At first, some thought I had embroidered my design on wood grain fabric and pasted it onto the board. Others thought I might have made the design on water soluble stabilizer, rinsed out the stabilizer and glued the design onto the wood. The “light bulb” moment came when my friends and customers touched the designs and realized I had actually stitched directly onto the wood.
The embroidery process, when working with wood, is quite simple. If you follow some basic guidelines, you can expect to achieve success. First, you need thin Balsa wood. For me, 3/32″ thick was optimal. Second, because Balsa wood is soft, you need to place water soluble stabilizer (Aqua Film Backing from OESD is great,) between the wood and the needle where your design is going to stitch. Third, your needle should be a 75/11 Titanium coated embroidery needle, as you want only small needle entries into the wood. Fourth, the machine needs to operate at 1/2 its normal speed, or lower. Polyester embroidery thread creates a stunning result, but you may use whatever embroidery thread you prefer. My favorite is Isacord 40wt thread from Oklahoma Embroidery Supply and Design.
When selecting your embroidery designs for the Balsa wood, a design with under 15,000 stitches is recommended, although one of the designs I created on Balsa wood had 32,000 stitches. The “key” was to ensure the speed of the machine was slower than normal. I have a feeling that lower density stitch designs are recommended because the higher density designs could take a couple of hours to stitch due to the lower speed of the machine.
I had so much fun creating Balsa wood art, that I even used Mylar embroidery sheets with some of my designs. When I used the Mylar, I was able to eliminate the water soluble stabilizer on top of the wood. I embroidered on both Bernina and Janome machines. Regardless of the machine I chose, my stitch quality and results were beautiful.