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.

Things that go bump in the night…

ornamentsI have always enjoyed Halloween more than Christmas, or whatever mid-winter holiday you celebrate.  Too much pressure, too many gifts, too much hype.

And when you work in retail, Halloween isn’t much better.  Most chain stores start putting their Halloween decorations out July 5.  But when that first crisp fall breeze rolls in, and those first few leaves begin to fall, I get inspired.  Many people do. Once the kids are all back in school and the “official” fall season starts, it’s amazing how many of us turn to our craft, our hobby or our passion once again.

So this year I am teaching some students to use the cross stitch program in Bernina Embroidery Software 7.  I am not a big fan of cross stitch..at least not actually DOING it.  However, I love the way it looks, and I love how easy it is to get some things done in software (which I DO love to use).

I stumbled across some lovely cross stitch designs in Just Cross Stitch Magazine.

They always include many  many patterns for people to use.  I scanned a few of their Halloween “ornaments”, and brought the jpegs into the cross stitch software.

Then you can use the software to create stitches following the image in the background.  I wanted to keep these very simple so I could make many, but not take a lot of time.  The cross stitch program within Software 7 saves the file as .arx extension.

pumpkimcrossstitchThe next step of course, is to bring the cross stitch design into the actual embroidery software.  I love this technique because it turns all those little x’s in the Cross Stitch program into machine-readable stitches.  And then it’s just an embroidery design.

pumpkinspngOnce one file is in the software, you can repeat it multiple times.  I also rearranged the color film, along the right, to stitch all of one color at once instead of all the colors in one pumpkin at a time.  This is a huge step and really cuts down on thread changes.

At the end, I added a double run stitch around the outside of the ornament, leaving the bottom open, so the little critters could be turned inside out and stuffed.  Before that last double run thread stitches, I added the backing, with right sides together. Under the backing I taped down some ribbon, so that they could be hung.  As you can see, in the hoop, they look like little ravioli.

inthehoopWhen all is done stitching, I cut everything out, clipped corners, turned it inside out, stuffed them with polyfill, and used the machine to stitch along the bottom closure.

cat doneVoila!  Six or eight of them will fit into the jumbo hoop.  I managed to create a cat, a witch and a pumpkin.  I also made some larger ornaments with regular embroidery on them.

pumpkin hoopI bought a cheap Halloween tree for the house and one for the shop…these will be on display for awhile!  And if I have time, I’ll make more…it’s a little addictive.  And really pretty fast and easy when you make use of technology!  Gotta love it.

halloweentree2