There are lots of ways of using your machine to free machine embroider so I don’t claim to know everything and be an expert with it but I am happy with the results I get using the technique I use so I thought I’d share how I free machine embroider. Here goes…
1. Turn on the machine and set everything to zero. This includes the stitch width and length. Once this is done your machine will just move the threaded needle up and down.
2. Turn the feed dogs (the metal teeth that move the fabric through the machine) off. The slide switch for mine is at the back of the sewing arm of the machine (at the back where the bobbin is). This stops your machine passing fabric through meaning you then need to guide your fabric where you would like the stitches to be.
3. Take the foot off the machine. You can then put on a free machine embroidery foot if you have one. I don’t at the moment and am happy with the results that I get but I would add a word of caution that as there is no foot you really need to watch your fingers don’t get stitched on.
1. I use a wooden hoop as I have found the plastic ones don’t hold the fabric taught enough. I have seen hoops with a rubber inner ring and these are fabulous but I’m happy with the wooden rings. You can also use these to display your work at the end which looks great.
2. Cut your fabric to just a little larger than the hoop and you need 2 pieces. 2 Pieces of fabric mean you have 1 as the top of the work and the other acts as a stabiliser keeping the fabric and design together. If you don’t use a stabiliser then your thread can become tangled and your fabric can go out of shape.
3. Don’t cut your fabric too large as it can easily become tangled with the sewn design if it comes over the hoop and over hangs where you are sewing.
4. Using a hoop for free machine embroidery is different from hand embroidery as for that you would normally use the ‘drum’ skin bit of the hoop (think of the taught fabric like a drum and you need to use the back of the drum to sew on) this means that it is flat against your machine when you sew. If you use it the ‘right’ way round your hoop will slip and slide on your machine, sewing will be nigh on impossible and this will also be dangerous.
Inserting the hoop under the foot.
1. Make sure your take up lever (the metal hook that goes up and down when you sew) is in the upper most position as this lifts the needle to its highest point.
2. Use the foot lifter as you normally do to lift the foot but press it higher than you normally do and you will see that it lifts higher for you. This is usually to accommodate thicker fabric but this helps you to get your wooden hoop under the needle.
3. Be careful doing this as your needle is unprotected by any foot so you can easily catch your finger.
1. For your first project just be as free as you want remembering that you will need to move the hoop around yourself and decide how long and where you want your stitches to be. This is the ‘free’ part of the free machine embroidery and the hardest to get over at first as we’re normally being told to be precise with our sewing and this certainly isn’t!
2. Hold your hoop as you sew as this gives you more control but also means your fingers are away from the needle.
3. I always set my needle to the down position so when I stop sewing the needle automatically stays in the fabric and this makes the hoop stay where it is rather than slipping about and changing direction is also very easy then.
4. If you can’t manage total freedom draw your design on in pencil and follow the lines.
5. This is rather like painting in that you have to think of your designs in layers so add large blocks of colours first and then add detail afterwards.
6. If your machine protests and churns up the thread try to move your fabric more to help ease the blockages but also this can happen when you make the stitches too large. It really is a trial and error technique to find what works best for your machine and you. I find writing letters incredibly difficult so I don’t tend to do this with the machine but hand sew them instead but I can draw quite easily. It takes practice and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you pick it up.
I hope you have fun and as I say this isn’t the definitive way to do this and others will add many more tips but this is the way I was shown and it’s worked for me.