Would you believe this adorable scarecrow is a simple appliqué design combined with puffy fill underneath the clothing? A combination of appliqué and puffy foam creates unique one-of-a-kind designs that you cannot achieve with just embroidery. The fabric choices rather than large embroidery fills allow you to embroider unusual and outstanding designs.
Puffy foam embroidery is created by satin stitching over thin, flexible foam. The machine needle penetrates the foam as the satin stitches cover and encase a precise shape. This raises the design, completely hiding the base fabric and making the embroidered areas stand out. The excess foam is gently torn away when the design is completed.
Embroidery or craft foam is available in several colours in 1.5 mm, 2 mm, 3 mm and 4 mm thicknesses and is made of ethylene vinyl acetate. This product is flammable and disintegrates when subjected to dry cleaning solvents but is machine washable and dryable, nontoxic and can withstand the heat of a medium-hot iron. Do not iron directly on the foam itself, but always with a protective cover over it.
While thick foam raises a design more than thin foam, it also increases thread and needle breakage and usually requires the use of 30-weight thread for proper coverage. Thicker foam also will stiffen the base fabric more than thin foam and requires the stability of heavy fabric, such as denim. 2 mm foam is the easiest to work with when using puffy foam with embroidery.
How to embroider with puffy foam
- Use a size 11 up to a size 14 sharp or ballpoint needle, depending on the weight of the fabric. Heavier weight fabrics will require a needle with a larger eye. Although a sharp needle is ideal when using rayon thread, a ballpoint needle will penetrate the foam more completely, so experiment with both types of needles.
- Thread and foam colours should match whenever possible. Fewer stitches can be used to cover the foam without it showing through. If you cannot match the foam to the thread colour, match it as closely as possible to the fabric colour.
- Choose a simple design with mostly satin stitching. Large logos, shapes or symbols are ideal. Accent stitching can be added inside the design but not too much accent stitching. The inner detailing not only adds interest to the design, but also detail. The jacket on the scarecrow is one piece of puffy foam, but the addition of a centre line in the jacket adds definition to the jacket, along with the buttons on the centre front. Inner lines in the pant legs also add definition in the knee area, again making the design more lifelike.
- When a design has both fill and satin stitched areas, stitch the fill parts as normal, stop the machine and insert the foam just before stitching the satin stitches. If the design is an appliqué design, the foam should be inserted prior to stitching the first appliqué outline.
- The most pleasing results will be achieved by puffing design segments rather than the entire design. Placing the foam in closely spaced design areas will make the design seem three-dimensional.
- When embroidering a design for puffy foam, the satin stitch columns should be finished at the end points to prevent the foam from puffing out on the edges. If you are embroidering a design where the column ends have not been enclosed, the foam must be cut away rather than torn away from the stitching, as there is no stitching at the end of the column to perforate the foam. if unsightly thread ends remain after cutting away the foam, you may need to stitch over the design again to encase the foam. Always do a test sewout before stitching the design on the actual fabric or garment.
Where can you use puffy foam? Monograms are ideal designs for puffy foam. A combination of embossing and monograms is also a good project. Wall hangings, decorative quilts, garments, anywhere a design could be enhanced by adding a bit of puffy foam.
When embroidering on garments, because foam naturally adds stiffness to an embroidery design area, select the placement carefully, especially on garments. To prevent fabric distortion or stretch on medium weight fabrics apply lightweight fusible tricot interfacing to the reverse side of the fabric before embroidering.
If you wish more information on digitizing not only applique designs, but also digitizing for puffy foam, I do have a tutorial , Applique – a Story in Fabric and Stitches, including full instructions to digitize the adorable scarecrow shown at the beginning of this article as well as several other digitizing tutorials. Any or all of these tutorials will help you enhance your digitizing skills or help you along the road to learning how to digitize with Embird Studio.