A while ago, I had a go at designing and digitising my own patches. It wasn’t a complete failure, but far from a success either. One of the big problems I’d had was not having a strong enough water-soluble stabiliser so the design ended up not really registering properly as it moved as the layers were being sewn together…
If you have a look for tutorials on how to do embroidered patches, there’s such a number of different approaches that it is a bit of a headache. What method you choose to use is really dependent on how you want the edges of the patch to look. If you want the satin stitch border to not have a ‘halo’ of fabric, you’ll essentially need some extra steps of fabric preparation and to make sure you use water-soluble stabiliser. If you don’t mind, you can hoop all your layers of fabric up and have a lot less to worry about!
I wanted to test both approaches and Urban Threads had some gorgeous designs in their sale, including this charming wooly little sheepy so, while they weren’t really patch-sized, it seemed like a good excuse to get them.
For the sheep, I wanted to do everything all-in-one, so I just reduced the design size by 10 % and manually made the patch border, with a dieline for placement, zig zag stitches to hold the material and satin stitch to make it look nice. This way I could squeeze it into the Bernina medium hoop. Material-wise, the top layer of fabric is just a thin Egyptian cotton from Empress Mills (from one of their ‘scrap bundles’ that I use for dyeing) but underneath was a layer of denim and Maderia’s Cut Away Super Stable stabiliser. I pressed it all together with an iron and hooped it as was – which was a really delightful squeeze.
The colours are whatever Mettler threads I thought would be appropriate and I stuck with bobbin fill thread for the bottom thread. The needle is a Schmetz Embroidery 90 as I figured it was going to have to work quite hard to get through all those layers! I did have to fiddle with the tension a little as the bobbin thread was showing through slightly on the light peach background layer but asides from that the design really stitched out nearly perfectly!
I really wasn’t convinced as the colours were layering up that this was ever going to look good but as soon as the black outline went on the little sheep transformed from a tangle of colours into a very adorable literal ball of wool indeed. There were a lot of jump threads to cut between the colours changes (I love Urban Threads’s designs a lot but… why so many jump threads all the time?!) but apart from that it was very smooth.
Cutting the patch out was a case of ‘thread chicken’ – trying to trim as much fabric as possible without risking the satin stitch border. Overall, I don’t think it is too obvious, there’s some fibres from the denim that show a little but given how fuss-free this was I’d say it’s surprisingly effective.
Now for the next challenge, a proper patch with no border. This would mean preparing all the fabrics to be part of the patch to size, then sticking them on a water-soluble stabiliser. The Maderia Wash Away Avalon Plus is lovely for free-standing lace (you can see some samples of things I’ve done with it here) but it will suffer badly from the stitch density that goes into the satin border. I’d recommend the Avalon Ultra instead which is weird, transparent film but does dissolve in a sticky, gooey horrible mess just as well as the more lightweight one.
I chose a rather wasteful approach for the fabric. I hooped up the cut away stabiliser, denim, cotton sandwich, stitched the dieline in it. Removed it from the hoop, then cut around the dieline. Hooped up the water soluble stabiliser, stitched a dieline in that. Used spray adhesive to stick down the fabric sandwich, and then just hope the zigzag stitching and satin was going to cover the edges… The dangerous step here is getting the alignment right when you glue down the fabric sandwich and hoping for no distortion… Not easy!
I did intentionally make the border I added with 1 mm longer stitches anticipating this tightrope act of daring and it… mostly worked. Far from perfect but it was okay. I think if I was to do this again, I would either hoop the water-soluble stabiliser with all the fabric sandwich and just cut away the excess fabric in the hoop or… live dangerously, hoop the water-soluble stabiliser and float the fabric sandwich maybe with the help of some adhesive spray.
One side of the border has come out perfectly, but there’s definitely still some excess on the other side! However, the squirrel is very cute and accidentally doing the eye highlight in black instead of white has made him look mischievous indeed. He looks like exactly the kind of squirrel who’d go and raid the bird feeders for food, breaking them in the process!
This patch had a tiny bit of puckering on the thin cotton layer but I I think both designs would have looked nice on white felt but I didn’t have any in stock. Does anyone have any recommended felt suppliers that do nice quality stuff that you are happy to use for embroidery (hand or machine!) What I was really impressed with though was just how well the stronger water-soluble stabiliser worked. Definitely the right materials are something of a trick for machine embroidery!