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Free Motion Embroidery

ablakemo | Posted in Patterns on

In search of information. I am working on a dress which I would like to embroider a celtic pattern around a neck line and a belt. My sewing machine is a quality machine, but doesn’t have the high tech computerized embroidery. I am considering trying to do “free motion embroidery” with my machine rather than do it all by hand. I’m afraid it will take forever to do it by hand–especially since my experience with hand embroidery is mostly cross stitch. My question is, can you get a uniform looking design with free motion embroidery? (as you can tell–I haven’t tried it yet) Most samples I’ve seen of it are very fluid/organic type designs.

Any suggestions/reccommendations would be helpful and appreciated.


  1. Tish | | #1

    Hi, Aim!  I did some free-motion embroidery with my mother's machine years ago, and it takes a steady hand to get it to look even.  I had to stretch the fabric in an embroidery hoop (upside down) and re-do frequently for larger patterns.  I hope some one with more experience than I can be more helpful.

    Are you planning on doing knotwork?  I would take the time to practice hand chain stitch embroidery.  It goes pretty quickly, and for a long line of knotwork around a neck, two or three rows of chains would be very effective.

    1. ablakemo | | #2

      Thanks for the info!! I am not familiar with knotwork. I will have to look it up, I just got an embroidery book from the library. (I learn mostly from books--the only place I am aware of in my area for classes is my college I graduated from and the fashion classes are VERY expensive)

      Thanks for the suggestion! Any help from anyone is GREATLY APPRECIATED!

      1. Tish | | #3

        Aim, knotwork is the word used to describe the traditional keltic patterns in which the design elements are intricately intertwined, like these:


        I've done knotwork fabric painting with stencils I cut, so my designs were simpler than the ones on the website above.  Since knotwork lends itself nicely to continuous borders I wondered if that was what you were doing.

        If you look at the lower half of this page:


        you'll see that a knotted border can be as simple as two twisted strands.  The border designs on this page woudl be very simple to do in chain stitch.  But they might be pretty simple using the zig-zag stitch on the machine, set for a satin-stitch density.  You've got lots of possibilities.

        1. ablakemo | | #4

          Yes! That's exactly what I am going to attempt doing. It's a knotwork pattern that I'd like to embroider, of course the knotwork I fell in love with is somewhat complicated. I might consider simplifying the design a bit for my sanity's sake.

          I think I'll try the machine first with the zig zag and see how that goes. If the machine doesn't work--I'll be doing it by hand. Practice makes perfect.


          1. sarahkayla | | #5

            1 - trace your design onto freezer paper. iron freezer paper to WS of the fabric

            2 - set your machine on a straight stitch and stitch along the design on the WS, using a short stitch

            3 - flip the fabric over and use the stright stitched design (on the right side)as your guide, sew a  fine machine satin stitch over the straight stitch outline.. Voila!!!

            this is slightly pesky.. but doable... I do it all the time with Hebrew lettering and other more complicated designs.. I learned this through trial and lots of error.

            sarah in nyc

          2. kai230 | | #6

            trace your design onto freezer paper. iron freezer paper to WS of the fabric

            Great tip, Sarah! Does Threads give prizes for tips? (I no longer subscribe due to storage space.) The only freehand machine stitching I tried I first drew on RS w/chalk. I think your method is MUCH better! Thanks for the idea. It could then also be corded or so much more.

          3. ablakemo | | #7

            THANKS!! Great tip! I will try that! :)

          4. Nancylee | | #8

            I love that idea!  Does freezer paper stick to the fabric?  I've actually not heard of freezer paper unless it is the heavy duty brown paper meat cutters use?   Thanks.

          5. sarahkayla | | #9

            Freezer paper is white paper coated with plastic on one side.I hace seen it made by Reynolds.. the folks who make tin foil. You can iron the plastic side onto fabric, peel it off and re stick it on with the iron if you wish. It is really useful in the sewing room.

            sarah in nyc

          6. Nancylee | | #10

            Many thanks Sarahkayla, I'm looking forward to trying some embroidery now.

          7. JeanetteR | | #11

            Tish, and Aim,

            Thank you for posting these lovely Celtic knot links, they will be useful when my daughter and I finalise the designs she wants on her wedding dress (see new Thread discussion, 'embroidering on velvet...').  Aim, this discussion prompted me to ask for more information and some wonderful instructions for transferral of the desings were posted by Sewwriter...            Jeanette

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