Free Standing Lace, 1/30/09

Is this the most magnificent swan you have ever seen?

Free Standing Lace (FSL) is a technique unique to machine embroidery (ME) because, to my knowledge, there is no way to do this by hand.  You could learn to ‘Tat’ which is similar, but FSL is obviously in a class of its own.

Previously relegated to Christmas ornaments and bookmarks, FSL is creating its way around to other holidays and designs of all kinds.  When I personally saw my first FSL design, I was awed because I thought that it was ‘magical’ and I was going to have to learn a new way to ME from scratch again. 


Well, it is magical, but not so much that the beginner cannot accomplish something really beautiful and eye catching for children of all ages.  (Swan is possibly excluded from that statement.)


I do have to wonder who thought about creating something this unique; they were really thinking outside the box and inside the hoop.  They must have begun with a simple square or rectangle that may have made the other digitizers roll their eyes.  It was probably quite dense and may not have had much in the way of a design. 


I did recently do a few less challenging designs and I am pleased to say, they were successful all the way down the line.  I had been trying the 3D style of FSL for several years; but could not get the pieces exactly right.  Or I got the edges crooked or they did not match because of the precise requirements of 3D FSL.  When I succeeded with that, I tried sewing by hand and machine – well, let me just say that did not work out well at all.  I tried fabric glues that never wanted to ‘grab’ together.  They left me holding just the first edges of the project for 30 or 40 minutes and then sometimes they did not cure correctly.


When I finally found glue that worked, I could not wait to show you all the results!


I first photo shows a simple ‘cup’ and the glue ‘grabbed’ on to the lace in about 15 seconds.  It was well set in about 1 hour, cured by about 2 or 3 hours.



Next came the really tricky gluing project, the heart shaped jewelry holder.  The base and the heart wall are sewn in 3 different pieces.  Therefore, I had to first glue the wall in the shape of a heart, with some very specific angles. I did the top of the heart/wall separately from the bottom.  Again, the glue did its job and I was delighted with the results.  After the heart/wall dried, I had to position it on the base and I found that doing one side at a time ‘setting’ the wall on that base worked for me.  The top had a small lip as well and I followed the same plan as I did for the bottom. 


I also glued small strand of beads to the top, and slipped a little rose on the bottom lip of the box.  Everything fit together very well. 


I have done many FSL projects before, but they were just a flat design such as a snowflake or Christmas Tree Ornament.  What did I learn from this project?  A Lot!


The first issue is that I really needed to use Badgemaster stabilizer.  The instructions said to use two layers of an ‘ultra’ water soluble stabilizer.  I know that two heavy weight sheets are not as effective as one sheet of professional strength Badgemaster.  Any movement, even the very slightest, will cause the design to be off just a little and would have made this project difficult to say the least.


And, with Badgemaster you can take the sections of unused pieces and put them together to have a strong and unwrinkled sheet to use for another project.  You can place a small amount of water on one side of the two sheets, press them with my hard rubber, heavy-duty metal brayer to make a solid bond.  You can just see the bonded area running over the bobbin area. 



Another excellent use for this well-built brayer is to place the wet FSL on a towel and press it enough to make it a flat material. I then cover the damp FSL with another towel and pressed it again with the brayer.  The advantages here are that you have control of the layout of your design while still wet; and, it is partially dried in the process; and ironing is not necessary.  Ironing a design after it is dry causes the stitches to be ‘flat’ in appearance.


The second thing I learned was that the right glue is an absolutely necessity.  I must have 6 or more craft glues around here, but found one at Michael’s that was inexpensive ($4.00) and was perfect.  It is called Beacon’s 3-IN-1 Advanced Craft Glue.  I have no idea why it says 3-IN-1, but it is great glue.


It did dry crystal clear, just like the label said – there is a surprise, honesty in advertising!  Then it did do an ‘instant grab’ – OK, not so much ‘instant’ as about 15 or so seconds.  I can live with that.  Then it says “Fast Dry Glue” and again, I agree with that.  So, I can give it a 9.8 out of 10, because they should not have said ‘instant.’

I hope you try a 3D FSL soon and be sure to show us your results in the Forum.  I can’t wait to see what you found to do!


LOOK OUT FLORIDA, here we come! – (I believe in fair warning)


Comments (16) -

oh, thank you, thank you, thank you.

I just spent hours and hours doing a FSL doily only for it to have lots of places that the lace fell apart when the stabilizer was washed away-- It was heartbreaking to think how hard those projects are only for them to not work out. And whether people know it or not, those wash away mesh backings are really, really hard on the machine.  So as much as I wanted this doily to turn out pretty, I am not doing it again--

the information you provided, about thw badgemaster-- will give me the incentive to try this again once I get to a location that sells it.

thanks- from  Arkansas!!!

Love doing FSL and glad to learn of the glue. Will have to look for it at store near me. Thanks so much for your informative articles.

Vivian in WI

robertaosterloh 1/31/2009 11:52:32 AM

I have done some FSL like angels on the Marie Osmond Lace card.  I love doing it, but thanks for your tip about the glue.  I've never used anything but Badgemaster and have a bolt of it.  My first class in FSL at my local Bernina store said use nothing but Badgemaster, so that's what I have.  I love doing the Christmas ornament covers, too!  They make great teacher and friend gifts.

When I decided to do an FSL posting, I thought, maybe everyone knows about FSL?  What can I tell them that might be new?

Well, FSL is fun and the 3D items are real attention grabbers.  I do hope you will post your projects in the Galleries (upper right hand corner in the pink band) so we all can see the results.


BTW, that photo is my son and daughter-in-law and their two handsome sons.  

I am trying to marry the boys off, they are 12 and 13 - it is never too early to get them ready for life!  ROLF. . . (rolling on floor laughing)


I love FSL!  That is the main reason I waqnted an embroidery machine.  I could make it all the time, but what would I do with it, one I make it.  

Before Christmas, i made an angel that had five pieces in all, the head and body, two wings, and two piece skirt.  The only problem I had was putting the skirt together.  Sewing wasn't ideal, but I think your Beacon'g glue would be just the ticket.  She stands about 8 inches tall and she's beautiful.  I left her out on my end table because I just couldn't store her away for the year.

Thanks for the great info, Pat.

Stitches . .



Badge master is wonderful stuff.  I'm sure it made a success of my angel.  Thanks for telling us how to use scraps.


Can you give me any ideas on making badges, to cover logos on good jackets I get from 2nd hand stores. My kids love them but just can't seem to make them look professional          Linda

i have made the swan and also the cinderella carriage but icouldn't get them to stand up properly so i sadly put them away in a drawer. i also sewed them together and what a gob. i am going to buy thebadgemaster and the brayer also i am going to look for the glue i don't know where in canada i can find but will try. thankyou

Thanks for all your comments.  I do love FSL and will be seeking easier and better methods every day!  I am working on an idea which I hope to have ready in May for FSL.  Watch for it.

LaRue, please post a photo of her in the Galleries or Forum so we can enjoy her too!  Badgemaster is the best and frankly, while the price may be a little high, it has quality, you never need two layers, and I use it for everything!!

I really do stand by my suggestions.  I would not want to use something that was borderline myself and recommending something like that would be a bad idea.  

Poppersmom - Are you sewing them directly on the jackets?  In this particular case, I think that is what I would do.  Check your machine to see if it has frames or outlines, or there could be another name for them.   For the badge, I would start with a heavy denim fabric, place a fairly full design on it and then use the satin stitch with your desired frame around the design.  You could then cut closely, with an applique scizzors to create a badge.  Then I would just adhere it to the jacket.  

You can find 34 different frames right here at ATG:">  

fuzzbucket-I know that feeling, I have several angels and ornaments in the scraps bag.  I did get some out to retry them and was able to get some of them to work.  I used the really scrap ones to practice on.  Gluing side by side is a lot easier than gluing with a 90 degree angle.  Check for the words "grab" with your glue.  I know you will find some.  

You would think USA and Canada were a zillion miles apart.  LOL

Another thing I forgot to mention was NEVER to resize an FSL.  


musiclady56 2/3/2009 9:24:44 AM

Jan 30 instructions for Valentine free standing lace box are great...can you tell me where to get the design?  I have been looking everywhere for the valentines heart shaped box in mach embroidery.

Thanks, Karen

gracias por enviarme esta información pero es una lástima que no entienda nada solo hablo español y por ese motivo me pierdo de muchas cosas aún así mucha gracias

Music-I got that design at StitchDelight.  It has been on sale for $3.99 but I don't know for how long.

Carmer- mucha gracias, no habla espanol, pero usted bueno - - I am sorry, I have so limited espanol.



Great blog! Thanks for all the info on badgemaster & Beacon's glue. I had my eye on the angel that LaRue mentioned, but never tried it because I had no idea what would hold it together.

Thanks for coming thru for me again!


I am so delighted that so many people read and responded to this blog.  

My next blog is on 'Composition' and toward the end of the month, I will have a posting on metallic thread.  It is going to be just great!

Thanks, Pat

Love the blog. Where can I get the Swan pattern?

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