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DIY // MACHINE EMBROIDERY

Hand embroidery is a masterful craft which exists in varieties of techiques, with more visible thoughtfulness and care than will ever be offered by a singular sewing machine.  Although industrial sewing machines are limited in stitch options per machine, rapid industrial machine embroidery is created with a special machine called a chainstitch with a walking foot, popularly seen in use for nametags on bowling shirts.  Chain stitches are beautiful because they provide more texture than a regular lock stitch found on most home machines, an eyecatching chain of stitches in a freely chosen pattern. Chenille is a type of machine embroidery with similar raised stitches often seen on letterman jackets, the low loops in a carpet effect on the letter patches. Unfortunately industrial machines are not always easily obtainable, quite costly to purchase and ship, large, heavy and require more intensive maintenance.

 

What's great about household sewing machines is that once widely distributed, so many of the different effects of each individually sold industrial machine became available for use by simply changing the sewing machine foot.  Interchangeable to either the stem of the foot or the attachment claw on the stem, interchangeable feet allow users to create precious hems, consistent ruffles, perfect tension in elastics, precision button holes, and yes, free-motion stitching.  Although at the cost of the texture of a chainstitch and the power and speed of industrial machinery, the stitches can be adjusted to whatever your machine offers, and are as attainable as a quick trip to your local sewing store.

 

Free motion feet are spring loaded to act like a walking foot, bouncing so that the feed dogs stop pulling the fabric through, allowing the sewer to move the fabric freely.

 

 

 

 

 

Free-motion feet attach to the stem itself rather than to the adaptor which is pictured below next to the regular foot.  The screw knob to the left of the stem is opened and the attachment clamps to the stem itself.       

Because lock stitches on regular machines are fairly one-dimensional and the stitches won't cover completely any sketching you might want to do, one cool way to create free motion images without drawing on the fabric is to draw things on paper and set them in place over the fabric.  The needle can pass through the paper, perforating it, and allow images to be traced into the fabric via the thread and needle. 

Below you can see how easy it is!  It takes a little practice because free motion allows you to pull as much or as little as you want, making it necessary to move slow and steady if a solid, consistent line is desired.  Setting the stitch length is not necessary because it does not have an effect since the dog feeds are not engaged. 

Almost finished!  Just tear away the paper and you will find a surpise!!!

Below is a finished lock stitch embroidery using a free-motion foot on a regular household sewing machine with a straight stitch.  It's important to note that when sewing into most single layer medium and light weight fabrics it will be necessary to stabilize the back of the fabric with another layer of fabric, particularly a woven interfacing of some kind, whether it's iron-on webbing or simply a piece of woven cotton sheets.  

 

Another great bold-faced variation is to use zig-zag stitches in the width of your choice.  This can create some very beautiful calligraphic effects, but they aren't pictured here, you will have to try them for yourself!!!  Perfect for holiday stockings or personalized gifts any time of year.