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Tips for Wool Embroidery by Machine

In my previous blog post I showed you the new crewelwork design I’ve been working on. I love wool threads for their texture, but they can be tricky to work with. Here are a few tips for getting the best results by machine.

  1. Use a design digitized for thicker threads. Most machine embroidery designs are simply too dense, and you risk breaking needles and thread if you use them. Thick thread designs allow more room between stitches.

    You may be able to use a simple, lightweight design like redwork if you scale up the design with your machine. For best results, use a setting that scales up the size while keeping the original number of stitches.

  2. Stabilizer is even more important than usual when working with these thick threads and large needles. It’s easy for the fabric to get pulled out of shape while stitching, creating a mess of tangled and broken thread, or worse.

    I stitched the holly design on sheer cotton voile, and I wanted the embroidery to be as sheer and lightweight as possible. I started with my usual formula of fabric stiffened with liquid stabilizer, plus one layer of wash-away stabilizer. This was not sufficient, and I couldn’t stitch out the design without the thread snarling up on the bottom of the work and stopping the machine, sometimes even tearing the fabric in the process.

    The winning combination was two layers of interfacing sandwiched to the fabric with temporary spray adhesive*.  I used one layer of wash-away stabilizer on the top of the fabric, and a layer of medium weight tear-away on the bottom. This proved to be a good trade-off between stability and lightness for my fabric with my machine.

    Your project may need 1-2 layers of tear-away, wash-away, or a combination of the two. If you are not working with sheer fabric, a medium weight cutaway may also be suitable.

  3. Use the smallest hoop that will hold the design. I was able to stitch the tip of the holly branch in a 5″ hoop with only one layer of tear-away stabilizer. However, when I switched to a larger hoop, I once again experienced snagged and breaking threads. Larger hoops may need more stabilizer to get the same results as a smaller hoop.
  4. Use a size 100 or 110 needle. It’s huge, but it helps prevent frayed and broken threads.
  5. Slow down your machine. This will also help reduce broken threads.
  6. Use a thread stand, if you have one. This allows the thread a bit more room to unwind before going through the machine. If you’re using larger spools of thread, like the full cones of Madeira Lana, you’ll need one of these to feed the thread into your machine, as well.
  7. Always do a test run. Your project is a unique combination of your thread, fabric, stabilizer, and machine. What works for me may not work for you. Making a test swatch lets you figure out the right settings for your embroidery design without putting your project at risk.

 

The holly branch is design RR113, and it will be in the shop before Christmas. If you try this or any other designs with wool thread, I would love to see them!

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