How to Embroider Balsa Wood + Cute Christmas Ornament Idea

The festive season is here, and I’m so excited! Most of my friends receive presents crafted from my beloved Cricut Maker or embroidery machine. And guess what? My woodworking enthusiast uncle, who also adores vintage Ford, is in for a treat. I chanced upon a striking 1968 Ford Mustang redwork design and immediately decided to craft a balsa wood ornament for him!

Embroider Balsa Wood: Unique Christmas Ornament Guide

While I’ve dabbled with embroidering balsa wood using basic patterns, this particular project challenged me with its intricate design. But after a few hiccups (and four ornaments later), I discovered an effective method with my embroidery machine! Join me, Luna, as I guide you through embroidering on balsa wood, sharing insights on designs, stabilizers, and a step-by-step pictorial guide to kickstart your crafting journey!

Materials You’ll Need:

  • Embroidery pattern (details on selection provided further down) and an embroidery machine with a suitable hoop size for the wood
  • Balsa wood: The 3/32″ sheet worked wonders for me
  • Embroidery thread: I opted for polyester embroidery thread (40wt) paired with 60 wt white bobbin thread. The 40wt showcased beautifully on the final ornament
  • Needle: 75/11 Schmetz gold embroidery machine needle
  • Stabilizer: A combination of medium-weight cutaway, sticky self-adhesive tear-away, and Sulky water-soluble topping
  • Marking tools: I found pencils efficient and erasable. Utilizing a template from your embroidery software can be a game-changer!
  • Essential crafting tools: Scissors, Exacto knife, rotary mat, etc.

Tips on Choosing the Perfect Design:

Given the soft nature of balsa wood, densely packed embroidery designs might not be the best choice. I also noticed designs with stitching lines parallel to the wood’s grain can cause the design to sink, even when using a water-soluble stabilizer. That’s why I tilted my wood to a 45-degree angle for clearer stitch lines. Additionally, adjusting the needle tension slightly improved the embroidery.


  • Avoid stitching any basting box in the design. Balsa wood retains holes permanently!
  • Ensure your design is free from unnecessary stitches. Some downloaded designs might have random start or end points.
  • Wondering about my design source? It’s from Creative Fabrica, credited to Redwork101.

Optimal Balsa Wood Thickness:

I’ve successfully embroidered on up to 1/8″ thick balsa wood, but venturing thicker seems risky. On the other hand, 1/32″ wood feels too flimsy for the end product. My personal recommendation is the 3/32″ thickness, although both 1/16″ and 1/8″ also yielded satisfactory results. However, thinner woods showed stress signs with dense designs, and 1/8″ felt a tad too thick for my machine’s comfort.

Selecting the Right Stabilizer:

Balsa wood, due to its soft texture, demands a layer of cutaway stabilizer. Through experimentation, I found that pairing cutaway with a sticky, self-adhesive tear-away yields the best results. And if you haven’t tried the sticky stabilizer yet, it’s a must-have for projects like baseball caps! A water-soluble topping atop the balsa wood ensures the stitches stand out and don’t sink into the soft wood.

Embroidering on Balsa Wood: Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Test Before Starting: Use your machine’s handwheel to check for resistance or issues with needle puncturing.
  2. Prepare the Balsa Wood: Cut it into desired shapes, either manually or using a Cricut Maker.
  3. Mark the Design: Pencil markings or embroidery target stickers work effectively.
  4. Stabilizing Process: Set up your hoop with the necessary stabilizers and ensure the balsa wood is securely fixed.
  5. Embroidering Process: Load your design, ensure all settings are correct, and initiate the embroidery.
  6. Post-Embroidery Cleanup: Remove excess materials, trim the design, and finalize the ornament for gifting!
Details Recommendation
Balsa Wood Thickness 3/32″
Embroidery Thread Polyester (40wt)
Needle 75/11 Schmetz Gold
Stabilizers Cutaway, Self-Adhesive Tear-away, Water-Soluble Topping


Complement the information with the following video: