Tips for Choosing Fabrics for Embroidery

Believe it or not, the fabric design you use can make or break your embroidery project. These tips will help you choose wisely!

Have you ever stitched a design on a favorite piece of cotton fabric and they just did not go together? We all have.

Marbled fabrics work well with animals, like this adorable Applique Baby Elephant by Ovistin in Africa. They give a soft tone-on-tone background that looks somewhat realistic. The key is to use a color that is not so dark that the embroidery still shows well.

Intricate designs like Kreations by Kara’s detailed Retro Fruit Applique require a light colored solid or light tonal marble fabric.

Even the smallest of prints would compete with the gorgeous stitching. Darker backgrounds would hide a lot of the wonderful texture unless you used a solid black fabric and brightly colored thread.

Tone-on-tone prints work well with the Ocean Turtles by Blue Stitch Sky. They provide dimension without being distracting.

The delicate open work embroidery in the Butterfly Clutch Purse by Inspiration Mutz really pops on the solid black background. A coordinating small floral print beautifully matches colors in the embroidery design without stealing the show.

Crazy quilting, like this Crazy Seahorse by Molly Mine, means mega thread details so you don’t want to hide them. That is why the delicate watercolor quality of carefully chosen batiks blend with the color palette without overwhelming the stitching.

That does not mean that big and bold prints should be avoided. On the contrary, they look fabulous when used to create Top Zipper Bags by Oma’s Place.

The monogram patch separates the embroidery element from the background so that you can appreciate the beauty of both.

Hopefully, these tips will help you choose fabrics that make your embroidery look even more fabulous.



Mystery Project: Easy as Pie!

Looking for a fun project with a touch of mystery? Stay tuned, because I will show you how to turn this pretty design into something totally different!

There is a little prep work involved so this will be a two-part blog. The project is based on one I had published in Designs in Machine Embroidery magazine last year. Start by purchasing this design, Heirloom Floral Circles 09 by One by One Embroidery.

Here is what you need:

1/4 yard of a cream/neutral marble fabric

6″ square of red marble fabric or blue marble fabric

6″ square of low-loft batting

1/4″ Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 fusible tape

Fabric-type water-soluble stabilizer

Thread to match the cream/neutral fabric

Design editing software like Embird

Cut a length of fabric 3/4″ wide and 32 1/2″ long from the cream/neutral material.

Fold the strip of fabric in half, wrong sides together, and lightly press.

Fold raw edges in to the center crease and press.

Iron a piece of Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 tape over the open edges along the length of the strip. When the strip cools, trim it into 5 lengths of 6 1/2″.

Press your red or blue squares and set everything aside.

Editing the Design

Open the Heirloom Floral Circles 09 design and delete the outer edge, middle ring, and center circle. Save the design and check back next time to see what we’re making!

Tips for Saving Fabric Scraps

Do you hate to throw fabric scraps away? At nearly $12 per yard, most of us think twice about just pitching our cut offs. But then, what do you do with them?

As if we don’t have enough to clean up and store, there is the issue of fabric scraps. Do you keep them? If so, how do you store them? Are they sorted by size, color, type? What can you make with them?

What to Keep

I tend to keep anything I think I may be able to use in a future project. Much of what I embroider is applique so even small pieces of fabric and batting will work.

For fabrics, I clip off points of pieces that will not be usable and keep the rest. I do the same with batting, fusible fleece, and felt. Typically, I do not keep scraps of organza.


Crazy Shamrock by Molly Mine

Even bits of lace can be used in heirloom and crazy quilting embroidery projects.

Amazing Flower Quilt 06 by One by One Embroidery

Stabilizer scraps are kept as well. They can be used as a bandage for patching stabilizer holes and adding extra support to sections of stitching, when necessary. Even the smallest of pieces can be useful, especially water-soluble adhesive stabilizer (which can be quite costly).

How to Sort Scraps

I keep my fabric scraps in small, labeled boxes. Most are sorted by the type of fabric. I keep felt, batting, stabilizer, fleece, GlitterFlex vinyl, and quilting cottons in separate boxes.

How do you sort and store your scraps and how do you determine which scraps to save?


Applique: Fuse or Not Fuse?

If there is one technique that makes applique better, it is fusing the applique fabric to its base.

In my haste, I am guilty of skipping this essential step. Most of the time, adding fusible web to the back of applique fabric ensures a professional finish when pressed.

Light versions of fusible web work quite well without making the applique stiff. Brand names include Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 and Heat and Bond Light.

Lite Steam-A-Seam has an added benefit when machine embroidering. It is pressure sensitive and allows you to easily position and move applique pieces. Also, you don’t have to use temporary adhesives to hold them in place.

When You Should Fuse Applique Fabrics in Place

Clothing appliques, like the Denim Jacket project, benefit from being fused.

That helps the embroidery look crisp and new through wear and laundering.

In the Applique Towel project, a fusible web was not applied to the applique fabric before tacking it down.

That was because decorative stitching inside the applique helped to keep the fabric flat against the towel.

That’s not to say that you can’t fuse the applique if you like.

When Appliques Should Not Be Fused in Place

Cotton fabrics fuse the best, partly due to their substantial weave and partly because they can withstand high heat.

Do not fuse appliques made of fabrics like fleece. Had I fused the  Bunny Pull Toy Shirt, it would have melted the polyester fleece.

The Reading Pillow was another project that would not fuse well. Even though the base fabric was 100% cotton, the fox applique was made of fleece. High heat necessary with fusible web would more than likely melt the cute fox.

Do you fuse your appliques or not? If so, what fusible products do you use?



Charming Embroidery Embellishments

Part of the fun of machine embroidery is adding the extras to make the design come to life. Jewelry charms make perfect embellishments on embroidery projects.

Remember the Tribute to a Faithful Pet project? It turned out quite nice, but I  decided to embellish it a bit with jewelry charms.

I found a bone and a charm that says “I Love My Dog.” I clipped off the metal hanging loops and glued each one onto the main section of the paw print.

You could always stitch them to the finished piece, but I had already framed it, so it was easier to glue them on. I used something called Sobo Glue, which holds extremely well and dries clear.

I would avoid using hot glue as it is much too messy and doesn’t always provide a permanent hold. It is always difficult to control and often results with unsightly blobs of glue.

There were several other charms I purchased for use in this project, but they were a bit large and covered some of the stitching. Sometimes, less is better. Especially when your embroidery

Charms were also used in the Crazy for Mom project. Once again, less was more. Too many charms would detract from the beautiful stitching and fabrics.

Embellishments should only be used if they enhance the overall design. Give it a try and take your projects to the next level!