Bag Obsession


I’ve been making these little cosmetic/chotchke/jewelry bags now for a couple of days.  So easy and fun to make.

They’ve become an obsession.

All the ones I’ve made (8 of them in total, so far) are made from Art Gallery Fabric, Sketchbook.  The look of the fabric is artsy and lends itself well to these small bags. They are approximately 6 x 8 in. finished.

These are all done in embroidery, by the way.  I digitized the lines for the bags, and all the work is basically in the cutting of fabric.

First stitch is a placement for the zipper, then you lay down the zipper, then folded fabric with batting in the middle across the top of the zipper, stitch a line, same thing with the bottom layer of fabric, stitch a line, then lay the lining/backing down (a quilt sandwich) and stitch around the outside.

bag4Voila! That’s it. You’re done. Trim and turn it inside out.

You use a sticky back stabilizer, so you end up picking that off the back at the end, but other than that, these bags go REALLY FAST.  Use batting in between every layer to give the bags a nice hand.

I’m thinking these would make great holiday gifts. I have gone through my stash and have come across some old home dec fabric that I think would be fun.  Denim would also be great.  Who doesn’t have an old pair of jeans that need to be repurposed into new life?  Add some embroidery or a little bling…anything is possible.

These in-the-hoop projects are great stash busters.  Gotta run, I need more zippers.



Art and Art Only

“Art and art only can cause violence to be set aside.”  –Leo Tolstoy

For anyone with a child in the school system within the last 15 years, you know what STEM stands for:  Science, Technology, Engineering, Math.

Experts (MANY experts)  tell us that’s what all our children must be trained in, in order to move the country forward, in order to get jobs, in order to be successful.

Do you agree?

As for me, I have mixed feelings.  No doubt, STEM provides key strengths for our kids to make a living in the future.  No doubt, we all need these skills to build infrastructure, cure diseases, and solve problems.  No doubt.

Where, then, in society, do we learn more subtle skills?  Things like anger management, empathy, caring for one another, caring for the planet and the rest of the world around us?  Or even less subtle skills like critical thinking, decision-making, morality, justice and local and global citizenship?

In the last election, only 12% of 18-30 year-olds even bothered to vote.  I wonder what percentage of them own a smart phone.  My guess is somewhat more than 12%.

“Art and art only can cause violence to be set aside.”

Tolstoy had a wide vision of art:  literature, paintings, music, poetry, drama.  Soft skills to say the least.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love doctors, scientists and engineers…(I’m married to one).  But STEM is only useful when it is accompanied and partnered with creative thinking, creative expression, beauty, appreciation, and acceptance of our common humanity.

IMG_2466My embroidered tablecloth and fabric tulip vase. I ‘ll teach it at a Software Inspirations class.






What Have You Done With Machine Embroidery Lately?

machine embroidery2I ask myself that all the time.

My latest project is one I’m doing for work, which will be for a class in April.  It’s a part of Bernina’s Software Sampler presentation.  I am stitching out a ring of 8 designs to be used (ultimately) on a tablecloth for a round table.

It’s far from complete, but I promise to show you when it’s done.

But what’s new in the home embroidery industry?  Well, that’s where this gets interesting.

I have a few favorite sites that I visit, but I’ve noticed some trends and thought I’d share some of the best with you.

Urban Threads, always on the cutting edge (no pun intended) of embroidery, has a new Look Book out. You have to take a minute to browse…very fun stuff.

You’ll notice that lettering, in many forms, has re-emerged as one of the most popular uses for embroidery.  I see this trend at work very often as well.  Everyone wants an item that is personalized, whether that is for a wedding, or just a simple monogram, the birth of a baby, you name it.

Bernina has just released new, inexpensive software that lets you add lettering to any embroidery design or just create your own lettering in any true type font that you have loaded on your computer.

This is a big deal.  In recent years, Bernina’s software with lettering had an entry price of over $1000.  The new software, called Customizer, saves to any machine format and is available for under $250 at any local Bernina dealer.  But, as I say, anyone with any type of embroidery machine can use this software. Find out more about it here.

And all you techies looking for something new and fun for your machine embroidery?

I found just the thing.

Janome has introduced an app for ipad or android that is called AcuDesign.  It’s a $49.99 app.  But before you get nervous about the price, you have to see all that it does:

–Comes with 500 designs.

–Allows you to see animated stitch-outs.

–Edit your designs.

–Resize them.

–Send them directly to your email when you want to stitch.

–Save in any format, work in any machine’s hoop.

acudesign2acudesign1Might be hard to see on my ipad in this picture, but the way you scroll through the various designs is so easy, and the work screen is intuitive.


And if you ever need more info, Janome has created a webinar, over an hour long, that goes over all the features. (Love these gals in the webinar, they sound like people I should know!)





Finally, I am seeing a bump in interest in crazy quilting.  The website has a lovely collection of crazy quilt designs, from quilt blocks to holiday-themed.  And our friends at Designs in Machine Embroidery have featured crazy quilting on the front cover of their April issue, with a free crazy quilt design available.



Soooooooo…..what have you done with machine embroidery lately?

We have a world of opportunities in front of us. And we haven’t even looked at Pinterest yet.


Zen Again

Don’t even tell me you don’t know what zentangles are. By now everyone has heard of a zentangle.  However, in case you’ve been living under a creative rock…here’s a link explaining them.

In playing with Bernina’s Embroidery Software, I’ve been doing a few lessons from a book written by Sue Shrader:  “Creative Sewing Machine’s Workbook for Bernina Embroidery Software 7.”

sue schraderThis workbook covers all aspects of Software 7, and can be purchased from their website.  I have found it to be a valuable investment for beginners, and even for people like me who use the software on a regular basis, but still don’t know everything it can do.


One of her lessons involves creating a zentangle piece of artwork.

zentangle stitch 2I had fun with this lesson as it changes every time I do it.  I settled on one version and went through the motions of stitching it out.  I used a heavy-weight cutaway stabilizer in my machine’s jumbo hoop.



zentangle stitch 3After 30,000 stitches, I knew I’d be leaving the stabilizer behind the design no matter what I ended up making.  Besides the white stabilizer would show if I cut it out behind the design.




zentangle stitch1Here’s the finished stitch-out.  I spent a lot of time debating what to make out of the design and in the end I just finished it off with binding and did some quilting.




zentangle finalNot sure how much of the detail you can see in the design, but the various stitches actually form unique patterns. I’m always stunned at the number of things that can be done with the assistance of software.

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and I’m not sure it even suits me very well.  Still, I’d rather push the envelope.  It’s the only way any of us improve.


Multi-hooping Challenge, Part 2

The hardest part is done.

It’s not perfect, I realize that.  I would do many things differently if I were to do this project over again.

I still want to add a couple more borders and then quilt it.  I want it to be ready by the time I teach a multi-hooping class Aug 23.

Some tips on multi-hooping in machine embroidery:

–Start small.  2 hoopings would be great.

–Use light airy designs.

–The fewer colors the easier it is to follow.

–If you have a machine that has “perfect positioning,” rely heavily on that.

–Grid your fabric before starting so you know what is absolute horizontal and vertical.

–Practice, practice, practice!

I always tell my students that if you’re not making any mistakes, you’re probably not learning anything new. Mistakes, errors, booboo’s and unstitching are the hallmark of a learning curve. Ask me how I know.

Rare is the person who sits down and implements something new perfectly.  And if they did, they probably didn’t try something challenging enough.

So get out there and push the envelope!  Waste a little thread and a little fabric and a little time! (We both know it’s not really wasted, right?)

Who knows what you’ll be able to create once you move past the fear.


In Over My Head…As Usual

Silly me.

I thought I would try multi-hooping in machine embroidery.

But I didn’t start with a simple design that might require 2 hoopings. No. Not me.

I didn’t even start with a design (as recommended by Amanda from Bernina) with 3 hoopings. Nope.

My design requires 14 separate hoopings. What could go wrong?

multi3The truth is, it’s a pretty nice design.  I used some of the Sepia Petals collection, resized them, wreathed, mirrored and aligned them.

The effect is lovely.  But the design is upwards of 157,000 stitches and measures about 2 ft. by 2 1/2 ft.


multi2I used the hoop canvas in Embroidery Software 7.  When I went to save, it asked me this question:  Would you like the export to split the files-one file for every hooping–SHOW ME first.

The SHOW ME turned out to be the most critical part of the design.  It displays a map of every hooping, in relation to every other hooping.

I am only 7 hoopings into this.

multi4Needless to say, after about 2 hoopings I was about to abandon the whole project.  The registration marks were pulling out.  Nothing was lining up properly.  But after about the third hooping I began to get better at facing the challenge.

I relied more on the precise positioning on the machine to help me line things up.

I got good at keeping the software open and showing the view of the hooping that I was stitching (was this number 6 or number 7??)  Anyway, at this point I managed to get the second half of the tree stitched…not yet shown in the pic below, and I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.


This pic is obviously a work in progress and I don’t have a final to show you yet.  I am planning on adding some coordinating fabric and quilting before I am finished.  But at least you can see where it’s headed.

Remember, its about a 2 ft. x 2 1/2 ft. design when completed. It hasn’t been pressed in about 3 hoopings.  But I think I can make it work. What a learning opportunity this has been!

Stay calm and keep stitching. Amen to that.

I’ll share when it’s done.


Fresh Projects and Fresh Strawberries

software sampler2This is a project I worked on at work and at home for the June Bernina Software Sampler, which I teach.  The project involved learning techniques for machine embroidery applique.  The bud of the flower is part of the tutorial, but I went ahead and incorporated other elements as well, adding the stems, leaves etc. to create a simple but “summery” table runner. Once again, I was inspired by something I saw on Pinterest.

No pattern available, but for those of you with embroidery machines and Bernina Embroidery Software 7, it’s a piece of cake….well, once you work out the dimensions.  The flower panels are 8 x 8 inches finished, and everything else falls into place after that.

(How many pairs of glasses does one sewist need? Hint: At one point I used them both.)

strawberriesOne of my favorite times of the year is when the strawberries are harvested at the local farm. Here’s a shout out to friends at Norton Farm.  They are an important part of our summer!  We’ll be waiting for the tomatoes, broccoli and finally the fabulous corn! I’m growing a few tomatoes and cukes out back, but the weather has been a little cool, so they are taking their time developing.

Here’s to the sweetness of summer!  May we always appreciate the bounty!



Christmas Embroidery

Maybe I’m feeling blue this Christmas.  Maybe I’m just inspired by all the recent snow we’ve had.  Whatever the reason, the other day, I was driving down Randall road and a small grove of trees (weeds?) against a snow bank caught my eye.

On a side road I can usually stop and take a picture to capture the scene and the light.  But not this time.  This time I was in a hurry, running around doing Christmas errands, etc. No time to stop and enjoy anything. No time to stop and take artsy pictures. No time.

But the little vignette stayed with me.

And eventually, I had to sketch it out.

Within minutes, I had embroidered it in my mind.  If I were using paints, it would be so much easier.  Mixing a paint color does not require hunting down the right fabric. When you paint, you don’t have to purchase 3 different colors of paint to help decide which is right.  You simply mix the colors yourself.

Besides, I wasn’t thread painting.  I was digitizing.  When you digitize you can start with a very simple sketch.  The rest is done in software.  I drew and assigned colors in software.

Here’s my little sketch.  Squeezed in during the holidays, because it simply wanted to exist. I had no time for it.  But it found its own way out.

Merry Christmas to all of you, and a happy and blessed new year.  May all your artwork find its way out.

snow embroidery

It's about 12 inches wide

It’s about 12 inches wide

In progress.

In progress.

The view from the sewing room.

The view from the sewing room.

The 30 second sketch I used to start digitizing.

The 30 second sketch I created to start digitizing.


Machine Embroidery Applique

I know you’re out there….all of you who have heard about applique using your embroidery machine, but have not seen a design created this way or have not had the courage to try it on your own.

No problem.

Last night I stitched out this design from one of the new Bernina collections called “Caravan”.  Now when I say “Bernina collections”, it just means that Bernina distributes the designs.  You don’t have to own a Bernina. The designs work on any embroidery machine, and come in all machine formats.

First start stitching out the design.  I chose a denim jacket to support all the craft stitches included in this design and I used 2 layers of poymesh cutaway stabilizer.

caravan1This embroidery machine applique collection contains designs for applique, cutwork, crystalwork, paintwork and a printable. The kit comes with a catalog of designs, as well as suggested thread colors, pattern pieces and even a way to get your designs back if you accidentally write over the usb stick!


Bernina embroider software 7Keep Bernina Embroidery Software 7 open nearby, or you can use any software or none at all. It just helps to keep track of the thread colors as you go.



placement lineBecause the design was originally digitized as an applique, one thread color will be used as a placement line. This is usually just a simple running stitch.




applique fabricAdd the fabric, then let the next thread color run.  It will trace the outline of the applique. Use applique scissors to cut away the fabric around the top running stitch.




applique scissorsI prefer to use these small rounded snips because they allow me to get into tight corners.  Because they point up, they’ll also prevent you from poking holes in the fabric underneath. You can find different types of applique scissors on the market.



caravan in progressTake your time with these designs as you will be stopping to lay down fabric, trim it away and the design will layer stitches on top to finish the look.  This particular design had 5 layers of applique.  Can you see them all?



Looks great on my denim jacket!

Looks great on a denim jacket!

I apologize for the darkness of some of these shots.  That’s what happens when I work at night!  Anyway, here’s the final design!  The detail on it is magnificent!  Machine embroidery applique is not difficult at all.  It’s just knowing when to lay down fabric.  Jump in and try this.  It will give your designs added dimension, color and complexity without adding more stitches.

Autodigitizing a Bitmap and a Vector

These are two VERY simple procedures in Bernina Embroidery Software 7.  I am not going into any real details because any software owner should have classes available to them.  However, if you need a quick refresher or some basic help on getting started, this will get you there.

Autodigitizing a Bitmap:

Open your software to a new file, click “insert artwork” up at the top.  Navigate to your c: drive and find the “Embroidery Software 7” folder.  Double click to open all the design folders.  Double click on the “artwork” folder.

insertembbitmapNext find the butterfly, and click open to bring the bitmap into the software.  All the designs in the folder entitled “artwork” are bitmaps and can be loaded the same way.

insertartworkDe-select the artwork by clicking outside of it.  Then go over to the left side of the screen under the heading “autodigitize’ and click on “autodigitizer”.  Then click on the image. So many people forget that step and then get lost.  Once you click on the image, you’ll see a dialog box confirming the number of colors. Click OK.  Next a dialog box will appear that allows you to omit some of the colors.  Since you almost always want to eliminate the white background, click “omitted colors”, then click the white box.  Click “OK ” and the butterfly will become stitches.  It’s that easy.  Now, obviously, you can make changes to the design and edit it an infinite number of ways.  But before you send it to the machine, be sure to click on the image in the background and delete it.

autodigitizeDigitizing a vector:

Vectors should almost always be brought into the software using “Artwork Canvas”.  But before we get too far, be sure to move your Corel Clipart into your Embroidery Software 7 folder so you’ll have access to it.  The clipart folder contains only vectors, so it’s a great resource for artwork.

(Here’s how to move it:  Go to your “start” menu under “All programs”, find Corel Essentials 6.  Click ONCE.  You will see a folder called “content”.  Click ONCE.  Then right click on the “clipart” folder and hit copy.  Navigate to your c: drive and find the embroidery software 7 folder. Click TWICE to open it.  Find a blank area and right click, then click “paste”.  The clipart folder should now appear with all your other design folders.  By the way, the Mastery Book for Software 7 has all these instructions.)

Back to vectors.  Open a new file in Software 7.  Click on the “artwork canvas” icon to get into the Corel part of the software. This may take a few seconds the first time you go into artwork canvas.  It’s a big program.  When it’s open, click the “load artwork” icon, shaped like a flower, usually the first icon on the left.  You’ll get a dialogue box to navigate to a file.  Head over to your c: drive and find the clipart folder we just added. Click TWICE to open the folder.  At this point you can choose any of the files to open.  Once you click “open”, be sure to hit enter on your keyboard to place the file.

vector1With the artwork selected, simply click the button at the top that says “Convert” .  If you hover, it will say “convert vectors to embroidery”.

vector2And that’s it!  You’ll end up back in embroidery canvas with digitized art. Now, you may want to edit colors, stitch types, density, pull compensation etc.  But for the most part, you are digitizing!

Be sure to get a copy of the Mastery Books for Software 7.  It goes into detail on all the features and you’ll want to work with your dealer to learn the specifics.

Then get digitizing!  Now that you know bitmaps and vectors, nothing can stop you!  (Except copyrights, of course..but that’s for another time!)