How to Split Machine Embroidery Designs

embroidery image by Inger Anne Hulbækdal from

Things You'll Need

  • Tracing paper
  • Drafting pencils
  • Ruler
  • Colored pencils
  • Tailor’s chalk
  • Disappearing ink pen for sewing (optional)
  • Sticky stabilizer sheet
  • Top frame hoop attachment
  • Embroidery machine
  • Sewing machine silicone lubricant
  • Soft cloth

Creating large scale embroidery ideas with a limited embroidery field and hoop attachment often seems futile. The embroidery machine’s field refers to pre-set parameters generally taken from the machine’s hoop attachment dimensions, which can not be altered. By sketching the design, the embroidery is split into separate sections or parts and is mapped out prior to the embroidery process. Implementing a different method, such as the floating technique, prevents the design as well as the fabric from being hooped, allowing the designer to create large-scale embroidery patterns.

Preparing the Split Design

Draw your embroidery design on tracing paper with drafting pencils. Place the tracing over the garment area you will be embroidering. Make sure it does not overlap seams.

Measure the width and length of your embroidery design with a ruler.

Divide the embroidery field dimensions into the embroidery design specifications from step two. For instance, if your embroidery field measures 4 inches width by 6 inches length and your design measures 8 inches width by 12 inches length, divide the 8-inch design width by the 4-inch field width which equals two. Divide the 12-inch design length by the 6-inch field length which equals two as well. You will then split your embroidery into two parts to complete your design.

If your design is a full panel embroidery measuring 16 inches width by 24 inches length using the same 4- by 6-inch embroidery field, divide the 16-inch design width by the 4-inch field width equaling four and divide the 24-inch design length by the 6-inch field length equaling four as well. You will split your panel embroidery into four parts to complete.

Color in your traced design with colored pencils. Make sure the thread stitch type as well as thread color changes, referred to as the connection stitches, are depicted in the colored sketch. Implementing a different stitch type as the connection stitch will camouflage the split section lines within the embroidery. For example, if your design is a butterfly and your embroidery field area covers one wing, embroider the left and right wing separately and leave the butterfly’s center body as the third part using a decorative stitch.

Follow the colored sketch as a thread placement guide during embroidery.

Trace the embroidery design onto your garment with tailor’s chalk or a disappearing ink pen for sewing. Keep in mind that you will have to wipe away the ink pen marks with a dab of water once you no longer need to see the markings. Split the design by marking the sections into separate outlined parts. Mark special design motifs within the embroidery section as your stitching guide.

Embroidering the Split Design with the Floating Technique

Flip your fabric over or turn your garment inside out on your flat work surface. The wrong side will be facing up. Remove the protective backing of your sticky stabilizer sheet and set it onto the first embroidery section on the wrong side of the fabric. You will not be hooping the fabric onto your machine’s attachment as usual. The sheets will stabilize the fabric by making it taut and firm once applied. Generally, the lighter the fabric, the heavier the stabilizer sheet required.

Bear in mind that if you are working with fabrics with a textured surface, which spreads such as French terry, you will position it onto the right side of the fabric. Use a peel-and-stick tear-away stabilizer sheet to prevent spreading.

You will have to repeat this process for each section requiring embroidery.

Position your stabilized fabric in your machine’s embroidery field and position the top frame of your hoop attachment over the embroidery design section. You will not be using the bottom hoop frame. This is referred to as the floating embroidery technique.

Change your stitch selector to the embroidery stitch type and embroider the first section. Do not stretch or pull the fabric as the machine is embroidering. Most machines have feed dogs, which are grooved plates that automatically regulate how much fabric is fed during embroidery.

Remove the first section from your embroidery machine. Repeat steps one through three until you finish embroidering each split section. Your needles will most likely become sticky or sluggish from the stabilizer sheet’s adhesive residue. Simply apply a light coating of sewing machine silicone lubricant onto the needles and wipe away the adhesive with a clean soft cloth.

Connect the separate embroidered parts with a decorative embroidery stitch. If your machine allows you to change speeds, change it to a slow setting. Be careful not to overlap the stitches onto the embroidered sections to prevent warping or breaking needles. The connection stitch must appear seamless. Remove any tear-away or peel-away stabilizer sheets once the embroidery is complete.

The split embroidery will resemble a full embroidered panel without breaks in the design.


  • Paper-back release sheets allow you to peel away the stabilizer once the embroidery is complete.