Craft foam is a great addition to embroidery. There are several techniques you can use with with material; read on for some ideas and technique descriptions.
What a Lift
Traditionally, foam is used to create raised or puffy machine embroidery. For this technique, look for specially digitized motifs or choose a design created with wide satin stitches. Because fill stitches compress the foam over the entire design area, they defeat the purpose of foam toppers. In addition, the chosen design must perforate the foam around all the design edges. Motifs digitized for foam have minimal underlay stitches and tapering satin stitches to perforate the ends of satin stitched columns.
- Stabilize and hoop the background fabric as usual.
- Lay a sheet of 2- or 3mm-thick foam larger than the design on top of the hooped fabric. Choose a color that matches the embroidery thread. Stitch the design.
- Gently tear away the excess foam.
If the foam leaves “pokies” visible around the edges, hold a steam iron just above the embroidery surface. The steam will shrink the foam slightly, pulling the pokies under the satin stitches.
In some cases, it may be necessary to loosen the needle thread tension to allow plenty of thread to wrap over the foam.
Cut it out
Some embroidery designs are created to take advantage of the perforation that occurs when a design forms a row of tightly packed needle holes. These designs include a threadless embroidery step to cut some-times intricate designs from the foam sheets. Begin by reading through all of the digitizer’s directions for the motif. Some designs combine both traditional embroidery and stitches with an unthreaded needle.
- Hoop stabilizer appropriate for the particular project. Adhesive stabilizers can be used, or choose non-adhesive stabilizer and attach the foam with a light spray of temporary adhesive or strips of tape placed well outside the embroidery area.
- Thread the machine as usual, then unthread only the needle eye. Tape the thread tail to the machine to fool it into thinking the thread is still correctly positioned. Some experimenting may be needed to find the best position for taping; low and to the left of the needle bar often works well. Choose a strong polyester embroidery or sewing thread to minimize shredding and thread breakage. The color is not important, because the thread will not become part of the design.
- Slow the machine speed if possible. This reduces the stress on the thread to help prevent shredding.
- If the machine automatically cuts jump stitches, turn that feature off to save time (there will be no threads to cut).
- Raise the embroidery foot height if possible, especially when working with thicker foams. Ideally, the foot should barely skim the foam surface.
- Stitch the embroidery design. The stitch length will be very short to per-forate the foam completely.
- Carefully remove the cut foam from the stabilizer. Save small cutout pieces to use as embellishments on other projects.
Stitch perforated frame shapes on adhesive foam sheets. While some gumming of the needle occurs, the effect is minimal because no thread passes through the adhesive. After embroidery, the cutout shapes are ready to peel and stick.
The Thick of It
Not all machines can accommodate 4mm-thick foam, but if the embroidery foot height can be adjusted to skim the surface of thick materials these thick shapes make quick and unusual projects.
- Hoop stabilizer and attach the thick foam shape. Use a full-size template printed on translucent paper to determine the embroidery position. Using the machine’s controls, center the needle over the template’s center marking. Remove the template before stitching.
- To accommodate the foam thickness, reduce the needle thread tension to about half its normal setting. Slow the machine speed to allow extra time for the needle to penetrate the thickness and engage with the bobbin thread.
- Raise the embroidery foot height to 4.5 or 5mm.
- Turn off the thread cutter if possible.
Stitch a simple, outline-only alphabet or motif.
- Select a single-layer craft foam project, such as a bookmark or door hanger, or opt for an unassembled kit of precut foam pieces.
- Print a full-size template on vellum or translucent paper and mark the center point. Position the template on top of the foam shape with the design in the desired location. Attach the template to the foam temporarily with tape or a light spray of temporary adhesive.
- Hoop adhesive stabilizer and expose or activate the sticky surface.
- Attach the foam shape to the stabilizer with the design centered in the embroidery field. Use the machine controls to position the needle over the design center point and then remove the paper template.
- Loosen the needle thread tension to about half its normal setting. Adjust the embroidery foot height, if possible, so it just skims the foam surface.
- Stitch the embroidery design. When the motif is complete, remove the hoop from the machine and, working from the wrong side, cut away the excess stabilizer at least 1⁄ 4″ outside the design edges. Even if the stabilizer is a tear-away, use scissors and cut away the excess to avoid stress that could tear the stitches free of the surrounding foam.
- Finger-press the remaining stabilizer back into place on the embroidery wrong side.
- For a tidy finish, cut a circle or square of paper, fabric or foam at least 1⁄ 2″ larger than the embroidery and glue it into place, covering the bobbin threads. This covering also adds extra support to keep the stitches in place on the foam.