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Embroidery Tips & Techniques

Embroidering lace

Last week we discussed five tips for expanding your embroidery expertise. One tip – Don’t Think Project – Think Technique – seemed to hit a nerve with many blog readers. We received lots of comments regarding trying new techniques and a quite a few of them mentioned lace. So here’s how I explored embroidering lace.

I selected a lace design and stitched it on four different types of material:
-heavy film-type water-soluble stabilizer
-mesh-like water soluble stabilizer
-tulle with regular weight film-type water soluble stabilizer
-stretch mesh fabric with regular weight film-type water soluble stabilizer

I used the same thread and lace design on each test. Of course, the lace design was professionally digitized and stitched out beautifully in each instance. I recorded how easy it was to remove the stabilizer and what steps were required. I stapled the stitch outs with a piece of the stabilizer and fabric (if included) to a piece of copy paper and made notes on the paper. Then I kept the samples in a binder for future reference.

From these samples, I could check the ‘hand’ of the lace, the translucency of the fabric and the ease of removal. The notes come in handy when I’m working on a new lace project. I used to think all lace projects are similar until I did this test. That’s when I learned that when the variables change, so does the outcome. All are acceptable but one or two preferred. So try it yourself and see what you find. You might just learn something new to an old or familiar task.

Designer’s Tip:
It is helpful to add fabric softener when rinsing the water soluble stabilizer away from the lace to create a soft touch to the lace.

Leave a comment telling me how you go about mastering a technique and you’ll be entered in our drawing for this week’s giveaway – the Little Black Tee – my favorite lace designs!

And the winner of  Embroidery Tool Kit from last week is…Debbie!

“I keep many files on my laptop, but my big problem is I have too many files, too many ideas and too many embroidery files downloaded. I would love to spend time just organizing these files, but always find myself heading to my sewing room instead. I always have a project in the machine, and two to three backed up behind it.”

Congratulations, Debbie!

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  • Kandy

    Mastering a technique is something I experiement with I do several samples and write out what settings I used and what thread it’s so much easier to develop a plan of action before you start to sew on your project.

    • Jan Boggan Henson

      Eileen, I agree that “techniques” are the way to go because you can use them on many “projects.” Just want to mention that all lace is not free standing. You will find this out real quick when you use water soluble stabilizer.

  • Pamela Wilson

    My favorite techneque to pass on is the keep your fingers from getting sore. Many of us have embroidery machines with the hoops that have turn screws. My fingers used to get sore turning the screw, so I cut one of the foam colored pencil grippers in half lenghtways and worked it over the screw. Now my fingers aren’t sore and by using different colors of foam, it is easy to tell by color which hoop is what size.

  • Mitzi

    I like to master a technique by adjusting the variables (like you did, Eileen, with the lace example), and then do a small project incorporating the new technique. The small project gives me a sense of accomplishment and something to show for my time invested in the technique, as well as a jumping off point for more elaborate applications.

  • Mary Ellen Proscia

    First I find a resource that is knowledgeable about the technique, book, instructor,website. Then I start easy and work my way up to more difficult. Practice, practice, practice with patience. If the technique isn’t coming to me really quickly, I get away from it for a while…try again later. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  • Enis

    I go about mastering any particular technique by simply jumping in and giving it a try. If the first stitchout doesn’t come out as expected, I change up the variables and give it another try. I suppose if I were as organized and well throught out as Eileen, I would make up a sample book, but I’m just to excited to try something new to spend the time to do all that and then organize everything. I just love trying new techniques and seeing the results.

  • Pat

    What a great idea. I sometimes forget which stabilizer and what fabric worked the best together!

    I also like the fabric softener because sometimes the FSL is too stiff.

    Thank you again! See you next week in San Marcos.


  • Cathy Bremer

    I have a recipe file box I keep with what I made with good or bad results in it. Sometimes I put a picture (small to fit on the card, love those digital cameras) and point to what is wrong with it or right. This way I can find out in a hurry what thread or where I put a monogram and so forth.

    Would love to know your results on the lace?

  • Beverly

    There is a Yahoo group for everything, and there are many for embroidery. I belong to one for my specific sewing/embroidery machine, and another that has monthly lessons on digitizing designs that is very helpful. This one is especially helpful because there is a completion deadline that forces me to make those decisions that often prevent me from completing a project.

  • gloriawr

    Thanks for the great tip. I will begin doing this with several examples rather than the usual one.

  • Kelly

    I usually plan on making 2-3 extras and spending a day or two extra on even a small jobs so I can play with stabilizers and thread .

  • Kathi

    Practice, practice, practice! I stitch out a sample – or two or three or six – to ensure that settings, stabilizer, threads, etc. are correct. I keep “misfires” and note on them the products used. When I get a perfect stitchout, I note the particulars on the pattern or in a special notebook so that I’ll be able to access the information at a later date.

  • Lynne

    I just jump right in and try it out. Depending on where I got the design and how complicated it is, I may or may not have instructiions that I can look at from the designer. If it doesn’t come out exactly the way that I want it to, I try again. Patience and perseverance are what get me throught o the finished product.

  • Jean Beckstrom

    Yes, I like to keep a notebook too. I get lazy sometimes and forget to make the notes. I do keep all the samples however. Sometimes they come in handy for use in an emergency to add to a quilt block when they fit a theme and I need another design.
    I love working with lace and the variables can be very different, so that is when I really test a design. Keep your wonderful ideas flowing. They are so helpful. Thanks,

  • Toni

    I have some tips and instructions that I got from several sources, such as what stabilizer to use with what fabric, that I keep pinned on a bulletin board. As I try new things, I make notes on these tip sheets as to what worked or didn’t and if I found a better combination than what was suggested. In this way, I’ve tried some new things (like lace bowls or the big “stained glass” designs from BFC that I like to stitch on silk or satin).

  • Susan Spiers

    When I begin to take on a new technique, I first gather all the info inregards to it, via internet, books etc. I choose the one I want to try & get started – full speed ahead & when all else fails, follow the directions & practice, practice, practice! It works for me!

  • Gail Beam

    When I try a new technique, I usually just jump right in and do it on a project that one of my grandchildren has requested. Usually, it works out just fine for me, and I have another finished item. I know most people do a test stitch out and prewash items before emboidering, but I don’t do that either!

  • Paule-Marie

    I just do it – that is after I read the directions and fuss about it in my mind. 🙂

  • Lynne

    Eileen, I just had to send you a comment about the Stitchin’ Sisters in San Antonio. I enjoyed it so very much and I learned A LOT!!!! Today I had an opportunity to practice some of what I learned. I used the large stipple pattern from the CD and I quilted a fat quarter with it. It was so easy to line it all up. Using target stickers and moving my needle I was able to place one stipple next to another one and a third one along the bottom. I have an Innovis 2500D so there’s no camera to check it – but it came out perfect! Thank you for all the new information and techniques to make my embroidering easier.

  • Thiago

    Great! I do hand swenig of quilt pieces while sitting there. Most important; a comfortable chair.


    If the technique is complex, I read from various sites, review the photos, and watch YouTube or other videos if available. Seeing is always helpful. If the technique is a simple one, I typically read a bit before jumping into the final stitch-out.

  • gwen

    I think about it the night before and get started after my shower, which a PSW gives me as I have ms.I tell myself to be surprised and not downhearted.
    I have some stabilizers which are almost gone so I check which ones i need to stock up on and label them well and then….and then… drum roll please…I GET TO PLAY,

  • Marti Davis

    you can put your finished rinsed lace in a zip lock baggie with fine glitter dust and put damp not wet lace in. shake it about and remove. again shake the loose dust off and let air dry. I make christmas ornaments (ornament skirts) and bling them with crystals topping ornament with matching wired ribbon. they are so beautiful

  • patei

    I use paper tape to repair,re-enforce sewing patterns,works on the pattern save material also [ it’s like pellon]. the crystal light containers are great for so many things, they are nearly clear so you can see what is inside, the ones from walmart’s version also work well but you have to label them, I keep mechanical pencils in one,rubber bands in one,spare glasses in one [also good for disaster kits]empty med bottles for pins and needles that are no longer of use, the larger wider ones will also work for rotary cutter blades. I use the snap on caps but I ask for the child safety ones for the sharps.hemostats,scalpels,magnet on a stick with a grabber in the end,African porcupine quill for stiletto.
    I keep needles in needle nests, each type in one labeled, if a machine needle is removed, I put it into a tomato,divided to size/type and on a piece of tape the date,or use in case I can use it to continue a project, like I am doing denim and have to sew something else and go back to denim. I like to use the gal or 2.5 gal slider bags for a project everything from spool,bobbin, elastic, pattern. buttons,zipper no need to search for something, and easy to put things away after.
    I like to use the small pony tail holders [toddlers size] for bobbins keeps the thread from unwinding. also works on small spools. dental floss to sew on heavy fabric, sews buttons on, great for beading. the crib size ‘puddle pads’ are great for
    Native American dress capes, also moccasin soles, you can bead on it and rinse off and dry in sun, very durable. read one woman that
    uses soldering iron for cut ribbon ends brilliant.
    I love this idea of sharing.

    • patei

      sorry I thought I was in the painters tape and sharing of ideas.

  • I’m still learning from you, as I’m making my way to the top as well. I definitely liked reading everything that is written on your blog.Keep the stories coming. I liked it!

  • Jade Brunet

    I am happy to have found this article about embroidering lace. It is good to know that lace can be embroidered to several different kinds of materials. I like that you experimented with stretch mesh fabric. Something to consider would be to plan a project like this and purchase all of the needed materials for a price within your budget.

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