Stitch It Up with Machine Embroidery

Cat Pillow by Eva Hanusova.

Cat Pillow by Eva Hanusova. 

Reverse Applique Pillow by Kevin Kosbab.

Reverse Appliqué Pillow by Kevin Kosbab.

 Spiral Skirt by Beki Wilson.

  Spiral Skirt by Beki Wilson.


Designing With Thread

Thread can be used as a design element to add texture and graphic dimension to a project. I love playing with thread embellishment because it's a fast and fun way to personalize a project. Sometimes I draw out a design on my project before stitching with a chalk pen, but mostly I like to improvise and stitch something freehand for a more hand-drawn and layered effect. No matter how you approach decorative machine stitching, the goal is to have fun and experiment to achieve something unique in the end.

If you have a sewing machine that has free-motion stitching capabilities along with a walking foot, then you have a lot of freedom to experiment with machine embroidery. But you can also achieve fun stitching effects with a machine that has only straight and zigzag stitching options, too. Here are a couple of examples of what you can do with simple stitches in your next project.

 • Thread drawing – You can see in Eva Hanusova's adorable Cat Pillow how easy it is to sketch the sweet face of a cat and add graphic dimension to appliqué with simple contrast outline stitching. She used a fabric marking pen to draw the details of the face, then stitched twice over each of the drawn lines for a freehand look. She echoed this sketchy affect by stitching twice around the appliqué hearts and ears. The imperfect layering of the stitch lines creates a charming handcrafted look. Try this effect the next time you have a project featuring appliqué or add sketchy lines randomly around a motif in a print fabric for a textured look.

 • Spot texture and layered color – Kevin Kosbab's Reverse Appliqué Pillow shows how much fun you can have by building up layers of straight stitches to highlight a focal element. To showcase the reverse appliqué, he stitched up and down over the square before cutting out the top fabric layer, extending the stitching lines well beyond the square, while angling each line slightly. To add depth, he changed thread colors a couple times to build up the stitching in different shades of the same color. Try this technique in your next project to showcase a focal element, and play with multiple shades of thread color to add depth to your stitching. I've also used this stitching trick to cover up a stain or to creatively mend a small hole in a garment.

 • Create patterns on solid fabric – Beki Wilson's Spiral Skirt shows how a little bit of stitching can go a long way on solid-color fabric by adding a subtle design accent. A simple knit skirt gets a fun touch with improvisational spiral stitching in a contrasting color and a well-placed decorative button. While stitching circles is definitely easier with a walking foot, any randomly stitched design would work. The emphasis is not on getting perfect circles or shapes, but is instead about achieving a custom hand-drawn look.

So experiment and play with decorative stitching effects to add a unique design element on your next project. If you are looking for inspiration and motivation, you can find the ePatterns and Stitch issues featuring these projects in our Sew Daily online store along with many other stitching resources.   

Happy sewing,


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Machine Embroidery Designs