Alison Carpenter-Hughes - Lou - Free Machine Embroidery

What Is Free Machine Embroidery?

Ask Mr X - Embroidery Guides

Welcome to Ask Mr X, a series where we answer your embroidery and textile art questions

This time we’re going to look at one of the most popular stitch mediums for textile art Free Machine Embroidery

Free Machine Embroidery, or freehand machine embroidery, is a type of sewing that allows you to draw with your sewing machine through drawing different shapes and profiles.

The only tool you must have for Free Machine Embroidery is a sewing machine. It doesn’t have to be particularly fancy with lots of options; as long as you have the ability to drop the feed dogs – the part of the machine that feeds the fabric through to make stitches – and have an embroidery presser foot, you’re good to go.

James Fox - Portrait - freehand machine embroidery
James Fox – Portrait

How Do You Do Free Machine Embroidery?

To start, you need to lower the feed dogs and attach a darning or embroidery foot. When you are sewing with this attachment, your needle passes through an opening that allows free movement of fabric under the needle.

The embroidery presser foot should be purchased separately from your sewing machine. However, these days most machines come with this attachment when buying it.

Just like hand embroidery, you can start anywhere on the fabric. The only difference is that your drawing will be in multiple sections. Your creativity is the main driver here, as you have the freedom to make whatever images you like, with a significant speed improvement on hand embroidery .

You can play with different types of stitch with practice, but you will get a lot of success using simple running stitches. Tight stitches will keep your fabric from fraying and lying flat. Loose stitches allow you to create shapes that might not be possible with tight stitching.

If you need any advice on machine embroidery stitches, we’ve got you covered!

Free machine embroidery, Mum and me, by Ailish Henderson
Ailish Henderson – Mum and me

Are There Different Kinds Of Threads For Free Machine Embroidery?

Yes, there are. Polyester thread is known for being strong and durable, while cotton thread is regarded as softer and better-looking. They both have their pros and cons but they are also interchangeable if you want to use one kind of thread in place of the other.

What Materials Can You Use For Free Machine Embroidery?

There are plenty of materials you can use to create your free machine embroidery designs. You could start off with the paper and fabrics used in traditional sewing, but you could also try painting a surface before stitching it or using a thick material like plastic canvas.

How is Free Machine Embroidery different to Applique?

Both Applique and Free Machine Embroidery involve the use of a sewing machine to create finished designs, but Machine Applique is much faster than hand appliqué. You can choose between two or more colors for your stitches so you can end up with a full spectrum of colors without doing any backstitching.

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