Free Standing Lace or FSL is a type of machine embroidery design. However, it is not embroidered on fabric like in conventional machine embroidery, but on water-soluble stabilizer. The design is digitized a special way, so the thread holds it together, and after the stabilizer is gone, it is see-through like lace. If free standing lace is done correctly, both sides, front and back, look identical.
How to Digitize for Free Standing Lace
There is no fabric to support free standing lace embroidery designs, only the stabilizer that will get dissolved after embroidering. So it is important to first digitize a base, that will hold the design together and will also create a lace like effect. The frame and decorative elements get digitized over this base.
Digitizing the Base
For my design I digitized two identical heart shapes as the base with Hatch Embroidery Digitizer. I used Tatami fill stitch and adjusted the stitch angle, so the stitches run diagonally. I changed the stitch angle for the second heart by 90 degrees, so they run across the stitches of the first object, creating a grid.
Digitizing the Frame
I created a third copy of the heart shape and used the Satin run stitch for the frame.
For an extra creative element, I created a copy of the outline shape and this time I used Single Motif run stitch Curve01.
Free standing lace that was designed and stitched out correctly should look practically identical on both sides, front and back. To achieve that, the bobbin thread needs to be the same as the top thread. You might need to trim away a few short loose threads on the back, but other than that it will look the same as the front side.
The best to use for free standing lace is a non-woven fibre mesh washaway stabilizer. This type of stabilizer is usually made of some sort of starch and the residue that is left behind stiffens the lace.
Finishing Your Free Standing Lace Design
After you stitched out your design, cut away the excess stabilizer and immerse it in water for 5-10 seconds. The stabilizer will dissolve. Place the design between a few sheets of paper towel to remove excess water.
After it dries, press your design with a warm (medium setting) iron to make it nice and flat.
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