Embroidering is an art form that has persisted and evolved through the ages. Today, we use embroidered items as personal gifts, mementos for special occasions, or display them for their beauty. Lettering is among the most popular forms of embroidery. Embroidered texts are often seen on towels, personal items and displayed in our homes. While hand-embroidered letters are unique and reflect a more personal involvement, they also take up a lot of time and effort. Machine embroidery, on the other hand, is faster and produces neat and consistent work. For the budding embroiderer who has no embroidery machine, the vital question is, can you embroider letters with a sewing machine?
Yes, you can! Several features in a sewing machine make embroidering letters on them possible while producing results that are almost or just as good as those done by machine embroidery. A sewing machine that offers you the option of dropping the feed dogs and has zigzag and decorative stitches, coupled with the right tools, can do embroidery lettering.
Embroidery lettering can not only be used for decorative purposes but also self-expression. You can use lettering as an art form to express your thoughts or any message you may have artistically. You don’t even need to spend the extra money on an embroidery machine.
How to Embroider Letters with a Sewing Machine
When embroidering letters using a sewing machine, you can either freely embroider without any template to follow if you trust your skill. This method is not ideal as it will likely produce work that is not neat and at its best. As most embroiders do, you can otherwise design the letter embroidery you want to use and then transfer it to the fabric. Moving the design you have chosen to the material is the first step in the letter embroidery process. There are several ways you can transfer the plans, including:
- Heat transfer includes using heat transfer pens and pencils and then applying heat to transfer the design.
- Pouncing involves tracing the design on a piece of paper with a pencil then pricking holes along the outline.
- Transfer papers- carbon or wax-based transfer papers are placed on the fabric with the ink on the material, and the design pressed out. The ink is usually washable from the fabric.
- Tracking- in this method, the design is secured on tracing paper and attached to the fabric. You then sew running stitches along the outline of the designed letters through the material and paper. After the tracking is done, the fabric and pulled away gently and the design embroidered.
- Printer ink- there are two ways in which you can use printer ink to transfer designs. First, you could print the design directly onto the fabric using an inkjet printer that produces permanent marks. Second, you can print the pattern on paper using a laser printer and then transfer it to the material using heat.
After transferring the design to the fabric, you can then start embroidering. Here are some tips that will make the process smoother.
1. Lower the feed dogs.
Lowering your machine’s feed dogs will allow you to do some free motion embroidery, a process where you control the fabric movement as you sew rather than letting the device guide you. You can cover the feed dogs using a special darning plate in some machines instead of being lowered. When doing free motion letter embroidery, you can create beautiful, custom designs using your sewing machines.
2. Use the decorative stitches that your sewing machine offers.
Most modern sewing machines come with preprogrammed decorative stitches that you can repurpose to embroider letters. If it is a computerized sewing machine, you can use the LCD to choose the stitch you want to use while turning the knob to select the stitch you want on a mechanical sewing machine. One disadvantage of using decorative stitches in a sewing machine is that they move in a straight line; thus, the stitches lack flexibility. The stitches are, therefore, not adjustable if you want to fill in the design.
One of the essential stitches for embroidery in a sewing machine is the zigzag stitch, which can act as a decorative stitch. A closed zigzag stitch works as a satin stitch, and you can use it to make borders and do applique work.
3. Use the machine’s inbuilt lettering.
Today, most sewing machines come with an inbuilt alphabet that will allow you to do some letter work easily. The inbuilt alphabet is usually available in many different styles, fonts, and sizes and can be an excellent substitute for embroidery if used with skill.
4. Use an embroidery hoop.
In embroidery machines, you can use the hoop system to keep the fabric taut when embroidering and prevent stitch distortion. Without the hoop, the finished work would not be as smooth, and there would be a lot of wrinkles and puckers, especially between stitches. When sewing on a sewing machine, a hoop is not needed. You can keep the fabric from scrunching by setting the right amount of thread tension and holding the material taut, especially if it is stretchy.
If you choose to embroider letters using your sewing machine, a hoop will be invaluable. It will ensure that the stitches you use are well placed and prevent the fabric from bunching up.
Some of the standard hoop sizes that you can use when embroidering are:
- A 4×4 inches hoop
- A 5×7 inches hoop
- A 6×10 inches hoop
Keep into account that each of these hoop sizes will offer an embroidery area smaller than the hoop size. An example is the 4×4 inch hoop which will yield an embroidery area of 3.94×3.94 inches, and the 5×7 inch hoop produces an embroidery area of 5.12×7.09 inches. This difference is because when embroidering, you cannot stitch too close to the sides of the hoop. It would be prudent to invest in large hoop sizes as your needs may vary with time. If you do not want a large hoop, you can use a smaller hoop then move it along the fabric if you need to embroider a long design.
5. Use a stabilizer.
There are some fabrics, slippery and thin ones, that naturally tend to pucker up easily. When embroidering your letters on such materials, you will need to provide them with additional support, even if you are using the hoop. A stabilizer is an excellent way to do that. Stabilizers provide some extra structure and support to the fabric.
What Is the Best Embroidery Stitch for Letters?
When doing letter embroidery, you cannot overstate the importance of the stitch you use. The stitch will influence your design’s final aesthetic (you can use different stitches to achieve different looks, and some stitches are more appropriate for specific situations.
Whether you are doing embroidery by machine or by hand, here are the most popular stitches used for embroidering letters.
1. The backstitch
The backstitch is one of the most popular stitches used when embroidering, and for a good reason. It gives a segmented look, allowing each stitch to be identifiable, and is excellent when embroidering tight curves. It is quick and straightforward to use and great when used to outline large letter blocks. Some of the variations of the backstitch include the whipped backstitch and the split backstitch.
The whipped backstitch is achieved by wrapping thread around the original backstitch and gives an excellent opportunity to introduce another color. The stitches blend into each other perfectly and are also great for tight curves.
2. The stem stitch
The stem stitch involves working two stitches in the same line hence producing one of the thicker stitches. It gives the appearance of a twisted rope. When lettering, it is excellent for you to use cursive fonts as this stitch takes curves quickly and works great for slanting lines.
A variation of the stem stitch is the split stitch, which, as the name suggests, involves splitting each stitch to make the next stitch. The split stitch creates a smooth thick line, and it also works great for tight curves. It also adds another dimension and textured appearance to your letters.
3. The chain stitch
This stitch is an excellent choice for when you plan to embroider bold letters. It adds a chunky look to your work and draws attention to the lettering. The basic creation process for a chain stitch includes creating a loop and then keeping it in place with the next stitch. The chain stitch gives a segmented look and works well with looser curves. If you want to embroider shorter letters, all you need to do is shorten the chain’s length to get a nice look.
The chain stitch also has the advantage of having many variations depending on the look you are going for. Some such as the double chain stitch are thicker and add another dimension to the lettering, while the braided chain stitch is excellent for giving a projected appearance. Other innovative ones, such as the magic chain stitch, allow you to work with two threads simultaneously, allowing you to introduce a second color.
4. The running stitch
The running stitch is probably one of the simplest stitches to make and can be a great starting point for beginners. It produces a flat slim line that gives a dashed appearance. If you do not like the dashed look, you can go back and fill in the spaces. This stitch works well with tight curves and is a good option if you do not want a projected appearance.
5. The satin stitch
This stitch is one of the most used stitches when doing letter embroidery. Keeping these stitches even as they lie down may prove a challenge but can be done well with enough practice. We also recommend that you avoid making satin stitches that are too long to prevent snagging. You can use the satin stitch both for outlining a letter and for filling it in.
The satin stitch variation, the padded satin stitch, is excellent for adding another dimension to your lettering. The padded satin stitch can be created by ding a backstitch on the letter and then sewing closely packed satin stitches on top of the backstitch.
6. The French knot
Although not commonly used for it, the French knot allows you to add texture and produce a raised effect. You can use it for filling in letters that you want to have another dimension. Apart from filling in, one of the most obvious uses for the French knots would be to dot your ‘i’s and ‘j’s. This stitch gives a lovely look, and different amounts of twists allow you to vary the knot size.
7. The cross stitch
The cross stitch works well to fill in letter outlines. Filling in with the cross stitch is easier when using a backstitch outline. There are also multiple exciting variations of the cross stitch that you can use to add a unique twist to your work.
How Do You Freehand Embroidery on a Sewing Machine?
Freehand embroidery is a process that allows you to express your creativity and create exquisite custom pieces entirely. The lack of restraints and complete control over the sewing process are any creative’s dream. When freehand embroidering letters, you have total control over the stitch direction and spacing, the fabric motion, and the needle’s rhythm. Below are some top tips we recommend to help you along your freehand embroidery journey to get the best results possible.
1. The machine feed dogs.
When sewing normally, the feed dogs on a sewing machine are left to help move the fabric. When doing freehand embroidery, the teeth need to be disengaged. You can do this by lowering the feed dogs using a switch. If your machine does not have the disengage switch, it will likely have a darning plate that you can use to cover the teeth. The disengaging of the feed dogs will allow you to direct the fabric and direct it however you please, and easily embroider letters.
2. The presser foot
You will need the right presser feet to do machine letter embroidery well. For this, you will need a spring-loaded presser foot, allowing it to bounce. A great foot to use for this is the darning foot. You can use either the closed or open-toe darning foot. A closed darning foot would work well when lettering over areas of different thicknesses.
A talented and skilled sewer can do free-motion embroidery, but it needs to be done on a tightly hooped fabric and at a high stitching speed. These requirements make it nigh impossible for a beginner or an average skilled sewer to do it without afoot.
Since you will be responsible for moving the fabric when freehand embroidering, your lettering’s success will depend on how well you synchronize the speed at which you push the material with the rate you press down your feet. You will need to practice to get to the perfect pace, but you can always expect to get that balance right once done.
The tension of your sewing machine will also affect the final appearance of your work when freehand embroidering. Some of the problems you might see when you did not set the tension correctly include forming a bird’s nest and the bobbin thread showing on top, which indicates that you need to lower the upper stress.
Can You Embroider Without A Hoop?
While a hoop is undoubtedly invaluable when freehand embroidering, there are still some arguments for embroidering without a hoop. You may be worried about creating creases, marking, or damaging your fabric with the hoop’s frame, the material may have an uneven surface that makes using a hoop difficult, and the area may be too small to fit around a hoop.
If you would like to ditch the hoop for any reason, the good news is that you can embroider without the hoop. If you get a method that can maintain a good tension level on the fabric to prevent puckering, you can get almost or just as good results.
What Can I Use Instead of an Embroidery Hoop?
If you are committed to not using an embroidery hoop, there still some excellent options out there that will allow you to embroider effectively. Scroll frames are one such way to maintain proper tension. Apart from keeping the fabric taut as you embroider, another considerable advantage of a scroll frame is that they are hands-free hence allowing you two hands to work with. You can also use a stabilizer on your fabric to provide additional support and structure. Some practiced sewers can also embroider without a hoop by stretching the material between the fingers and the thumb to sustain tension.
Letter embroidery with a sewing machine offers several advantages over hand embroidery while also matching the benefits of using an embroidery machine. Using a sewing machine will save you a lot of time and effort as you will move faster, while you will also avoid the extra expense of purchasing an embroidery machine. So, to reiterate,
Can You Embroider Letters With a Sewing Machine?
Yes, you can. As mentioned above, a sewing machine that you handle skillfully can be just as effective as embroidering letters as an embroidery machine. By investing in the right tools and practicing your technique, you will be embroidering letters confidently on a sewing machine.
I hope this piece has been informative and answered any questions you may have had. We welcome any thoughts, suggestions, and questions on this article in the comment section below.