Machine Quilting Hand Embroidery Elements



Holly brings up some excellent questions for further discussion. Sometimes I am so used to doing something that it never occurs to me to mention how I accomplish the task. I just assume (and we all know what that does right?) that no one is interested if it is never brought up. 

With more and more quilters returning to traditional techniques and design to create their quilts, this question will no doubt start coming up more often. I am seeing a growing renewed interest in adding hand embroidery to quilts as a design element either alone or to accentuate applique. I haven’t seen this as a trend since the quilting revival of the thirties. A positive side of the bad economy IMO.


Notice there is no quilting crossing over the embroidery?


So, you have added some hand embroidery (good for you!) and it sits on the background fabric and you realize, “Uh oh how do I quilt around this?”. You do NOT machine quilt right on over the embroidery if you want to keep the visual impact its best. Quilting over it will not only change the color value and how the eye will process that, but quite honestly, it is sloppy and………..I have to say it…….ugly to look at.

I quilt around the embroidery elements the same way I quilt around the applique. revisit: The embroidery is just thinner obviously.


What I call the “Triple Threat of Machine Quilting”


The triple threat of machine quilting: Beads, embroidery and applique.  Just remember to background fill up to the edge, outline and fill if necessary.  Also remember you have the option of raising your presser foot to avoid "catching" your elements and pulling.


 The triple threat of machine quilting: Beads, embroidery and applique oh my.  Enough to send anyone running away with panic!

 Just remember to background fill up to the edge, outline and then fill an enclosed area (island) if necessary. Also remember you have the option of raising your presser foot to clear embellishments to avoid “catching” and pulling .


What about those enclosed areas?

Background fill up to the embroidery and then hug the edge and outline. If there is an “island”, an area that is surrounded by the embroidery, then you will have to >>stop, >>end your thread and then >>reset your machine needle inside on the island of background fabric hugging the edge of the embroidery and then >>quilt the “island”.




Remember, SLOW DOWN to do the detail work such as quilting close around embroidery and applique and it will be so much easier. You wouldn’t take an icy curve on the road at high speed with your car and it is much the same thought process with your machine and quilting.

It will be a challenge, but you will be so much better for trying. Have fun and challenge yourself, it will show in your quilts without you realizing it.




all content ©2009 Sandra Leichner all rights reserved

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About Sandra

I am an Author, Designer, Illustrator and a major international award winning quilt artisan. I love working with fabrics and threads and they have become my medium of choice.

14 thoughts on “Machine Quilting Hand Embroidery Elements

  1. My comment really has nothing to do with this tutorial (which also looks great) but I did want to thank you for posting the information on using colored pencils on cloth. I’m about to go try it!

    Wishing you the best –

  2. Not to split hairs or anything, but quilting the embroidery was my question! 🙂 No matter — you addressed it beautifully! Thanks!

  3. Oh dear Holly, Forgive me my brain has turned to mush from all of the machine quilting. That and my daughter pestering me for a pet chicken. Calgon take me away……..

  4. what do you use to do your circles ? are they free hand when they are very small ? or do you use templates for all of them ?

  5. They are freehand when they are small. Believe it or not (and this is where I hear a groan) it is EASIER to do a smaller circle than a larger one more perfectly. Really!

  6. Sandra, I have just finished re-reading your entire blog (going back to February)– so enjoyable and absolutely INFORMATION DENSE; loaded with techniques and tips I have not encountered anywhere previously. What a wealth of information, inspiration, beautiful photos, and interesting dialog in the comment section. THANK YOU!

    (and do you actually quilt in those tiny areas between the stem and the tendril?)

  7. Thanks Frances! My goal is to share the love. 🙂

    Yep, I do quilt inside those tiny spaces. If I don’t, they pop up like pillows and it is obvious they were avoided. Machine quilting around embroidery sculpts and defines it on the surface. If you don’t consistently outline quilt all of it, then the unquilted portions float lifeless and flat on the background.

    I hope that makes sense. I haven’t drank my morning cup yet.

  8. Yes, it makes sense. It’s that complete (relentless) attention to detail, as well as exquisite design and perfectly sublime workmanship that sets your quilts apart. What a treat, this blog! Merci.

  9. You are welcome and thanks again for the high praise. Some would say I have a stubborn attention to detail. It is my type “A” personality in force I think. LOL

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