You Set Me Free – Hoop Art

Do you ever have projects that just pop into your head – all ready to go?
I don’t have it happen too often – half the time I start out with something in mind and then by the time it’s finished – it’s something different. :)
Or I have an idea that I’m sure will be just the most amazing thing ever and when I get about halfway through it I realize it looks like something my cat coughed up.
(Case in point – the Valentine’s Wreath FAIL that is now mocking me from the corner of my dining/craft room. Seriously. It’s hideous.)

But in the case of this little stitched art – the great rarity happened. I had the idea – all ready to go – and I like how it turned out!

I’ve been wanting to do something that combined embroidery hoop art and machine stitching and this is what I came up with:

I love that it’s Valentine-ish but not so much so that I can’t leave it up through the spring.
It’s all machine stitched – kind of a free-form/follow-the-lines thing.

Want a tutorial? Sweet! I happen to have one right here. :)

You’ll need:

Embroidery Hoop – this one is 9″
Fabric for base (about 11″ square), cage (about 8″ square) and birds (scraps)
Contrasting Thread
Pattern – click here
Reversed image of birdcage – click here

Begin by cutting out the fabric for your base. It just needs to be a few inches larger than your embroidery hoop.

(This is so not ironed.)

Print out your pattern and trace the lettering onto your fabric.
An easy way to do this is to tape the pattern on a window, then tape the fabric over it. You can easily trace your lettering with the light shining through.

I didn’t put any kind of interfacing or stabilizer on the back of this, but I think maybe you should. My fabric held up pretty well, but if you have thin fabric in might cause some puckering.
I recommend practicing this on a scrap piece of fabric to get the hang of the lettering. Also, try different speeds and stitch lengths to see what works for you and your machine.

Take your presser foot off. This will let you move your fabric as you need it and it will help you see your marks too.
Because your presser foot is off, you will be moving the fabric through. So if you pull fast, the stitches will be long, if you don’t move it much, the stitches will be very tiny.

Start at the top of the “Y” and sew down and then back up the, covering the marked lines. Repeat this 3 or 4 more times.
Once the letter looks the way you want, move onto the next letter. Don’t worry about clipping your threads, you can do that when you’ve finished the word.

Don’t worry about wonkiness in your stitches. You can cover it up if it’s crazy with the next pass of stitching, and some wonkiness adds to the fun look of the lettering.

Continue stitching in all your letters. Press the fabric to remove any wrinkles or puckering.


I wasn’t sure what the best way to do the birdcage was – I was worrying about the thin lines of the cage and trying to cut them out with a pattern.
But then I thought, “If you can print on freezer paper and fabric, can you print on heat-n-bond”?
It turns out you can!

I cut out a 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of fabric and a piece of heat-n-bond (or other iron on adhesive).
Iron the fabric onto heat-n-bond.

Run the fabric piece through your printer so that the image (use the Reversed Image of the Birdcage) prints onto the paper backing of the heat-n-bond.
Do this when the hubby isn’t paying attention so you don’t give him a heart attack about the crazy things you’re running through the printer. Again.

Cut the birdcage out with scissors or a sharp exacto knife. I used a combination of both.
Iron small pieces of heat-n-bond onto your bird fabrics and cut them out as well. Make sure you reverse them so that they face the right way on your final image.

Peel off the paper and iron the birdcage onto your base fabric.
Stitch over the birdcage the same way you did with the lettering. Go over as many times as you like – I used 2 passes on the cage bars and 3 or 4 on the wider parts of the base and top.

Iron on your birds and stitch them on as well.

Sew on little dots for eyes with your machine, or do a small french knot.

Place your fabric in your embroidery hoop and make sure it’s on tightly.
Trim about 1/2″ around the edge and glue down the fabric to the inside of the hoop with hot glue.

And you’re all done!!

I love it.
It’s kind of mushy – but considering everything that Mr. F. T. and I have been through – that’s how i feel.
Ok. Maybe really mushy.

I’d love to hear what you think!


  • Reply March 8, 2011

    Jean Henson

    This is an adorable pattern & a unique way of sewing it. Congratulations. I will give it a try.

  • Reply March 8, 2011

    Linda J

    Thanks for the tutorial on the Applique bird cage,,just really got myself going with Applique, it’s like making your own artful items.

    Kudo’s to you,
    Linda J

  • Reply April 28, 2011


    This is the most wonderful thing I’ve ever seen. And I have checked around a lots. Thanks for sharing. Will be my next project.


  • Reply May 5, 2011


    I just found this via Pinterest, and I LOVE it!

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Mrs. White

    I just wanted to let you know the inspiration you gave me to start up my own blog again! I absolutely loved this project, and felt me finding it was nearly heaven sent. thank you so much for such clear concise directions and enthusiasm!

  • Reply February 14, 2012


    I tried putting the freezer paper-backed fabric through my printer and almost ruined the printer. I’m sure it’s something I did wrong, so Lord willing I’m going to try again. Maybe I’ll try this too, with the heat-n-bond. One of them has GOT to work! LOL By the way, I love this project – found it on Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Reply May 30, 2012


    I ABSOLUTELY love this!!! I am obsessed with birds, and this is so fun!!! I will be trying this!!!!!!! Time to dust off the ol’ sewing machine!

  • Reply July 8, 2012

    Mae Carroll

    I am as usual a day late and a dollar short but I just found this pattern on your website and HAVE to have it. Of course, I am out of ink on my printer but first thing tomorrow morning, I will go purchase and get started on this project I love it. In fact, there are several things I plan to try in the very mear future. Thank you sooooo much for sharing your talent with those of us who are wannabes!!!
    Happy quilting, Mae Carroll

  • Reply January 10, 2013


    I love this! I’m thinking instead of putting it in a hoop, I could do many different designs and quilt with them. Or course it would be fun to do ‘life lesson’ type designs or other important epiphanies, or on a theme like love, family… and it would take years to accumulate them… I just love it. Great tutorial!

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