How to Machine-Embroider Freestanding Lace Napkin Rings

comments (5) November 1st, 2008     

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JenniferStern Jennifer Stern, contributor
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These elegant lace napkin rings can take you right through the holiday season...starting with Thanksgiving!
These snowflakes were first stitched out on a double layer of wash-away stabilizer.
Here is a free snowflake design from K-Lace.
These elegant lace napkin rings can take you right through the holiday season...starting with Thanksgiving!

These elegant lace napkin rings can take you right through the holiday season...starting with Thanksgiving!

Photo: Jen Stern

Here's an easy way to add some elegance to your table setting without a major overhaul. Lace napkin rings are quick and easy—just import the design into your embroidery machine and push a button. You don't have to baby-sit the machine because these snowflakes stitch out in one color on a double layer of wash-away stabilizer.

What you'll need:

  • Freestanding lace embroidery design (I downloaded my snowflake from Criswell Embroidery and Design)
  • Wash-away stabilizer such as Aqua Mesh from OESD
  • Embroidery thread of your choice
  • Metallica needle size 12
  • Hand-sewing needle
  • Embroidery machine and the smallest hoop your design will fit in
  • Embroidery software if you own it—you can easily customize your design on the computer and then transfer it to your machine

There is one challenge when you are embroidering freestanding lace—that's finding a design that's truly freestanding. If you get your designs from a company that has a reputation for digitizing good-quality freestanding lace designs, it's easy. I think one of the best is Criswell Embroidery and Design. Their K-Lace designs always hold together after the stabilizer is washed away. The snowflake design I used for my napkin rings was a free download!

If you find a lace design elsewhere, it may be excellent...or it may fall apart when you rinse the stabililizer away. The problem is that it's hard tell by just looking at it. I purchased a beautiful mesh lace edging design from It looked like freestanding lace, but it fell apart when I soaked out the stabilizer.

Here is the lace edging design that I downloaded from If you look closely, you can see spaces between the stitching. This is a telltale sign that it may not hold up.


Sure enough, here it is after the stabilizer has soaked away.

If you fall in love with a lace design and it doesn't hold its shape when it's stitched on wash-away stabililzer, you always have the option to embroider on netting or organza. Both of these can be trimmed away so that they give the appearance of freestanding lace.

To make these napkin rings, I had to put together a few snowflakes to make a row that I could form into a ring. I imported the snowflake design into my embroidery software—you can also arrange individual motifs into a row on the screen of your embroidery machine.

One benefit of using embroidery software is that you can zoom in and look at the stitching up close.

Then I used the copy/paste features to link together the individual snowflakes to create a long enough rectangle to form a napkin ring. I ended up linking three snowflakes together. If you are using a different design or if you would like to find a rectangle all ready to go, it should be approximately 7 to 7-1/2 inches long.

Make sure that you overlap the design enough so that they will hold together.

Thread your machine and wind a bobbin with the same embroidery thread. Use a size 12 metallica needle. Hoop two layers of wash-away stabilizer such as Aqua Mesh. Position the hoop on your machine. I was able to fit two napkin rings side by side in the hoop. Embroider the designs.

Here are the snowflakes stitched out in the hoop.

Trim away as much stabilizer as you can...neatly around the edges of your embroidery without snipping the stitches.

See how nice and tight the stitches look...that's a good sign!

Fill a large bowl with room-temperature water. Hot water will dissolve the stabilizer faster, but you run the risk of shrinking the thread and distorting your design. Stick your trimmed embroideries into the bowl.

Let the embroidery soak for about 15 minutes. Any residue left on the surface will feel slippery. If you can feel the residue, gently agitate the design and let it soak for another 5 minutes.

Take the snowflakes out of the water and allow them to dry on a clean, dry towel.

Don't use a dark-colored towel. Lint from the towel can get stuck to the embroidery thread, making them look messy.

When the thread is almost dry, press them with a hot iron, using a press cloth. Pin the ends of the snowflakes together to form a ring. Hand-stitch the ends together using a short piece of embroidery thread to form a ring.

The hand-stitching will be barely visible.
posted in: embroidery, free-standing napkin rings

Comments (5)

island_girl writes: Great idea-it's simply elegant! If you make the snowflakes individually, it would also make beautiful ornaments for a tabletop tree.
Posted: 1:27 am on December 31st
JenniferStern writes: You're welcome...if you need any more help, please feel free to let me know. Good Luck with your snowflakes!
Posted: 2:58 pm on November 13th
elainesam writes: The snowflakes look very nice. thank you for sharing your idea. I thank you for the way you explained everything. I hope my snowflakes come out great like yours.
Posted: 9:31 pm on November 11th
JenniferStern writes: Hey Jen--they hold up great. Usually if they don't fall apart in the rise portion of the process they will be fairly durable. In the store I used to work in we hung the same lace snowflakes in the window for years!
Posted: 11:08 am on November 10th
Jen1964 writes: How do they hold up? They're beautiful, and I'm a sucker for lace. I'm not above cutting it out, either, and have to embellish a wedding scrapbook. Used the bridal lace that was extra. Might be an idea for preserving a memory.
Posted: 6:40 am on November 4th
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