Free-standing embroidery designs are designs that can stand alone without a foundation fabric. They are made on disappearing stabilizers, most often water-soluble ones. Usually FSL designs have dense underlay stitches, which support the embroidery. The crochet-style FSL designs are made to imitate crochet and do not have dense underlay stitches.
Stabilizers: We strongly recommend to use water-soluble mesh, such as Vilene. Vilene D0102 is a non woven dissolvable stabilizer which is imported into the US, is sold in large rolls and is sometimes repackaged under different brand names.
Some of these brand names are Fabri-Solvy by Sulky, Avalon Plus by Madeira, Wash-Away, and Aqua Magic.
Film-like water soluble stabilizers, such as Solvy by Sulky, Avalon by Madeira, Badge Master, are not suitable for Free-Standing Crochet Lace embroidery.
The drawbacks of Vilene are that it leaves lint, so clean the bobbin case with a soft brush after every project. Also, dissolve it only in luke-warm water; in hot water, the chemicals in the mesh can cause the color of the thread to fade.
Threads: We tested crochet-style FSL designs using 40-weight rayon and filament polyester from both Madeira and Isacord; 50-weight filament and 60-weight spun polyester from Brother; 40- and 50-weight quilting cotton threads and 60-weight embroidery cotton threads of different brands.
We personally liked the results we got with 60-weight Mettler embroidery cotton threads and 40-weight Signature machine quilting thread.
On the picture: Sample 1 is made using Isacord polyester: the design deforms, stretches and does not keep its shape, some stitches are loose; we got the same result with all filament polyester threads. We DO NOT recommend using filament polyester for crochet.
Sample 2 is made using Madeira's rayon: this looks better, but still streches and some stitches are loose;
Sample 3 is made using "Country Yarn", the 60-weight Brother spun polyester with matte finish: the sample keeps its shape well and looks like real crochet. Sorry to say, this product is discontinued by the manufacturer. But if you still have its supply you can use it for crochet.
We liked most the samples we made using 60-weight mercerised cotton. We used different brands, Mettler and Clark & Coats, among them. The 100% cotton machine quilting threads also give good results. We liked Signature most of all.
If you like, you can try different cotton threads yourself and choose which you like best. Our free sample can be downloaded at the end of this tutorial.
It's very important to use the SAME thread for the needle thread and bobbin thread when embroidering crochet-style FSL.
Needles: We use size 80/12 embroidery needles and 80/12 metallic needles. Our experience shows that cotton thread used with metallic needles gives less lint. The needles should be sharp, so it's advisable to change them after every project.
Hooping: We use 1 layer of water-soluble Vilene with our crochet-style FSL designs. It's very important to hoop the stabilizer very tightly, like a drum skin. If your hoop does not hold the thin layer of stabilizer well, we recommend to wrap muslin strips around the long sides of your hoop's upper frame.
Impotant Note: It's very important to use as small a hoop as possible. E.g. if your design is for a small hoop, use the small hoop, not the large one; if your design is for a large hoop, use large, not mega. The smaller the hoop, the more stable it is.
DO NOT try to embroider several FSL designs in one hoop. Water-soluble stabilizers have a tendency to stretch and in a larger hoop it will stretch more than in a smaller one. This can lead to misplaced stitches and the design might fall apart after the stabilizer is dissolved. It's always better to embroider one part at a time.
Thread Tension: Freestanding lace designs look best when the needle and bobbin threads meet halfway. Stitch a sample, and adjust the tension if needed. Consult your machine's manual and/or dealer on how to do this.
On the photo below you can see samples with mistakes:
In the first sample the tension of the threads is incorrect.
In the second sample the different threads were used in the needle and in the bobbin.
Most Importantly: ALWAYS make a test stitch-out of the design. This helps you to select the threads, needles, stabilizers and settings of your machine correctly.
Step One: Download the design, and unzip the file.
Step Two: Upload the design into your machine. DO NOT re-size the design, it will lead to deformation of the design.
Step Three: Thread the needle and the bobbin. Use the SAME threads for the needle and for the bobbin.
Step Four: Hoop a layer of water-soluble Vilene and insert the hoop into your machine. Stitch out the design. This is a test embroidery.
Step Five: Take the sample out of the hoop, cut away the excess stabilizer and rinse the remaining stabilizer away with warm water. Lay flat, spread and leave to air dry. Press with steam. If you're satisfied with the sample, you can now embroider your project.
When you embroider designs for a project, DO NOT dissolve the stabilizer. Leave all the designs with the stabilizer until after you assemble the project.
Note: Do not rinse the stabilizer with hot water! The hotter the water, the faster the stabilizer dissolves, BUT hot water may result in unwanted side effects such as shrinkage of the fabric and cotton threads or running of the dyes.