15+ Unique Embroidery Ideas, Blanks, and Designs

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I’m all about trying new things. As such, I’m constantly searching for unique embroidery blanks and unique embroidery ideas to feed my creative inclinations.

Why embroider towels repeatedly when there are fun things like paper, metal, and even wood to stitch on? And why only use one-dimensional, fill-stitch designs when you could try stitching something 3D?

If you’re intrigued and also looking for adventure, consider these 15 unique embroidery projects, designs, and blanks!

unique embroidery ideas

Unique Embroidery Ideas

Here’s my current list, but I’ll add more ideas as I encounter them! Some of these are unique embroidery blanks, and others are just quirky project ideas and designs. 

1. Balsa Wood

embroidering on balsa wood

Balsa wood is soft and perfect for most embroidery machines as long as you pick a thin enough wood and consider some basic designs specifications. Above, I used my machine to make a balsa wood Christmas ornament for my uncle. 

Learn more in this tutorial: how to embroider on balsa wood

2. Unique In-the-Hoop Projects

ith pencil topper
Design from Embroidery Super Deal

If you’ve never stitched in-the-hoop projects, you need to start! (Take a look at my list of free in-the-hoop project designs for ideas.)

In-the-hoop (ITH) projects are named as such because they’re stitched within the hoop of your embroidery machine. (In some cases, you might need to close seams with sewing.)

maggie doll from planet applique
Maggie Doll from Planet Applique design

Examples of common ITH projects include stuffies, felties, coasters, bookmarks, zipper pouches, keyfobs, banners, pencil toppers, and more!

There are some REALLY unique ideas out there, though, if you start searching.

Here is just a small selection of quirky and fun in-the-hoop embroidery designs:

3. Free-Standing Lace

unique free-standing lace designs

Free-standing lace (FSL) is a self-supported embroidery design stitched on water-soluble or heat-soluble stabilizer.

After stitching free-standing lace, the stabilizer is removed, leaving a beautiful lace design!

While creating FSL ornaments, bookmarks, doilies, and more is fairly common, here are a few super-unique machine embroidery designs from Embroidery Library and Etsy:

4. Jewelry (Earrings, Pendants, and More!)

stitch the designs

Making jewelry with an embroidery machine can mean simply embroidering teardrop-shaped earrings on a faux leather blank.

embroidered necklace and earrings

Or, it can mean creating beautiful free-standing lace jewelry designs.

embroidered earrings and jewelry

Here are some fun and funky jewelry embroidery designs to get you started thinking of possibilities:

5. Other 3D or Dimensional Embroidery Designs

12PCS White Organza Lace Flowers Appliques Embroidered DIY Applique Sew Iron on Kids Craft Patch for Bags Jackets Jeans Clothes(12pcs-Flower lace Applique)

This is a broad category but it’s worth mentioning. In addition to free-standing lace and the jewelry discussed above, there are even more types of embroidery meant to stand alone or stand out from their source. (Here’s a fun example: 3D peony flower brooch!)

You can also embroider on organza or tulle and cut the design out to make 3D flowers or shapes that can be used as appliques or decorative accents. 

6. Paper Towels

embroidered paper towel rolls are unique

Why would you want to embroider paper towels?

Maybe as a fun kitchen statement piece or a quirky neighbor gift? Or maybe just because you can?

Use a cut-away or no-show mesh stabilizer when embroidering paper towels, and make sure to choose a low-density design and use a new needle.

This is easier than it looks!

unique embroidery blanks

7. Toilet Paper

Charmin Ultra Soft Cushiony Touch Toilet Paper, 24 Family Mega Rolls = 123 Regular Rolls

It doesn’t get more unique or quirky than embroidering on toilet paper.

Choose the good-quality kind and be careful with floating the toilet paper outside the hoop. Check out this video for tips if you need help!

8. Socks

unique embroidery designs for socks

After discovering the sock hoop, I’ve been using it to embroider socks, embroider gloves, personalize leggings, and more with my single-needle embroidery machine.

Sock embroidery designs are small and fast to stitch, so this is an easy 5-minute embroidery project. 

Tear-away adhesive stabilizer is all that’s necessary for this project idea!

9. Shoelaces

final product! embroidered shoelaces

Ever consider embroidering shoelaces? This project is easier than you think!

Add a placement stitch with your software, float shoelaces on sticky tear-away stabilizer, and you’ve got a fun back-to-school embroidery project completed!

10. Shoes

how to machine embroider a shoe

While we’re talking shoelaces, why not embroider shoes also?

There are limitations to shoe embroidery with a single-needle machine, though.

While the process isn’t impossible, if you have a multi-needle embroidery machine with a free arm, you have many more options for where and what to embroider. 

11. Glow-in-the-Dark Thread or Color-Changing Threads

glow-in-the-dark embroidery thread facts

Glow-in-the-dark novelty thread is perfect for Halloween costumes, parties, and even night-time events.

Choose fill-stitch designs, stitch slowly, and expose the thread to light before expecting a glow. (Here are some designs digitized especially for glow-in-the-dark thread and some tips for stitching with glow-in-the-dark thread to check out.)

Photo-sensitive embroidery thread

Also, you can use color-changing machine embroidery thread, which shifts colors when exposed to UV light. 

12. Metal

embroider metal

I first learned that you can embroider metal from the book Machine Embroidery Wild and Wacky

However, for all my newfangled machines, I just couldn’t fool them into thinking they were threaded when they weren’t no matter how creative I got in trying. 

So, while embroidering metal produced a fun result, I had to press “OK” every 10 stitches or so when my machine let me know my top thread was unthreaded. Overall, it was a pretty time-consuming project. 

If you do try to embroider metal, make sure to use a layer of felt underneath the stabilizer so the poked metal holes don’t rub on your machine. And, make sure your metal is appropriately thin and pliable and won’t break a needle!

13. Cards and Doilies (and All Sorts of Paper)

monogrammed doily

I really enjoy embroidering on paper.

Embroidered cardstock cards are fairly easy to execute with appropriate supplies and set up, and embroidering on a paper doily is even something you could try!

Get creative with the designs you stitch and the types of paper you use. 

14. Puffy Foam

4sold Snapback Hat with Raised 3D Embroidery Letter Baseball Cap Hip-Hop Cap Hat Headwear (One Size, J)

Adding puffy foam to your embroidered hats or other projects can give your design a 3D, raised appearance.

Puffy foam is surprisingly easy to stitch with, as it tears away after being stitched over and also shrinks away with low heat.

15. Wacky Appliques

applique fabric ideas

Appliques aren’t the most exciting embroidery idea, but if you change your applique fabric to something new, the result can be awesome!

For instance, use textured fabric, lace, burlap, denim, or even paper as an applique.

One of my favorite applique ideas is using clear vinyl and placing glitter, sequins, pompoms, or other small items underneath the vinyl. 

Here are 25+ applique fabric ideas to add texture and whimsy to your next project. 

16. Stuffed Animals

how to embroider a bunny ear

Use a seam ripper or stitch through two layers to add names to stuffed animals‘ ears, feet, bellies, and more. 

Best wishes for mastering new quirky embroidery projects!

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