Adding a bit of “Zen” to machine embroidery

Several years ago, a dear friend introduced me to “zen-tangle”, a free form of sculptured doodling inside specified shapes/areas. I must say that 1a1e65b96ba2327b4ececdaa72266f3fI fell in love with the concept. Some of my earlier “zen-tangles” were awkward meandering lines, but over time, I learned to relax and just let my mind IMG_1941qaaconcentrate on a given area and doodle! The idea of using the same concept in machine embroidery designs came to my mind, but I couldn’t get past the interpretation concept. On a piece of paper, it was all fine to just draw, but in machine embroidery, I had to limit my self to a theme. Moreover, I had to figure out how it could lend itself to just being plain line art. That is exactly what Zen-tangle is all about, it is an interesting word for line-art!

To be honest, there are a gazillion line art or one color designs out there. Why add to what already exists, so I came up with the idea of creating my “zen-embroidery” using multiple methods. The first method used for plain simple applique. Applique is an extremely easy technique, based upon three steps. The first is the placement outline, which stitches out directly on your fabric without adding the applique fabric. This becomes the guide if you want to place your fabric in a fussy way, speciallyImage2 if using batiks and other specialty fabrics. Once the placement outline stitches out, just place your applique fabric onto the stitched out shape and the machine will stitch out the second step, known as the applique tack down. Applique tack down stitches out the shape but with secure stitches so the fabric wouldn’t come away from the edge, when the trimming is IMG_1933done.

To show you the method: simply hoop your stabilizer. Now, note that I never hoop my fabric, always only the stabilizer. The fabric is either pinned to the stabilizer or I use fabric glue stick to hold it down. The choice is yours, you may do as I say or hoop both fabric and stabilizer. Stitch out the first stitch: placement outline. Now place your applique fabric and stitch out the applique tack down. Remove hoop from machine (do not remove stabilizer and or fabric, just the hoop) and place on IMG_1943aa flat surface. Trim away excess fabric from outside the tack down stitches. (see left).

As far as applique scissors go, I prefer the smallest blade scissors. Simply, because the smaller the blade, the closer you are to the trimming, which will be amazingly neater than if you were to use scissors with larger blades. The best that I have found can be found at Famore. These scissors are indeed tiny, but have a look at the trimmed image above. It trims closer to the applique tack down stitch leaving the applique neat. Btw, I also use the same scissor for cutwork designs.

The third and last step is the applique itself. This can be done in a variety of ways, satin stitches, motif stitches and or simple zig-zag stitches. Very rarely do I prefer satin stitches for applique, so you will see a variety of motif stitches in my applique designs. The same is in this instance. After you have trimmed away the excess fabric, place the hoop back in the machine. The reason why I’m so adamant about placing the hoop on a flat surface, rather than in your lap…(yes I know it’s easy) is because a slight shift in the hooping can distort the design. After placing the hoop in the machine, go ahead and stitch out the rest of the design. In step 1 and 2 of the applique process, use the same color thread which will be used for the applique. So, in my case, I used dark brown for step 1 and 2 and step 3.

Are you ready to try some “Zen-Embroidery”? Go ahead, the designs are perfect for fall and if specialty metallic threads are used, these same designs will blend well for the holidays. There are five design files: Border (this is the curly type continuous border designs); leaf 1 (this is one color leaf applique design); leaf 1 non-applique (this is one color line-art design); leaf 2 (this design has two colors, different for the leaf and vines/and the stem); and the last one leaf 2 non-applique (same as leaf 2, only this is a line art design). I hope you enjoy my version of mixing Zen with machine embroidery.

Note: Each zipped file has multiple formats. Use the “save as” option to save the files to your computer/external drive rather than “open” option.

Comments (58)

Dottie N.October 27th, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Absolutely FABULOUS Sadia! AND, THANK YOU “sew” much. Hugs, Dottie

JudyOctober 27th, 2013 at 8:23 pm

iTS beautiful – you are so creative – I love it!

EDITHOctober 27th, 2013 at 8:30 pm

I am collecting an alphabet from another digitizer in this vein (no pun intended!) and it is also WONDERFUL!

J KirbyOctober 27th, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Thank you! Your explanation and samples are fantastis!

TrisOctober 27th, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Brilliant Sadia, love the designs.
Great interpretation.
I have been playing with Zen style designs in Free motion quilting for background filler designs with nice effects too.
Thank you for the free designs. I hadn’t realized at first they were free.
Bonus for me.

Janie SchulzOctober 27th, 2013 at 8:36 pm

These are wonderful! Also something I have wanted to play around with.

Gail BOctober 27th, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Thank you Sadia for the gorgeous designs

Thank you Sadia for the gorgeous designs!

RosalieOctober 27th, 2013 at 8:44 pm

These are beautiful! Thank you Sadia!!

Cynthia W.October 27th, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Sadia, I’m going to try this with mylar and see how it comes out.

Thanks so much.

Janice Loveland-GrandiOctober 27th, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Thanks Sadia but what a time to have my machine in for repair………I want to play!!

Janice in Las Vegas

KarenOctober 27th, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Beautiful work, Sadia. Thank you for the samples. I am looking forward to “playing” with them. :-)

ShirleyOctober 27th, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your journey. Beautiful design. I look forward to playing with it.

Jean LongOctober 27th, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Jean Oct. 27, 2013 @ 10:19pm. What wonderful designs. Thanks so much.

gina hartleyOctober 27th, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Thank you

JenniferOctober 27th, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Love this idea. I have a plan to paint the border rocks in my garden like this. Thanks!

Vicki BOctober 27th, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Thanks so much. These will look lovely on a table runner for holidays for SIL

KarlaOctober 27th, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Very nicely done, great idea to try..Thanks.

Margaret HammOctober 27th, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Thank you. These are so pretty. I used to do this when I was a kid. Didn’t know what I was on to….Maggie

Monica PowellOctober 27th, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Wonderful Sadia and thank you so much – I love the concept – have tried doing it free motion and with practice will come right – love your interpretation for the machine. Love and thanks xx

KarenOctober 28th, 2013 at 1:09 am

Stadia Dear. The Lacey border would make a beautiful design for digital quilting. You are so talented and amazing.

YvonneOctober 28th, 2013 at 1:12 am

Thank you for the beautiful designs.

Love them.

Cheryl McKieOctober 28th, 2013 at 3:48 am

Looks very very good ! I will enjoy doing this and playing around with the designs. Thanks so much

DanaOctober 28th, 2013 at 4:32 am

Thank you so much, Sadia! I just discovered Zentangle a few months ago and I love it. I’m thrilled you’re doing it with machine embroidery. Your designs are beautiful. Thank you!!!

FawziaOctober 28th, 2013 at 4:45 am

fabulous Sadia.Thank you so much for this. has potential for many applications.

Sherry LockleyOctober 28th, 2013 at 6:04 am

Thank you, what interesting designs.

Rachel LangOctober 28th, 2013 at 6:13 am

What a great technique. Thanks a bunch for sharing. I can’t wait to try it.

Elaine DawsonOctober 28th, 2013 at 6:19 am

Love zentangle, been trying to find time to experiment. Thank you so much Sadia!

Melody♪♫October 28th, 2013 at 6:58 am

mmmmmmmmmmmm ~ Perfect design for some Thanksgiving table napkins! Thank you so much for sharing them. (…and thank you for sharing your expertise on scissors info, I’ve been needing to invest in another pair…)

Lena Mae brasureOctober 28th, 2013 at 7:00 am

this is beautiful I love it .Thank you.

AdrianOctober 28th, 2013 at 7:11 am

Thanks for sharing. I really like unique things like this.

raeleneOctober 28th, 2013 at 7:13 am

thank you

Dorcas HolleyOctober 28th, 2013 at 8:54 am

Thanks for the designs, they are wonderful.

AntoinetteOctober 28th, 2013 at 9:07 am

Sadia, the designs are fabulous! So many ways to use them! Thank sew much!

Diane BaconOctober 28th, 2013 at 9:13 am

Sadia, these are lovely and unique! Thanks so much.

Ila in MaineOctober 28th, 2013 at 9:40 am

Sadie this is wonderful. TY so much for the samples. I have a Janome 10001 and a Janome 11KSE and something I have been doing to familiarize myself with all the wonderful specialty stitches is to stitch out different applique shapes, and using different variegated threads (those are my faves) fill them in with the specialty stitches. I then hand applique these cut out shapes to muslin blocks and make them into mug mats, pot holders and other useful things. Its a way to learn the capacities of my machines, make useful & pretty things at the same time and have fun.

I also make a wall hanging of all the stitches my machine can do that looks like the 1800 embroidery samplers. Backed and hanging above my machine its an excellent reference guide and I can see all the stitches whenever I need to.

I never hoop anything but stabilizer either, why make things harder than they need to be?

KarenOctober 28th, 2013 at 9:58 am

Thanks so much, Sadia, for your generosity! I love line art designs with lighter stitching.

Can’t wait to experiment.

PatOctober 28th, 2013 at 11:33 am

Thank you so much for these designs. I have just started to play with zentangle on paper. It’s lots of fun. I look forward to sewing our your new designs.

PamOctober 28th, 2013 at 12:31 pm

You are so generous with your work, these are just beautiful, thank you.

MarilynOctober 28th, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Thanks Sadia for sharing this concept with us. You always are the first to come up with new types of embroidery. You are a way ahead of the time.

ChereOctober 28th, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I saw this earlier today when I was on my Kindle and you had it on Facebook; I thought it was so beautiful but couldn’t link to the blog from the Kindle. Now I have a very nice surprise, you have given us the designs! Thank you very much; I love the “zen” method.

DawnOctober 28th, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Sounds like an interesting way of embroidery; I will give it a try!

JeanOctober 28th, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Thank you for the designs and I enjoyed your posting. I love looking at Zentangles and have made one very half hearted attempt at it. Guess I need to try again as I couldn’t seem to relax and enjoy it. Or maybe I am just not a good Zentangler :-)

Katie NeilOctober 28th, 2013 at 6:08 pm

I admired this yesterday when you shared on Facebook. You are so generous to share with us. Thanks so much!

MarzlieOctober 28th, 2013 at 7:12 pm

thank you so much for the designs and your post about zen. My daughter has been enjoying this Zentangle drawing very much. Started with it in January and is drawing all the time! I have used some of it to digitize. I copy the drawing while it is not totally filled.
It is so fun to see them sew out. So the zen gives both of us joy for creating.

Allen DuhonOctober 28th, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Thank you Jean for the designs. I live on social security, so always appreciate free designs to play with. It also gives me a place to start when I do buy, so thanks again.

SonjaOctober 29th, 2013 at 8:47 am

Your designs are beautiful. I can’t wait to try them on a table runner or tablecloth..Thank you

Norma SterbenzOctober 29th, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Beautiful! Thank you so much, Sadia. Your creativity never ceases to amaze me.

ilkaOctober 30th, 2013 at 3:58 am

Thank you very much for the beautiful zen designs !
Nice greetings from Belgium, ilka.

Jayne WhittakerOctober 31st, 2013 at 12:29 am

Thanks so much for these lovely designs which i can use on my quilt

JackieNovember 1st, 2013 at 4:01 am

This type of embroidery inspires me to create! Thank you, Sadia.

GailNovember 1st, 2013 at 8:35 am

This is WONDERFUL! You have blended my two favorite crafts. Thank you so much for sharing!

EmbroiderymadNovember 1st, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Beautiful designs, thank you for sharing.

Rachel TNovember 5th, 2013 at 9:23 pm

So artistic! Thanks so much Sadia!

ShirleyNovember 8th, 2013 at 10:25 am

Thank you, looking forward to stitching these.

kevinDecember 20th, 2013 at 12:36 am

Thoroughly enjoyed the post.I will definitely be coming back for more samples.
Thanks for sharing such post.

SuhasMarch 4th, 2014 at 5:50 am

Thanks for sharing such beautiful samples..

Ellen OMay 22nd, 2014 at 7:07 pm

I am looking for zen designs. Thank you sew much for sharing your creativity. Very much appreciated.

Sunshine & Smiles,


LynneJune 13th, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Thank you, I will be interested to try this.

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