Free motion drawing with your sewing machine is a fun and simple way to play around and get creative with your sewing projects. You can use any design you’d like, whether it’s your own creation or work you’ve seen somewhere and enjoyed (e.g. postcards, paintings, embroidery patterns). Depending which kind of project you’re making the process only takes a couple of hours, and you can create anything from decorative pillows to T-shirts.
In this quick video, sewing expert Jackie Pacitti demonstrates the step-by-step method for drawing with your sewing machine. She creates a zipper pouch with a cute hippo for her daughter, who’s obsessed with them. Follow along with Jackie as she shows you how to draw your shape and iron it on, and sew the outline and its details. You’ll learn all of the techniques necessary to create your very own sewing project with free motion drawing!
Getting Creative When Drawing with Your Sewing Machine
You’ll begin the process of drawing with your sewing machine by sketching your design with a Frixion pen. This tool is ideal for this kind of project because it fades away upon ironing. So you can draw as much detail as you want without worrying that any errant markings might show if you miss them with thread.
For sewing projects like this, Jackie recommends using Wonder Under or Heat and Bond to attach your design. You’ll cut out the design, line it up with the backside of your fabric, and use fusible fleece to ensure everything sticks together as one piece. This will make sewing with a darning foot much easier. And on that note: you should definitely utilize a darning foot because you can stitch in any direction, rather than just forward and backward. You’ll quickly learn why that’s important to free motion sewing.
Making Your Stitches
When you have your design ironed on and ready for the machine, go ahead and choose your thread for drawing with your sewing machine. Jackie suggests a contrasting color for lines that pop, so if your fabric is light, use a dark color such as black or navy. You’ll use regular stitches, and you don’t have to drop your feed dogs.
With her darning foot loaded, Jackie shows you how to stich along the design’s edge once, and then fill in with a second pass. Be sure to keep the trailing thread out of the way when you’re making your first securing stitches, and then cut once you’re ready to run the edge. Every time you start a new stitch, you should drop the needle and make that cut to avoid any catching.
While you’re making your stitches, Jackie explains that the lines don’t have to be perfect or completely uniform. Those imperfections add character, so embrace the imperfection!
Once you’ve done a couple of passes at the main outline, add some texture to the design by adding small details. In Jackie’s case, she gives her hippo a smile and cute button eyes, as well as grass, flowers, and shadows at its feet. She also shows you how to create eyes and other details that are close together, which can be a bit difficult to pull off. If you’d prefer not to free motion or you don’t trust your skills when drawing with your sewing machine, remember that you can draw every detail you’d like to include beforehand—they will all disappear with ironing.
To finish up your free motion project, run the iron over it one more time to remove wrinkles and any leftover marks from the Frixion pen. Then that should be that! You can do this kind of sewing on any type of soft surface, making it a great option for personalized baby and toddler gifts.
If you need any additional guidance, we have a huge archive of sewing tips and techniques that can help you find the right advice. And if you’ve nailed this one on the first go-around, check out more sewing projects that we have available to try your hand at something different!