there are some embossing plates that are made to be used without machines... they are called fiskars texture plates. you use an embossing tool to use them. i've used them before and they are nice, but the best embossing comes from using a machine... just get better results.
When I was at a weekend crop, I wanted to emboss a tree but it was too big to go through my cuttlebug. I could not find a rolling pin so I used a vodka bottle. It's probably not as crisp but you can see the tree bark.