Annie's embroidery design on cotton for a shade

Freehand machine embroidery, freemotion embroidery or free machine embroidery... so what does it actually mean?

It comes under many guises but essentially it all means the same thing.... drawing with your sewing machine!
Being able to draw with your sewing machine allows you to express yourself, create wonderful pieces of art and embellish your work.

Once you've mastered the technique this opens up a wealth of of creative opportunity thus allowing you to use thread in your machine the same way an artist uses a brush and paint.... You can literally draw 'freehand' with your machine.

Embroidery design from our pdf collection

To get started you simply need your feed dogs down or lowered and a darning or embroidery foot. A darning or embroidery foot has a small round opening through which the needle passes whilst sewing and with the feed dog down, this allows the fabric to pass under the needle freely.

Hooped up and ready to go

From my own personal experiences I've found the freedom this technique allows to be extremely addictive. I've always been creative, my earliest memories are as a child sketching away in my room at any given moment. I went on to study textiles at university and worked for many years for various reputable fabric companies. I think this has had a heavy influence on my own work, which has consistently revolved around fabric...... Even my father was a tailor!
Through free machine embroidery I can freely draw lines, write words, create landscapes, bring sketches to life on fabric and it also allows me to have total control of the stitch direction.

Student guided work

Starting out is fun and I would recommend being brave and just having a go!....Find some different threads, scraps of fabric and just have a play!

Some samples by my workshop students

From experience I always find that first time around a plain or blank piece of material works best. Play about, draw a circle, try and write your name, a simple shape or form like a flower. At the beginning you may find it useful to use an embroidery hoop to keep the material taught and prevent any puckering, this can be especially useful when working on smaller areas (it also helps to keep your fingers out of really don't want to stitch through those, believe me, I've done it)

Backing your chosen material with additional fabric such as felt will add weight and stability. You could also use a product such as a stabiliser. This is used to support the fabric during the stitching process and to keep it from puckering or stretching. Various options are available including water soluble, heat removal and tear away backing and can be found either online or at a good old fashioned haberdashery!

What you'll need to get started :-

A sewing machine.

A wooden hand embroidery hoop (this is optional, but I strongly recommend for beginners for helping with stability and work that is going to be heavily stitched).

Cotton Thread

Fabric to practice with.

Additional fabric for backing.

Stabilser (water soluble, tear away).

Embroidery/ darning foot.

Machine embroidery needles.

I'm extremely passionate about freehand machine embroidery, it's an integral part of my work, I teach people how to do it on my workshops and I can't get enough of it!! We have recently launched a collection of pdf designs which can be downloaded and used as a guide for your own freehand machine embroidery projects. We also have a selection of pre-printed designs on a luxury cotton/linen that can be embroidered and embellished with either machine or hand embroidery. These are available on our site here:

Embroidery panel

Want to have a go yourself, come along and learn the techniques involved :-

Come and join us on a workshop!

Stitched 'Moored Boat' from our pre-printed embroidery linen collection