How to Make a Free Motion Embroidery Stitch Pillow

6 Materials
3 Hours

I recently discovered free motion embroidery and I love it! I combined two of my most favorite passions, art and sewing, and created this painted and embroidered pillow.

My new favorite DIY.

My new favorite DIY. It’s true. I discovered free motion embroidery and I love it. I bet when you first looked at this you probably didn’t even know it was stitched. Haha. Fooled ya!

I actually painted this pillow first and then added the detail with free motion embroidery.

What is free motion embroidery?

Free motion machine embroidery is a type of sewing that you do on a regular sewing machine but you can move the material in any direction while sewing it on your machine. Normally when you sew, the machine automatically moves the fabric forward. When you sew free motion embroidery, you get to move the fabric so you determine exactly where you want to sew. You can move sideways, forward, backward and create any shape you want. All you need is a quilting foot.

The free-motion quilting foot, sometimes called a darning foot, is designed so that the sewing machine needle passes through a small ring on the foot. Instead of hopping, these feet float over the fabric without providing pressure. The Foot releases the fabric when the needle is in the up position, allowing you to move the fabric freely.All you need is the free motion foot for your machine. This foot may vary based on tour type of machine but I linked a “universal” one.

I read a lot about lowering the “feed dogs” on your machine when stitching free motion embroidery. Feed dog are the little teeth on your sewing machine that feed your fabric evenly through the machine. These teeth are extremely important because they help us produce perfectly spaced, even stitches whenever we sew garments, piece quilts, or applique shapes on our machine. Most people recommend that you lower the feed dogs for free motion embroidery.

Pro Tip!

To prevent the paint from leaking through place a piece of parchment paper or cardboard inside the pillow.

Select a Design

Select your design. You can use inspiration from craft paper (as seen below) or anywhere! 

Choose a color palette

Choose your color palette and place paints on paper plates. Feel free to mix the colors as this will result in a more cohesive color palette.

Time to Paint!

Paint shapes on the pillow, not flowers. I like just painting shapes and not things. 

At this point, all you are trying to do is add color shapes, not specific flowers (the embroidery is for that).

Mix it up a bit!

Also, vary the colors and don’t just use one color. I added some orange to depict a warmer color of sunlight.

Let it dry

Let the pillow dry overnight. Or if you are impatient like me, dry it with your hairdryer. 

Can acrylic paint go through the wash? Acrylic paints are permanent once dry. There is no need to heat-set acrylic paint although I did iron the painted pillow cover once it was dry. Just to be safe! 

Now for the Embroidery!

Free motion embroidery is so much fun! I have sewn for years, BUT the great thing about this is you really don't need sewing experience because with free motion embroidery you get to move the fabric around with your hands! So how is it that I have never sewn free motion embroidery? I have no idea.

Remember, Free-Hand not Perfection

The best thing about free embroidery is that it doesn’t need to be perfect. I love how it looks when the two layers of stitches don’t match. And I love being able to push the fabric wherever I want it to go.

I loved making these roses. I had no pattern and all I did was sew a lot of crescent shapes. It was “free-handed” and not perfect. That is why I like it so much. As you can see, I roughly stitch over the round painted shape, not worrying if the shape was covered or if I stitched out of the lines. 

As you can see here, the leaves I stitched barely conformed with the green painted “stems and leaves”. But I love that!

That's a wrap!

That was so fun! I really love these spring colors. I hope I have inspired you to give this a try.

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  • Patricia Patricia on Jun 06, 2021

    Absolutely beautiful!

  • Sumada Sumada on May 27, 2022

    I LOVE this. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a project that I couldn’t wait to make. Fabulous!