Have you wanted to try out a freestanding lace machine embroidery project? I have 10 tips to share with you to help you get started with freestanding lace embroidery.
I made this wonderful lighthouse project for Annette's birthday. The lighthouse is a 3D freestanding lace embroidery project that includes freestanding lace and freestanding applique. A tea light can be placed in the top of the lighthouse and it will light up!
Learn more about freestanding lace embroidery designs by watching our video by clicking the link below or keep reading this post.
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What is Freestanding Lace Machine Embroidery?
Freestanding lace embroidery designs are sewn onto water-soluble stabilizer instead of onto fabric. After stitching the design, the water-soluble stabilizer is rinsed away and you are left with a design that can hold itself together.
Freestanding lace embroidery is sometimes abbreviated to be called FSL.
The designs can be simple like the free butterfly from Kreative Kiwi. Or more complex like the 3D lighthouse design.
3D Freestanding Lace Embroidery Lighthouse
This freestanding lace embroidery lighthouse was stitched using a design I purchased from Embroidery Online. The design comes with a PDF printable information sheet which includes instructions for stitching, color charts, pictures and a list of each piece needed.
The top black section of the lighthouse comes off and a tealight can be used to light it up.
The tea light sits on top of a freestanding lace applique floor piece. The top section is placed back onto the lighthouse and the light shines through the "windows".
The top light section has a clear fabric organza as the applique fabric. This allows the tea light to shine through.
The lighthouse has a lot of pieces and is stitched in 15 hoopings. To save time, a few of the pieces like the roof are stitched in one hooping.
Some of the pieces like the lighthouse walls, top light, floors and the door are freestanding lace applique. These pieces are stitched in the same way as freestanding lace but they include fabric sections that are stitched in the same way as machine embroidery applique.
The freestanding lace stitches an intricate design on the roof sections.
The pieces stitch buttonettes and eyelets along the sides of the pieces. These buttonette and eyelets are used to hold the pieces together.
This was a fun project to make and I love how it turned out!
Stitching the Freestanding Lace Butterfly Pattern by Kreative Kiwi
Step 1: Load the pattern
Load the pattern into your embroidery machine. Hoop one or two layers of fabric type water-soluble stabilizer and place the hoop in your machine.
Place the matching top and bobbin thread and thread your machine. The design recommended using cotton thread, so I used a variegated cotton thread in the top and bobbin of the machine.
Step 2: Stitch the Design
This design stitches with just one color, so start stitching the design.
The design starts stitching a grid pattern as the base of the design. This grid pattern is what allows the item to hold together when the stabilizer is washed out.
The remainder of the design is stitched on top of the grid creating a beautiful butterfly.
The variegated thread makes the butterfly look pretty with the different colors. This butterfly would look stunning in a single color also.
The design is finished stitching. Next is to rinse out the stabilizer and let it dry.
The butterfly is complete. This butterfly can be used as an applique on a bag or clothes. It would also make a pretty ornament or decoration on a basket or gift.
10 Tips for Success with Free-Standing Lace Embroidery
Tip #1: Can you use any design for freestanding lace?
No, designs are specifically made as freestanding lace designs. Freestanding lace designs are made so they will hold together without stabilizer or fabric. After washing out the stabilizer, the design will hold together.
Normal designs are made with the expectation that they will be stitched onto fabric and will not hold together without the fabric backing. If these are stitched on a water-soluble stabilizer, the stitches will fall apart because it’s not created to be able to support itself.
Look for the words "Freestanding Lace", "FSL" or stand-alone in the name or description of the design.
Tip #2: Use a matching bobbin thread.
Most free-standing lace designs are seen from both sides after they are completed. So, always stitch with a matching top and bobbin and thread.
Tip #3: Use a Sharp Needle.
I like to embroider with Schmetz 90/14 Embroidery Needles and these worked fine with my lighthouse project. I have seen recommendations to use 80/12 or 75/11 needles too. Just be sure to use a sharp needle.
Tip #4: Use recommended thread
Designs will recommend a type of thread to use. If the design recommends using a specific type of thread, use that type. For example, the lighthouse recommended Iscocord Embroidery Thread and I used different brands of embroidery thread to stitch the lighthouse.
The butterfly pattern suggested using cotton thread, so I used a variegated cotton thread to stitch it.
If the design specifies a certain type of thread, like Rayon or Cotton, use the type suggested.
Tip #5: Use the correct stabilizer.
Using the correct stabilizer for free-standing lace embroidery is very important. Since you are making an item that stands on its own, do not use any type of cut-away or tear-away stabilizer. Only use water soluble stabilizer and it must be the fabric type of water-soluble stabilizer.
There are two types of water-soluble stabilizers, the plastic type Solvy is used as a topper for towels or holding down nap of plushy fabrics. This will not work well for free-standing lace because when it’s pierced too many times along the edge, it will break and won’t hold up in the hoop.
Use a fabric type water-soluble stabilizer like Pellon 541 or DIME Sew 'n Wash. These will hold up to the stitching and won't fall apart while stitching the designs.
The designs usually state to hoop two layers of stabilizer, but I found that one layer of this fabric type stabilizer worked well.
Tip #6: Soak in Warm Water
Once the stitching is completed, trimm the excess stabilizer from around the item. Soak the finished embroidery in a small bowl of warm water. It only takes a few seconds for the stabilizer to dissolve in water.
The more you rinse, the softer the lace will become. If it’s a 3D design, like the lighthouse, only rinse a bit out. Or, if you are making an ornament that needs to hold itself up and stay flat, you may want to lightly rinse.
If it’s going to be stitched on a garment you may want softer lace so rinse it thoroughly.
Tip #7: Air dry face down to prevent curling.
Place the piece face down and air dry completely. This will help prevent it from curling.
Tip #8: Press from the back with a pressing cloth
After the piece is dry, if necessary, use an iron to press the design flat. Use a pressing cloth and press it from the back. Rayon or polyester thread will melt under high heat so be careful when pressing pieces made with those threads.
Tip #9: Use Alligator Clamps
3D items are assembled by inserting the small buttonettes into the corresponding eyelets. This can be a bit challenging, but using alligator clamps, small tweezers or a small crochet hook can help get the buttonettes through the eyelet.
Insert the clamp into the eyelet and carefully grab the buttonette and pull it through.
Tip #10: How to Stiffen Lace
If you find that the lace has become too limp to work with after removing the stabilizer, you can:
- Stiffen lace by dissolving some water-soluble stabilizer scraps in water and dip the piece in the solution.
- Lay the piece face down on the ironing board and apply spray starch to the back and iron. Spray again with starch and then let dry.
Scroll down for some links to freestanding lace projects including the free one from Kreative Kiwi. Link to supplies you will need will also be there.
We hope you enjoyed these 10 tips for Success with Freestanding Lace projects and try one out for yourself.
If you have any questions about this project, contact us through the YouTube Video
comments or our Contact Us page. We respond to questions in e-mails and YouTube comments regularly.
Some other machine embroidery projects you may be interested in are: