Embroidery is one of the first fiber crafts created, but it is still one of the hobbies that never gets old. You can embroider almost any design that you can think of. You just need to stitch those creative ideas onto fabric.
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Can you do embroidery without a pattern?
If you are an embroiderer who wants to make your designs and not the ones you see in crafts stores, you can embroider without a pattern by doing a freehand drawing.
This freehand embroidery style is what you usually see on clothing, particularly on pants pockets or seams. Some embroiderers would draw designs directly on clothing. But why directly draw on your fabric when there are safe and better ways to transfer your design on the fabric you want to embroider?
Choose from these tried and tested methods to transfer your creative ideas to the fabric.
Using a light box is the best method to use when the fabric you will embroider is thin enough to trace the design on the fabric.
- Tape your design on the light box using masking tape.
- Place your fabric over the design and tape it so that it will not move while you are tracing it.
- Trace your design on the fabric using water-soluble pens. It would be best to use these pens for tracing because they will wash off with water. The markings will be removed when you wash your fabric after embroidering
- Keep your embroidery work away from heat, as it might set the marks on your fabric.
Iron on heat-sensitive pen
If you are creating a design freehand, it will be a good idea to use an iron-on heat-sensitive pen or pencil. The iron-on heat-sensitive pens do not create very sharp lines, so they are ideal to use on simple designs that you can trace or draw freehand.
This technique would work well on heavier fabrics that light cannot pass through. Using thin lines or stitches like the Daisy stitch will not be great because the drawing lines might show. It would be good to use for embroidery that needs stitches to fill spaces like the satin stitch.
- Draw your embroidery pattern on paper.
- Trace around the whole design with the heat-sensitive pen directly on the paper.
- Transfer the design to your fabric with a hot iron.
- Make sure you transfer your design in the proper direction, especially if your design has words. If you need your design to be in a specific direction, trace the design on the back of the drawing.
Tracing paper is the way to go for designs with large sections on the fabric you need to embroider. Use tracing paper when you want to freehand your design using some basic lines. But it is not the best technique to use when you want to transfer a design with intricate details.
If you use tracing paper, you need to stitch through it. You need to remove the paper later on.
This technique is best used on thick or textured fabrics that would be hard to mark using the other methods. It is perfect when you want to freehand your design.
- Trace or draw your design on the tracing paper using a pen or pencil.
- Place your tracing paper with the design on your fabric. Baste the design lines on your fabric. Your basted stitches will serve as your embroidery pattern on the fabric.
- Once you finish basting the whole design, you can carefully remove the tracing paper.
- You can now embroider your design on the fabric. Use the basting lines as your guide.
- When you are finished stitching your design, carefully remove the basting stitches.
When your design has a lot of details, you will need a water-soluble stabilizer. With this technique, there is no need for you to trace your design. You just stitch directly to the water-soluble stabilizer and fiber.
Using the water-soluble stabilizer technique is the best option when working on fabrics that are hard to draw on, like denim. It is also an excellent choice if you have intricate designs to embroider. Before you embroider, make sure that your fabric and threads are washable and will not bleed.
- Draw the design directly on the water-soluble stabilizer.
- Place your water-soluble stabilizer on the right side of the fabric you are about to embroider.
- Baste your stabilizer to the fabric before placing it on the embroidery hoop.
- Start embroidering through the stabilizer and fabric using the design drawn on the stabilizer.
- After you finish embroidering the design, you can cut away the excess stabilizer. Just cut away enough of the extra stabilizer to make it easier for the next step.
- Soak your embroidered fabric in water to remove the remaining stabilizer.
Transfer paper is also an excellent option when your embroidery designs have so many details. It is also your best choice when transferring designs to a thick fabric where the light technique will not work. But it is not a wise option if you are working on textured fabrics.
Transfer paper comes in various colors, so it is easy to find one that would work on dark fabrics. Another good thing about transfer paper is that marks come off easily using a damp cloth or an eraser.
- Place your fabric on a flat and hard surface.
- Put the transfer paper on top of your fabric with the transfer side down.
- Draw your design on the transfer paper.
- You can attach the transfer paper on the fabric using painter’s tape so it will not shift while you draw. It is also easy to remove once you have drawn the design.
- Use a pen with moderate pressure to draw your design on the transfer paper. It would be good to go over each line a few times with moderate pressure rather than putting too much pressure as you draw. Putting too much pressure may tear the transfer paper.
- When finished drawing your design, remove the painter’s tape and the transfer paper.
This method is most useful when you have an ink-jet printer. Printer inks can be transferred to fabric using heat. But transferring the design using printer ink must be done fast or when the ink is fresh.
It is important to test this method first to the fabric you want to embroider. Some printer inks do not work on some fabrics, or you might only get very faint lines.
- Draw your design using the computer.
- Print the design you created using your printer.
- Place the side of the paper with ink on the right side of your fabric. This technique is effective if the design you are doing is symmetrical.
- If you are printing a design with words, you should reverse the image first before printing.
- Press on the paper with a hot iron.
Pouncing was the usual method used before transfer paper, and iron-on inks became common tools to transfer embroidery designs on fabrics. Instead of a pen, a pin is used to create the design. It is a simple technique that is also fitting to use on simple designs with large areas to fill.
If you are into traditional ways of making art, this might be a great option for you. Pouncing may not be commonly practiced these days because of more modern techniques and supplies available. But you can still find pouncing supplies at specialty craft stores.
- Draw the design by pricking the paper with a pin at regular intervals.
- After you are finished drawing the design, place it on top of the fabric you will embroider.
- A powdered pigment is worked through the holes in a pouncing motion using a soft fabric pad.
- After you finish pouncing the entire design, you can remove the paper and start embroidering.
Now you can choose which technique is most suitable for the embroidery design you are stitching. You will find which methods would work best on the different types of embroidery projects.
Can you make your own design or pattern of embroidery?
Making your own design or pattern of embroidery involves two related steps. The first one is to create your design by hand, and the second step is to print out your design to embroider it by hand or by a sewing machine.
If you are an embroiderer who wants a specific design that you cannot find in patterns at craft stores, you can definitely make your own.
You can draw the design that you want, whatever inspires you from your surroundings. You can draw something about nature, your plants, or your pets. You can also draw patterns like mandalas or ethnic figures.
If you are not too keen on drawing, you can ask a friend to draw for you. Another way to create an embroidery design is to trace a picture that you like. It can be anything that interests you, like scenery, a person or your favorite thing or pet. You can embroider that image in fabric to serve as your memento.
After making your drawing or tracing an image, you can blow it up to the size you want to stitch on your fabric.
Suppose you are going to embroider your design by hand. In that case, you can draw on a transfer paper, a water-soluble stabilizer, or any material you can attach directly to your fabric to transfer your design.
If you are using a sewing machine to embroider, you need to first print your design according to the size you want. Your printed drawing or design will serve as your pattern, then, let your machine do the stitching.
Can you embroider on any fabric?
There are so many different fabrics that you can choose to embroider. But the best fabrics most suitable for embroidering are made from natural fibers rather than synthetic ones. Synthetic fibers can be too stretchy to embroider on, resulting in a distorted design or loose stitches.
But for you to decide which fabric to embroider, you must consider what type of embroidery you will work on. If you are making something that is decorative, you do not need to pre-wash your fabric. But if you will embroider something that needs to be washed often, it would be best to wash and dry your fabric before stitching.
Below are a few tips and guides in choosing the right embroidery fabric for your project.
- Thread Count
- Choose natural fibers
- Pre-wash your fabric
- Add a stabilizer
- Stitch on sample fabrics
In choosing your embroidery fabric, thread count is important. A good fabric to embroider is one with a lower thread count so that it will not be too tough to stitch on. Fabrics with thread count under 150 like cotton, linen, Aida, muslin, flour sack, and Osnaburg are fabrics that are excellent for embroidery because the weave on the fabrics is not too tight.
Fabrics made from natural materials are also the best ones to embroider. They are soft but strong enough to support decorative stitches. The best examples of fabrics from natural fibers are linen, cotton, silk, wool, or a blend of these fabrics. Synthetic fibers tend to fray when perforated by needles.
To avoid puckering of stitches, you might want to wash your fabric first before embroidering. Laundering your fabric tightens up the weave making it uniform throughout the fabric. Washing your fabric before stitching pre-shrinks it. This step prepares your fabric for future washes after embroidering.
If you are making heavy designs or attaching beads or buttons to your embroidery, it would be a great idea to add a stabilizer at the back of your fabric. This added interfacing will support the heavier stitching on the right side of the fabric.
You may try stitching on different fabric samples to determine which fabric would work best for your specific embroidery project. You will discover which one would look best on your particular project.