Embroidery and sewing are two techniques that are invaluable in the garment construction process. While sewing allows you to construct the garment and finish the edges, embroidery transforms and improves the overall look. Both these processes can be completed by hand, but machines, as in most other areas, significantly improve efficiency and are more convenient. While useful on their own, embroidery machines would be even more so if they could be multi-purpose and perform other functions. So, can you sew with an embroidery machine?
Yes, you can! Lowering the feed dogs is a technique that most sewers are familiar with. It allows you to get imaginative and create great unique designs when you are doing free-motion sewing or quilting. The same can be done with an embroidery machine. After you lower the feed dogs, you will be responsible for the fabric movement, and you can freehand sew your garment. However, you will need to be extra careful to ensure your hands move in tandem with the sewing machine. You can also sew with an embroidery machine by purchasing a dual-purpose machine that can both sew and embroider.
Embroidery machines have undergone an evolution in different stages since the industrial revolution. From the hand embroidery machine in 1832, today’s digitized machines make embroidery as simple as loading a design to the machine and letting it sew. With these machines, embroidery is now easier than ever.
What is the Difference Between Embroidery and Sewing?
To better understand the difference between an embroidery machine and a sewing machine, it is crucial to grasp the fundamental differences between sewing and embroidery. While these two techniques have some likenesses, such as using most of the same equipment such as needles and threads, they then diverge and have significant differences.
The largest difference is in the purpose. Sewing is a garment construction method and is used to join pieces of fabric together, manipulate fabric drapes, and finish fabric edges. While construction stitching can decorate a piece of fabric with careful and intricate stitch placements, this is not the primary purpose. Embroidery’s primary function, on the other hand, is decoration. Different fabrics are designed using different types of yarn to create designs. Embroidery can also include other materials apart from the fabric, such as sequins, beads, and pearls. The designs that are created by embroidery, especially machine, are intricate and can be extremely detailed.
What is the Difference Between an Embroidery Machine and a Sewing Machine?
Both these techniques can be accomplished either by meticulous handwork or by machine using three types of machines: an exclusive sewing machine, an exclusive embroidery machine, or a mixed-purpose machine (capable of both embroidery and sewing). At first glance, sewing and embroidery machines may look similar, if with a few differences in build. Looking more closely, you will realize that the difference comes in the attachments that allow you to perform embroidery. Below are the main distinguishing factors of these machines.
- i) The hoop
Hoops are necessary when embroidering to keep the fabric taut. They prevent the bunching of the fabric between stitches and distortion of your stitches. Embroidery machines have a hooping system that holds the fabric in place as the design is sewn onto the fabric. No hoop is needed when working on a sewing machine. You can prevent fabric scrunching by using the correct amount of thread tension. Holding the fabric taut without pulling it, especially if it’s stretchy, is another way to prevent puckering.
- ii) Digitization
Unlike sewing machines, advanced embroidery machines are digitized; they offer pre-programmed embroidery designs while also allowing you to transfer additional designs on their storage. After picking a design and loading the machine with the appropriate color threads, you can sit back and watch the design sewn quickly.
While advanced sewing machines offer double and even triple-needle capability, multi-needle embroidery machines have a significantly higher number with anywhere from 6 to 18 needles on the embroidery head. This feature is invaluable when creating large designs with multiple colors as you can load all the threads required once. Once you load the computer’s design, the machine will change the colors automatically and run till the end without stopping.
How to Embroider using a Sewing Machine
As much as you can sew with an embroidery machine, the reverse is also true. You can also embroider using a sewing machine. The process may not be as convenient, efficient, or quick as when using an embroidery machine, but it will get the job done. Here are some tips on how to embroider on a standard sewing machine.
- Use a zigzag stitch
The zigzag stitch in sewing machines is probably the best suited for sewing designs onto fabric. While you can also use a straight stitch, the zigzag is more decorative.
- Lower the feed dogs
The feed dogs in a sewing machine are used to grip the fabric being sown and move it along. Lowering the feed dogs allows you to control the movement of your fabric. You will direct the fabric movement instead of the machine doing the pulling and movement. Some sewing machines will have a darning plate that you can use to cover up the feed dogs instead.
- Use an embroidery hoop
As mentioned above, an embroidery hoop will help keep the fabric to be embroidered taut and smooth. Without it, the finished effect will not be as smooth, and you may see a lot of fabric bunching and wrinkles, especially between stitches.
- Use a stabilizer
Some fabrics, such as slippery ones, or thin fabrics, tend to pucker up easily and will require extra support besides the hoop. Stabilizers provide structure and support the fabric during the embroidery process to prevent stretching or puckering.
How do I Make My Own Embroidery Patterns?
Embroidery machines come with a lot of pre-programmed designs. Despite this, you may not find the design you want, or you may want a specific custom design that means something to you. Custom designs are unique and offer you an opportunity to communicate using your embroidery. You can create your pattern either manually or using computer software.
- Creating your design manually
Even if you do not possess a lot of artistic skill, you can still create your custom patterns, as long as you can doodle. If you are not comfortable enough with your drawing skills, you can use tracing paper to capture the design you want from a photograph or a print.
- Using software
Drawing and tracing may work fine for simple designs but will provide a challenge when it comes to complex and intricate pieces, and impossible for some designs. There are uncountable sites, even those not specifically for embroidery, that allow you to create and alter your designs. The advanced features you find on such sites include converting an uploaded image into a professional cross stitch pattern, choosing the colors you want to use, adjusting your design’s size, and choosing from vast design archives on different areas. These designs can then be downloaded into your storage and transferred to your digitized embroidery machine.
How do I Transfer a Pattern to Embroidery?
Several techniques will allow you to transfer the pattern from a digital or printed design to your fabric so that you can stitch it out. These solutions are easy-to-do and do not require any elaborate tools or procedures.
- Heat transfer
One of the easiest ways to use transfer patterns using heat is by using heat transfer pens and pencils. These pens and pencils are available in different colors and thicknesses and will work for thick and light fabrics.
To use this method, you first need to trace the pattern in reverse on a lightweight piece of paper. Then place your paper on the fabrics and press it using a hot iron for a few seconds. Do not move the iron around as when ironing clothes, as this may distort the image. It is important to note that the patterns transferred using this method are permanent and will need to be covered up completely using embroidery thread. So be extra careful when transferring the design and use a fine-tipped pen or sharp pencil.
Another way heat transfer may be used to transfer patterns is by using hot iron transfers. These patterns come ready to use and are transferred to the fabric similarly to the pen and pencil.
- Using a stabilizer
Using a water-soluble stabilizer is a good option, especially if you want to transfer complex patterns onto dark fabric. Print the desired design directly on the stabilizer and then attach it to your fabric. Follow the print to embroider your desired pattern, and when you are done, soak the fabric in warm water. The stabilizer will dissolve, leaving the pattern. Although this pattern is excellent if you want a completed design, it can get expensive with repeated use.
This method was very common before the advent of heat transfer pens and pencils. In commercial hand embroidery setups, it is an excellent method for repeated motifs as one design can be used again and again.
This method involves tracing the design on a stiff piece of paper using a pencil, then using a needle to prick holes along the design outline. The spacing should be close but not close enough that the holes will run together. The pricked paper is secured to the fabric, and a powdered pigment is worked through the holes to give an outline of the pattern. These dots can be connected using a water-soluble pen and then embroidered.
- Transfer papers
You can either use carbon or wax-based transfer papers to get your embroidery pattern on the fabric. The carbon paper is on one side coated with colored ink that will wash out of the fabric when you are done. To transfer a pattern using this method, place the paper on the fabric with the ink toward the fabric, and use a stylus to press the design into the fabric. It is a good idea to use the lightest color possible in case the ink becomes difficult to get off the fabric.
This pattern-transfer method includes tracing the design on tracing paper and secured on the fabric. Running stitches are then worked along with the design of the pattern through the fabric and the paper. After you finish outlining the design, you can then gently pull the fabric away and start embroidering.
- Using printer ink
There are two ways you can use transfer embroidery patterns using a printer. First, you can print the design directly on the fabric using an inkjet printer. The marks you make using this method may become permanent, and you will need to cover them completely using embroidery thread.
Second, you can use a laser printer to print the pattern on paper. The pattern can then be transferred to the fabric using heat. This method may not work so effectively when transferring very complex designs.
What is the Simple and Quick Embroidery Design Transfer Method?
Tracing is the simplest method of transferring embroidery designs to the fabric. There are numerous ways you can use to trace the design clearly onto the fabric. First, you can reproduce the design on both sides of the tracing paper, then place the paper with the design on the fabric and press on it with a soft pencil. When you remove the paper, the design will remain on the fabric, but you can always go over it with a pencil again. When working with tracing paper, be careful to make sure you get the design with the right side, not in reverse.
You can also place the design and the fabric on a transparent glass against bright sunlight or a lightbox. The design will easily be visible through the glass, and you can then trace it on the fabric.
While the embroidery machines we see today seem unimprovable, new developments and updates are still being rolled out to improve the user experience and convenience. If you are mainly an embroiderer interested in doing some sewing on the side, this article answers your question.
Can You Sew With An Embroidery Machine?
Yes, you absolutely can. By buying a machine whose feed dog can be lowered (a feature found in almost all new machines) and a little extra patience and care when sewing, you can use your embroidery machine to sew. You can also invest in a stitch regulator, which will make sewing with your embroidery machine much easier.
If you have read this article to the end, thank you for your time, and we hope it has answered any questions you might have had. You can share any thoughts and suggestions on this piece, as well as ask for clarification on any matter in the comment section below.