How to thread sketch with your sewing machine

Every now and then I want to try out something completely new. Recently I’ve ran into this blog post about free motion machine embroidery, or thread sketching on the Cluterpunk blog. I really liked the look of the cute bird drawn on the fabric. After reading Gina’s encouraging words: “It’s clear that this seems all a bit fancy, mysterious and only for extreme sewists. It’s not.” It looked really accessible and I was ready to give this a try myself even though I haven’t done any machine embroidery or free motion quilting before.

Tools and materials

  • Tea towel (make sure it's tightly woven or use some other medium weight fabric)
  • Thread that contrasts with the fabric color
  • Sewing Machine with standard needle
  • Darning Presser Foot
  • Heat erasable gel pens (2 colors) or Fabric Chalk
  • Iron
  • A design: I searched the internet for a drawing of a flower I liked and found one here


Attach the darning foot to your sewing machine using the presser foot holder screw (see arrow in picture). You will have to remove your presser foot holder first with the screwdriver tool that came with your sewing machine.

To get used to free motion stitching with the darning foot, take a piece of scrap fabric. Sew using a short stitch length and continue until you feel confident to speed up a bit. You will notice the feel of this foot is completely different from your other presser feet but you’ll get used to it after some practice. The main difference is that it is you who moves the fabric and not the machine. So you can freely choose to move the fabric to whatever side you want and the stitches will follow. Moving the fabric fast will give you big stitches, moving the fabric slow will give you short stitches.

Also, try out a zig-zag stitch to see what effect that might give to your drawing.

After getting used to the presser foot it was time to test if I would be able to follow the lines of the design after drawing them on the fabric. I drew some straight lines, some curves, and some sharp corners and practiced away. I didn’t succeed in following the marks exactly but after some practicing, I thought I got close enough.

The project

Now it is time to transfer the design to the fabric. I used heat erasable fabric markers because they glide smoothly over the fabric leaving clear thin lines and when I made an error I could easily erase that part with my iron and give it another shot.

The moment of truth! Start sewing slowly through the curves. At a sharp corner lift the presser foot, turn the fabric, lower the presser foot and continue stitching. 
You can choose to go over all the lines just once like I did, or you can give your drawing a more sketchy feeling by going over the same lines again to add more structure and depth, like Gina, did on Cluterpunk.

For the stamen, I used a zig-zag stitch to make the dots.

After finishing stitching you want to iron away the marks to see the beautiful result of your work.

I enjoyed doing my first free motion embroidery project and I like the personalized towel I made. I will definitely try something more challenging in the future and show you the result in one of my future posts!




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