What do I need to get
started at free machine embroidery?
- A zigzag sewing machine with a drop-feed control. (In other
words, you have to be able to lower the feed dogs so they don't try to
feed the fabric.) It's nice if you can vary the width of your
zigzag stitches too.
- An embroidery foot or needle with embroidery spring. An
embroidery foot helps by holding the fabric down against the
throat plate while nevertheless being minimal - it lets you see
what you're doing because it has very little surface area. You can
alternatively get a needle that has a kind of spring built into
it, and the spring holds the fabric in place. These can be nice in
that they're even more minimal than an embroidery foot, but
they're also relatively expensive and if it breaks you have to
replace the whole thing instead of using an ordinary cheap needle
with the special embroidery foot. If you use the needle with
spring, you don't use a presser foot while you embroider.
- An embroidery hoop. There are two primary kinds of embroidery
hoops on the market. The old-fashioned kind, usually made of wood,
has an outer ring and an innter ring. You loosen the outer ring,
separate the rings, place the fabric over the inner ring, place
the outer ring over the fabric, tighten the outer ring, and pull
the fabric tight in the hoop. With the modern type hoop, you
squeeze a pair of handles on the inner ring to remove it, place
the fabric over the outer ring, place the inner ring (still
squeezed) into place and release the handles. The more modern hoop
is faster and easier. The old-fashioned hoop provides better
tension on the fabric.
- Stabilizer. This helps prevent puckering and slipping while
you're embroidering. There are a variety of types out there. Some
are papery and are torn away from the embroidery when you're
done. Only use that on the back side of the embroidery,
as it's almost impossible to get it all off. Others are also
papery and also tear away but are dissolvable in cold water,
leaving only a few easy-to-remove fibers in the embroidery. Your
authors like this type of stabilizer. There is also a transparent
plastic-like stabilizer which dissolves completely in water. Your
authors have this but haven't tried it yet, but hear it's very
nice. It's expensive though.
- Fabric... of course. Make sure that your embroidery
hoop fits on the piece you're going to embroider on. If the
piece is to be small, you may want to embroider before cutting the
piece from the fabric.
- Thread. Contrary to popular belief, you can use ordinary
polyester all-purpose thread to embroider, but it can weaken the
fabric you're embroidering on. (If you do use polyester, you may
want to fuse some interfacing to the back of your embroidery when
you're done.) There is plenty of gorgeous 100% rayon embroidery
- Thread for the bobbin. This won't be seen on the surface, so
you can use anything you want. Trying to find a way to get rid of
that day-glo orange thread you can't remember why you bought?
Stick it in the bobbin when you embroider. Some embroiderers feel
that it's best to use a softer thread (like 100% cotton) in the
bobbin so as to reduce the possibility that the bobbin thread
will break the embroidery thread, but your authors haven't had a
problem with this to date.
How do I prepare the machine
and fabric for free machine embroidery?
Drop the feed dogs and set the stitch length at zero. (If you can't
set the stitch length at zero, don't panic, it's not that
important.) Install the fabric in the embroidery hoop (with any
stabilizer[s] you intend to use) so that the surface of the fabric
is at the *bottom* of the hoop. (Note that if you're used to
embroidering or cross stich by hand, this means you're putting the
fabric in the hoop backwards.) When you place the hoop on the
table such that the fabric surface rests on the table, the right
side of the fabric should face up. Install the embroidery foot or
special embroidery needle with spring on the sewing machine. If
you're using the special needle, remove the presser foot. Place
the embroidery hoop in the sewing area. (Some machines can't lift
the presser foot enough to admit some hoops - you may have to
remove the presser foot temporarily, position the hoop, and then
re-install the presser foot if you're using one.) Set the sewing
machine for a straight stitch. Reduce the upper tension until
stitches interlock below the fabric instead of above or inside it.
How do I lock the thread at
the beginning and end of my embroidery so it doesn't begin to
Make several stitches in place to lock the thread.