Machine Embroidery Cross Stitch for Halloween

I found this cute embroidery in Cross Stitch Magazine, Halloween edition.

I am not someone who is into cross stitch, but I think it looks so charming around the holidays. My way of handling this is to digitize it and then use the machine to embroider it.  I use Bernina Embroidery Software 8, which has a cross stitch application within the program. If you are not familiar with it, the sub-program has its own “help” section and manual.  I find that it is really pretty simple if you know a few basics.

I will share with you what I did to create this design, and you can explore another of my Halloween posts right here.

The first step is to scan the pattern at its original size.  This design was approximately 7.5 in. x 6 in. Shown above is the black and white scan of the image, but you can see that this image is enlarged enough to show that I can see the markings of all the different thread colors. That will be important later when I manually add them.

A few basic steps:

  1.  Crop the image right up to the outline of the grid.  You want it to be cropped as perfectly as possible when you load it into the cross stitch program. I use Adobe Photoshop to do this, but Corel is built into the software program and you can easily use that instead.
  2. Count the grid.  The heavy lines indicate ten spaces, so you can get an accurate count. You’ll need that later.
  3. Open the cross stitch program in applications.
  4. Click the “picture” tab and load the picture.
  5. Right click on the picture (this is an important step!) and plug the dimensions of the grid in the width and height. These are the number of grid boxes you counted in the second step. This aligns your image with the grid in the program.
  6. Begin adding in your stitches by clicking on the pencil.  At the bottom you can choose the type of stitch…I almost always use a full cross, but you have a number of options.
  7. Choose a color, and you’re ready to fill in your stitches using the image as your guide.
  8. Left click on each grid box to add in your stitches.

In the image above, you can see what it looks like after I added all the stitches.  This did not take long at all, maybe half an hour to get them all filled in.

Save the file as  filename.arx. .arx is the extension used by the cross stitch program.

Now you can close the whole cross stitch program and your embroidery software will still be open. When opening this file, just be sure to choose the .arx extension or “All Files”.

This is the great part. The software will digitze those cross stitches and turn the whole design into an embroidery file. Above, you can see how it turned out on my screen. I exported it then as .exp as I would any embroidery design file and saved it on a usb stick.

The first time I stitched it out, the ghost in the background was just a little too faded. I switched to a slightly darker fabric and the ghost appears more clearly on the right (although I think the picture is a little fooled by the lighting.)  In real life (!) the one on the right lets the ghost show up much better.

I had fun with this project and it’s actually a lot less time consuming than cross stitching by hand — though I have great appreciation for those who do that!

This way, I can stitch it out over and over again…on a pillow, as an ornament, on a bag, etc. I used Isacord thread for these, which is 40 weight embroidery thread.  But I am curious how it would turn out if I had done it with 28 weight, a heavier weight thread. I think that would be really sharp.  The cross stitch program would allow me to adjust the size of the grid as well, so I have lots of opportunity to go deeper and try new things.

Hope this inspires you. The cost of one magazine provides you with so many cute patterns to try. And cross stitch is a program that is so often overlooked in digitizing software.

It’s really worth some experimentation.

More Freestanding Lace

Boo!

Machine embroidery has so many uses, but the one I’ve been dabbling in the most lately is freestanding lace. I’ve blogged about it a few times in the past. You can read those posts here and here.

Lately, I tried something new and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I took a simple lace embroidery, meant to be a small doily.

Then I stitched a number of them together after creating a design in software to see what it might look like.

Freestanding lace, Bernina Software 8All you have to do is use a simple zigzag with an open-toed foot on your machine.

Just pin the multiple pieces together and sew the zigzag in various points to hold it together.

Keep the zigzag stitch narrow and tight, and it will be hardly visible on the finished piece. I went forward and back-stitched, just to make sure it would not unravel.

The finished product turned out better than I had expected.

While I am using it now for Halloween, it obviously will be gorgeous for the holidays, as well.

I also have to admit that I am in love with these tiny LED lights, lit by battery packs. Of course, they cannot stay on all evening as my orange lights do around the fireplace, but the teensy ones on the Halloween tree and surrounding this ceramic pumpkin are just perfect.

Like those ornaments? I’ve made them over the past couple of years in machine embroidery.  You can search “Halloween” on my site or view one of the posts right here.

I hope I have inspired you to make more use of your machine embroidery.  It’s fun and festive and the ideas are endless.

My Wife Quilts…Tips on Embroidering on T-Shirts

Do you have someone in your life who loves t-shirts?

I do.  My husband is what in the old days, they used to call a curmudgeon. He doesn’t care what he wears, as long as it’s comfortable.  Being clean is preferable, holes are optional.

I do a lot of repair work on his stuff.

One day, many years ago, I was at some sort of quilt show and I ran across a t-shirt:

“My wife quilts, therefore I’m broke.”

I bought it for him and he has worn it ever since.  In fact, the first time he wore it, he said that women of a certain age were giggling at him. I should mention,  he also has a t-shirt that says:

“You read my shirt.  That’s enough social interaction for one day.”

And so, we have a sort of running gag.  As t-shirts wear out, I am always on the lookout for others that, I don’t know, fit his character. (He has Homer Simpson and the Grinch, if that helps.)

This past week, I found an embroidery design that I thought would be perfect, and decided to add to his collection.

A couple of tips for embroidering on t-shirts:

  1. Use a ballpoint needle. You should make an effort to do this any time you sew or embroider on anything stretchy.  It really does make a difference.  A Microtex or Sharp will cut right through the fibers and it might not happen right away, but after a few washings, you can end up with a hole.  Knits don’t like to be cut. A ballpoint needle will move the threads aside as it penetrates.
  2. Use cutaway stabilizer.  I had a nice polymesh.  But this design, at approximately 8 x 10 inches, had almost 38,000 stitches.  That’s not a huge amount, but it’s not low density either. I used two layers of black polymesh cutaway.  I just happened to have some black cutaway from a sweatshirt I did awhile back.

3.  Use your ironing board to help you hoop.  Just slide the t-shirt over the end of your ironing board as if you were going to iron it. Take your one or two layers of stabilizer and insert them under the shirt, taking care to lay them very flat under the design.  I also print out the design so I can get a good look at positioning, and pin it in place. You can then just insert you hoop underneath the layer to be embroidered and place the top part of the hoop on top. Easy.

 

4.  Remember not to pull on this fabric.  My experience has been that lots of people love to hoop their fabric and then pull it tight all they way around the hoop. DON’T DO THAT. Especially with knits. You want the design to lay flat after the hoop comes out.  Your cutaway stabilizer will help you, but not if the fabric is distorted and stretched when you start. The fabric should be flat, not pulled.

5. Clean and oil your machine before you start, and load a fresh bobbin.  This should go without saying before every project, but sometimes it helps to be reminded not to cut corners.  Take the time to clean out your machine NOW, make sure all the parts are oiled and the bobbin is full.  Why start out with issues?  Make your life easy by taking care of any obvious problems before it really gets rockin’.

6. You can use Gentle Touch to fuse to the back of the design when it’s complete, to keep the stabilizer from rubbing against the skin.  People use this a lot for baby onesies and kid’s clothes.  My husband won’t care.

Finally, you can see in this last shot how helpful it is to use a black stabilizer against black fabric.  It just keeps everything neat.

T-shirts like this are very cheap at Michael’s or Wal-Mart.  You can also purchase pretty decent t-shirts online, especially if you google “blank t-shirts.”

Maybe you have someone in your life who has great t-shirt “attitude”.

I hope so.  It’s entertaining.

Hello Sunshine! Machine Embroidery for the Season

I wanted something cheery for my basement door, and finally took down all the “Rules of the House” in pictorial form.  If my 15-year-old doesn’t know the rules of the house by now, like brushing your teeth, not jumping on the sofa, not throwing superballs, we have truly failed as parents.

Anyway, I had a nice blank door that was screaming for something to hang on it.

A while back I found these embroidery designs from Kimberbell, part of the “Hello Sunshine” quilt collection.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and didn’t really want to purchase any fabric

I had a teensy memo notebook on my desk and scribbled out a few ideas.  I printed out the embroidery designs and laid them out on some linen fabric I already owned  It was an awkward amount…not really enough for a quilt but enough for a decent wall hanging.

On the last bicycle, my machine locked up and I had to bring it into the dealer for a cleaning and tune up.

My machine is now running smooth as silk and I was able to complete the design.

I wanted something simple and cheerful.

I love these bikes as they remind me of the possibilities of the summer season.

It also gives me an excuse to create something in machine embroidery for that spot every season.

Ready for fall leaves and holiday yet?

Buttoned-Up Valentine

Every year, I make something silly as a Valentine for my husband. I’m not sure what inspired this project, possibly something on Instagram which I then added to embroidery software and used the supplies I had at home.

This year the theme was buttons.

The world is exploding with buttons these days. I tend to gravitate toward the antique ones. I’ve been known to hang out in an antique shop and just sort through all their old buttons, searching, searching. When you find the one that’s perfect, it’s a real treasure.

Bernina makes a button sew-on foot that I’ve used many times. The holes on buttons are set a standard distance apart. Therefore a stitch set at the right width will just sew it on, and most Bernina machines have this stitch in the buttonhole section of stitches.  However, I’ve taught the use of it to others and, honestly, some people get it immediately and some people just have a harder time, and need more practice.

Here’s a link to the Bernina instructions.

Some tips:

–If you are just learning, choose a medium-sized standard button which is relatively flat. This is the easiest type of button to sew.

–If you have a 7 Series machine with “hover” you may want to turn it off in settings. The button can move around otherwise, and that’s not helpful. Use the freehand system (the knee-lift that lifts the presser foot) so your hands are free to adjust the position of the button.

–You can continue to use the hover if you are good at holding the button in place until the first few stitches are taken.

–ALWAYS run the first few stitches slowly by using the handwheel to check needle placement. I usually use the handwheel until the needle pops over to the second hole to make sure it fits nicely in both holes.

–Run the buttonhole stitch twice per button. The first time never seems to be quite enough for me.

–The screw on the foot allows you to adjust the height of the rubber pad for thicker buttons.

–Smaller buttons, though they may still be standard-sized, often benefit from reducing the stitch width slightly.  After you do this enough, you’ll get a feel for the sizing.

Once you get used to using this foot, I promise, you will never want to sew a button on by hand again.  If you break a needle or a button (it happens) don’t worry.  It’s scary, but don’t be afraid of your machine. I do wear glasses when doing this because you can break a needle doing just about anything on a sewing machine. And I also need to see!

Have fun with this.  If at first it seems a little tricky, don’t give up! These feet are engineered to make your life easier.  Take advantage of them!

Document Your Quilt

This week, I finally finished my Splendid Sampler quilt. (And I promise, this is the last post I will be writing about it. If you are still working, I would love to see yours…post to Instagram #SplendidSampler.)

Anyway, I got to thinking about the way we document quilts.  Everyone does it differently, and plenty of folks don’t label their quilts at all.  What a shame!  I think all quilts deserve a label, even if it’s just your signature at the bottom.  They take so much time and effort. While we are working on them, we spend time thinking of the people who will receive them. Life is going on around us while we are sewing.

I remember one of the first quits I ever made was done in the aftermath of 9/11.  So much of the news, the change in our lifestyles, the culture, all got sewn into that quilt.  It’s nothing special, just a Christmas quilt sewn in flannel and hand-tied.  But I never made a label for it.  I just tucked it away. Even now, when I pull it out, it brings me back to that time when we were all huddled around our TV sets getting information. And it brings me comfort.

So now, when I create labels for my quilts, I try to capture the moment or at least the sentiment that carried me through the project.

You can do this many ways.

I have embroidery software and am comfortable using it.  However, I know a lot of people who create their labels in Word or something universal and print it out onto fabric.  Printed Treasures printable fabric works well for this purpose and so does the printable fabric from Electric Quilt.  Just follow the directions.

You can also just hand-write the label with permanent ink.  Some people like to sew it into the binding in the corner. Others, like me, just like to hand-stitch it to the back of the quilt.

Whatever your chosen process, just make it your own.  When you give quilts to people, you’ll find that after enjoying the initial beauty of the quilt, they are always charmed a second time by the label, the sentiment, the love.

It’s like the card, the thought, the capture of that moment in time. And even if it’s only for yourself…ESPECIALLY if it’s only for you and your family. Take the time to document.

Your effort is worth the credit.

(I deleted particular names off the labels for privacy here.)

 

Splendid Sampler on the Move!

Finally, I am moving forward with my Splendid Sampler quilt.  I wrote about it here and here.

I would like to say that I completed all 100 of the blocks, but alas, life happens and I am a firm believer in stopping while I’m ahead.  At first I did every block that came my way, regardless of the techniques.

I quickly realized that I never want to sew hexies.  I mean *never*. Especially not 1 inch ones.  And I realize that I may make enemies this way, but not everyone likes the same thing and that is just fine.  If you love tiny hexies, bless your heart. If you like bunnies and squirrels on your quilt, bless your heart as well. And if you really love tiny paper-piecing, you’re probably going to heaven too.

It is laid out in our foyer, and I am finalizing the way to finish it.  As you can see, I was pretty strict about the color palette.  Thankfully, I still love the colors.  Something about the neutrality of it makes it slightly less traditional.  As you can see, I’ll probably stick with the dark inner border and a “piano key” outer border. I have so many scraps left over, I will easily be able to use them up as the border. I gain a little size there too.

I vowed a long time ago not to make quilts that are larger than twin size because:

  1. I have no room to store them.
  2. I don’t want to pay someone else to quilt them and I absolutely cannot handle queen size on my domestic machine, at least not with any quality.

But I did learn some new techniques.  And I reignited a love of hand embroidery, which is quite popular right now.

 

It really does take a lot of time.  As you can see, the left side is done by hand, the right side I just digitized and stitched out in machine embroidery.  Sometimes the new block would be announced and I would think (I’m being honest here), “Not another hand embroidered block. I don’t have time this week.”  At that point I was reminded of  Indiana Jones in the scene with the Samarai wielding the giant sword. Indy, exhausted,  whips out his gun and shoots him. After days of finishing one hand-stitched block, if another came up, I just went to the computer, digitized it in software, and within an hour, machine embroidered the next block.  It’s cheating, I know.

But it looks great.

Over 20,000 quilters started this project back in February 2016.

I would love to know how many finished a quilt!

Chasing Cats with Machine Embroidery

Doesn’t everyone have a Halloween tree?

It’s a silly thing, I know. But we get a kick out of it.  I make all the ornaments in machine embroidery as in-the-hoop projects.

First, the actual embroidery design is stitched out.

A placement line is stitched, so I can see where the backing will be placed. Before the backing, I tape down a ribbon for hanging. Then the backing is laid down with right sides together.

The backing then gets stitched down with an opening at the bottom which allows for turning the item inside out. Once the backing is stitched down, I can take the whole thing out of the hoop and trim 1/4 inch around the outside, clipping the corners, and turn it inside out.

Just add a bit of stuffing, stitch up the bottom and you’re done! Three at a time at this size. When I make them even smaller, six at a time is just as easy!

Finished and ready to hang on the tree.

I hope this gives you some ideas for the holidays. Happy stitching!

 

Chicken Soup and Embroidery Software

It’s a chicken soup kind of day.

My son came home after his first few days of high school with a nasty cold.  I’m not surprised.  The place is a breeding ground for experimental teenage germs.

On top of that, the weather turned cooler today…for how long, I’ve no idea.  But it’s cloudy and cool right now.

Furthermore, like everyone else in the sewing industry, I read Nancy Zieman’s latest blog with a heavy heart. Whether you watched her show or not, you know Nancy.  You buy her notions or you attend Quilt Expo in Madison. I’ve learned many tips from Nancy along the way, but my favorite line was this: ” I sew at least one quilt a year for charity.”  She never said “You should…”  She told us what she did, and then she did it, among all the other wonderful charitable contributions she made within the industry (and outside of it).

So, yes, it’s a chicken soup kind of day.

While the soup bubbled away, I sat down with my laptop and organized some of the Halloween designs I want to make in the very near future.

I use Bernina Embroidery Software 8, and I’m planning on making tiny pillow-like ornaments to hang on my Halloween tree.

The designs I’m using came from urbanthreads.com, a favorite of mine for cute and/or spooky embroidery.

It’s hard to see the design in this shot but it is a single thread color of a cat.  I used a feature that people rarely take advantage of in the ‘design” menu. Click on “background” and change the background color in the hoop.

Now you can actually see what the design will look like stitched out on dark grey or black fabric. In the prior shot, you can see where I added stitching in a square around the outside.  Before I stitch that, I will add a square of fabric and a ribbon for hanging.  I’m not stitching out today, but I promise to share when I do.

In this design, I’m stitching the profile of this cat, but it has multiple thread changes for each cat.  For some reason, the.exp file I’m using has changed all the colors from shades of purple to random colors.  I did not take the time to fix the thread colors on screen because I will just use the correct ones as I stitch out.

The important thing to note here is that on the side, in the color film, I used the “Sequence by Color” tool.  This way, I’m able to stitch all the same colors at once instead of changing threads each time for each color on each cat. Whew!

It makes a big difference in the amount of time it takes to stitch out.  Also, I will have to cut the jump stitches in between each thread change, as I have the thread moving around quite a bit.

 

Still, I have loaded all this onto my USB stick and am ready to stitch as soon as I prep some fabric, stabilizer and fabric for the backs of these cute little ornaments.

Can’t wait to get started, but I won’t have time for a couple of days.

My Halloween quilt is complete, and ready for its debut! Stay tuned. It may be early September, but it’s already time for a cool change.

Dueling Woolies, and a Couple of Tips

I’ve been working on these two wool hand embroidery pieces. One is for the shop, the other for home.  By the time I finish them, I will either have gotten wool completely out of my system, or I will have started a dangerously addictive habit.  I really like working with wool and have learned a couple of things.

(An acknowledgement of the patterns:  The first comes from a Moda book called Moda Mini Marvels. The second is a Wooly Lady pattern called Kaleidescope. Sadly, it no longer seems to be available.  But check out their site as they have many more patterns and kits that are similar.)

 

 

 

Tip Number One:

Use a long-arm stapler to attach the pieces of wool and hold them in place while you stitch.  Seriously. Skip the fusible. Skip the pins. They add bulk and distortion and take all the fun out of the smoothness of attaching wool to wool.  I  was struggling with it and our tech came over and said, “Do you want to know what the Australians do?”  Now, honestly, who doesn’t want to know what the Australians do. She suggested the stapler and I was struck by the simplicity and brilliance of the idea. Why didn’t I think of this?  Try it.

Tip Number Two:

You need this tool.  Clover Press Perfect Roll & Press. Your local quilt shop will have it and if they don’t, ask them to order it!  If you ever do piecing, this is one of the best investments you can make. I work in a quilt shop and try a lot of tools.  I like them for different things, and we all get addicted to different gadgets…it’s part of the process.

But the project I’m working on requires 1 in. half square triangles, finished size 1/2 in.  I need 84 of them.  That’s a lot of sewing, cutting and pressing of tiny pieces. But this little roller works SO WELL!  I did not need to use the iron once…it lays the seams so flat. Get it, try it, find out for yourself.

I continue to carry on, with more fun projects on the horizon.  But I find that at this time in my life, a little handwork is cathartic and soothing. I like my wool to be bright and cheerful, but who knows?  That can change at any time.  When all is said and done, we’re all evolving, aren’t we?