Free standing lace machine embroidery

When you browse our web site, you will notice that we offer a lot of free standing lace designs. If you are new to machine embroidery, then you may wonder

What is free standing lace?

Well, it is a special type of machine embroidery. Unlike classic or regular machine embroidery, free standing lace is not meant to be stitched on fabric.
Without a fabric to support the stitches, FS lace machine embroideries have to be designed in a special way, with interlocking stitches. In this way, the lace will stay together and not fall apart.
In order for the lace to be stable and look good, free standing lace designs normally have more stitches than regular machine embroidery.

Free standing lace embroidery must be stitched on a special type of embroidery stabilizer which is water-soluble. After the stitching is finished, the stabilizer is washed way and you get an embroidery which can be used by itself as it is self-supporting. Hence the name – free standing lace.

What can I do with free standing lace?

Free standing lace offers great possibilities for the creative minds. It can be used in many ways. You can use it by itself to create beautiful lace ornaments ,

Free standing lace Christmas ornament

Free standing lace Christmas ornament

3D embroidery items or


Poinsettia 3D free standing lace

Poinsettia 3D free standing lace

fine free standing lace doilies

Tulip free standing lace doily

Or you can use it in combination with fabric to create fine lace decorations for a dress, blouse, curtains, pillow cases, table cloth, table runners, etc.

Table cloth w. free standing lace

Table cloth w. free standing lace


How to stitch free standing lace?

First you need to have the needed supplies:


Unlike classic machine embroidery, free standing lace is usually done using the same upper and bobbin thread. This is necessary because lace embroidery items are visible from both sides. So, you will want them to look equally nice from both sides.
As for the type of thread, you can use polyester, or you can use cotton.

For most embroidery projects we prefer to use polyester thread for sewing (not embroidery) machine which looks like cotton, but does not produce as much lint as cotton does. This is important, because free standing lace designs have a lot of stitches, which means that one could expect a lot of lint accumulation.

Thread weight we normally use is 40. We also use cotton thread with a weight of 50. Of course, sometimes we may also need viscose or metallic thread (e.g. for creating multi-color embroidery with gold or silver effect).


Generally speaking with our machine we get good results with needles with a size of 70-90 (10-14). We use thinner needles for e.g. crochet freestanding lace.

Your needles better be sharp.

Water-soluble stabilizer

As we mentioned earlier, when you do freestanding lace, you will need water-soluble stabilizer. This is perhaps the most important component in free standing lace stitching.
We cannot emphasize enough the importance of good stabilizing when doing free standing lace. In order to get good results with lace embroidery, you will need good quality water-soluble stabilizer which is thick enough for the job.

There are different types of stabilizer. In different countries you will find them under different brand names.
Generally speaking you can find stabilizer which looks like plastic (to the left) and stabilizer which looks more like fabric (the one to the right).

Samples of water-soluble stabilizer

Samples of water-soluble stabilizer

We prefer to use the fabric-like Vilene DO104 which is thick enough and provides very good stabilizing in most cases.
However you can have very good results with the other type as well, provided that it is thick enough. Of course, if thinner stabilizer is all you have, you can use 2 or more layers to get the job done.

How to stitch free standing lace?

When stitching out free standing lace, it is very important to have sufficiently thick stabilizer, to have it hooped very tight (as one would often say “Tight as drum skin”) and make sure it stays that way during the whole process of stitching out.

With free standing lace designs being as stitch-intensive as they are, insufficiently thick or loose stabilizer would most often cause gaps in the lace (e.g. between the inner lace of the design and the sating border stitches) and the stitches will not interlock. As a result, after washing away the stabilizer, the lace will most probably fall apart.

Free standing lace problem

Example of free standing lace problem

In order to avoid possible problems we would also recommend to use the smallest possible hoop. Do NOT to stitch out more than one design in a single hoop.
It sometimes happens that a hoop may not hold well the stabilizer one is using tight enough during the stitching. If this happens, one may have to wrap some suitable material (e.g. muslin stripes or adhesive tape) along the long sides of the hoop’s frame (see image below) and then hoop the stabilizer.

How to stabilize hoop for FS lace

In addition to the above, you need to know that damp water-soluble stabilizer may cause problems with lace stabilizing. In places with high humidity the stabilizer might become loose even though you may have hooped it very tight as recommended for FS lace. If you experience such conditions turning the air-conditioning on may help.

Another possible reason for problems with freestanding lace might be tension of the threads (too loose or too tight). For best results needle and bobbin thread should meet halfway. So, one may have to do some adjustments of thread tension.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to provide any standard settings. Generally speaking, for freestanding lace the thread should be somewhat tighter than for standard embroidery. However the results depend very much on each “machine – thread” combination and it will be to a large extent a matter of “trial and error”. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

You need more?

If you need more information, then you may want to have a look at the free standing lace tutorials we have published. Of course, all our free standing lace embroidery designs come with step-by-step instructions.

Now that you are more familiar with this type of machine embroidery, you are welcome to browse our free standing lace embroidery collection.

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