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Conversational Threads

Embroidering on velvet

JeanetteR | Posted in General Discussion on

My latest problem is very similar to that posted in the discussion ‘free motion embroidery’., with the complication of velvet

My daughter is marrying in less than 3 months, and wants Celtic, or Rivendell meets Art Nouveau or a sort of fusion between these designs, on her dark red velvet medieval design dress, in silver, just on the elongated points of the sleeves and around the neckline, and back waist points, in an interlaced chain stitch.  The peices should be ready to embroider within a week or so, but I’m getting a bit panicky (haven’t made the pattern for my mother of the bride outfit yet!)

Can anyone help with ideas of how to transfer the design from a doodle on paper so that I can hand embroider from the front, without crushing the pile – this rules out freezer paper! 


  1. SEWWRITER | | #1

    Here's one way: draw your design onto tear-away stabilizer.  Stack as many sheets of blank tear-away beneath it as you have need for.  In other words, if you need the same design in four places, draw it once and stack three more blank sheets beneath it.  Staple the sheets together.  Unthread your sewing machine and install a large (size 90 or 100) needle.  Set up your machine for free-motion stitching and stitch on the design lines.  Here's the good news: unlike doing free-motion embroidery, there's no need to be concerned about stitch quality, so take your time.  Unstaple the layers.  Now you have needle-punched design lines on tear-away.

    Pin or baste the tear-away in place on the velvet.  Install a size 80 needle in your machine and thread it for a color that matches the hand-embroidery thread.  Now, free-motion over the needle-punched lines.  Since you'll be covering the stitching line with hand embroidery you also won't be concerned with stitch quality, so take your time.  Remove the tear-away.  Voila! Your design is basted on the velvet and you can hand-stitch at your leisure.

    Note: some of today's "smart" machines won't sew without thread.  If so, you have to figure out where the sensor is. First, try slipping a piece of paper into the tension discs.  If that doesn't do it, consult your machine dealer.

    By the way, needle-punched templates can be turned over for mirror-images, or cut and pasted for elongating or reducing.

    -Stephanie Corina Goddard-                                                                              Member, Professional Association of Custom Clothiers (PACC)

    Edited 4/27/2003 8:36:55 AM ET by SEWWRITER

    1. User avater
      ehBeth | | #2

      SEWWRITER - this wasn't my question, and it's not something I'm working on now but ... I just had to let you know that was a great answer - clear and understandable - and you've made something I  wouldn't have even considered trying a possibility. Thank you for expanding my options!

      1. SEWWRITER | | #3

        Thank you so much for the compliment!  If you're a Threads subscriber, you'll be able to "expand your options" even further.  In an upcoming fall issue, I'll be showing you yet another application for needle-punched tear-away templates, focusing on an entirely different type of decorative work.  I love challenges!

        1. User avater
          ehBeth | | #4

          I'm not a subscriber as S/H charges make it too expensive here. I buy occasional issues as they appear to have articles of interest (far too many some years!). I will definitely look for your article.

          1. JeanetteR | | #5

            Dear Stephanie,

            Thank you indeed for these fantastic instructions, I feel that I've hit the jackpot with such professional and clear advice!  I'd had visions of laying a sticky thread and embroidering just ahead of its removal or something!

            Please excuse me if I'm asking the obvious, but other than darning I've never done free-motion before; will the velvet need to be in a hoop to stitch?  My machine can't lower its feed dogs (it was the top of the line Elna 21 years ago, the SU), so can I free-motion with it?  and will this mark  the velvet?  No problem about stitching without thread!

            This is fantastic about making multiple copies, and especially about mirror images, and elongating, all of which will be very useful advice for me in this project.

             Yes I have subscribed to Threads for a couple of years now, and before that did swaps with a friend, the ideas are endlessly fascinating.  Can't wait to try those slippers from a couple of issues back.  It is about 2/3 of the newsagent price to subscribe here from Australia with the 3 year option. 

            Now if I could just get some help to make my pattern for the shalwar kameez-type trouser suit for the wedding (size about 22-24!!!).......and fixing the wedding present quilt error, and just wave a magic wand for me for another couple of months!!

          2. SEWWRITER | | #6

            Jeannette, so glad you're finding the information helpful.  If your machine doesn't have feed dogs that drop, then it probably came with a cover that snaps on over the feed dogs.  If you still have the manual, see what they suggest you do for "darning".  If you don't have a cover, then try taping a piece of cardboard over the feed dogs with a small hole punched out for the needle to pass through.

            Do not hoop the velvet!  You'd crush the pile.  Remember, you're just laying down a thread-tracing line for reference.  Keep it simple. Stitch quality isn't an issue.  Even if you get a pucker in the machine stitching line, you can just snip the threads to release it.

            As for the salwar kameez dilemma, here are some thoughts: Design your own! Use a tried and true pull over top pattern and lengthen it.  Add a tried and true narrow pants pattern to it.  A V-neck, or the latest thing -- the surplice wrap look -- would help narrow the silhouette.  For the very large busted, a faux surplice is much more practical than one that opens and wraps.  If I can get a surplice garment over my head when closed, I usually nail it down!


          3. JeanetteR | | #7


            Thanks for more advice...my machine does have a little snap cover that's supposed  to be for darning, but the last time I tried to use it to sew upside down with a really thick thread (DMC 5) hand wound on to the bobbin it just wouldn't behave at all, but will try again.

            It's a good point about just snipping the threads if it puckers.  I'll have a practise tomorrow and let you know how I get on.  Thanks for the ideas as well for my pattern, but I've never managed to make a pair of trousers that really fit, with a long 'seat' and large derriere but could take a pattern off some that do, and the tunic should be adaptable too...I cannot quite picture the the surplice wrap look, and have not seen pictures of such.  The trousers I'm thinking of are poly/rayon, would this fabric behave similarly as the silk linen (with lining), or would it need to be cut differently?

            Well, it's off to bed as it's 10.55 pm here!  Jeanette

          4. SEWWRITER | | #8

            Have a look at McCalls 4007.  I just picked it up yesterday and haven't had a chance to play with it.  The neckline is rather high, but I think you could probably sewn down the lower portion of the wrap and still be able to pull it over your head.  Then, add some snaps to keep the top closed.  It's a Palmer-Pletsch pattern with special fitting features, by the way.


          5. carolfresia | | #9

            Stephanie, thanks for posting your answer...and readers, I think you'll be delighted with Stephanie's upcoming article, which contains this sort of technique in a different application, and some very handsome samples.

            For Salwar Kameez ideas, have you checked out http://www.eshakti.com? I ordered a couple of saris from them and was very happy with what I received. Even if you don't order from them, they do offer a lot of silhouettes to consider. Another place to discuss Salwar Kameez outfits is on http://www.patternreview.com, where one poster (Mini is her name) has experimented with the genre quite a lot. I think you'd need to search by her name to find photos and comments about some of her work. Have fun. I've been thinking of the same idea for an upcoming summer wedding I have to attend. I figured pants would be practical while I'm chasing my very busy 3-year-old around!


          6. JeanetteR | | #10

            Dear Carolfresia,

            Thank you for these lovely links to ready-made clothing, they are so beautiful, and I notice you can customise them (long sleeves, etc)...it tempts me to just order one to have in reserve in case the 'design' doesn't get made.  I just spent a good 20 minutes looking, and enlarging the pictures.  It would really take the heat off, if I knew there was a lovely outfit ready hanging in the wardrobe, just in case!

            I'd searched on google, for shalwar kameez but not found sites as good as these, thank you, thank you!  Jeanette

            PS thank you too for the link to the pattern reviews, this needs much more time to explore, and I've bookmarked both sites.

            Edited 4/28/2003 7:55:11 PM ET by Jeanette

          7. carolfresia | | #12

            What I can't get over is the reasonable prices for the clothes on Eshakti (not all, but many). They're so tempting--I love the colors and patterns and free-flowing shapes.


          8. JeanetteR | | #13

            Dear Stephanie,

            At last I had time to try out the embroidery using your method and it worked like a dream!  It's looking really nice too, but taking longer than I thought (doesn't it always!), one sleeve nearly finished.

            Sorry for the delay in writing, my 3 y/o twins have been sick (incessantly) and DH away in Canada another ten days.  Short on sleep, mountains of washing!   Jeanette

          9. SEWWRITER | | #14

            I'm so pleased to know it's working for you.  Best of luck on the dress and the wedding!


          10. User avater
            ehBeth | | #11

            Jeanette - thanks for this great question - SewWriter and Carol - your responses have been great. I've just sent a link from Eshakti to a friend. We'd been talking about dressing in this style for another mutual friend's wedding (if it ever happens!).

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