Materials for Free Motion Embroidery

In my last post I took you through a simple free motion embroidery project without really going into much detail about the materials and tools needed, so today I thought I'd talk about what you need.

Backing Fabric

I like to mainly use plain fabrics for my backing - that is the background I applique and stitch onto, although I do occasionally use tweeds and wools with a texture or pattern.

Medium to heavy weight fabrics work best; cotton canvas, furnishing weight linen and denim are all great options.  Harris Tweed or tartan is lovely but can be quite expensive if you require larger pieces.   
Interfacing / Stabiliser
Unless the fabric I'm using as a base is very heavy weight and stable I always back it with some medium weight iron on interfacing.  You don't need a specialist embroidery stabiliser, dressmakers interfacing works fine and is cheaper.  I find Vlieseline H250 to be the best weight in most cases.
 I use this heat activated fabric adhesive to bond my applique fabrics to the backing prior to beginning embroidery.  It holds everything in place far better than pins ever could.

A variety of fabrics all suitable for applique

Applique Fabrics

This is where your options are almost endless!  When I started doing free motion embroidery I used quilting cotton almost exclusively and it's still a good option.  You can buy it in small quantities, it comes in an incredible array of colours and prints and is easily obtainable.  It's also easy to work with.

These days if I'm using cotton fabric then Liberty Tana lawn is my fabric of choice. I look out for scrap packs wherever I go and have been known to scrounge scraps off fellow stitchers via Instagram!

But don't be limited by cotton; wool and silk are amazing for adding texture, as are leather and handmade felt.

This cushion I made recently features Liberty Tana lawn, silk dupion, metallic leather and handmade felt

A great source of fabric is the sample books you find in curtain and upholstery shops.  I have a couple of such outlets near me and have picked up some amazing and beautiful bargains from them. 


A good quality polyester thread works best, my preference is Gutermann Sew All.   Polyester works better than cotton as it is stronger and therefore less prone to breakage.  I tend to use black thread or another dark shade, but different effects can be achieved by using brighter or lighter colours.  You can choose to match your thread colour to your applique fabric, or contrast. 

Variagated, metallic and rayon machine embroidery threads can all be used to highlight areas and again give different effects.  Experiment to see what you like best.

Rayon machine embroidery threads


You will need some greaseproof paper to lay on top of your fabric and Bondaweb to protect the iron from the sticky glue residue.  Cleaning glue from the plate of the iron isn't fun!  Just buy the cheapest roll of greaseproof paper you can find in the supermarket, it doesn't need to be anything fancy. 

A selection of pens is always good to have on hand.  Frixion pens are great for drawing guidelines for stitching; just remember their ink disappears with heat, so don't spend ages drawing something out with one and then go over it with your iron before you've stitched!  Other than Frixion pens, I use either a standard ball point pen or a fine drawing pen to trace around my templates.


In terms of tools you don't really need a lot in addition to your regular sewing kit.  The only essential as far as I'm concerned is a darning foot for your sewing machine but if you're braver or less squeamish than I am you could even forego this.

Non essential - but "nice to have" tools for me would include some tiny sharp scissors or micro snips for cutting threads close to my work and maybe some craft tweezers for dealing with fiddly bits of fabric.  I do like to have scissors in a variety of sizes both for cutting the aforementioned fiddly bits of fabric as well as my initial templates.      

Tula Pink Hardware micro snips - a less fancy version would work just as well!

1 comment

  1. Good tip to go around twice. I think that's my area of worry - that the line is spindly and wobbly. I am definitely going to try again!


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