How to prepare fabric for Machine Embroidery

For today’s post, I want to share a sewing technique with everyone. We have been plugging away at our product development here at Ecclesiastical Sewing. (Have you been following the newest product releases on Facebook or as an email subscriber?) One thing that we have to stay on top of is our embroidered orphrey bands,  in silk dupioni or brocade. These are essential to product development. We have our embroiderer, a local businesswoman in Foley, Minnesota, who embroiders our designs directly on stoles, pulpit falls, Bible bookmarks, super frontals, etc… Either way, whether the embroidery is sewn directly on orphrey bands or vestments, the process is almost identical. So I would like to talk about this process of prepping our fabric for machine embroidery.

The fabric is block-cut to rough size. We review the embroidery design and dimensions and determine the embroidery placement, locating the center. Once the center position is determined, we use a product called Dream Weave Ultra and fuse that to the back of our fabric. Dream Weave Ultra is a fusible tricot that adds a bit of body to a piece of fabric. Dream Weave comes in two weights – the regular, and the Ultra. We have used both but prefer the Ultra for our embroidery work. Dream Weave should never be used as a stand-alone backing for embroidery.

The Dream Weave Ultra is applied to the fabric using our Clam Press.  Early on, we realized we needed to upgrade from a hand-held iron to an iron press (as seen in one of the pictures) to make this process smoother.  The Dream Weave is applied with the heat press to the silk or brocade until it is attached.  Ta-Da! Ready for our embroiderer. On occasion, we create prep large pieces of fabric for embroidery. We can have a total of 100-200 orphreys made easily from a single large piece of silk. We do mark the exact design placement so that we end up with enough matching pairs to construct our planned vestments.

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1Roberts, Carrie. Pressing Red Silk. March 17th, 2017. Personal Collection, Ecclesiastical Sewing, Minnesota.

The next step is to hoop the fabric in the embroidery frame. The design and fabric often determine the type of backing that we select. There are assorted cut-away and tear-away backings available in different weights. It is a good idea to have an assortment of each on hand and test the backings to see which work best for your machine and your project. For tear-away backings, these sometimes require two layers of backing to provide the correct support for fabric.

If you select a tear-away backing, after completing the test stitching, tear the backing away from the embroidery to see if the backing will tear cleanly away without distorting stitches. Some tear-away backings may be too stiff and they may ruin delicate stitches in the design as they are torn.

If your embroidery design puckers during stitching, try changing the backing to a different type – if you are using tear-away, switch to a cut-away and see if that eliminated the puckering.

So there you have it! It really is a simple process to prepare fabric for embroidery. It can take a whole day, not including the planning and pre-steps, but that is because we are very particular about cutting, ironing, and marking to make sure things are not wasted, which keeps costs down. In a day’s time, we do have many orphreys to show for our labor.

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2Roberts, Carrie. Prayer Embroidery. April 18th, 2017. Personal Collection, Ecclesiastical Sewing, Minnesota.


One final thing to mention: some embroidery designs are available for purchase as appliques. We also sell digital downloads of embroidery files! But we realize that whether it is time, money, or availability of an embroiderer, sometimes it is more practical to have the piece show up ready for your use.

Be sure to watch for some new stoles on our website. We should have some up by the end of the month if we stay on track!

~Nihil Sine Deo~

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