Free Machine Embroidery Design!

To celebrate this special month, we have a special gift for you — we’re giving away an embroidery design every Friday! I’ve been digging into the CME archives to find some of our favorite seasonal designs to share with you.

CME FREEBIE 300x300 Free Machine Embroidery Design!

Today we’re starting with a pretty light-stitching cardinal sitting on a branch. I just think this guy is so charming. He would look lovely on a simple white linen background, maybe on a throw pillow or even in a wintery quilt block. It’s 2.44” wide x 1.93” high with 866 stitches and five thread colors. The free download comes as a zip file and includes the following formats: EXP, HUS, JEF, PCS, PEC, PES, SEW and VIP.

Click here to download the Cardinal 4 design.

Find the rest of the Festive Cardinals Collection at

Cardinal Collection Free Machine Embroidery Design!

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How To Use Craft Foam With Your Embroidery Machine

Craft foam is fabulous for adding loft to embroidered motifs, but it’s also a creative base for embroidery embellishment. Bring foam out in the open to create fashionably funky accessories and home décor.

Lead 1024x894 How To Use Craft Foam With Your Embroidery Machine


The foam used for embroidery applications is a dense synthetic material with a bit of give and lots of flexibility. It’s water resistant and machine washable, but should not be dry-cleaned. It’s flammable, but controlled heat can be used to shape the foam as detailed in techniques below.

Foam is available in many colors in 1-, 2-, 3- and 4mm thicknesses. The 2- and 3mm sizes are most commonly used in embroidery. Foam manufactured specifically for embroidery perforates cleanly and creates fewer “crumbs” that may fall into the bobbin area. General-use craft foam can also be used in machine embroidery for a visible embroidery base, however, and it’s available in a wide range of colors and project-ready items such as bookmarks, door hangers and tags.

Craft foam is also available in sheets with one paper-backed adhesive surface. These pre-glued pieces can be used with some embroidery designs for easy project construction without messy glue.


Visor 300x257 How To Use Craft Foam With Your Embroidery MachineStabilizers for foam embroidery vary with individual techniques and projects. For traditional puffed embroidery on woven fabrics, tear-away stabilizer is a good choice. Adhesive tear-away stabilizer is appropriate for projects such as hats that cannot be hooped in the usual way.

For embroidery on foam, choose a stabilizer that will support the stitches both during and after embroidery to prevent total perforation and tearing. For filled motifs or embroidery that includes satin stitching, choose an adhesive tear-away or a cut-away. The stabilizer becomes a permanent part of the project to keep the foam intact after it’s been perforated repeatedly by the needle.

By contrast, water-soluble stabilizers work well for openwork or running stitch designs that do not create as many holes in the foam base. They can be completely removed, a plus for projects where the wrong side will be visible. Test first to be sure the design will not tear the foam.

Adhesive stabilizers, whether water-activated or paper-release, are useful in foam embroidery because the foam itself cannot be hooped without damage. Use caution to prevent too strong an adhesive bond if the stabilizer will be removed after embroidery. Use a minimal amount of water to activate the stabilizer, and consider lessening the tack of paper-release stabilizer by adhering and removing a fabric scrap before positioning the foam on the adhesive surface.


CD case 300x244 How To Use Craft Foam With Your Embroidery MachineUse a small needle to minimize the size of needle holes in the foam. A size 75/11 needle is appropriate for embroidery-on-foam projects. When the foam is used to add dimension to a traditional design, choose the needle size that works best with the background fabric. Larger needles are acceptable, because in this technique the foam is intended to tear away along the lines of needle penetrations.

To mark embroidery placements on foam shapes, use chalk that wipes away easily or tape a full-size template to the foam both to visualize the finished appearance and guide the needle to the correct position. Remove the template before embroidering the design.


Keychain 300x270 How To Use Craft Foam With Your Embroidery Machine

This project was digitized for paper, but it worked perfectly when stitched with foam instead.

Embroidery on foam is similar to embroidery on paper. That means designs created for paper embroidery translate well to foam. These designs are generally outline-only motifs and alphabets. Paper appliqué motifs also work well on foam, with appliqués cut from thin foam, paper or fabric.

Embroideries digitized for fabric can be adapted for foam as well:

  • Choose running stitch motifs such as Redwork and quilting designs or outline-only alphabets.
  • Stitch only the outline of a filled design for Redwork-look embroidery.
  • Enlarge a design without changing the stitch count to decrease its density. Stitch a test sample first, and balance the functionality of the lower density with the amount of coverage needed for attractive embroidery.
  • Back the foam permanently with adhesive stabilizer to counteract the tearing associated with satin or fill-stitched motifs.


Don’t miss out! Find more great projects and ideas in our newest issue, available on newsstands and at Interweave/sewing!

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How To Machine Embroider On Towels


Thick or thin, formal or casual—towels are simple to embroider and make great gifts!

Towels are available in an assortment of styles and sizes, with a band or border, or without. The band area on towels can vary from 1″ to 1 1/2″. Embroidery is traditionally centered above the border or band.lead 1024x888 How To Machine Embroider On Towels

More luxurious or commercial towels are available without a band. There is more creative embroidery freedom with towels that do not have a band or border. The embroidery or monogram can be positioned in a more pleasing location and the addition of trims can enhance the finished appearance.

Kitchen towels have little or no nap depending on the style. Most specialty towels usually do not have a border, which makes them ideal for embroidery. A decorative border can be added for a contrasting band of color.


Monograms are an obvious choice for towel embroidery. The satin stitches of monograms make for distinctive personalization as well as hold down the towel nap. Fine stitches will sink into the toweling. Select designs with sufficient width to withstand the toweling nap and not sink in.

Rose 300x300 How To Machine Embroider On TowelsFill designs with a lot of stitches can be embroidered on towels with a few precautions. Pre-wash the towels before embroidery. This will help prevent the design from cupping (laundering after embroidery makes the toweling shrink but the design stitches stay in place causing the design to buckle under pressure). Use a topper to prevent stitches from sinking into the nap and make sure the design has sufficient underlay to hold the nap down.

Test-stitch designs on similar fabric to make sure sufficient underlay has been used to hold down the toweling nap or loops. Determine if your digitizing software can import designs and add underlay if more is needed.

Embroider using a polyester thread as it will hold up to repeat washing and bleach. Use a size 14/90 embroidery needle to accommodate the toweling thickness.


Toweling has a nap; therefore a topper is required to hold down the loops. The most common is a water-soluble topper. Use a clear tear-away variety that is easy to remove.

If a permanent topper is necessary, consider using a vinyl topper or a layer of sheer organza or organdy in a color that matches or contrasts the toweling. The organza or organdy layer will be a bit more difficult to remove. Use it with designs that are solid fill designs without gaps in the embroidery. Use a very sharp curved tip scissors to remove the layer. Sometimes just opening the scissors and holding the fabric taut is enough to support the fabric trim as the scissors glide around the design outer edge.

The base stabilizer can be a mesh or adhesive water-soluble, or a tear-away. Mesh water soluble stabilizers can be trimmed after embroidery; the remainder will dissolve in the laundry process. Trim close to the design outer edge and leave it; or use a needle-tip bottle filled with water to surround the outside design area and remove the entire excess stabilizer. Use a paper towel to dab stabilizer not removed around the edges or within small areas of the design.

A clean-tearing stabilizer will dissolve over time if one is used as a base. Note: The heavier or more compact the design, the heavier the stabilizer needed.


Hooping a towel with the stabilizer can be a daunting task. To do so, loosen the hoop screw sufficiently to accommodate hooping the topper, toweling and base stabilizer together.

Or hoop the stabilizer and spray it with temporary adhesive. Secure the towel to the stabilizer. Lightly spray the topper and secure it to the toweling. Use a perimeter basting or “fix” stitch to hold all the layers together during the embroidery process.

Or hoop a water-soluble adhesive stabilizer and use it as a base and a topper for embroidery. Allow the laundry process to remove both layers. Note: Removing an adhesive stabilizer from loop toweling can be difficult as it can pull on the delicate loops. It is advisable to launder the towels again to remove the stabilizer.

Christmas 1015x1024 How To Machine Embroider On Towels—————

Don’t miss out! Find more great projects and ideas in our newest issue, available on newsstands and at!


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New Sewing Podcast!

Over at Creative Machine Embroidery, we’ve been SUPER EXCITED about our top-secret new project. Okay, it wasn’t quite top secret, but it was something we wanted to keep under our hat until we were ready to release it. Which is today!

Sew Tell logo 300x300 New Sewing Podcast!Today is the premiere of Sew & Tell, a brand-new podcast hosted by Meg Healy of and Amanda Carestio and Kate Zaynard, the editors of Creative Machine Embroidery and Sew News magazines. We’ve been working hard to put together an interested and entertaining production, and we think we’ve succeeded.

Just in case you’re not familiar with the format, a podcast is an on-demand audio-only production which can be downloaded or streamed through a webpage or podcasting service. Most devices like cell phones and tablets have a podcasting app already or the ability to download one. You can download individual episodes, or subscribe to have each new episode automatically download to your device.

In our case, we’re going to be having roundtable discussions about subjects that matter to the sewing community — some of them are fun, like what are the pros and cons of paper versus digital patterns, and some of them are more serious, like sewing as self-care to get through a difficult time in your life. We’ll also be talking to big names in the indie sewing community, getting their take on a range of topics.

One of our goals is to share inspiration with our listeners, and with that in mind we’ve included a segment called SewJo, named for the Instagram hashtag that’s short for “sewing mojo.” This is an opportunity for each of us to share what’s inspiring us on any given day. And we’re hoping that our discussions get our listeners thinking too, so every episode we’re going to ask a question and invite listeners to answer them, then we’ll share some of the answers in the next episode.

If this sounds interesting to you, please give us a try. You can listen to the first episode online at, or search “Sew & Tell” on your favorite podcasting platform. If you like it, please subscribe!

We hope you’ll become part of our podcast community!

Kate signature New Sewing Podcast!




Don’t miss out! Find more great projects and ideas in our newest issue, available on newsstands and at!

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Machine Embroidery on Jeans: Part 4

Pants month is over on our sister site, Sew Daily, but we’re not quite ready to let it go yet. So today we have one more post for you on one of the biggest embroidery trends of the moment — embroidery on jeans pockets.

jeans 4 lead Machine Embroidery on Jeans: Part 4

In the past parts of this series, we’ve talked about different techniques for adding embroidery to purchased jeans. But what if you like to make jeans from scratch? When making jeans from a pattern, embroidering the pocket before or during construction gives you a wide range of design options. Plus, you’re able to position the pockets to best flatter your figure and add as many or as few pockets as you wish.

And who says your pocket designs have to match or even coordinate? Have fun with your design layout to really make a statement. Read on for some fun ideas.

Choose a design that mimics the pocket shape, either along the corner or lower point.

echo 893x1024 Machine Embroidery on Jeans: Part 4

Cutwork isn’t a traditional pocket design, as the pocket contents are then visible through the open design areas. To make sure pocket contents stay put, place cutwork designs at the upper pocket edge, back the pocket with a contrast fabric, use designs with only small holes or limit the number of openings.

cutwork 1011x1024 Machine Embroidery on Jeans: Part 4

A border design is a great choice for jeans pockets because it’s easily resized to fit the pocket width or length.

border 1024x977 Machine Embroidery on Jeans: Part 4

Rainbows, geometric lines and floral bursts are all great options, among others. Use borders at the upper pocket edge, along the lower curved or straight edge or, for larger scale designs, across the pocket horizontal middle.

Many designs have multiple elements that are easily split to cover both back pockets. Upload the design into software and find the center. Split the design in half, or thirds or at a logical point where the stitching doesn’t overlap or otherwise interfere with the break. Save the resulting two designs into two files. Embroider one on the left pocket and the other on the right.

cacti Machine Embroidery on Jeans: Part 4

Some designs are even digitized as a split design from the start. These designs are most often borders or scenes that are split with the intention of embroidering in multiple hoopings. No software is required to split these designs, as they’re already saved separately. Choose one for the left pocket and one for the right.

Mirror the same design for use on both pockets. To ensure precise placement on both pockets, first print a template of the design. Mark the center cross marks onto each pocket right side using a removable fabric marker. Before embroidering each pocket, baste the design perimeter in the hoop and check the placement against the placement. When satisfied, embroider each design.

mirrored Machine Embroidery on Jeans: Part 4

If the pocket shape allows it, rotate and center a corner design at the angled lower pocket edge. This technique works for both ready-made and from-scratch jeans. Print a design template and mark the placement on the pocket pattern as a guide for stitching. Or rotate the design -45° and stitch it on the denim fabric, ensuring the design aligns vertically with the fabric grain, before cutting out the pocket pattern pieces.

corner 1024x953 Machine Embroidery on Jeans: Part 4—————

Don’t miss out! Find more great projects and ideas in our newest issue, available on newsstands and at!



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Machine Embroidery On Jeans: Part 3

October is pants month over on our sister site, Sew Daily, and we’re getting in on it with one of the biggest embroidery trends at the moment — embroidery on jeans pockets. Denim is a great canvas for embroidery designs, as most thread colors pop off any denim wash beautifully. Keep an eye on this blog throughout the month of October for tips and tricks for perfectly embroidered pockets. Bonus! Look for an extra post in November that’s all about custom jeans and creative pocket embroidery ideas!

Jeans 3 lead1 1024x882 Machine Embroidery On Jeans: Part 3

Depending on the design you choose, hand appliqué is a simple method for attaching a machine embroidery design to a jean pocket; however, it does take more time to finish.

Choose a patch design or freestanding appliqué design. The design must be digitized as a freestanding design; otherwise stitching and/or design portions could separate from the design or warp when the stabilizer is removed.

Hoop two layers of tear-away water-soluble stabilizer.

Embroider the design, adding fabric pieces as indicated by the digitizer.

Jeans 3 detail 256x300 Machine Embroidery On Jeans: Part 3Once the design is complete, remove the stabilizer from the hoop. Carefully tear away the excess stabilizer. Remove any remaining stabilizer fuzz from the design perimeter using a cotton swab dipped in water. Press the design from the wrong side using a press cloth, if needed.

Position the design on the pocket; pin. Thread a hand-sewing needle with transparent monofilament thread or matching heavyweight upholstery thread, depending on the design density and desired finished look. Hand sew the design to the pocket through the pocket layer only, using a thimble and upholstery needle.The curve of an upholstery needle helps to maneuver inside the pocket without having to remove it.

Tie off the threads on the pocket wrong side. Press the pocket using a press cloth.


Don’t miss out! Find more great projects and ideas in our newest issue, available on newsstands and at!



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Machine Embroidery On Jeans: Part 2

October is pants month over on our sister site, Sew Daily, and we’re getting in on it with one of the biggest embroidery trends at the moment — embroidery on jeans pockets. In part two we’ll discuss tips on stabilizers, free-standing lace designs and more!

Denim is a great canvas for embroidery designs, as most thread colors pop off any denim wash beautifully. Keep an eye on this blog throughout the month of October for tips and tricks for perfectly embroidered pockets.

Jeans 2 lead 1024x852 Machine Embroidery On Jeans: Part 2

Add embroidery to readymade jeans by attaching it using fusible web. The pocket can remain attached to the jeans for this, making it a quick and easy technique, but the design options are limited. It’s possible to make a patch from a filled design, while a freestanding lace design, such as the one pictured, provides a clean and neat finish.

Jeans 2 detail 738x1024 Machine Embroidery On Jeans: Part 2Choose a freestanding lace design that has large sections of mesh backing. Too many open spaces can make it difficult to attach. In the featured sample, a large, curving floral design that would run off the pocket was used.

Hoop two layers of fabric-like water-soluble stabilizer. Embroider the design. Remove the lace from the hoop and trim any jump stitches and thread ends.

Remove the stabilizer following the manufacturer’s instructions. Rinse the lace thoroughly to ensure the lace is as soft and flexible as possible. Allow the lace to dry fully.

Choose a flexible fusible web, such as Therm O Web Heat n Bond Soft Stretch Ultra. This allows the embroidery to flex with the body as the jeans are worn. Cut a rectangle of fusible web slightly larger than the lace piece and fuse to the lace wrong side following the manufacturer’s instructions. Allow the lace to cool completely.

Trim the fusible web as close as possible to the lace edge, being careful not to cut the stitches. Also cut the web out of any large holes in the lace.

Place the jeans on a flat work surface and audition the lace over the pocket with the paper side down.

When satisfied with the placement, peel off the paper, reposition the lace and fuse according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Allow the lace to cool completely.

Tip: Make a smaller, coordinating piece of lace and add it near the jeans hem using the same technique.

Plus find more tips on embroidering on jeans here.


Don’t miss out! Find more great projects and ideas in our newest issue, available on newsstands and at!

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Machine Embroidery On Jeans

October is pants month over on our sister site, Sew Daily, and we’re getting in on it with one of the biggest embroidery trends at the moment — embroidery on jeans pockets. Denim is a great canvas for embroidery designs, as most thread colors pop off any denim wash beautifully. Keep an eye on this blog throughout the month of October for tips and tricks for perfectly embroidered pockets.

Jeans 1 lead 1024x732 Machine Embroidery On Jeans

Revamp a readymade pair of jeans by removing the pocket, embroidering it and sewing it back on.

Measure the pocket to ensure the chosen design will fit. Remember to take the standard lower point shape into account when measuring. Avoid embroidering on the folded pocket edges; the density change will reduce the stitchout quality.

If concerned about proper placement when restitching the pocket, trace the pocket using a removable fabric marker.

Using a seam ripper or small pointed scissors, carefully remove the pocket from the jeans.

Print a template of the design and audition it on the pocket. Once the desired placement is found, mark the pocket centerline.

A pocket is usually too small to hoop, so use a self-adhesive cut-away or tear-away stabilizer or hoop the stabilizer and adhere the pocket using temporary spray adhesive, aligning the center marks with the hoop centerlines.

jeans 1 detail 300x261 Machine Embroidery On Jeans Embroider the designs. For the featured sample at right, two of the thread colors were matched to the two different topstitching colors, and then a gradient of  colors that fell in between was chosen for the remaining colors.

Remove the pocket from the hoop and cut or tear away the stabilizer from the wrong side.

Align the pocket to its original position on the jeans; pin.

Thread the machine with topstitching thread that matches the original. Install a denim needle and set the machine to a longer stitch length. Slowly and carefully stitching the pocket in place along the original stitching lines.


Don’t miss out! Find more great projects and ideas in our newest issue, available on newsstands and at!

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New Issue from Creative Machine Embroidery magazine

Nov Dec 2018 cover 221x300 New Issue from Creative Machine Embroidery magazineOur favorite Creative Machine Embroidery issue of the year is here! Of course we don’t play favorites, but the November/December issue is so much fun, and we’ve really put together a phenomenal collection of projects for you to wrap up 2018 with.

On the cover is the gorgeous Ornate Skate design by Ramona Baird. It’s all freestanding lace (with a little Styrofoam to support the blades). Stitch it out on water-soluble stabilizer (the design’s free through the end of December at!), then dissolve the stabilizer, block the pieces and stitch them together following the detailed instructions found in the magazine. This lovely project will impress all your holiday guests.

Let It Glow Scarf 196x300 New Issue from Creative Machine Embroidery magazine

Let It Glow Scarf

Are you the kind of person who likes a bit of twinkle in your holiday wear? You’ll love the light-up Let It Glow scarf (we do!). Designed with eyelets to stick mini-lights through and a pocket in each end to hold the battery pack that powers them, this scarf is super fun. If you’re not the light-up type, you can still make it — just don’t cut the eyelets out. In that case, we recommend glamming them up with hot-fix crystals instead.

Santa Wrap 275x300 New Issue from Creative Machine Embroidery magazine

ITH Santa Wrap





Our in-the-hoop project for this issue is a lovely wrap to dress up pillar candles and candleholders, a bottle of wine or sparkling cider, or a mason jar. Its simple but iconic design imparts a distinct Christmassy feel perfect for adding subtle décor or adorning a hostess gift. Find the design at until Dec. 31, 2018.

Sweet Sweaters 294x300 New Issue from Creative Machine Embroidery magazine

Sweet Sweater Ornaments

Can we tell you how much we love our CME exclusive collection for this issue? These adorable “ugly” sweaters were lovingly designed to be just the right amount of gaudy to be fun while still being just plain cute. I have a special fondness for the T-Rex design, but it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite. Making them in the hoop is a simple process with a great payout. Hang them with the ribbon, or omit it and glue a miniature hanger to the back for a final touch. Download the gingerbread man design for free from and find the full collection at

Starry Night Blouse 203x300 New Issue from Creative Machine Embroidery magazine

Starry Night Blouse

Contributor Katrina Walker always makes the prettiest garments for us using tricky techniques, and this issue is no exception. She embroidered a large number of stars in metallic thread on sheer fabric to create the Starry Night Blouse, and the end result is stunning. Learn all her secrets to recreate it perfectly for your own holiday shindigs.

There’s a lot more useful information and pretty holiday projects to find in this issue, including a striking wool jacket, beaded ornament covers and heirloom-style stockings, among others. Pick it up on newsstands now or visit to order a copy online. And don’t forget to visit for all the free designs included with this issue!

Other projects New Issue from Creative Machine Embroidery magazine

Happy stitching!


Don’t miss out! Find more great projects and ideas in our newest issue, available on newsstands and at!


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How To Machine Embroider on Cork

Cork is eco-friendly, renewable and very trendy. It’s also a great surface to embroider on. While it acts like leather, vinyl and other non-fibrous materials in many ways (don’t pin it!), its fabric backing allows it to take embroidery better than many similar fabrics. Here are some things to keep in mind when embroidering cork.

Cork 1024x642 How To Machine Embroider on Cork

What a Hoot 248x300 How To Machine Embroider on Cork

ITH What a Hoot Owl Necklace Design, stitched on cork

  • While cork isn’t damaged as severely as some materials by dense stitching, it will eventually perforate. Consider density when choosing a design, avoiding designs with extremely dense and layered stitching.
  • When marking on cork, consider what will both show up and remove effectively. Test markings on scraps before using a method on the final project. We’ve found that a powdered chalk roller is very effective, as it deposits well without a lot of pressure and wipes away quickly and easily.
  • Cork can’t be hooped, so use a self-adhesive stabilizer or adhere the fabric using a temporary spray adhesive. Tear-away and cut-away stabilizers are preferable, as soaking cork to remove water-soluble stabilizer can damage the material. Never baste or pin in the hoop, as holes are permanent.
  • Use a large, sharp needle with a large eye. Topstitching and denim needles are ideal for embroidering cork.
  • If available, lower the machine’s foot to sit just above the cork while embroidering. Like with leather, the cork may close in around the needle when it’s down, causing the needle to pull the material up on its upstroke. Keeping the foot low minimizes this effect.
  • Slow the machine speed if available; however, a speed slightly higher than the slowest available might work better, as it creates more momentum behind the needle. Try different speeds during test stitching to see what works best.
Creepy Crawly 300x200 How To Machine Embroider on Cork

ITH Creepy Crawly design, stitched on cork

When embroidering on any new material, be sure to test stitch to find the best combination of design, needle, stabilizer, thread and machine settings for your project.

Tip: Download the What a Hoot Owl design pictured above free from until October 31, 2018. Find the Creepy Crawly design at


Don’t miss out! Find more great projects and ideas in our newest issue, available on newsstands and at!

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