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Niamh O’Connor, Art Director for the offbeat embroidery website Urban Threads, paired up with the design duo from KMKostumes to create a one-of-a-kind dress project to help facilitate the revitalization of machine embroidery. No longer relegated to quilts and crafty wall hangings, Urban Threads aims to push traditional machine embroidery out from it’s dusty past and bring it to a new generation of fashion savvy designers and crafters (sounds a little like the beginnings of BurdaStyle, huh?).

Left: photo by Fairshadow Photography. Top right: fitting the dress. Bottom right: the Minnesota-based mother/daughter team behind KMKostumes.

The piece in progress: "I wanted the designs to be functional and useful for any kind of application, but also to tie in beautifully with the theme and design of the dress. In the end we combined a gothic look with some steampunk. The dress itself is a play on Autumn and the symbolism of the decline of nature when juxtaposed with industry. We used a “clockwork” theme to play on the idea of the passage of time, as in nature, and of the rise of industry over the years. Autumn colors and motifs were a great way to work with dark imagery and decay without going too classically gothic," says Niamh.

Challenging the traditional conventions of the medium, they chose to create a steampunk themed dress that would show just how seamlessly you can apply machine embroidery to modern and alternative fashion while hopefully inspiring others to incorporate it to their own designs and creations.

Photos by FairShadow Photography, makeup and hair by Sara Capers.

Top: embroidered piece soaking to remove stabilizer. " We decided a fun way to showcase a lot of the embroidery on this dress was to “float” it on organza pieces, to keep everything light but still let the dress show beautifully," says Niamh. Bottom: a design being stitched by one of Urban Thread’s industrial machines.

Embroidery has been a part of fashion since the beginning of fashion itself, but machine embroidery has lagged behind the modernization of sewing, remaining a sort of conservative and outdated craft. And while machines are expensive, Urban Threads is working to connect designers with embroiders and sellers around the country who are willing to let them test out machine embroidery and how they can apply it to their craft before they lay down the big bucks to purchase their own.

Photos by FairShadow Photography, makeup and hair by Sara Capers

Urban Threads has loads of amazing patterns and projects on their site, including this fantastic Raven Lace Mask that reminds me a little bit of what The Knife wear when they perform. And if you don’t have a machine but you still want to add some fresh embroidery to your sewing projects, Urban Threads offers loads of their machine embroidery patterns in versions for hand embroidery as well.

Inspired yet? Good because Urban Threads is offering one lucky BurdaStyle member the chance to score a $50 gift certificate to give their fun and whimsical patterns a try! Simply tell us how you would (or already do) incorporate machine embroidery into your garment projects by 9:30 am EST on Friday, October 21st and you’ll be in the running to grab this awesome prize! Don’t have a machine? Don’t worry! The Urban Threads gift certificate is good for hand embroidery and stock art files too!

Thanks to Niamh, KMKostumes, Sara Capers and FairShadow Photography for letting us get a sneak peek at this fantastic collaboration! For more information and to get your hands on the brand new Clockwork Natura embroidery patterns and kits (which are available for both machine and hand embroidery), check out


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    Aug 4, 2015, 02.01 PMby laceagate

    I’m just getting back into sewing. I purchased a serger this weekend, to go along with my sewing machine and I’ve been practicing on tote bags. I want to move up to actual clothes and this is seriously inspiring me. Thank you so much for sharing this, and encouraging us all to make beautiful things.

    Now I feel inspired to try to make a shirt or skirt this weekend! Of course, with an awesome design from embroidered on it. :) Knowing me, it will involve skulls.

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    May 3, 2012, 01.33 AMby Caitlin Leyden

    I have not been good about using embroidery when I make garments. I’ve done a could on clothes, like something on a back of a jacket, a couple of aprons… then I’ve used my machine for embroidering on small projects like wallets and bags and such.

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    Mar 16, 2012, 07.49 PMby Mary Howell

    This is the most awesome dress…sometimes I think I should have been born in the Renaissance/Medieval times since I love all of these styles. The embroidery is beautiful and so perfect on the organza. I have a Babylock Ellissimo embroidery machine and I’ve always wanted to sew a costume for the Renaissance festival using embroidery. My new goal is to create something like your new dress. The look is so Rena-modern.

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    Dec 8, 2011, 05.37 PMby Tokie Ang

    always love makes dress looks elegance and cool ;)

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    Nov 4, 2011, 05.07 PMby serenej

    I love what they are doing at Urban Threads. Embroidery is such a great way to personalize a project. Beautiful work.

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    Oct 31, 2011, 01.10 PMby Swirlz1

    I am a new Burdastyle newbie… just have to say this collaboration is gorgeous and inspiring. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

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    Oct 23, 2011, 11.42 PMby Norma King

    Urban thread designs are the the best. That dress really knocks my socks off. I am a grandmother and I have a Harley and still like to dress in sexy look at me clothes. You are only as old as you feel. I enjoy putting their designs on my stuff too. Keep up the good work.

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    Oct 22, 2011, 07.35 PMby namwobd

    How I love this dress. Bravo to you for your insite into using those wonderful designs from UT (my favorite design site). I have a wonderful neice who would look radiant in this dress and she has wing tattos on her back so the dress would compliment them.

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    Oct 21, 2011, 02.44 AMby elisabetsy

    I saw this on UT blog and thought it is amazing! I’d like to try adding embroidery around a skirt hem or a little tattoo icon to a skirt/dress or sleeve hem. Wish I had a machine that could do it instead of relying on my slow hands.

    2 Replies
    • Debbie_large

      Oct 22, 2011, 07.32 PMby namwobd

      Check out your local Craigs List and see if you can find a machine for cheap, will be well worth your money.

    • Poe_large

      Oct 23, 2011, 01.48 AMby ladykatza usually has combo machines that are refurbed for less money. I have found the refurbed machines are better than brand new because they go over them with a fine tooth comb.

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    Oct 20, 2011, 10.48 PMby Lholy-chan

    Wow, this dress is amazing, and I love the embroidery they designed for this project.

    I didn’t know about Urban Threads, but now I’ve discovered their designs I’d love to add them to my clothes. I’m currently thinking about my wedding dress, I’ll probably make at least part of it myself. The moment I read this post I started looking for a way to add some of those beautiful embroidery designs to it. That would be perfect!

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful outfit and organising this giveaway!

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    Oct 19, 2011, 04.17 PMby Tina Wegner

    This dress is awesome! It puts my dress to shame.

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    Oct 19, 2011, 04.17 PMby Tina Wegner

    This dress is awesome! It puts my dress to shame.

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    Oct 19, 2011, 04.17 PMby Tina Wegner

    This dress is awesome! It puts my dress to shame.

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    Oct 16, 2011, 08.47 PMby sewhappybjm

    My daughter and I are working on a wind-up doll costume that incorporates machine embroidery on the key and other elements of the dress.

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    Oct 16, 2011, 05.33 PMby Amy Meyer

    This dress is spectacular! I’ve been buying machine embroidery online since 2003, but when I discovered UrbanThreads, they immediately became my favorite source. Projects like this one really showcase the unique style of UT designs. I love it when my customers agree, because then I get to buy more designs! (I also love those boots! Where does one acquire such things!?

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    Oct 16, 2011, 08.52 AMby tenshi-1

    I love UrbanThreads embroidery motifs. My Mum has an embroidery machine, a brother Innovis-1500, and I can borrow it whenever she doesn’t need it. I particularly like free-standing lace embroidery, and I also use it a lot for smaller things like handbags and accessoires, but I also do emborider clothes. For example, I used some UT steampunk motifs (wings on the back and the clockwork fairy at the side front) on a blouse that took it from boring to cool.

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    Oct 16, 2011, 04.07 AMby Cheryl Ming

    I liked my mom’s embroidery machine so much that I bought it off of her almost a year ago. I have been embroidering baby clothes, because well, I have a baby. lol I also embroider on fabric for my mom which she then proceeds to sew into projects of her own, like bags, luggage tags, notepad covers, etc. So actually, it’s kind of a mom and daughter team there too. :) We sell at craft fairs together as well. Right now I am thinking of embroidering on fabric and turning it into cards; greeting cards for sewers, yay!

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    Oct 16, 2011, 02.11 AMby fatzaz427

    This is UT at their finest – love the outfit and only wish I were young enough to wear it! I love machine embroidery for denim jackets and bags!

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    Oct 15, 2011, 11.40 PMby bubbieone

    GORGEOUS!!!!!!!!!!!my daughter would love this, it is so HER!

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    Oct 15, 2011, 06.03 PMby Elfie Taylor

    Oh, wow, where to start? I started out a few years ago with a very basic embroidery machine to field monogramming requests for my small home business. The home business has gone by the wayside, but my embroidery machine has been upgraded for my personal pleasure (and due to demands of a certain aggressively iconoclastic fashionista dottah), and now I have to embroider everything I make for her. Everything from embroidered binder covers for school, to karate bags and weapons cases (sport only!). Garments are purchased with hoopability in mind, and garments are created based on the designs in my library. We like Skulls, Zombies, Dragons, Ferocious Cats, and Ninjas. Thank goodness I don’t have to try digitizing them myself!

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    Oct 15, 2011, 05.19 PMby sordanuts

    Urban Threads is exactly what the embroidery industry needed to pull in a new generation of stitchers! Their designs are hip, fun and edgy. UT brings a totally different vibe to ME; it’s not your grandma’s embroidery anymore.They go beyond the flowers, doe-eyed animals and rainbows that seem to run rampant on so many ME sites. I have many of their designs and have always received amazing reactions when using them. UT rocks!

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    Oct 15, 2011, 04.34 PMby turtlegirl00

    i do not have an embroidery machine—YET! I have been researching them though!! :) I love this article—the dress is dreamy! i do a lot of hand embroidery—it really personalizes gifts/items and makes them unique and one of a kind.

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    Oct 15, 2011, 08.36 AMby fashionfreek

    I have not got a embroidery machine at the moment although I hand embroidery some times. From making plain progects to look sparkly or a picture or some sort on a top. That steam punk/gothic dress is lovely. Well done!

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    Oct 15, 2011, 08.28 AMby Giliell

    I love UT nd their fabulous designs. Unique, stylish, different

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    Oct 15, 2011, 05.24 AMby Jennifer Wright

    I make Ren fair costuming and I love designing with embroidery. I make tons of stuff for my kids.

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    Oct 15, 2011, 02.53 AMby Byperica

    Firstly BRAVO to all involved with this stunning project talk about OMG! As for the competition question, I’m currently working on setting up an online business selling upcycled denim clothing that I’ve added machine embroidery designs, bling, emblellishments and anything else I can sew on to them. I must say that I’ve fallen in love the Urban Threads and their alternative and amazing designs.


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    Oct 15, 2011, 12.36 AMby arro

    I have used a couple different UT designs on tee shirts and things for my kids and nephews. This summer I put their Nautical Rose on a pair of linen shorts—I always got comments on them. I’ve always used my embroidery to accent clothing. I feel like it requires a little more creativity than just sticking a design on a tee shirt, pillow case or linen guest towel (though I do those things too). I have a sewing and embroidery combo and an embroidery only machine—both I got from craigslist and were AMAZING deals. But they have offered me the opportunity to take my sewing to the next level and really make amazing works of art.

    Thats what I LOVE about UT. They offer something that you don’t really find on other sights. I believe that most of the designs available are for grandmas b/c they are the only ones who historically could spend that kind of cash on a hobby machine. But, things have been changing. A lot of people are turning back to hand crafted things and the sewing machine manufactures have responded by making machines available at several levels. However, the embroidery designs avaliable were still all these cute fluffy grandma designs. UT has BLOWN that out of the water and has created designs that I want to find projects for. I buy designs from other sights b/c I think I can sell them to other people via craft fairs etc. I buy from Urban Threads because I personally want to use their designs on clothes I wear and things I have in my house. (I’m a bit of a rabid fan. Can you tell?)

    Cheers, UT. You all are bad A double S.

  • Missing

    Oct 15, 2011, 12.06 AMby purpleone

    I just dusted off my machine to start Christmas gifts and Rescue bandanas for animal rescue fundraising! Been a while – I’ll have to reacquaint myself with it…


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