Here at the Embroidery Legacy, we have a special relationship with freestanding lace because it’s how our company began back in the 1950s. During that period in my great-grandparents’ embroidery factory, our freestanding lace designs were manually crafted one stitch at a time by European Schiffli Masters. 

Originally crafted for the wedding and bridal industry, our freestanding lace designs are both elegant and soft to the touch. Today, we are one of the only companies you’ll find online that offers authentic vintage freestanding lace designs that’ll run on your modern embroidery machine. They’re truly a piece of embroidery history (click here to view our freestanding lace designs now).

Now, we thought it was due time to share our time-tested lace secrets with you. So, this article will cover everything you need to know about freestanding lace for machine embroidery.

Embroidery Legacy Freestanding Lace Wedding Dress

Our freestanding lace designs used to create a wedding dress by one of our amazing fans.

Schiffli Master Embroidering Freestanding Lace

How our freestanding lace designs were crafted in the 1950s.

This article will teach you:

  • What freestanding lace is
  • Where you can embroider freestanding lace
  • How to best embroider freestanding lace (video tutorial included)
  • Show you some of our 1950s freestanding lace designs
  • Show you some tips that’ll make your freestanding lace look better and feel softer

Let’s get started!

What is Freestanding Lace for Machine Embroidery?

If you’re new to machine embroidery, you may have heard the term freestanding lace (sometimes cut down to “FSL” on social media). Now I’m sure you most likely know what lace embroidery is, but you may be unclear with what the difference is between regular lace and free standing lace. Simply put, regular lace must be sewn directly onto a garment or some piece of fabric while free standing lace is sewn on water-activated dissolve away stabilizer.

After you’ve finished sewing out a freestanding lace design on a piece of water-soluble stabilizer, you will run the design under warm water & the stabilizer will vanish! Leaving nothing but a self-supported lace design made up & held together only by embroidery threads!

Freestanding Lace Design Sewing
Freestanding Lace Sew Out

What Can I Use Freestanding Lace For?

Historically speaking, freestanding lace always carried a certain degree of sophistication with it. Due to its delicate nature, it has always been a perfect fit to complement the female figure on clothing. One of lace’s most famous uses, of course, is being sewn onto a wedding dress. However, lace doesn’t always have to appear in such a formal fashion. It also looks great on t-shirts, jeans, jackets, and tons of other wearable items.

Freestanding lace patterns are also a great way to add some elegance to your home. Whether it be a tablecloth, clothes hanger, or even a pillow, freestanding lace can add a touch of class to almost anything. Here are some examples of projects created with our freestanding lace designs:

Within the past decade or so, “In-the-hoop projects” have become very popular for home embroiderers. Because of this, lace designs today (although not always freestanding) are used to create a variety of items such as freestanding lace earrings, Christmas ornaments, 3D angels, and more. Yes, we do have many of these designs available on our site as well. However, not all of them are freestanding. Click here to browse our library of in-the-hoop project designs.

Tutorial on How to Embroider Freestanding Lace Designs

Now that you understand what freestanding lace is and where you can use it, here are some step-by-step instructions on how to sew out a freestanding lace design. Please also be sure to check out the tips and tricks section at the end of this article to get the best possible results.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel if you enjoyed that video for tons of other great embroidery how-to videos. Now if you prefer written instructions, we have those as well here for you:

  1. Hoop a piece of water-soluble backing (i.e dissolve-away / wash-away stabilizer)
hooping water soluable backing

2. Embroider the freestanding lace design onto the backing.

embroidery fsl on backing

3. Remove from hoop & cut as closely to lace as possible without cutting into stitching.

remove lace from hoop

4. Hold lace under warm water. The water stream should be gentle, rinse until all residue is removed.

rinse lace with water

5. Lay lace on a towel and gently pat dry. Let air dry or hasten the process by using a hairdryer on low setting.

pat lace dry

That’s it. Congratulations, you’ve just embroidered your first piece of freestanding lace!

Our 1950s Vintage Freestanding Lace Designs

As I mentioned at the start of this article, our freestanding lace designs are indeed a piece of embroidery history. Each design was manually crafted one stitch at a time by European Schiffli Masters Punchers (now known as digitizers). Our lace & heirloom designs were initially saved on paper drafts and stored deep in the walls of our family’s embroidery factories for almost 50 years.

When commercial embroidery moved overseas and away from North America in the early 1990s, we shut down our industrial factories and stumbled upon the original paper drafts. What a blessing!

We later re-digitized and converted these paper drafts into modern-day embroidery design formats to allow them to run on your home embroidery machine.

Click here to view our entire collection of freestanding lace designs now.

We have 500 authentic vintage freestanding lace designs, and unfortunately, we’re not making more of them. If you do want access to our entire collection of authentic freestanding lace designs, plus close to 30,000 other embroidery designs, be sure to check out our Embroidery Legacy Design Club today. Click here to learn more now.

Our 1950s Vintage Freestanding Lace Designs

  • Use a pre-wound bobbin to match the color of the thread you’re using.
  • Slow your machine speed down.
  • For a noticeably softer feel, be sure to use rayon thread as it is not a synthetic thread like polyester. Keep in mind, if the lace design was not digitized properly, this may cause numerous thread breaks as rayon is not as strong of a thread as polyester.
  • When running the lace through warm water to dissolve away the stabilizer, use a tiny bit of hair conditioner & gently massage it into the lace. The hair conditioner will give it an even softer feel.
  • If you’d like to learn how to embroider continuous freestanding lace, click here for another complete tutorial

How Can I Create My Own Freestanding Lace Designs

Although digitizing lace seems like a challenge, it can be done with the right education and teacher! That’s where we come in to help.

You can experience an old-school digitizing lesson from one of the last Schiffli Masters, John Deer! John will take you by the hand and teach you how to manually digitize freestanding lace. Don’t expect to rely on your softwares “autopilot”, as you’ll be digitizing all foundational underlay stitches and controlling all the start and stop positions for every object you create, while also teaching you the theory behind what you’re doing.

freestanding lace advanced digitizing lesson

This is the ultimate mapping exercise that will replicate the tools and thought process of how true freestanding lace was mechanically digitized decades ago. Click here to learn more about how to digitize classic freestanding lace embroidery designs. 

Conclusion: Start Embroidering Freestanding Lace

Well, that’s about it. You now know what freestanding lace is, where to use it, how to embroider it and where to find some of the best freestanding designs in the world (keep in mind, I may be a bit biased).

If you’ve never tried our freestanding lace before, click here to gain access and download one for free with our Free Embroidery Legacy Design Kit. Plus, if you haven’t already, be sure to checkout out Embroidery Legacy Design Club as well. It gives you access to our giant database of close to 30,000 embroidery designs (including our lace), custom project idea tutorials, new weekly releases, and more. Click here to learn more now.

Thanks for reading, and please let me know if you found this article helpful below or if you have any questions. Happy stitching!