Mary's 10 Tips for Machine Embroidery

Cutting and Marking
Match Design to Fabric
Hooping and Aligning
Less is More




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  1. Cutting and marking - mark the outline of the pattern on a piece of fabric and cut it out roughly. Mark the placement by basting horizontal and vertical lines.

  2. Match design to fabric - a design with large areas of very dense stitching will work best on a firm medium to heavy woven fabric; on light or stretch fabrics choose a less dense design or consider appliqué.

  3. Stabilisers
  • Tear-away type for firm fabrics
  • Iron-on type for stretchy fabrics
  • Temporary spray adhesive with tear-away type instead of an iron-on
  • Water-soluble ones for fine fabrics, also used on top of fleece or towelling to prevent stitches sinking in and used without fabric to make free-standing lace
  • Sticky type for items that won't fit in a hoop or pile fabrics
  • Heat-away type when you want no trace to remain but fabric is not washable
  • Paint-on type to make fabrics such as lawn crisp
  1. Threads
  • Rayon embroidery thread - 40 for most digitised designs; 30 for outline and some cross-stitch designs; 60 for delicate designs
  • Polyester embroidery thread can be used instead of rayon
  • Cotton embroidery threads have a soft sheen. 50 weight can usually be used instead of rayon 40 for a subtle look and is excellent for free-standing lace
  • Metallic threads - some are more temperamental than others. Beware of using them on garments you wear next to the skin, as they can be very scratchy!
  • Acrylic/wool threads are best used on designs digitised specifically for them
  • Bobbin threads are available from several manufacturers
  1. Needles - an embroidery needle size 75 works well with many threads.

  2. Hooping and aligning - fabric should be held taut in the hoop but not stretched. Use the fine adjustment on the machine to position the start point.

  3. Testing - always test the chosen design on a scrap of fabric using the same interfacing, stabiliser, threads and needle.

  4. Appliqué - polyester organza works well as a background fabric.

  5. Less is more - the under-stated look is often the most effective. Pockets and cuffs are an excellent place to practise your skills.

  6. Educationbooks on the subject are rare but there are other resources.
  • Dealers - take full advantage of any courses that are offered.
    If there is a club for customers then try to attend, as you can learn a lot by exchanging ideas.
  • Internet - this is a vast source of ideas, products, techniques and free designs.
    Try as a starting point.


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Mary Prior's 10 Tips for Machine Embroidery  - Embroidering on Difficult Fabrics
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