10 February 2022
These sweet Valentine’s cards are the perfect way to practise free machine embroidery and win the heart of the one you love!
Textile artist, Sue Bibby shows how to use your sewing machine to make a beautifully embroidered card to let someone special know how you feel.
DIY machine-embroidered Valentine's card
By Sue Bibby.
You will need
- 50cm cotton sheeting
- Madeira metallic thread No40 – Gold 8
- Madeira classic rayon thread No30 – Burgundy 1384 & Ivory 1072
- Red & burgundy stranded cotton embroidery thread
- Black all-purpose machine thread
- Bobbin thread – Superior Threads Bottom Line
- Thin card for templates
- Brown paper/recycled brown paper envelope
- Acrylic gold paint
- Card and envelope
- Double-sided tape
- Glue stick
- 2x 15cm embroidery hoops
- Pot for mixing
- Craft knife
- Metal ruler
- Cutting mat
- Sewing machine
- Sewing machine – feed dogs lowered/covered, and embroidery/darning foot fitted for machine embroidery
- Sewing machine – feed dogs raised and zig-zag foot fitted for decorative stitching
- Sewing machine needle No90
- Dressmaking & embroidery scissors
- Madeira magic pen
How to make a Valentine's heart card using your sewing machine
1. Stretch the cotton sheeting onto your hoop. Draw around the template twice on the fabric using the Madeira magic pen.
2. Set your sewing machine up for free motion embroidery with the feed dogs lowered or covered, and an embroidery or darning foot fitted. Sewing machine tension is usually set at 4 or 5 – you may need to set to a slightly lower number for embroidery. Stitch length should be set to 0.
Top tip! If you're new to machine embroidery, it's a good idea to practise before attempting the heart design. Using a dark thread for practising outlines means you can see the stitches easily and judge how you are progressing.
3. Thread your machine with gold thread. Start in the middle of the heart and lower the needle into the fabric. Bring up the bobbin thread and lower the needle into the fabric once again – lower the darning foot. Move the hoop and follow the outline of the design, stitching round three or four times and ending in the middle.
4. Change the thread and bobbin for burgundy. Starting somewhere inside the gold outline, begin to fill until you can’t see any of the background cotton.
5. Change to ivory thread and work a scrolling pattern randomly over the white space around the heart.
Fall in love with more stunning projects like ‘Love In Bloom’ in Stitch issue 135 – a stunning single red rose expertly explained by Loëtitia Gibier and ‘Flourish’, also in Stitch issue 135, where Jill Kipnis shows how to combine inks, organza and free-motion embroidery with her bouquet of pansies. Or for year-round embroidery joy, treat yourself to a subscription!
6. Use the thin card to create a rectangular template approximately 1in bigger than your fabric rectangle on all sides. Draw round your template onto the brown paper, take a metal ruler and place it along each edge of the rectangle ripping in an upward motion. Rip two rectangles from your brown paper.
7. Using a 50:50 diluted mixture of acrylic gold paint and water, brush each rectangle to give a lovely shimmer. Leave to dry.
8. Using two strands of red stranded cotton, thread a needle and knot at the end. Secure below the heart on the reverse. Stitch French knots around the edge of the heart at intervals. Fasten off on the reverse.
Top tip! For an added effect, work with two colours of stranded cotton and alternate the French knots around the heart.
Assemble the card
9. Remove the embroidered fabric from the hoop. Cut a piece of Bondaweb to cover the embroidered area but keep the paper backing in place. Set the iron to the cotton setting and allow to heat.
10. Place the sticky side of the Bondaweb onto the reverse of the fabric and iron over the paper until it has stuck evenly. Push the point of the iron into the relief areas of the embroideries. Be careful here as the bonded embroideries will be very hot at this point. Leave on one side to cool. This shouldn’t take too long… Maybe time for a tea break!
11. Peel the paper backing off the embroideries. Using sharp scissors cut round the embroidery borders as accurately as possible. Position one embroidery with the sticky side down and stitching up. Using a piece of greaseproof paper cover the embroidery (to protect from any glue transfer) and iron in place. Again, the work will be hot, so allow to cool before handling. Do this for both designs.
12. Fit a zig-zag sewing foot to your machine and raise the feed dogs. Set the machine to a zig-zag stitch, width 3mm and length 2mm. If unsure, refer to your sewing machine manual.
13. Beginning at the bottom right corner, position the needle to the right, just to the edge of the fabric, and in the right-hand position.
14. Stitch to the first corner, ending with the needle down and on the right-hand side. Once in the corner, lift the presser foot and pivot so you're ready to stitch along the next edge. Remember to put the presser foot back down before sewing.
Top tip! If you feel you may overshoot the corner, stop just short and do the last few stitched manually with the hand wheel to ensure you stop right on the corner. Sometimes I cheat a little here and lift the presser foot, jiggling the piece into the right position so the needle is in the corner!
15. Continue round the square until you get back to the start. Raise the needle and lift the presser foot. Carefully slide the work out of the machine, leaving long threads attached and cut. Take care not to rip the paper.
16. Turn the work over and gently pull on the threads on the reverse. You will notice a little loop will appear – this is the top thread. Slide a pin into the loop and pull through to the reverse.
17. No threads are on the front now and it should look neat. Secure threads on the back with a small piece of tape and snip.
Finishing the card
18. Stick strips of double sided tape along edges of the reverse of the brown paper and position the finished piece on the card.
19. Add your message. I used an old typewriter for this, but you could print in a font of your choice using your computer. Cut carefully around your title using a ruler and craft knife. Mount onto brown paper – also brushed with gold – leaving a 2mm border. Glue into position below the embroidery.
20. Now you have a beautiful card to send to a loved one on Valentine’s Day! Why not buy a little frame and turn it into a love token? You could also experiment with your own designs using the above techniques.
Find out more
Embroiderer and textile artist Sue Bibby combines machine and hand embroidery to create her lovely designs. She supplies around thirty shops and galleries with her cards and has produced ranges for Paperchase and WHSmith. Her larger pieces have been exhibited in galleries and exhibitions, including Manchester Royal Exchange Craft Centre, Shirehall Gallery and Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
For more card making tutorials head to our card making blog. Or, continue with stitching and go back to basics with Anne Brooke’s guide to free machining, have a go at another project or get to know free machining extraordinaire, Stacey Chapman.