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How to Machine-Embroider Lace Napkin Rings

Choose embroidery thread that coordinates or contrasts with your napkins to stitch these fancy rings.
Elegant lace napkin rings can grace your dinner table through the holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving.

Lace napkin rings are quick to sew and are an easy way to add elegance to your table setting without a major overhaul. Simply import the design into your embroidery machine and push a button. You don’t have to baby-sit the machine because these snowflakes stitch out in one color on a double layer of wash-away stabilizer.


  • Freestanding lace embroidery design (Consider the snowflake design from Criswell Embroidery & Design)
  • Wash-away stabilizer such as Aqua Mesh from OESD
  • Embroidery thread of your choice
  • Metallica needle size 12
  • Hand-sewing needle
  • Embroidery machine and the smallest hoop in which the design will fit
  • Embroidery software if you own it. Designs can be customized easily on the computer and then transferred to the machine

Choose and Prepare a Design

There is one challenge when you are embroidering freestanding lace—that’s finding a design that’s truly freestanding. If you get your designs from a company that has a reputation for digitizing good-quality, freestanding lace designs, it’s easy. I think one of the best is Criswell Embroidery & Design. Their K-Lace designs always hold together after the stabilizer is washed away. The snowflake design I used for my napkin rings was a free download.

If you find a lace design elsewhere, be sure that it’s labelled as a freestanding lace design. Even if it looks substantial, it may fall apart when you rinse away the stabilizer. Freestanding lace designs are specially digitized to include stitches that support the design, even without backing fabric.

I purchased a beautiful mesh lace edging design that looked like a great option for freestanding lace, but it was intended to be embroidered on fabric. Unfortunately, it fell apart when I soaked out the stabilizer.

The lace edging design shown here has spaces between the stitching. They are a telltale sign that the design may not hold up when the stabilizer is removed.
Sure enough, here it is after the stabilizer has soaked away. This type of design would work on a sheer background, however, to give the effect of freestanding lace.

If you fall in love with a lace design that is not intended for freestanding lace, you can  embroider on netting or organza. These fabrics can be trimmed away easily to give the appearance of freestanding lace.

To make these napkin rings, I put together a few snowflakes to make a row that I could form into a ring. I imported the snowflake design into my embroidery software—you can also arrange individual motifs into a row on the screen of your embroidery machine.

One benefit of using embroidery software is that you can zoom in and look at the stitching up close.

Then I used the copy/paste features to link together the individual snowflakes to create a long enough rectangle to form a napkin ring. I ended up linking three snowflakes together. If you are using a different design or would like to find a rectangle ready to go, it should be 7 inches to 7 1/2 inches long.

Be sure to overlap the design enough so that the repeats hold together.

Embroider the design

1. Thread the machine and wind a bobbin with the same embroidery thread.

Use a size 12 metallica needle.

2. Hoop two layers of wash-away stabilizer such as Aqua Mesh.

Position the hoop on your machine. I was able to fit two napkin rings side by side in the hoop. Embroider the designs.

Here are the snowflakes stitched out in the hoop.

3. Neatly trim away the stabilizer.

Cut away as much stabilizer as possible around the edges of the embroidery without snipping the stitches.

Before trimming, the stitches appear tight—a good sign.


4. Fill a large bowl with room temperature water.

Soak the trimmed embroideries in the bowl. (Note: Avoid using hot water to quickly dissolve the stabilizer, as it can shrink the thread and distort the design.)

Let the embroidery soak for about 15 minutes. Any residue left on the surface will feel slippery. If you can feel the residue, gently agitate the design and let it soak for another 5 minutes.

5. Remove the embroideries from the water.

Allow them to dry on a clean, dry towel.

Don’t use a dark-colored towel. Lint from the towel can get stuck to the embroidery thread, making them look messy.

6. When the thread is almost dry, press the embroideries with a hot iron.

Be sure to use a press cloth.

7. Pin the ends of the snowflakes together to form a ring.

Hand-stitch the ends together using a short piece of embroidery thread to form a ring.

Go to “How to Make Cocktail and Dinner Napkins” for a step-by-step guide to sewing cloth napkins with mitered corners.

This post by Jennifer Stern was originally published in November 2008 on Craftstylish.com.


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