Considerations for Machine Embroidery on Jersey and Interlock Fabric

Machine embroidery is an excellent way to embellish and personalize t-shirts but the thin stretchy fabric requires extra care to achieve professional-looking results.

For adults and children around the world, t-shirts are a summertime wardrobe staple. Machine embroidery is a fun way to personalize plain shirts, but jersey and interlock fabric can be tricky to work with.

Choosing the Right Embroidery Design for T-shirts

Because t-shirts are usually light to medium weight and very stretchy, the design choice is essential. Look for light designs with lots of open areas and avoid stitch-filled designs and solid shapes. More dense designs and solid shapes will weigh down the fabric and cause it to droop instead of draping nicely. Stitch-filled designs also put more strain on the fabric and risk causing it to stretch or shift in the hoop. This could cause the finished design to be misaligned or the fabric around the design to pucker.

Fabric Preparation and Care

T-shirts, especially 100% cotton ones, are notorious for shrinking when washed. It is essential to launder the shirt once or twice before embroidering. The shirt should be washed and dried the same way it will be treated after embroidery to make sure that any shrinkage takes place before embroidery. As an extra precaution, the shirt can be hand-washed and hung to dry after embroidery, but this shouldn’t be necessary as long as it is properly prepped before stitching.

When adding applique to a t-shirt, it is important to make sure that the applique fabric has also been pre-washed and is sufficiently stabilized so that the applique doesn’t shrink separately from the rest of the shirt.

Stabilizing T-shirts for Embroidery

Many people like to use tearaway or water-soluble stabilizer on t-shirts so that no stabilizer will show through once the design is finished. Neither of these options provides enough support for the t-shirt fabric during or after stitching. For best results, light or medium weight cutaway stabilizer should be used, and the stabilizer should be adhered to the fabric before hooping.

Floriani makes a no-show fusible mesh stabilizer that works very well for t-shirts. The mesh is sturdy enough to support the fabric during and after embroidery but is very soft and is designed not to show through the fabric.

Once the shirt is embroidered, trim any excess stabilizer to within 1/4-1/2″ of the design. Do not attempt to remove the stabilizer from any open areas within the design.

If the back of the embroidery is “scratchy” or uncomfortable, cut a piece of fusible stabilizer slightly larger than the design and iron it over the wrong side of the stitches. After a few trips through the dryer, the backing will begin to peel away, but by that time, the stitches will have softened enough not to irritate sensitive skin.

Hooping T-shirts for Embroidery

Because t-shirts are naturally stretchy, it is important to make sure that they are hooped tightly but not stretched. Using a fusible (iron-on) stabilizer or attaching the stabilizer to the fabric with spray adhesive will make it much easier to hoop the shirt without stretching it.

It is important to hoop the shirt and stabilizer together instead of hooping sticky stabilizer and placing the shirt on top. When the needle is pounding away ten times per second or more, the fabric is very likely to stretch and shift. Hooping the fabric with the stabilizer minimizes this effect and produces a crisp, perfectly aligned design.

Never try to adjust a t-shirt after it is hooped as this will lead to stretching and skewing of the fabric. If the fabric needs to be tightened or repositioned, remove the hoop and start over.

Ball Point Needles for Embroidery

Ball Point Needles are made specifically for knit fabrics. They have a rounded tip which pushes the fibers aside rather than actually piercing the fibers. This is important with t-shirts because a sharp or universal needle can cause runs in the fabric around the design.

Embroidery Design Placement on T-shirts

Exact Placement will depend on the size of the shirt and the size and shape of the design, but the guidelines below are a starting point. It is a good idea to print a full-size image of the design and use that to determine placement. Be sure to mark horizontal and vertical axis points and the center of the design to line the fabric up properly in the hoop.

To embroider on the left chest of polo shirts or t-shirts without pockets, the design should be centered between the placket and the side seam or between the center of the shirt and the side seam. On adult shirts, the design should be 7-9″ down from the left shoulder seam, 5-7″ down on children’s shirts, and 3.5-4.5″ down on infant/toddler shirts.

To embroider on the left chest of a t-shirt or polo shirt with a pocket, the pattern should be centered on or above the pocket.

For designs on a shirt front, consider the size and shape of the design and the size of the shirt. Generally, the design must be centered between the left and right seams, and the top of the design should be 4-6″ from the collar on adult shirts, 3-4.5″ from the collar on children’s shirts, and 1.5-3″ from the collar on infant/toddler shirts.

For designs on a shirt back, the embroidery should be centered between the right and left side seams and about 5″ down from the collar on adult shirts, 3.5-5″ from the collar on children’s shirts, and 2-4″ from the collar on infant/toddler shirts.

Machine embroidery is an easy way to dress up and customize inexpensive t-shirts for children and adults. With proper care and consideration, home embroiderers can achieve professional-quality results every time.

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French Knot Embroidery

French Knot Embroidery

The French knot is used to make small raised dots. You will often see it in flowers in clusters for the center.

Add it to the running stitch we did last month, and you can enhance your work.


Materials Needed

From beneath, push the needle through in the exact spot you want the dot to be. Pull the thread through all the way. Take the needle in one hand the thread in the other. Wind the thread around the needle 5 times if using a single or double strand of floss, 4 times if using 3 or 4 strands and 3 times if using 5 or six strands of floss.

Holding the floss in place on the needle, push the needle through the approximate spot it came out of. From behind, pull needle and thread all the way through the fabric. That is it. You should have one dot remaining on the fabric. Make sure your thread isn’t too tight or too loose. Practice this stitch and practice it with the running stitch. Next month we will have a new stitch and a new project to accompany it.

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