Embroidery Done On a Machine, Or
It's Supposed to Save Time, Right?

Well, not really. Though one can certainly imitate hand-embroidery effects by machine, I've concluded, even with the relatively few samples depicted here—pouches to store my beads and jewelry, of which I could potentially use nearly an unlimited number—that sewing machine embroidery should be treated as its own medium, rather than a poor substitute for handwork.

What I show here, strictly speaking, is free-motion sewing machine embroidery, and if you're interested in this technique, I recommend the book recommended to me: Sharee Dawn Roberts’ classic on the subject, the title of which, if not exactly Sewing Machine Art is close. The advantages of this approach are several, even though it's going out of fashion. Firstly, it doesn't require a multi-thousand dollar embroidery machine; adjustable bobbin tension, straight and zigzag stitches and feed dogs that can be dropped (or taped) are all that's really needed, which means, just about any old machine, including the Kenmore I picked up at a garage sale for $30, (including cams, cabinet and zillions of fancy feet) that likely is as old as I am and runs great.

Secondly, it requires very little setup; once you have some idea how to use fusibles and play with the bobbin tension (neither is hard, really), you're ready to go, and you have immediate feedback with your stitch appearance: you yourself control it by acting as your machine's feed dogs, moving fabric right/left and forward/backward (or both) to get the length and density of stitches you want. There are also cute tricks you can do with thicker fibers sewing machines (including embroidery machines) won't tolerate.

On the down side, you can't program the machine to remember your masterpiece; you have to recreate it each time. Of course, if you're a one-of-a-kind type, that's not so bad. And you do need to learn how to move the fabric. Without stitching your fingertips. And, oh yes, you (potentially) have to provide more creative input. (Awww.) —I admit, being able to create one really fantastic motif and then making lovely repeating patterns does indeed appeal. But for now, I'll rely upon my machine's cams: the software for machine embroidery is still a welter of proprietary formats, and though the machines are getting better—even in the past 18 months or so—at reading each other's formats, the software itself is still closed source and will only run windoze. Yech. Never again will I suffer that OS's wretched behavior.

So here are some quick and dirty samples, made by a relative beginner. They're loads of fun and a great way to experiment with your machine's decorative capabilities. The dimensions, to give some idea of scale, are approximately 3–5” (75–125mm) on a side.


``Quick'' bead embroidered pouch


Hand made pencil case—for technical pens and water-handle brushes, of course:) 14oct2015


zippered pouch from an old scrap. 13oct2015


The addition of a kumi drawstring made this post-worthy. Sort of. 12oct2015


Two mini-heart wall hangings. Originally posted 14jan09. 16jan2009


This collection of sea themed stockings, mostly created in '06, was posted 27dec08, 31dec08, and 02jan09 respectively. This post created 08jan09. 08jan2009


I made this machine embroidered drawstring bag to hold my sock knitting. Originally posted 07jan09. 07jan2009


...Practice makes Perfect (or at least improved.) 22may2004


First Effort? 22may2004


Getting Better... 22may2004


Using time to compensate for b-a-a-a-d design 22may2004


These pouches were made in 2000; and if nothing else they either led to, or followed upon, a breakthrough in the way I applique Christmas stockings. But that's for another time. (Written 16nov01)

updated summary, 06feb2020