Discussing machine embroidery · Guest blogs · Projects

Contrasting Elements – Guest Blog by Pamela Cox

          Once again, Hazel is celebrating Graceful Embroidery’s Anniversary by giving us a wonderful new set of designs for free; collect the entire set by visiting the website each day of the celebration and download a new design!

          In today’s blog, I’d like to explore with you the idea of incorporating “Contrast” in your embroidery projects. In any embroidered project, the design is usually the focal point. However, the embroidered design can become more predominant if it is in contrast to the background that it is stitched on.

            Because Graceful Embroidery designs are so delicate, often they are stitched on finer fabrics such as batiste or silk. But the coarse texture of fabrics such as denim, suede cloth, raw linen, wool felt, Onsaburg (an inexpensive utility fabric) all provide a unique contrast to the silky threads of Graceful Embroidery’s beautiful designs. 

          Anniversary design #1 was stitched on canvas, another coarse, heavy fabric which is perfect for tote bags, place mats, throw pillows, or in this case, a sewing-needle book.  (directions at the end of the blog if you are interested in making this project)

          Do keep in mind that when embroidering on heavier, textured fabric, it is usually best not to hoop the fabric directly, but to secure the stabilizer in the hoop and stitch the fabric to the stabilizer.  If your machine does not have this feature, use the Blue Stitching Box from the Outline Alignment Stitches design, which have a -S at the end of the file name.

It is also a good idea to slow the speed of the embroidery machine down at least by half and to use a larger size embroidery or top-stitch machine needle.

          Combining different textured fabrics and allowing the design to be stitched a bit on each surface adds another dimension in contrasting.  Anniversary Design  #3 covers a piece of fabric that is made from strips of linen and suede cloth.

     Remember to press seams open to reduce extra thickness when stitching over seams. 

Fabric provides contrast, but so can the thread. Design #2 was stitched on wool felt; top element was stitched in Sulky’s Cotton+Steel cotton thread while the lower element was stitched in 40wt rayon thread with a metallic thread accent.

 This 50wt cotton thread lends a “hand-embroidered” look to the design.  Metallic thread draws the attention to a specific area within a design.

          Embellishing fabric with ribbon or lace prior to embroidering provides additional contrasting textures to the stitching canvas.  Specialty hoops can be purchased such as the one shown: Husqvarna Viking 150mm Texture Hoop, where decorative strips are locked into any configuration desired using a series of clips.

This method does require that the fabric be secured directly in the hoop’s frame and the design size is limited to 150mm.

 If the intended design size, or the final embellished piece cannot be stitched within these restrictions, try to envision other means to meet the intended outcome:

          Using a larger hoop, 200mm square, secure a quality, cut-away stabilizer. Pin the fabric securely to the stabilizer.

          Spray the back side of the embellishing ribbon with a temporary adhesive and press into desired position on top of fabric.  Anchor ends with pins to further secure. 

Slide the embroidery hoop into the machine and “fix/baste” around the design area to further secure the positions of embellishing strips.


Embroider the design.  For this sample, the basting box was stitched before placing the ribbon strips.  One sheer strip was centered vertically while the second strip was placed with bottom ribbon edged lined up with the bottom of the basting box.

Colors and textures make a project interesting.  The willingness to experiment and try new skills make a project uniquely yours. Enjoy and have fun!

Thank you Pamela for some wonderful ideas! I hope that you are all enjoying the Birthday event collecting these freebies. It will be interesting to see what you achieve with them.

(To collect the designs featured in this blog and over 30 more, you need to join the Graceful Embroidery Group Forum before October 10th, 2021)


Happy embroidering from Hazel

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