Sewing Wood

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Surprisingly, a reader sent in a question about sewing on wood–I thought I was the only person who liked to sew on weird things, but it’s comforting to know that’s not the case. When I worked for a sewing machine company, I used to stitch through wood yardsticks to attract attention at the state fair.

Many of you will ask, why would you want to sew on wood? I have two answers–the first is rather flippant–because you can! The second is because wood makes interesting accents, ornaments, box tops, home decor pieces, etc. and is intriguing to onlookers who admire in disbelief.

Firstly, choose the wood wisely–1/32″ veneer is perfect, and you can find it at a hobby store where they sell model airplane-making supplies. You can stitch on wood up to 1/8″ thick, and in some instances soft woods that are 1/4″ thick, depending on the stitch. Balsa is ideal.

Use an adhesive stabilizer on the back for best results, and to help prevent splitting. If both sides will show, use a removable stabilizer, otherwise leave the extra layer in place when you’re done stitching.

For thinner woods, use a small needle  (75/11) to avoid leaving big holes and splitered areas around the stitches. Use longer than normal stitches to avoid perforating the wood and subsequent breaking, and select decorative stitches that don’t re-enter the same hole during the design formation. Use a larger needle for thicker wood.

If you can adjust the speed of your machine, change it to slower than normal to avoid heat build-up at the needle.

You can also embroider on wood with openwork designs. Simply secure the wood in the hoop with adhesive stabilizer or temporary spray adhesive.  Use a hoop larger than the wood section to avoid bending it and to keep it flat while stitching.

Test-stitch on wood scraps before starting your project, as the wood grain direction can influence the stitching’s appearance and wood stability.

If you’ve never thought of sewing on wood, give it a shot–it’s great fun!