U is for Underlay

U is for UnderlayUnderlay is something that you will never see in a finished machine embroidery project, but it can make the world of difference to the finished result.

What is it?

In the world of flooring, you would use underlay underneath a carpet or laminate/wood floor to provide cushioning and support to the floor covering. In the same way, Underlay in the machine embroidery world is the foundation underneath a satin stitch or a solid fill stitch which provides support to the stitches that you see.

A satin stitch or solid fill stitch with underlay stitching will have much better coverage than the same stitch without underlay stitching.

If you look in the BERNINA Embroidery Software, there are 5 options for underlay for a satin stitch outline and 3 options for a step stitch fill.

For a satin stitch outline, the options are:

  • Center walk
  • Edge walk
  • Step
  • Zigzag
  • Double Zigzag

Underlay for Satin Stitch outlineIn the diagram, the top row is the finished satin stitch, actually without an underlay. The second row is a combined Edge Walk with Zigzag. The third row is a Double Zigzag. The bottom row is a Step underlay.

I usually use either the Double Zigzag or a combined Edge Walk with Zigzag.

For a step stitch fill, the options are:

  • Edges Walk
  • Step
  • Zigzag

Underlay Step Fill   Underlay Zigzag fill

On the left is the step underlay, on the right is the zigzag underlay combined with an edge walk.

I very rarely do any kind of solid fill stitch, preferring to use appliqué shapes instead. If I do want to use a solid fill stitch, I prefer to use the step underlay. Notice how the underlay stitches are at right angles to the fill stitch.

One place where it’s always a great idea to add underlay stitching (if you’re creating your own designs in embroidery software) is for lettering. You will need to adjust the length of the underlay stitches to fit the size of your letters. The results will be much more clearly defined with underlay stitching than without.

Daily Deal

From 12:01am on July 13, 2017 until 11:59pm on July 15, 2017, enjoy 25% off the Heather Feather Border Collection.

Use promo code “A2Z-U” at the checkout

Add to CartHeather Feather Border Collection $70.00
(Delivered as a digital download. Optional CD available at the checkout)


What I love about this collection… The Heather Feather Border Collection was an engineering challenge – create an AccuQuilt GO! die that contains shapes that can be used to create a feathered border in various lengths. Having determined a few things in advance:

  • the feathered border would fill an 8″ wide border on a quilt
  • the repeat would be 8″ long
  • the feathers could stop at a square end OR go into a mitered corner

… I got on a plane travelling from Phoenix to London Heathrow (about 10 hours in the air) and started drawing. I can’t honestly say that the whole thing was complete by the time I got to London, but it was a great start!

The Heather Feather Border Collection can create mitered borders that are 32″ wide, 48″ wide, 64″ long and 80″ long.  You can put whatever you want in the center!

For the Heather Feather Border bed runner, simple squares in the center are a nice contrast to the detail of the border. At 80″ long and 32″ wide, this is the perfect fit to grace the end of a queen or king sized bed.

Heather Feather Border Bed Runner

Stitched on a BERNINA 830
featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread
and Stof Quilter’s Shadow Cotton

A couple of other colorways were on the design board to begin with. In the end I chose to simplify the colors from 10 to 3 – and use thread colors on the appliqué shapes to add some variation. The fabric colors shown underneath the two diagrams below are from the Stof Quilter’s Shadow collection.

Heather Feather Border Colored v1

Heather Feather Border Colored v2I said above that you can put whatever you want in the center of a Heather Feather Border quilt – and I had a ton of fun doing just that!

The Heather Feather Border (32″ x 32″) in traditional Christmas colors of red, green and gold makes the perfect setting for a Christmas tree:

Heather Feather Border Christmas Wall Hanging

Stitched on a BERNINA 830
featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread
and Stof Quilter’s Shadow fabric

The Heather Feather Border (32″ x 32″) in black and grey with teal thread accents makes the perfect setting for a mirror. Or it can be used as a photo frame! I don’t believe there’s a rule that says you have to have a quilt in the middle 🙂

Heather Feather Border Collection

Stitched on a BERNINA 830
featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread
and STOF Quilter’s Shadow fabric

Heather Feather Border Collection

Heather Feather Border Collection

Not for tall people!

Heather Feather Border Collection

Unless they’re bending down 🙂

These border designs don’t always need to be used for quilts. I was delighted to discover that my friend Nicci Brazzell has been using the Heather Feather Border designs to decorate a pair of pants!

Niccis Heather Feather Border PantsDid you know … that the original design for the Heather Feather quilt had an embroidered appliqué border? The trouble with it was that each piece was unique – and there weren’t enough hours in the day to get it stitched.

So what happens if you combine the Heather Feather quilt center with a Heather Feather Border? Magic! My friend Jean wanted to add an embroidered appliqué border to her Heather Feather quilt, so we came up with this design, adding an extra border between the center and the feathered border to make it all fit together. As far as I know, Jean has all the fabric picked out and ready to go. If you’d like to see this quilt finished, please give Jean some encouragement in the comments below!

Jean's Heather Feather Border quilt v2


  1. Yes, please! This looks amazing and I would love to see the finished product, Jean! Happy sewing, Leslie

  2. Wow. Would like to see it

  3. I would love to see the finish quilt. It look lovely in the picture.

  4. I’d love to see the finished project

  5. I love the versatility of the border on any thing inside

  6. Wow! Please finish it!

  7. I would like to see the finished quilt Jean. It sounds amazing

  8. LOVE those jeans! Okay….I really am going to have to try the 50 wt thread.

  9. looking forward to see the finished quilt. Love the feathered look in the designs

  10. Love these colors, Jean! Let’s see it!

  11. Kimberli Burnett

    Ohmygosh Jean! I’d love to see this quilt finished! And I’d love make this one!

  12. Would love to see it Jean.. I love the feather design… underlay info was amazing. Thanks Sarah!

  13. Would love to see it Jean.. love the feather design. Marvellous info on underlay. Thank you

  14. Gorgeous design. Would love to see it done. Thank you for the Underlay post. I had no idea why it is needed. I am going to miss these tips when You are done with Zed.

  15. Took another look at the design. This will take a while. Enjoy the process!

  16. Absolutely love all of your Alphabet Days of embroidery wisdom and creativity, Sarah. Don’t ever stop designing!
    Jean, you must start and finish this quilt soon! And Nicci, I hope you are wearing your pants everywhere you go so ladies can see how wonderful embroidery is and how amazing Sarah’s designs are! Now, I must go make sure the Heather Feather Collection resides on my computer!

  17. Fabulous!

  18. Such beautiful work…never enough time! Love it all!!!

  19. Looks fabulous and lease show us when completed. Thank you for today’s tips

  20. Absolutely beautiful design collection. Love the jeans! And yes, Jean, can’t wait to see you finished quilt. It will be stunning!

  21. Beautiful quilt design – can’t wait to see the real quilt!
    Thanks for all the great tips- I have learned many new things and had a refresher on other items

  22. Beautiful quilt design and colors. Look forward to seeing the real quilt . What fabric collection are the colors from? Also, how much fabric is needed of each color for the quilt with the appliqued border? Thank you Sarah for all the great tips and daily deal. Another must design collection!

  23. Would love to see the finished product, Jean!

  24. Love the designs. Like to see the finished Quilt with borders.

  25. Yes, definitely go for it Jean….and send pictures!! Thanks for reminding us how important underlay is Sarah! Love the jeans, too!!

  26. Loving all these little tidbits of information.

Comments are closed