Hooked on Needles

Friday, July 25, 2008

Embroidering on Velvet with a Hoop

The first time I embroidered a velvet Irish Step Dancing dress, not knowing any better, I put the hoop on the fabric itself and, much to my chagrin, discovered that the hoop crushed the pile of the fabric and left permanent marks on the dress. Brooke's mom was not in the least concerned about the hoop marks. She was just glad she didn't have to do the embroidery herself! But I learned my lesson and set to work trying to come up with a way to embroider on velvet while still using a hoop.

In my previous posts about Hand Embroidered Irish Step Dancing Dresses, which can be found listed in the Hand Embroidery Links Page on the sidebar, I referred several times to my method of embroidering on velvet fabric using a hoop.

This is how I did it:

First I gathered my supplies.

Supplies for embroidering on velvet with a hoop
For this example, I am using a leftover piece of velvet and a Celtic monogram of the letter S. I also used a hoop, straight pins, basting thread, ultra fine point Sharpie, and two pieces of Stitch N Tear Tearaway embroidery stabilizer which can be found at any fabric store.

Stabilizer fabric pinned over monogram
I pinned a piece of the tearaway stabilizer fabric over the monogram so I could trace it.

Trace the design using ultra fine point Sharpie
Then I traced it using an ultra fine point Sharpie permanent marker. Even though I knew I was only going to stitch one line of the knot design, I still traced two lines so that I could more easily tell where the lines went over and under each other.

Pin stabilizer onto velvet and baste
Then I pinned the tearaway stabilizer with the traced design onto the velvet fabric and basted it all around the edge.

Use embroidery hoop big enough for design
I picked out an embroidery hoop that was big enough to hold the entire design.

Hoop another piece of stabilizer and trim edges
I put the hoop onto another piece of tearaway stabilizer and neatly trimmed the edges.

Baste velvet onto hooped stabilizer
Then onto the hooped stabilizer I basted the velvet fabric which already had the design basted onto it. This makes sort of a stabilizer sandwich with velvet filling. Yum! But you can see that the hoop is only on the underside piece of stabilizer, not on the velvet.

Stitching begins
I started stitching the knot design using 6 strands of DMC embroidery floss, separated so that it would lay flat and stay smooth.

These links may prove helpful for the actual stitching: How to prepare the floss, threading the needle, and how to work the chain stitch.

Back of stitching
The stitching goes through all three layers: the hooped stabilizer, the velvet and the stabilizer with the design traced onto it. This shows the back of the work.

Detail of Celtic knot design
This is a detail of the knot design showing the stitches going under and over each other which is characteristic of traditional Celtic knot designs and very important to stitch correctly.

Celtic knot design finished
Here's the green knot line all finished. You can see the basting thread in this picture pretty clearly. When I baste the design onto the velvet, I stitch just around the outside of the design. Then when I stitch the velvet onto the hooped stabilizer, I baste closer to the outside edge and then also on the inside of the design, in this case along the shape of the S. This ensures that the stitching will be smooth and not leave any puckers in the velvet.

Detail of points on Celtic knot design
Here is a detail of some of the points along the knot line. When the line reaches a point and takes a sharp turn, I always anchor the last stitch at the point, then begin again in the same stitch to go in the new direction. This keeps the points of the design sharp.

Detail of curves on Celtic knot design
This detail shows how nicely the chain stitch takes to curves.

Complete Celtic monogram S design with stabilizer still attached
Here is the complete design with the stabilizer still attached to the front and back.

Detail of purple stitching
This is a detail of the completed design showing the purple stitching appearing to go underneath the green. In fact, the purple stitches are anchored before the green and started again after the green.

Begin removing stabilizer
Once the design outline is finished, remove the basting stitches and simply start tearing away the stabilizer from around the design. It's sort of like a very satisfying punch-out project, like paper doll clothes or something similar! Always start from the outside and move towards the inside when removing the stabilizer. Use a pin or sharp needle to help lift the inside sections away from the stitching being careful not to pull any of the stitch threads or the velvet.

Continue removing stabilizer
Keep at it until all the stabilizer is removed from around and between and underneath all the stitches.

Fill in design before removing velvet from hooped stabilizer
At this point, with the top stabilizer removed and the hooped stabilizer still attached with the chain stitch embroidery, I could fill in the purple S or add some other stitching. Removing the stabilizer after filling in a shape with solid stitches is very difficult. Always do the outline of a shape, then remove the stabilizer, then do the filler stitching.

For my purposes, this design is complete, so I removed the stabilizer from the hoop and trimmed it away around the outer edges of the stitching on the back of the velvet. Leaving the stabilizer on the back gives the stitches and the velvet some extra support.

Katie Ls dress in progress

This is Katie L's step dancing dress with the design basted in place. As you can see, the dress is a little bit more daunting project than a little monogram on a scrap piece of fabric, so using a hoop is necessary in order to keep the stitches neat and even and smooth. The results are well worth the effort.

Now you know my secret for embroidering on velvet while using a hoop and without crushing the pile of the fabric! Do you have any good embroidery secrets to share?

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  • Hi Mary Grace! I found my way here from your entry on Mary Corbet's Needle'nThread. :)

    I just wanted to say that this entry of yours, regarding embroidering on velvet, is very timely for me. I have a few yards of some very nice black velvet that I thought I might use to make a couple of large accent pillows for my son's room. He loves all thing dragon and I thought dragon motifs might be nice on the pillows.

    So just last week I spent half a day trying to figure out how I might transfer a design onto velvet. Thanks goodness I experimented on small scraps first. I tried using chalk, light colored artist's oil pencils, a tailor's pencil, a light colored marker, all to no avail. I also tried to create an iron on transfer using a light yellow transfer pencil. Not only would the transfer not show up on the velvet but, just as I feared, the velvet was ruined with the heat of the iron.

    I had settled for buying a couple of inexpensive cotton pillow shams that I was going to dye black with some Rit and then embroider the dragons on. But now that I've found your entry here and I'm saved!

    Now I not only know how to transfer the pattern (it seems so obvious once you know) but I've saved myself the grief of finding out the hard way that putting a hoop directly on the fabric is going to leave an unwanted mark.

    Thanks so much for the info' found here on your blog site. I'm sure I'll enjoy catching up on your past entries. And thanks again for the tip on Keepsake Needlearts! -Jeannine

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At July 25, 2008 at 12:31 PM  

  • Hey Jeannine! Sometimes I feel like I'm talking to a wall so thanks for letting me know this post will be helpful!

    Mary Corbet's site is so fabulous for embroidery. She does some magnificent stuff.

    Keepsake Needlearts is such a great place to go if you ever get a chance. We were just there a few weeks ago while on vacation. Their website is nice too, as well as their sister stores which you will see on the bottom of their website homepage.

    Have fun with your dragon project. I'd love to see pictures when you are finished and share them here on Hooked On Needles so everyone else can see them.


    By Blogger Mary Grace McNamara, At July 25, 2008 at 4:29 PM  

  • I know this is from last year but this is just what I needed. Thank you so much

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At September 29, 2009 at 5:40 AM  

  • Hello,

    Thank ou so much, this is a high level tutorial, very well explained and illustrated. I stitch or sew as a hobby, self-taught, and collecting the information would be very difficult and time-consuming without the help of people like you.
    Your work is beautiful.
    I shall be starting my project as the letter J for y nephew's knight cape.

    By Anonymous Marianne, At December 14, 2010 at 3:00 AM  

  • Your post lives on! I just read it today and am fascinated by the process, and by your detailed description. Thanks so much.

    By Blogger teri, At December 17, 2011 at 5:09 PM  

  • Excellent description of each step. The picture demonstrating how only the basted stabilizer is hooped while the tearaway on top sandwiches in the velvet pile was the key I needed for a project a friend and I are about to start. Thanks very much, and good work on helping to solve a tricky problem.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At January 7, 2012 at 8:28 PM  

  • Very helpful post..

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At October 16, 2013 at 6:01 AM  

  • I agree with ALL of the other comments, you saved me with this tutorial, I spent ages trying to work out how to transfer a design onto Velvet, as a newbie to the whole world of Crafting, the stabiliser sandwich is a Genius idea, Thanks for sharing it.

    By Blogger SewMisadventurous, At July 26, 2014 at 1:09 PM  

  • Great idea. I've tried several things and usually use a slate or Japanese frame. This is a great method for a small motif. It was posted on FB yesterday! Thank you

    By Blogger Anneg, At September 21, 2015 at 9:54 AM  

  • Thank you! Seven and a half years after your post and you are still helping people with your inspired idea and experience.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At February 7, 2016 at 3:30 PM  

  • Still awesome and still helpful! Thank you!

    By Blogger Casey Jones, At March 12, 2017 at 7:17 PM  

  • This article was put up quite a few years ago and I don't know if you are still available for questions but I am hoping to hand embroider on velvet. Your steps are great but the pictures would be so helpful... unfortunately they are not appearing 😞 any possibility that the pictures could be put back up. Thank you!

    By Blogger alirosie, At January 29, 2019 at 12:16 PM  

  • Hi Alirosie, thanks for the comment and request! I have gone through this post and changed the code so that the pictures should now show up. Google changed things a while ago and it's quite a tedious process to reset each picture to show up again, but this one seems to be quite popular this time of year so now it should be up and running. The links to other posts should still work, but the other posts might not be showing their pictures or videos. Anyway, thanks for the nudge!


    By Blogger Mary Grace McNamara, At February 3, 2019 at 8:38 PM  

  • Thank you so much for the pictures! I'm so sorry it sounds like it was a bit of an effort 😞 but I'm very grateful, they are so helpful. Have a lovely day and thank you again. PS your embroidery looks beautiful!

    By Blogger alirosie, At February 4, 2019 at 4:04 AM  

  • Thank you so much for sharing such a through tutorial. I’m embarking on my first Irish dance dress and have had such a hard time getting answers. This has bee so very helpful!

    By Blogger SFC, At March 22, 2019 at 6:32 PM  

  • I'm a little confused and hope you can help...how on earth do you embroider onto clothing without hoop marks? I can see form this tutorial how to do a square but what if I need to embroider a hem for example?

    By Blogger AnyWW, At June 15, 2019 at 6:56 PM  

  • Hi AnyWW, it would be the same technique as shown in this post. You draw the design onto the tear-away, baste it onto the article of clothing, hoop some stabilizer and baste the design/clothing combination onto it and stitch. If the design is too big for one hoop's worth of stitching, then baste the whole design onto the article of clothing, then hoop the same as before but when you are finished stitching as much of the design as fits onto one hoop's worth of stabilizer, then remove the hoop, trim down the stabilizer on the back, hoop another piece of stabilizer and baste the next section of the design onto it and continue stitching. Repeat that until the whole design is stitched, then remove the tear-away from the front and trim down the stabilizer on the back. You will have overlapping sections of the stabilizer on the back. This is how I was able to do the hem design on the dress pictured in the post, and also the two large triangle designs on the bodice as they were too big for one hoop. Hope this helps. MGM

    By Blogger Mary Grace McNamara, At June 16, 2019 at 4:35 PM  

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