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Freehand Embroidery

The Martha Stewart Show, September 2007

Tools and Materials

Templates (dragonfly, elephant, fire truck, giraffe, tractor)
T-shirt
Dissolvable stabilizer
Fine-point marker
Painters' tape
Blow-dryer
Baby powder

Freehand Embroidery How-To

1. Prewash and dry T-shirt.

2. Download templates (dragonfly, elephant, fire truck, giraffe, tractor) or create your own line drawing by choosing a photograph of a subject (e.g. a truck).

3. Trace details by hand or in Photoshop.

4. Trace line drawing onto dissolvable stabilizer with a fine-point marker, leaving about 1 inch all around to trim excess.

5. Tape template or drawing onto fabric with painters' tape.

6. Show stippling foot.

7. Sew over drawing with straight stitch.

8. Use a continuous line for as much of the drawing as possible. When you end a line or color, leave the threads long enough to tie by hand.

9. From the wrong side of the fabric tug, use a seam ripper to gently tug on the loop made from the top thread, pulling it through. If you have accidentally sewed over the top thread, you may need to bring it through to the back with a needle.

10. Tie each pair of top and bottom threads together with a double knot.

11. Once design is completed and all knots are tied, pull off the tape and the big pieces of stabilizer.

12. Wash item or just run it under water and dry it with a blow-dryer.

Tips for Freehand Embroidery

1. Adjust the thread tension if you want the bottom thread to show (e.g. to create the look of white stars on an American flag).

2. When it is humid, you may need to sprinkle a little baby powder on the stabilizer to keep it from sticking to your needle.

3. If you use different threads on the top and bottom, you may need to knot them together several times so they don't slip apart.

4. As you sew, try to keep the fabric taut; don't pull so hard that you release the tape, though. An embroidery hoop is not recommended because you tend to pull the template or drawing too tight, which will result in a puckered design. Just lay the fabric flat and tape the design on without stretching it.

Comments (17)

  • 9 Jul, 2010

    thanks EmbroideringLisa! i will try it soon!

  • 29 Apr, 2010

    The title of this project should be Free Machine Embroidery -- not Freehand Embroidery. I too have done freehand embroidery on t-shirts, using hand stitches like satin, stem, and chain. I put tissue paper behind the fabric to stabilize it and put the whole thing into a hoop. After the stitching is done, tear away the tissue paper. To me, this is easier and more satisfying than using the machine to embroider.

  • 21 Apr, 2010

    Would someone advise what kind of dissolvable stabilizer you used. Brand names or type. I ordered one online, but it looks like a white interfacing and is not transparent. Help....
    Thank you.

  • 28 Jun, 2009

    Also called a darning foot, or a quilting foot. I used a walking foot to make this.

  • 16 Mar, 2009

    I have a Bernina machine and at the web site (Bernina) there is no stippling foot. Is there another name or use for it?

  • 12 Mar, 2009

    Where are the templates????

  • 12 Mar, 2009

    I can't get how to make it. What do you need to make this craft???

  • 10 Mar, 2009

    Do I have to use a stippling foot? can I just use a normal foot with a straight stitch?

  • 9 Mar, 2009

    I've been doing tees and sweats like this for years except that I stitch them by hand. I've done one for each of my kids every year for Christmas. Then as they outgrow them, I save them and use all the ones from that child to make a patchwork quilt for his/her high school graduation. They love the shirts and the quilts.

  • 9 Mar, 2009

    I've been doing tees and sweats like this for years except that I stitch them by hand. I've done one for each of my kids every year for Christmas. Then as they outgrow them, I save them and use all the ones from that child to make a patchwork quilt for his/her high school graduation. They love the shirts and the quilts.

  • 9 Mar, 2009

    Is the video working? I'm unable to watch it.

  • 9 Mar, 2009

    Why can't you embroider these by hand? It seems to me that using a machine is unnecessary. There are ways to do this by hand without stretching the material.

  • 9 Mar, 2009

    Sew with?

  • 3 Oct, 2008

    The show stippling foot, as the previous person commented is, I am sure, meant to show a picture of the foot. They are called free motion foot, embroidery foot, quilting foot. They have many different names depending on your type of machine. You can check the accessories that came with your machine to see if you have one. You could even do this with an open toe foot, if that is all you have.

  • 30 Jun, 2008

    I sure wish I knew what "Show stippling foot" means.
    I wonder if it would be better to see if your manual has free embroidery instructions and follw those for the actual sewing part.

  • 30 Jun, 2008

    I sure wish I knew what "Show stippling foot" means.
    I wonder if it would be better to see if your manual has free embroidery instructions and follw those for the actual sewing part.

  • 17 Jun, 2008

    I was recently told I was going to be a "Grandmother". After crying for several hours I hit Martha Craft site for ideas. I found booties. I saw the baby onesies hanging in the background of the video. I can not express how elated I am. I always wanted to be able to do some embrodery with my sewing machine. Thank you so much. You all made my day. Thank you!!