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Free Motion Machine Embroidery

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free motion machine embroidery lesson
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Free Motion Machine Embroidery

Tutorial By: Christina Sherrod

Free motion machine embroidery is actually very easy. It requires only your sewing machine and a darning foot (which is usually included with the purchase of a sewing machine). No expensive, special equipment is needed. Use the darning setting on the sewing machine, and replace the regular foot with a darning foot.

Also see:
Hand Embroidery Stitch Glossary
Applique Patterns
Sewing Lessons

Darning Foot For Free Motion Embroidery

darning footThe following photo shows a darning foot. A darning foot has an open space that provides a good view of the fabric. The darning foot shown is actually an open circle. Tree branches were drawn onto the fabric.

darning footFree motion embroidery created the grasses and tree branches in my Sedona Landscape project.

Go to Sedona Landscape for my free pattern.


Lower the feed dogs. Why? Feed dogs hold the fabric between the foot and the plate. Normally, with regular sewing, feed dogs feed the fabric through as it is being stitched. For free motion embroidery, you control the movement of the fabric. Turning and moving the fabric in different directions creates the embroidery effect.

Follow instructions for your machine regarding installation of the darning foot and lowering the feed dogs. My machine has a setting for the presser foot that keeps the foot slightly elevated (barely off the fabric). This allows "free motion" of the fabric. The needle simply goes up and down as usual, but the fabric is not fed by the feed dogs. I move the fabric around as the stitching occurs.

Using a washable fabric marker, lightly draw the detailing you wish to add to your project. I use free motion embroidery to add grasses, detailing on fences, snowman buttons and eyes, Christmas package ribbon, and many other details.

Place stabilizer under your piece, in the area that will be embroidered. DO NOT OMIT THE STABILIZER. Stabilizer is very necessary because it adds the correct body and thickness to the fabric being embroidered.

stabilizer Place the fabric (with stabilizer under the fabric) under the needle and start to stitch. Make sure the feed dogs have been lowered and the darning foot is in place correctly. Move the fabric in various directions as the needle goes up and down. Run backward, forward, in circles, etc. The following photo shows the wrong side with stabilizer.

Practice Use scraps of fabric until you feel comfortable. It really is very easy!

Thread The right thread makes the embroidery really stand out. I use blendable threads; they create beautiful effects. The colors change throughout the stitches, adding interesting color and texture to embroidered twigs, branches, grasses, shrubs, etc.

Try It!

heart vine embroidery pattern If you would like to try free motion machine embroidery on my heart vine pattern, go to: Heart Vine Pattern.

More Free Projects

Below are a few of my free projects that use free motion machine embroidery. Add your own detail. Don't be afraid to play around with your own designs.

Hallowee Walhanging Halloween Wall Hanging   Add grasses, fence detail, pumpkin vines and cat detail.

Christmas Walhanging Christmas Wall Hanging   Add snowman detail and package ribbon.

Christmas Walhanging Lizard Wall Hanging   Add cactus detail.

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