First, I must announce the new site that has been 18 months in the designing, redesigning and making: www.embdesignsnow.com. (Site should be up and running on Monday)
ANY and ALL embroiderers should really take a look at what this site is offering. In short, this site is our customers site. We have taken recommendations from our customers, we have incorporated 3 wish lists from our customers and my competitors customers have asked, "why don't you do something like this?" WELL, we did it .. ENJOY.
NOW, I have spent the last 4 weeks learning lace, digitizing for lace, running lace and making free standing lace. It is amazing what an old-dog can learn .. and, really enjoy ..
Freestanding lace (FSL) designs are embrodery designs that are stitched on a special stabilizer that dissolves in water .. what you are left with is the FSL design or designs. Digitizing for lace is much different than digitizing for standard embroidery designs. Only designs digitized for freestanding lace designs will be stable after the stabilizer is washed away .. other designs will typically fall apart.
FSL designs have much higher density segments, or a much higher stitch count versus non-lace embroidery designs. A digitizers goal with non-lace embroidery designs is to create a beautiful piece of embroidery with as few stitches as possible, when digitizing for lace, the stitch count is incredibly higher. If you see spaces between your stitches, that is a tell-tale sign that your lace won't hold up when the stabilizer is removed. The satin, or zigzag stitches need to be tight with a high stitch count. Some embroiderers rely upon the weave of the fabric to support the segments, but, I like to digitize a run stitch under the satin segment and that will support the lace.
My water-soluble stabilizer of choice is Vilene. It is extremely thin and a non-woven .. this is why I build my support with underlay. Because Vilene is so thin and depending on the complexity of the design, I may opt for 2 pieces of Vilene. So, I hoop my water soluble stabilizer, place the hoop on the machine and now I should be ready to create my FSL. But, before I begin to sew, I should know what look I am trying to achieve. For fine delicate lace, I will sew both top and bottom thread with bobbin thread. For a heavy looking lace design, typically for bowls or doilies, I'll use 40# embroidery thread for my top and bottom thread. But, typically, a medium-standard lace look is my goal and I'll use embroidery thread on top and bobbin thread on the bottom. Remember, if you are doing bowls or doilies, you will want the top and bottom threads to be the same color, so spin some bobbin thread from your embroidery thread cone.
The design I will run is a repeating pattern, or series of patterns that have been digitized for FSL. Running the design is the easy part. Load the design, press start and let it run until the design if finished. Tips on "tools" to use: I use a 75/11 ball point needle to sew FSL. I like to use size 65/9 for my embroidery because they are finer, and less intrusive on the garment, but for lace, I need a larger needle that will help cut the stabilizer during the sewing process.
Once the design is finished sewing, trim all the excess water soluble material and soak the embroidery in a bowl of luke-warm water .. hot water will dissolve the stabilizer faster, but you run the risk of shrinking and distorting your FSL .. something I learned the HARD WAY. After about 15-20 minutes, take the embroidery from the bowl and leave the slippery "junk" in the bowl. Then, I will place the embroidery under cold running water, I use my fingers to remove any residue left from the stabilizer. The longer you rinse the embroidery, the softer your lace will be. For stronger, more firm lace, I recommend a little starch, OR, if you are willing to take a chance, reduce the time the embroidery is in the water by half, and don't rinse under cold water. The stabilizer will stiffen as it drys.
After you are happy that all the stabilizer is gone, place the embroidery on a couple layers of paper towel and left to air dry .. I don't like to use cloth towels because your embroidery can pick up lint, or, if the towel is not white, it may take on some of the color of the towel. Now, you're going to laugh at me. When the embroidery is almost dry, I place it on a $2500 heat press that we use for printing t-shirts and press the heck out of it !! BUT, it is flat and dry after about 20 seconds.
THIS is how I make FSL, and the best tips a beginning "lacer" can give you .. and, for a life-long commercial embroiderer, it is a blast to create this. I add lace to TOURIST t-shirts and they love it.
Lastly, your lace does not have to be free standing. You can take FSL designs, arrange them and sew them directly on garments or non-wearables.
I hope this helps, and answers Maria van Duinhoven of Windsor, Ontario.
Rick Macali / 407 509-2400
www.embdesignsnow.com <-- new site for all home and commercial embroiderers