Machine Embroidery Projects

Creating 3D Flowers – DIY Embroidery

The inspiration for the flowers

I have been creating and digitizing original embroidery designs since 1994—which may sound like a long time, but it certainly does not feel like that to me. For the last 28 years, I have sat down at my tablet and attempted to do something I have not already done. As you can imagine, it proves challenging to think of something new when you have already created well over 100,000 different designs. Over the last few years, my focus as a designer has been to lift embroidery off of the fabric, removing its conventional presentation and dreaming up new ways to showcase embroidery as an art form. We have all been stitching on fabric ever since we turned on our machines for the very first time. Clothing, quilts, table runners, Christmas ornaments, monograms—the list can go on forever, but they all have one thing in common: they are flat. That’s not to say you cannot create beautiful items this way, because you can—and most certainly have! But what about creating dimensional projects or embroidering on surfaces that are not fabric? 

I started with a selection of 30 sketched flowers, then took their images and analyzed them petal-by-petal to understand their layers. Each flower was then hand-digitized to add painterly-like realism to every petal and leaf. When it came to the embroidery process, I opted to incorporate organza as the base material, as it is both light and thin while still remaining durable. Signature Series Volume III includes straightforward instructions on ways to shape your flowers using only a few basic notions, helping anyone create beautiful, dimensional flowers. 

Each flower in this series has two variations: one with low-density stitching and one with full-density, with both variations including two different size options. For project inspiration, I will share tips for arranging flowers in a shadow box as well as ideas for creating jewelry, embellishing hats or purses, and other ways to use these dimensional designs. If you own Signature Series I and II, you can even incorporate the butterflies or background elements from these releases to make your 3D floral piece truly one-of-a-kind.

I enjoyed creating every piece in this latest installment of my Signature Series, and I hope you, too, enjoy stitching these beautiful flowers!

Inspired by Nature

Just like real flowers, these blooms have each been sketched to include multiple layers of freestanding embroidered pieces, creating overlapping petals just like real flowers possess. From magnolias to poppies, Wilson has included an array of 30 three-dimensional flower species to choose from, along with a selection of loose petals and leaves, that can combine together to create embroidered bouquets and various floral-inspired works.

Choosing threads and fabrics

In order to create these dimensional flowers, gathering the necessary notions is an essential first step. While these designs were developed and stitched on commercial embroidery machines in the studio, Wilson has digitized each design specifically for compatibility with the average home embroidery machine. This means the notions and other materials needed to create these 3D flowers are most likely already in your embroidery arsenal. 

Since each element in this series is constructed as a freestanding piece, you will require a substantial roll of water-soluble stabilizers, such as Floriani’s Wet N Gone. Wilson’s recommendation is to ensure you hoop not just one, but two pieces of water-soluble stabilizer for each embroidery file you stitch out. Water-soluble stabilizers, such as the Wet N Gone Wilson prefers, help create a durable surface for the embroidery to run on while supporting the stitch densities as needed. A simple rinse in warm water will dissolve the stabilizer away, and curved tip embroidery scissors can be used for final trims and clean-ups. 

Stitching out the flowers

Whether you can cultivate a successful bloom or struggle to remember watering your plants, these lush and layered flowers are the perfect element for all sorts of creative projects. Obtaining a realistic look to florals made of fabric and thread can prove to be a challenge. However, the beauty of these designs lends them to be stitched in any colorful variation (or even lack of color) that you can imagine and still create a breath-taking finish. 

In order to create these 3D flowers, you will need a few key notions, including a roll of water-soluble stabilizer (such as Floriani’s Wet N Gone), various shades of sheer organza, a 75/11 needle, extra bobbins, a pair of curved tip embroidery scissors, and a reliable hot glue gun. This series will guide you through the completion of a flower, as well as how to assemble its various parts into the finished 3D bloom. As a reminder, the thread colors used for our rendition of each design will be indicated in the Design Steps pages, but you can use any thread brand and color variations you desire.

Trimming and Rinsing

Once the embroidered elements are finished stitching, you can remove them from the hoop. Using a pair of curved tip embroidery scissors, trim out each flower element from the organza. Cut close to the embroidered edge to remove the excess, taking care not to snip into any stitching. Now, gather a bowl full of hot, soapy water. Using a pair of tweezers, dip and rinse the embroidered parts to remove the excess stabilizer from around the designs. Once rinsed, you can lay the pieces flat to dry. 

NOTE: Any remaining stabilizer in the bobbin stitches will help with molding and shaping your petals later, so try not to rinse them too well!

Shaping the petals

When it comes to creating the dimensionality and shape of these flowers, the secret lies in their rinsing. Rather than removing all traces of the stabilizer, a quick dip and rinse can preserve a bit of the water-soluble mesh in the bobbin thread of each piece. This excess stabilizer left in the petals will come in handy, acting almost like starch or stiffener. For shaping the petals, Wilson prefers to keep an inverted bowl nearby, generally only a few inches in diameter. By
re-dampening the petals slightly, they can then be molded to take on shapes or to sit on curved items, like the edge of the inverted bowl, to guide their drying shape. After the molded shape has been created, a hot glue gun is used to run lines of glue down the back of the petals. The dry glue will act as a “skeleton,” helping the formed petals keep the desired shape. Once dry, a drop of hot glue in their centers will help to join the various layers into the finished flower.

Finishing your flowers

Using the bowl and hot glue method will help your petals maintain a “lifted” and lively appearance rather than drying into a flattened shape on a desk or work surface. You can also choose to manually dampen the petals on just their tips, forming their shapes by hand or with other objects around your craft space. The most important part of the process is using the glue to help keep the shapes. Once the petals dry out and their hot glue has solidified, the shape of the molded petals or leaves will remain in place, helping to convey the dimensional look of real flowers. At this point, it will be easy to complete your flower by adding a drop of hot glue in the center of each layer to join them together.

Installing the flowers

You can choose to affix your flowers to brooch backs or pins to make interchanging them for the season as easy as swapping pins. For more permanent fixtures, installations as art, or to turn them into a bigger bouquet, a bit of well-bonded hot glue can be the perfect finishing element. My preferred presentation is, as expected, in the form of wall art. Shadow boxes or acrylic frames are best to showcase these beautiful blooms while not diminishing their dimensionality. You can source a variety of framing options or mounts from any local craft or hobby store, just let them know your final project’s desired dimensions.

Signature Series 3 is available now for immediate download

About Stephen Wilson

I am the Founder of Anita Goodesign Inc. as well as Stephen Wilson Studio. I have been in the embroidery industry in one form or another for over 25 years and at this point have embroidered on just about everything.

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