Basic Training: Freestanding Lace

Rebecca Kemp Brent, courtesy of Coats and Clark
Basic Training: Freestanding Lace

Freestanding lace may seem like it’s difficult to make, but it’s an easy techniqueto master using the correct materials, hooping method and lace type. Once you learn the technique, use your new skills to create an elegant bib necklace.


  • Freestanding lace (FSL) designs are digitized using a dense layer of underlay stitches that support the design after the stabilizer is removed. Underlay stitches are the foundation of designs, providing stability to help prevent puckering and distortion, and are often hidden under subsequent design stitches.



  • Use the recommended thread weight and type for the chosen design.
  • Use 50- to 60-wt. heirloom cotton thread for mediumweight cotton laces. Rayon and silk thread create a lovely sheen and fluid drape. Allpurpose and fine polyester thread are also good choices.
  • Polyester embroidery thread creates stiffer lace than comparable weight rayon thread. Don’t use polyester thread when making lace for garments, as it’s too stiff. Use polyester thread when making dimensional projects, such as flower arrangements or ornaments.


  • Water-soluble stabilizer is typically used when creating freestanding lace. Design digitizers may recommend specific stabilizers, but always test-stitch the design first.
  • Water-soluble film stabilizers are available in three weights: heavyweight, mediumweight and lightweight. Heavyweight varieties are best for lace embroidery because they support the stitches, but using only one layer can cause the stabilizer to stretch during embroidery and misalign the design registration. For best results, hoop two to three stabilizer layers.
  • Water-soluble mesh stabilizers stretch less than film stabilizers and sometimes support designs using only one layer. If needed, use two layers.


  • Hooping aids are easy to make and help secure the stabilizer within the hoop, preventing design distortion.
  • Place a layer of heavyweight cut-away stabilizer or felt under a piece of water-soluble stabilizer; hoop.
  • Turn over the hoop and cut away the stabilizer or felt within the design area, leaving the heavyweight layer between the inner and outer hoops to support the water-soluble stabilizer.
  • Once the embroidery is complete, trim away as much stabilizer as possible, and then gently rinse to remove the remaining stabilizer. Soak the design in water for a few hours or overnight, changing the water once or twice and rinsing the design with each water change.
  • Check the stabilizer manufacturer’s instructions for water temperature, as some brands require a specific temperature for best results. If a temperature recommendation isn’t given, use lukewarm water.

Lace Types

  • Some freestanding lace designs have a satin zigzag outline that’s filled with a variety of stitch types (A). These laces are denser than other lace designs, and are inspired by traditional lace edgings, insertions and motifs.
  • Other freestanding lace designs are digitized on a base of grid-like stitches, which support the designs. These lace motifs resemble openwork designs stitched over the grid (B).
  • Another freestanding lace type resembles hand crochet, which has open and filled squares. Faux crochet motifs use intertwined stitches as the base rather than dense underlay stitches. Using the correct stabilizer is essential to ensure that the threads interlock properly (C).

Edgings, Insertions & Designs

  • Edging lace is a continuous band with one straight edge. The opposite edge can be scalloped, pointed or a variety of other shapes. Edgings are digitized in sections in order to fit a hoop and created to appear seamless once connected (D). Design collections may include designs to finish ends and corners.
  • After embroidering each edging design, trim the stabilizer close to the stitches along one design short edge. Trim the stabilizer 1⁄4"-1⁄2" from a second design short edge. Place the closely trimmed stabilizer over the second trimmed stabilizer, abutting the design short edges. Zigzag stitch over the short edges to join the pieces. Repeat to join the remaining sections, and then remove the stabilizer.
  • Insertion lace is similar to edging lace, but has two straight finished edges and is usually stitched over fabric or used to join fabrics. Some insertions have eyelets or other openings, which are typically threaded with ribbon or trim, adding color to the lace. Like edgings, insertion laces are digitized in sections, which are combined to make long freestanding lace pieces (E).
  • To use lace designs, position the lace wrong side down over the fabric right side. Stitch the lace perimeter using a 1.5mm- to 2.0mm-long open zigzag stitch to couch the appliqué to the fabric. Cut away the fabric close to the design perimeter to create an elegant window effect.
  • Other lace designs are shaped to make tessellated fabrics when sewn together side by side. The designs can be simple squares and rectangles or more complex shapes, such as clamshells (F).

Fabric Laces

  • Embroider lace designs on sheer fabrics, such as organza, organdy or netting. Use cotton batiste to create eyelet lace. Use English cotton netting for special occasion laces.
  • Lace designs that are stitched on fabric don’t have complex understructures like freestanding lace designs, making them supple and lightweight. Multiple thread varieties can be used to stitch lace designs, including rayon and polyester embroidery thread, heirloom cotton or fine polyester with a matte finish.
  • Use water-soluble mesh or watersoluble adhesive stabilizer with sheer fabrics. If using water-soluble adhesive stabilizer, score the stabilizer to expose the adhesive agent. Moisten the stabilizer to activate the adhesive, and then place the fabric over the stabilizer; finger-press to secure. Once the stitching is complete, cut away the stabilizer beyond the design perimeter. Rinse to remove the remaining stabilizer.
  • Designs created specifically for fabric-based lace resemble appliqué motifs, as they typically stitch the design outline first, the tacking stitch second, and then the remaining design that’s usually finished with satin-stitched edging (G).


  • thread: metallic & polyester embroidery
  • 90/14 topstitch needle
  • tweezers
  • water-soluble adhesive stabilizer
  • water-soluble mesh stabilizer
  • freestanding lace embroidery designs: butterfly, charm, closure & link


  • Determine the necklace design size by measuring the desired necklace length. Decide how many of each design to use in order to achieve the determined length. The featured necklace uses one butterfly, one closure, 12 links, 13 medium charms, one long charm and one small charm. The featured design set has several assembly configurations, and the option digitized for gluing was selected.


  • Hoop two layers of water-soluble mesh stabilizer. Thread the machine with embroidery thread. Embroider each design, changing the thread colors and types as desired. Metallic thread was used to stitch the charm outlines of the featured necklace.
  • Once the embroidery is complete, trim the stabilizer close to each design edge. Rinse the designs, and then soak them for several hours or overnight to completely remove the stabilizer. Roll the pieces in a towel to remove excess water, and then lay flat to dry.


  • Insert a 90/14 topstitch needle and thread the embroidery machine with metallic thread in the needle and bobbin. Or use coordinating polyester embroidery thread in the bobbin.
  • Thread one link tail through the butterfly upper-right ring and upper-left ring. Fold each tail end 3⁄4" toward the wrong side; pin. Select a 2mm to 2.5mm zigzag stitch or an oval or circular satin stitch design. Stitch each link end to secure (H). Stitch slowly to accommodate the lace thickness. Knot the thread ends. Repeat to stitch five links on each butterfly side.

  • Gently remove the threads from the closure link buttonhole with tweezers. Thread the closure link tail without the buttonhole through the last upper-left necklace link, and then fold the tail end 3⁄4" toward the link wrong side; stitch.
  • Hoop a piece of water-soluble adhesive stabilizer; score the stabilizer to reveal the adhesive. Center the butterfly right side up over the stabilizer. Align the 12 medium charms 1⁄4" below the butterfly loweredge eyelets, the center charm 1⁄4" below the butterfly lower-edge center and the small charm 1⁄4" below the center charm.
  • Attach the hoop to the machine. Lower the needle into one butterfly eyelet. Using a 1.8mm straight stitch, stitch back-and-forth twice between the eyelet lower edge and the charm upper edge, stitching over the previous stitches. Without cutting the thread, select a 2.0mm-wide and 0.8mm-long zigzag stitch and stitch over the previous stitches. Repeat to stitch the remaining charms (I).
  • Stitch the remaining charm to the closure link tail, making sure the charm is small enough to slip through the closure buttonhole (J).
  • Trim the excess stabilizer, and then rinse to remove the remaining stabilizer. Once dry, press the necklace gently using steam to straighten any curling edges.
  • To wear, slip the closure long tail end through the loop on the opposite necklace side. Insert the closure dangle through the buttonhole to fasten the necklace.

Crochet lace: Advanced Embroidery Designs, #17013, Star Crochet Freestanding Lace Set; (866) 865-5241,
Floral lace: Husqvarna Viking, #166, Vintage Lace; (800) 446-2333,
Insertion lace: Criswell Embroidery & Design, #S015, Rebecca K-Lace Sampler;
Lace edging: My Embroidery Haven, Jennifer’s Dream Edgings & Insertions; (877) 990-0054,
Necklace: Criswell Embroidery & Design, #E030, Butterfly Jewelry and K-Lace Jewelry Bundle;
Rose: My Fair Lady Designs, Rose Lace, Rose Lace Centerpiece; or

Coats & Clark provided the Dual Duty XP All Purpose & Fine, metallic, polyester machine embroidery and Star Machine Quilting & Craft thread: (800) 648-1479,

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how do I buy the design labeled c. in this issue
Very much appreciated. Thank you
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