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May 23, 2011 10:00 PM   Subscribe

If an embroidery technique like the one shown in this video can be done using a standard sewing machine, how?

At about three minutes into the linked video, the item is embroidered by moving it around under a sewing machine needle. The stitch doesn't seem to have to go in one direction, as with typical machine sewing.

Is it possible to use a regular machine to embroider like this (basically freehand)? Have you done something similar with a machine?
posted by cp311 to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I do it all the time with a regular and very old sewing machine. It's called free motion machine embroidery. I take off the foot and lower the feed dog and just draw with the needle. You can adjust the tension depending on what kind of fabric you use. Note that your fingers are in constant danger of being run through with the needle, so be careful! If you're anything like me you're so intent on the drawing process that you forget to protect your fingers. There are lots of videos on youtube showing how...search free motion machine embroidery.
posted by iconomy at 10:24 PM on May 23, 2011

Yup, it's possible with an embroidery foot for your machine. It will vary from model to model, but basically you take off the foot that is on there and attach the embroidery foot. You can put your fabric under the needle, and then move it around freehand, or you can put the fabric in a hoop and hold onto the hoop as you guide it. It will take some practice first.
posted by Calzephyr at 10:26 PM on May 23, 2011

That is a special chain stitch embroidery machine. You can do embroidery on most home sewing machines, you just need to buy the special foot. The limitation is what stitches your machine has programed. So the answer is yes, with the correct machine and foot.
posted by fifilaru at 10:26 PM on May 23, 2011

I have done a fair amount of embroidery with a regular sewing machine, as suggested above. To spare my fingers I use an embroidery hoop, placing it upside down so that the fabric is touching the bed of the machine.
posted by francesca too at 5:12 AM on May 24, 2011

Yes, it's free motion embroidery like everybody said. Your home sewing machine won't do a chain stitch so your embroidery will look a little different but you can use a satin stitch (close-packed zigzag) if you want a wide heavy line.

Also, you'll want to drop or cover the feed dogs so you can slide the fabric around easily. A hoop makes it easier to move the fabric since you have something to hang onto, plus it keep the fabric taut and reduces puckering. You'll probably want to use backings and maybe toppings to reduce puckering (chain stitching isn't as prone to puckering, but satin stitch "tunnels" like crazy).

If you prefer books to videos, the Singer Sewing Reference Library on Decorative Machine Stitching is a good place to start.
posted by Quietgal at 6:59 AM on May 24, 2011

I do some commercial embroidery as part of the business I work for. An embroidery machine's needle mechanism works pretty much like any other sewing machine. The differences are:

- a color change mechanism - multiple needle bars which the machine can jog into place. Allows quick automatic color changes. You've still only got one rotary hook, as only one needle is used at a time.

- an X Y plotter. Moves the work around for you so that the design can be made.

Doing it freehand, you're basically just being the X Y plotter. Things like stitch length (how long one stitch runs across the fabric) are a function of how fast the needle is moving and how fast you're moving the work.

As has been suggested, I'd hoop the work and keep your fingers a long way from the needle. I've never done it, but I understand sticking a sewing machine needle in your hand hurts like a sumbitch.
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:28 AM on May 24, 2011

Impressively, the most amazing book (reprinted; and the great-grand-parent of the one ref'ed earlier) I've ever seen on how to do embroidery with a machine was published in 1911 when machines were simple straight-stitch and often treadle-driven devices and all the magic came from the hands of the operator; even satin stitches were hand-formed when the machines didn't do zigzag--in fact, that was apparently the first skill learned by the machine embroiderer: coordinating tiny hand movements with the rate of the needle to create a perfectly even and smoothly packed satin stitch. Free-motion drawing/writing/etc. is quite simple comparatively.

The point of that early book was how to duplicate every kind of then-well-known hand embroidery using a machine in such a way that nobody would be able to see the difference, in the days when hand-embroidery was still a treasured and every-day craft. Nowadays, little of those crafts are recalled and machine embroidery is about itself; and typically, less about the operator and more about what machinery can be made to do. But of course amazing skills are still being developed and enjoyed as folks explore the new tools. All of Kayla Kennington's embroidery, for instance, is machine done.
posted by dpcoffin at 12:39 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great answers, everyone! I'm glad to see that I can do this just by buying another foot, or by removing it completely.
posted by cp311 at 11:10 PM on June 4, 2011

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