How to embroider on chiffon using an embroidery machine

By on November 9th, 2022
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Machine embroidery is a great way to add unique embellishments to your clothes and accessories. But what if you want to embroider something delicate, like chiffon? Don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it might seem. With a few tips and tricks, you can embroider on chiffon just like any other fabric.

To be honest, embroidering on chiffon never interested me. This was until I saw the beautiful work done by Liz Lindsay with M&L in Stitches. Recently, Liz used her embroidery machine to customize a chiffon veil for one of her friends, and OMG – it is a work of art.

So, of course, I had to ask her how she did it. And lucky me (and you!) she agreed to share her process and everything she learned along the way.

But, before we get too deep into Liz’s specific project, let’s first discuss chiffon and why it prevents a challenge for machine embroidery.

Embroidery on chiffon basics

What is chiffon?

Chiffon is a lightweight, sheer fabric that is often used for evening wear and bridal gowns. It is made from silk or a synthetic fiber like polyester. Chiffon is known for its delicate appearance and its flowing nature.

Why embroider on chiffon?

Chiffon is a beautiful fabric that can add a touch of elegance to any project. And, since it is so sheer, embroidering on chiffon can give your design a unique, three-dimensional look.

Why is embroidering on chiffon challenging?

Embroidering on chiffon can be a challenge for even the most experienced sewer. Chiffon is a delicate, sheer fabric that can easily tear or fray. Machine embroidery puts a lot of stress on fabric, so it’s important to take extra care when working with chiffon.

One big challenge you will face when embroidering on chiffon is its slippery surface and light weight. This means it can be difficult to keep it from moving around while you are embroidering. If the fabric moves too much, your design will be distorted.

The transparency associated with chiffon also presents a challenge. You don’t want to embroidery with a stabilizer that is going to show.

How to embroider on chiffon

Considering all the challenges that chiffon presents, it’s quite remarkable to see Liz’s results. The chiffon wedding veil she made for her friend does not have just a small touch of embroidery. The veil is adorned with beautiful and colorful embroidered flowers around the outer edges. Exquisite!

embroidered chiffon

When I asked her how and why she did it – here’s what she said.

Why did you try embroidering on chiffon?  

“My friend Melissa asked me to make her wedding veil with a Mexican flower theme. We went to Jo-Ann Fabrics together to obtain sample fabric, picking up chiffon in a light peach and organza in a light blue. Next, I spent time both learning best practices for embroidering on chiffon as well as searching for flower embroidery designs that would stitch well.”

How did you feel about embroidering on chiffon?

“I was very excited to work with a new fabric and also a bit apprehensive as it was clear from the research that chiffon presents a challenge. I was willing to take it on!”

How did you go about choosing embroidery designs to embroider on chiffon?

Avoid dense designs

“There are a few things to consider when choosing an embroidery design to stitch on chiffon. First, you want to make sure the design is not too dense. Dense designs can be difficult to stitch on any fabric, but they are especially challenging on chiffon.”

When an embroidery machine stitches out a very dense design, it creates a lot of holes within a small space. The close proximity of all these holes can essentially destroy your fabric.

Liz explained that she owns A LOT of embroidery designs. So, she just looked through her collection and identified flowers that had the right look, but were also not very dense.

flower embroidery design on chiffon

If you are looking for embroidery designs specifically for chiffon, look for “sketch” or “redwork” designs as these are quite light.

Avoid designs with long stitches

In addition, Liz said: “long stitches do not lay well, ideally the design utilizes short stitches (no more than 5 mm).”

Remove the underlay stitching

If you want to use an embroidery design that is a bit more dense, Liz suggests removing the underlay.

Normally embroidery designs incorporate underlay stitching to ensure good coverage. But, for chiffon, it is important to significantly reduce the density and remove underlay.

You can adjust the density of a design using Embriliance’s Density Repair Kit .

Always test stitch designs on your actual fabric

Before starting on a project like this, always test stitch out your designs on the actual material you will be using. Liz test stitched out her flowers on a scrap piece of chiffon to make sure they would stitch out nicely.

What type of embroidery machine do you own? Do you need a special type of embroidery machine to be able to embroider on chiffon?

You don’t need a special type of embroidery machine to embroider on chiffon. However if you are doing a large scale project like this, an embroidery machine with a larger embroidery hoop will make your process go MUCH faster.

A multi-needle embroidery machine will also be helpful as you won’t have to rethread the embroidery machine each time you change thread color. This is a huge time saver! It will go even quicker if the number of colors in your design does not exceed the number of needles in your embroidery machine.

Fortunately, Liz owns a multi-needle machine, a Janome MB-7 which has a large embroidery hoop and 7 needles.

“I started embroidering in 2008 with a Janome MC11000 Special Edition. I adored that single-needle machine that could sew, embroider, and quilt. However, in 2019, the motherboard went out and I now use a Janome MB-7. It’s been a joy to have seven needles threaded at a time!”

Do you need a special type of needle to embroider on chiffon?

Yes, you do need a special type of needle when embroidering on chiffon. Delicate fabrics dictate finer embroidery needles. You will want to use a sharp needle, size 70/10 or 65/9. Avoid using a ball point needle as the rounded tip can catch on the delicate fabric and create runs.

What type of stabilizer should be used when embroidering on chiffon

“Because the fabric is translucent, you cannot use a standard stabilizer. A normal stabilizer is cut to within 0.25” from the stitching, but that would create a visible outline on the front. For chiffon, it is hooped with Vilene or a water-soluble stabilizer (WSS).

Do you need to adjust the tension on your machine when embroidering on chiffon?

“In my opinion, the upper thread tension must be reduced to prevent the bobbin thread from showing as well as to make clean lines. My machine is normally set to a 5 (out of 9); for this project, I reduced all threads to a 3.”

How do you prep the chiffon?

Liz started by removing the creases from the chiffon with a very lightly heated iron.

“The chiffon had a bold crease from being on the fabric bolt. This crease was helpful during the process of cutting the shape and starting the design centered at the brow. To remove at the end, I used a lightly heated iron, with a Teflon pressing sheet, across both the front and the back of the fabric.”

Do you hoop or float the chiffon?

Hoop.

“Hooping can be a challenge, because chiffon is very slippery. I utilized a large, clear table space to lay out the WSS and the carefully laid the chiffon on top. I would slowly slide the hoop back under both layers, using my hoop guides for positioning. Small adjustments were frequently needed to position the flowers close to the seam edge and in position to the prior flower. It was important to not stretch the fabric as the top hoop was put in place and tightened. It often took me several minutes to hoop, but it is worth the time.”

How did you plan the placement of the flowers?

Liz printed images of the embroidered flowers, cut them out and placed them around the outer edge of the veil. This helped her plan each hooping.

“The veil had over 100” of edging and given the difficulty presented with hooping, it is quite difficult to perfectly space the flowers apart. As I approached the bottom center, I used my printed design previews to create the flower garden plan and only I (and now you) know it wasn’t perfectly centered. “

planning embroidery on chiffon veil

Would you embroider on chiffon again? If so – what would you make?

Frankly, it would take a compelling reason to do something of this size (both in physical size and importance). I could see doing something smaller, like a neck scarf, with embroidery only on the ends.

embroidered chiffon veil

Ready to try embroidering on chiffon?

I hope that you found Liz’s embroidered veil as beautiful and inspiring as I did. I also hope that with these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating beautiful embroidery on chiffon.

Just remember to choose the right needle and stabilizer for your fabric, and adjust the tension on your machine if necessary. Start slowly and carefully. With a little practice, you’ll be an embroidering like a pro on chiffon in no time!

Thank you to Liz for answering all my questions and allowing me to use her pictures for this article. If you would like to get in touch with her – she can be reached at crafts at funwebpage dot com.

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how to embroider on chiffon using your embroidery machine
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