{week 2} freehand machine embroidery

I’ve always been too scared to have a go at freehand (or freestyle) machine embroidery as I thought you needed fancy threads and a large degree of accuracy and precision that I just don’t possess. But ever since I got my lovely Bernina (Nina) I’ve been thinking about giving it a try and this thread sketching tutorial was enough to give me the kick I needed.

Before I show you what I did, I thought I’d share some inspiration I found on flickr:

1. End of Season Poppies cushion, detail, 2. 3 flower side, 3. ‘Eastbourne Promenade’ (Detail), 4. Bunting Cushion (C365: day 64), 5. fabric, print and stitch, 6. Roach, 7. Yellow Spinebill Blanket Cushion- detail 2009, 8. Leaves – stitched monoprint

If I can achieve an ounce of the gorgeousness demonstrated by these artists I’ll be happy!

I wanted to do something fairly simple for my first attempt so here’s my sketch:


I then drew the design on to some gorgeous screenprinted fabric by Lu Summers and got ready to sew.

Ready to sew

As I’ve got a darning foot and can drop the feed dogs I decided to be brave and use both facilities. According to the tutorial I used, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have them and you can just use your normal foot (sewing foot, not actual foot, it goes without saying that it’s best to use your normal, actual, attached-to-your-leg-foot when sewing).

Wibbly wonky lines
It’s a good job I’m aiming for a sketched effect!

And here’s the finished stichery!
Finished flower

Let me know what you think in the comments and share any of your own freehand machine embroidery. See you next week!


31 Responses to “{week 2} freehand machine embroidery”

  1. 1 Penny June 17, 2010 at 8:26 am

    If you do a little more research into machine embroidery, you will find that one uses a backing or interfacing. This gives the fabric support, so that it will lay flat…no wrinkling or puckering. There is permanent or tear-away, even wash out. Good luck in your pursuit!

  2. 3 kate June 17, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Oh i love this and might have to give it a go with my normal foot!

  3. 5 KirstyFish June 17, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    hey xxx i do this (not very well) and do use my standard foot. This looks great. I too, did it for ages with any sort of interface till i tried it by accident and realised why reading instructions is better than winging it but….. i still think trial and error are THE best ways to craft. I am going to use that as my book title….. so excited about this project chris x

  4. 7 Ana June 17, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    I really like that! It looks like a pencil sketch. Can you imagine a whole skirt or dress done with that? I have a couple of Boden tops which have an embroidered flowery scribble, so I think a whole garment would work well so long as the colours were kept simple.
    I would love to have a go at this, but I don’t know if my (1960s) Elna would cope!

  5. 9 rhi June 19, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    so, wait, is this a normal sewing machine, or an actualy embroidery machine?
    i love the sketchyness of it.

  6. 11 Gina June 22, 2010 at 6:05 am

    I’m so thrilled that you tried this, and thanks for letting me know. I love your flower! As noted above in a few of the comments, stabilizer is often used to help avoid puckers etc (especially on lightweight fabrics, the denser they are the less issue in puckering has been my experience.). Having said that I just wanted to write a tutorial using nothing but basic machine, thread and fabric, so that people didn’t think they HAD to have special equipment to do things.

  7. 13 Talia June 23, 2010 at 5:47 am

    I LOVE this style, but have always been too scared to try it!! I think I will give it a go now after seeing yours!

    What size stitch do you put your machine on to make it work?

  8. 16 two hippos June 23, 2010 at 9:05 am

    The flower looks great! I have never tried machine embroidery – like you I have always been a little scared. But your brilliant results make me want to try!

  9. 17 Barb June 23, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    WIth the feed dogs down, the length of the stitch is determined by how fast you move the fabric, not by any setting on the machine. The feed dogs aren’t moving the fabric if they’re down (or covered with a piece of thin cardboard if your dogs don’t drop).

    As for the stabilizer – you can use something as simple as a piece of paper – drawing paper, computer paper – spraybasted to the back of your fabric. Not perfect, but it works better than no stabilizer at all.

  10. 19 meplusmolly June 23, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Also a hoop to stretch the piece you are working on is good to use as well. I’m obviously really naughty as I never use interfacing! ;0

  11. 20 Melissa June 23, 2010 at 11:13 pm


    I just found your blog through whip up and your endeavour is fantastic!

    I look forward to seeing more.

  12. 21 Carolyn June 24, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Thanks so much for including my monoprint and stitched leaves in your mosaic :o)

  13. 22 thecrimsonmoon June 26, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    I love your finished flower! I’ve always been a bit scared of freehand machine embroidery but I’ll definitely be giving it a go next time I get the machine out ;)

    Your blog is such a great idea, I can’t wait to see what you try next!

  14. 23 wendy January 31, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    I disagree about the stabiliser – I’ve never used it. Just hoop up – put your fabric tightly in an embroidery hoop and it works like a dream. YOu should see Free and Easty Stitch Style by Penny Treffry for more advice on this technique – I recently tried it and love it.

  15. 25 creadientje April 17, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Thank you for your inspiration and links!!


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