Free Motion Friday : Sewn Images Tutorial

A week or so ago I posted an image of a butterfly I'd embroidered onto faux leather on Instagram and a couple of people expressed interest in a tutorial, so I've created one for you.

You will need:
  • Some fabric to use as a base - I've used faux leather in this tutorial as I'm going to turn the finished piece into a clutch bag, but any firmly woven, stable fabric works well.
  • Medium weight iron on interfacing.
  • An image to copy/use for inspiration.
  • Lightweight tracing paper or tissue paper.
  • Thread that matches your base fabric.
  • A selection of coloured and/or metallic threads.  I've used silk/rayon embroidery threads that I bought on eBay.
  • A darning or embroidery foot for your sewing machine.

First, apply a piece of iron on interfacing to the reverse of the fabric in the area you are going to stitch your image. 

Then choose your image and trace it onto thin tracing paper or tissue paper. 

Pin or clip your traced image onto the base fabric in the position you want the embroidery.   As I'm using faux leather I've used quilt binding clips, but on woven fabric I would use pins.

Put a darning or embroidery foot on your sewing machine and lower the feed dogs.  Stitch the outline of your design following your traced lines. 

Lowering your machines feed dogs gives you control over the movement of the fabric under the needle and enables you to stitch in any direction you desire.  Be aware however that the machine will not move the fabric at all, it's all down to you!

At the start and end of each piece of stitching, sew up and down on the spot a few times to secure the threads. 

Don't add too much detail at this stage, just define the areas you want to fill in later. 

Carefully remove the tissue paper.  You may need to use tweezers or a stitch unpicker to get some of the tiny scraps of paper out from under the stitches. 


Once you have removed all the tissue paper you can start filling in the image.  I've used a combination of straight lines of stitching, following the black outline (you can see this around the edge of the wings) and swirls of stitching, filling in selected areas, such as the body. 

Add more colours to different areas as you go.  Stitching in different directions and in straight or curved lines will give slightly different textures. 


Due to the density of the stitching, you may experience some puckering around the edge of the image.  This can be pressed out once the stitching is complete. 

Here's my completed butterfly, which is now going to be turned into a clutch bag.  I'll hopefully show you this next week. 

I hope you've found this mini tutorial useful.  If you've got any questions, please ask in the comments below, and if you try the technique for yourself, please let me know how you get on. 

If you're on Instagram you can tag me @stitchedupsam or use the hashtag #stitchedupsam so I can find your projects. 


  1. Great tutorial and lovely outcome Sam!

  2. wow - that is fantastic, Brilliant way to get started with free motion embroidery, I have yet to do free motion embroider with any real success, will try your way soon!

  3. oh wow, that is so stunning!! What a gorgeous butterfly, and a wonderful tutorial!! You make it look so achievable! Very inspiring.

  4. That is such a pretty butterfly. I love all the colours you have added. Thanks for sharing such as clear and descriptive tutorial.


Thank you so much for your comment, every one is read and appreciated. It means a lot to me that you take the time to read and comment on my posts.