If your sewing machine is capable of darning or sewing on buttons then its capable of free motion.
If you have ever done free motion quilting, the technique is the same, you generally are just stitching on 1 or 2 layers with no batting rather than 3 with batting.
You may need to refer to your machines manual for information on the following settings:
Lower or cover your feed dogs (if your machine has a cover be careful when moving the hoop around, there will be a ‘bump’ around plate that you may need to compensate for)
Reduce your top tension, depending on your machine depends on what you set it to, but it should be low/reduced…button hole setting or lower. Most machines go from 1-10 with 5 being normal, if this is your tension, set it around 3 for machine embroidery.Reducing the top tension helps bring the top thread below your fabric so no bobbin tension should be visible, if the bobbin still shows on top you may need to reduce the bobbin tension…this varies widely depending on machine so refer to manual.
Use a darning foot. If your can’t get a darning foot for your machine you can use no foot.
Why use a darning foot? A darning foot has a spring to allow it to bounce. While the foot bounces it firmly holds the fabric being sewn while the needle enters the fabric. It can be an arm from the foot that sits over the needle screw or the foot is spring loaded that creates the bounce. Having the foot heavily reduces thread breakage especially with hard/course fabrics and fabrics that pull up with the needle like Timtex or microfibres for example.
Remove foot pressure. This is only required if you are your darning foot requires it.
Use size 90-100 needle, whatever the fabric or thread you are using. The larger eye and stronger needle the better. If you are using metallic threads, top stitch needles or embroidery needles are better as the both have large eye to help prevent shredding. When dense stitching with fine thread, the fine thread wears and cuts into the needle eye causing thread breakage. Remember to change your needle regularly.
Hoop your fabric, this saves wear and tear on your wrists! It will also help tension on your fabric all fabrics will distort when you start stitching with or without stabilizers. I use a spring hoop for small area which is easy to manuever under the machine. For larger projects and thick fabrics I use a wooden embroidery hoop as it gives more tension.
The only time I don’t use a hoop is if my fabric is stiffened heavily eg. Timtex, artist canvas or anything that is too thick to hoop. For my 3D effect on water soluble I do 90% of stitching in the hoop, I only work out of the hoop for the final step, this reduces dramatically the strain on my wrists and distortion in my work.
Use quality thread. I use a lot Madeira, Marathon and sulky rayon thread because of the sheen, colour shading and quality. I find polyester threads are slightly stronger than rayon but polyester stretches, my preference is rayon. You should always experiment to find threads you like.
Make sure your relaxed and comfortable its important, and helps with the flow of your lines.
You are now ready to start stitching. Bring your bobbin thread up to the top, this prevents knotting when you start stitching. Even hold onto the threads for the first few stitches if you can. Make sure your presser foot is lowered. You will have spaghetti underneath if you don’t as you will have no top tension. Hold the hoop still and make a few stitches in the same spot. This will secure your thread (you must do the same when finishing your embroidery).
Start slowly moving the hoop, keep moving slowly until you get a rhythm with your sewing speed and hoop movement. I treat my hoops like a pencil moving it as I would the pencil drawing lines or colouring in, it’s the same as pencil and paper just you move the paper instead of the pencil! Start by doodling to find your rhythm, go in circles, swirls or write your name keep practising until you get full control, Enjoy!