Applique & Free Machine Embroidery Project

HI Tracy here again with another tutorial, this time I show you 3 handy techniques to know.

I decided to do frames for my kids rooms with phrases to represent their names so here is Big Critters frame step by step.

You will need:

darning / embroidery foot

medium interfacing


scrap fabric


buttons, gems etc

hand needle & thread

backing material


double sided tape

bulldog clips


Cut your backing fabric so will fit in frame I cut mine slightly bigger to wrap round when done so looks smooth.


I interfaced my material leaving a good size gap for turning later on. This keeps the fabric smooth for applique & embroidery otherwise can pucker up.



To start your applique cut your material in a square similar size to your design.


Back it with bondaweb a tiny bit smaller than the square this is to prevent it sticking to your ironing board or iron when you iron in place. Use hot iron & press firmly.


Now draw your design on. When you do this draw design on the paper side & do it opposite way to how you want because when you flip it to fabric side it will be the right way.


Cut out & peel the paper off back. Ensure you can see a light glaze or texture to back of fabric. If it looks like still on the paper re-iron.


Now iron in place. I marked on back the size of viewing space of frame so that I placed item in right place. If I did it too low the frame would obscure it.


Now we can sew. I marked the lines on my treasure chest so looked bit more 3d. I did this with chalk. Set your machine to zipzag that is average width (mine was set at 4) & a close length so its not too space & get the classic applique look (mine was 2). Test this first so happy before you start.

I took my foot off in a few photos so you could see the needle better. You will need to sew with foot on lol. I started at a straight edge close to a corner. Doing this hides the start point better. Test where your needle goes in & adjust so the needle is at edge of fabric & goes into design, not outwards. This applies to whereever you start.


Go steady without pulling or pushing your material just guide it slightly so stitch is even. When reach a corner keep your needle on outside edge of fabric lift foot & swivel. Put foot back down when your design edge is parrell to foot edge as shown. Its important to keep needle in when swivel because you compromise neatness of the stitch. My machine resets the needle position if you lift foot without needle down.


You should have lovely even stitch with un-noticable overlap on corners.


When you have a corner that goes inn rather than sticks out you have to do this different. YOu do same technique but your needle must be on opposite side so when restart it goes towards edge. The best way to remember this is you when you turn your design you next stitches need to overlap your previous slightly if they don’t chances are needle should be on other side.


I found it handy to do 2 stitches before I turned to do next line.


Next challenge is a curve. I just slowly guided it round without lifting foot but do this slowly because is too fast you will end up with crazy zaggeded stitches.


When finish curve lift foot & twist slightly so goes straight again but noticably. If feel will look too noticable continue curve for couple of stitches before try again. Again ensure needle is on outside of design as this is an outside corner.


Carry on till get back to start & overlap a couple of stitches. Remember to back tack. Now i will go over the chalk lines to make my treasure chest less flat.

Start & finish next to outside stitches don’t overlap them.





You need your darning foot for this step. This is what mine looks like. they come as metal also & look circular.


When attaching foot ensure the bar at the top sits above your needle bar.


You need to lower feed dogs now. Mine looks like this the switch is in normal position. I have to click to the left to make them drop. Some machines have this switch where bobbin goes. Mines a drop in bobbin so switch at back. Check your manual.


The picture on the left shows the dropped feed dogs & the picture on right shows the raised feed dogs. The feed dogs are the metal ridges under the foot that guide your fabric through.


When you begin you sew you may notice when you drop the foot that it doesn’t drop as picture shows…

CIMG8288 CIMG8290

… however when you lower needle it will drop to the fabric.


Place needle at starting point & sew!! Because your feed dogs are dropped you have to move the fabric or it will sew in same point till you do. This is why its called free machine embroidery because your not bound by the laws of the usual straight stitching you can swiggles, loops & writing!!


You can also use backtack with this function at the start & end of each letter or word or swiggle & is useful for dots.


My next job was to see where I want my buttons & took this photo to remind me.

CIMG8296 CIMG8297


I will show you a lovely neat method to sew on buttons which is perfect for clothes!

First cut a long length of thread about 40-50cm. Fold in half so the ends meet & thread through a needle.


Pull through so the cut ends meet the loop.


Keeping the cut & loop ends together wrap round a finger 2-3 times.


Place needle under thread & pull through. This should form a knot.


Place needle on front of fabric through to back & back out to front in 1 motion. I’ve tried to show how to do this in picture below but don’t worry if can do it in 2 motions. Make sure the re-entry is similar width, from other entry as to your button.


Pull through & thread button onto thread. This is a shank button in picture because has no holes to front. The method works for all types of buttons.


Place needle back thru to fabric using same holes or area as previous. Repeat. Then bring back to front & loop up to 10 times round button underneath. This ensure button is stable but also allows flat buttons room to manover through button holes without working loose. For this sort of project you don’t have to wrap but for purpose of a tutorial I did.


Put needle through these loops as shown & pull through but not fully!!


When you pull through will spot a loop forming. Pop your needle through the loop & tighten. You can repeat that & you have secured your button.


Lastly push your needle through all that stitching to other side & cut.


You are ready to frame once secure all your buttons, beads & stuck any gems on.



I don’t frame a lot of things so I’m not so good but I will try explain an easy method that’s neat.

You will need to cut a piece of strong sturdy cardboard same size as back of frame. Make sure its plain so doesn’t show through project. If its too flimsy the project won’t flatten out at front nicely.

If you can mark centre of cardboard & centre of project. Apply double sided tape to your cardbaord whereever you feel need it I did small area in centre where the project would hide it. Flip cardboard over & apply double sided tape to all four sides.

Place project on the cardboard matching double sided tape. Fold over & secure with bulldog clips.


You can cut your corners in diagonals to create less bulk when stuck down.


You will need to cut the corner off or will hang over the edge.


Alternatively you can cut a square out at corner before start.


Flip over to back & peel off backing from tape 1 by 1. Press each fold over down do carefully so doesn’t twist design at front & smoothly so not to create bulk. Repeat for all side. Once your done place in frame & admire.


Well done!! I love how the chest looks but need extra writing practice.



I am a mum of 2 boys and 1 girl.

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Posted in baby and Kids, Embellishment, Embroidery, Recycling, Upcycling and Scrap Busting, Sewing, Tracy's Tutorials
6 comments on “Applique & Free Machine Embroidery Project
  1. […] turn I needed to stop with my needle down but to the outside of the stitch. Tracy has a brilliant tutorial showing this technique in much more detail will lots of close up photographs. When I reached a bend […]

  2. […] I did a free machine tutorial so you can also pop over to that blog to read how to use a darning foot & Sammy did one to show how to sew in circles without the […]

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  4. Anonymous says:

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  5. […] turn I needed to stop with my needle down but to the outside of the stitch. Tracy has a brilliant tutorial showing this technique in much more detail will lots of close up photographs. When I reached a bend […]

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