Machine Embroidery by the Book

Through the years, I’ve come across a lot of machine embroidery books. Most of the time, I find they are complex, stuck in the weeds, focused on things that are not important, or are just plain hard to get through.

But this new book from Bernina really works. Because it is written and edited by Bernina educators, I thought it might simply be a hard sell for Bernina products. And make no mistake, it has no shortage of Bernina machine specifics.

However, it really gives a good breakdown of everything you need to know about machine embroidery, including tips and tricks that make life easier.

The images, graphics, tables and info in this book are all really easy to read. And the spiral binding is helpful. Nothing worse than anything step-by-step that won’t stay open.

Don’t get me wrong.

Wherever you purchase your machine, you should be sure to take the free classes they offer so you become comfortable with your machine (and all good dealers do that.). I don’t care how many books you read, you will not learn to hoop your fabric properly by reading. You can only learn that by doing.

When I teach classes, I tell my students that there are 3 variables in embroidery:

  1. Stabilizer.
  2. Your fabric.
  3. The density and size of the design

Any of these could and should change based on the others.

The book addresses all of these right up front. But more than that, it gets into techniques, and stitching on different types of fabric. Want to learn about minkee? It’s in there. In-the-hoop projects? Free-standing lace? No problem.

I’ve done all of these things, so I read with a critical eye. And I have to admit, all the categories are thorough and succinct.

Here’s a link to many of the techniques I have written about.

Will you read the book and be an expert? No. I tell my students that they will only become experts after making their own mistakes. No book can tell you what to do when your machine is acting up. Or if your thread is breaking or you haven’t cleaned your machine in awhile. These things come from experience and the only way to get that is to stitch.

But I’m putting this one on my top shelf and keeping it handy. It’s new this summer and is available anywhere Bernina machines are sold. It’s a solid resource for any machine embroiderer.

In-The-Hoop Easter Machine Embroidery

I know I’m getting ahead of the game, thinking about Easter. But I felt like I needed a bit of Easter cheer early on, so these are what I found.

Do you have an embroidery unit you haven’t taken out of the box? (You know who you are, my friends.) This is about as simple a project as you can imagine.

Here’s a link to the designs. Just download them onto a USB stick.

Prepare some fabric…you only really need scraps. And find some scrap batting. You know, the stuff you cut off around the edges of your last quilt.

Tip: After cutting small amounts of batting on your cutting mat, use a lint remover to clean up the batting.

Here’s the trickiest part. You need a nylon zipper. At least 7 inches. These are unbelievably common in the sewing world. Anything over 7 inches will work.

I used 14 in. zippers because that’s what I had on hand. Here’s a source that your local quilt shop may have even used: atkinsondesigns.com

And here’s a bonus. If you purchase her zipper pulls, you can easily change the color of the pull. Here’s instructions on how to do that. Your life will never be the same.

Back to the Easter egg pouches. I’m sure they come with instructions but I never read them. (Surprise, surprise.) Take some scraps of batting, approx, 6 inches x 6 inches, along with some scraps of fabric, about 6 inches x 12 inches. You’ll need 2 of the smaller size for the top and bottom half of your egg, a larger quilt sandwich for the backing/lining.

Wrap the smaller size fabric around the batting, so you have a straight edge to lay against the fold.

As you can see here, I didn’t even cut my scraps with any precision, as they will be completely trimmed away. You are just making sure that the batting is covered front and back. The fabric shown is Modern Quilt Studio’s Dot Crazy. I love this because it has fabric with a line of larger dots through the center…no piecing necessary.

Hoop your large oval or any 5 x 7 or larger hoop with sticky back tearaway stabilizer. I used OESD Stabilstick tearaway.

The design will walk you through all the steps on your machine. The first stitch out will be the placement line for the zip, which stitches directly onto the stabilizer.

Then stitch down lines on the zipper, then you lay down the top part of the egg with the fold right up to the zipper. The design will then stitch across the top fabric on the zipper. The goal is to make sure you have enough fabric wrapped around the batting to cover both sides of the egg.

Next, it will stitch the top half of the egg down.

Then lay your bottom fabric with the fold up against the zipper, as you did with the top. The next stitch will secure the bottom fabric to the zipper, and the stitch after that will secure the bottom half of the egg.

Move your zipper pull to the middle of the design!

This will allow you to turn the pouch inside out once it has been stitched. Now, you can also add a ribbon or handle at the top before the backing/lining is stitched down. (As I did). Add a quilt sandwich with the backing and lining down on top.

The final stitch is a zigzag to secure the seams.

This entire stitch out is a total of 6 minutes–almost as long as it take to read this blog post. These are easy and really quick, using fabric and scraps you likely have lying around.

When you take it out of the hoop, trim close to the stitching. Remove the stabilizer from around the zipper, and then open the zipper as far as you can. This will help when you turn the bag inside out. Remove as much of the stabilizer on the rest of the bag as possible. You should only see a bit of stabilizer around the outside seam, and a tiny bit where the zipper is attached. Everything else can be removed. Turn your little egg inside out and press.

Use your egg pockets as decorations or gifts–a great gift card holder or candy pouch!

Now reward yourself with fine chocolate.

Valentine’s Day is coming after all.

Sewing Through the Midwestern Blizzard

#SNOWVEMBER, is what I’m told.

Actually, it’s just raining. but they say the snow is coming…and plenty of it. I am skeptical, but that’s nothing new.

These little ornaments on the tree are made from Kraft Tex. (See my previous post for more details.) I think they turned out cute, and I am anxious to try stitching them out on fabric and turning them into little stuffed ornaments. I think that would be adorable. These have designs on both sides, because I just wanted some flexibility. I’ll need to make some minor adjustments to the software file I use to stitch out the designs on fabric. On the new ones, I’ll add a seam around the outside, leaving an opening to turn them. Then it will be just a matter of stuffing them.  I’ll share when I start that.

But for this task, I wanted to show you the greatest little tool I got at the shop as it was closing. I didn’t think I’d ever need it, didn’t really have any idea why I might use it, but of course I purchased it anyway.

And it sat in my sewing room for over a year.

(Incidentally, as we speak, the rain has turned to snow out my window. Maybe they are not all liars after all.)

It’s called a Circle Rotary Cutter from Olfa. I finally decided to try it out for this project and I am in love with it. I guess I just didn’t know how desperately I needed to cut accurate circles. It has a ruler attached so you can set the radius. You basically use it like a compass, with the sharp point in the center, and a blade instead of a pencil at the end. Suddenly I am imagining all the wool projects I’d like to invent using circles, as well as paper, Kraft Tex, felt, and basically anything a rotary cutter will go through.

In minutes I had beautiful, ACCURATE circles. Do not discount the significance of getting a circle perfectly round.

I am off now, to work on a quick quilt that I must finish before the holidays. We all have those last minute projects. For those of you in the Midwest, Happy Blizzard-Sewing!

FreeStanding Lace Embroidery

It’s been awhile since I’ve done any freestanding lace. A friend recently gave me a few spools of white Isacord thread and so what else would I do with it?

I immediately purchased a few designs from OESD. Collection 12724 was perfect for what I had in mind.

When you are working on freestanding lace, you’ll want to use 2 layers of wash-away stabilizer.  I used AquaMesh from OESD. Not to be confused with Aquamesh PLUS, which is also a wash-away stabilizer, but has paper, almost like contact paper on one side, so the stabilizer is sticky.  You’d use that on towels or something where you want the stabilizer to disappear, but don’t want to hoop your fabric.

A quick look at the machine in action:

Now comes the finished product.

Once the design is complete, remove it from the hoop, trim away as much excess stabilizer as possible, then rinse it in warm water until the stabilizer has dissolved.

Next, pin it down to a piece of styrofoam or floral foam.  Cardboard will work as well, but it will get a little soggy. I invested in this piece of styrofoam years ago in the floral department of a Michael’s, JoAnn’s or Hobby Lobby. I don’t remember where. The point is that it will last for years.

When you pin, feel free to use all those pins that are bent or just not perfect for quilting or intricate sewing. These pins don’t matter much, they just have to hold the design in place. It WILL curl and stick up in strange places if you skip this step. Overnight is usually the perfect amount of time for a design to dry completely.

machine embroideryIt’s a perfect accent to a delicate teacup or a small jewel box.

I have been working on a larger project and I planned it out in Bernina Software 8. It requires a few of the pieces repeated and arranged and sewn together. I don’t know how it will look when it’s done, but I’m envisioning that it will make a nice centerpiece on a round table with a festive color underneath. It’s about 18 inches across. (It’s over half a million stitches, so…yeah, we’ll see.)

Freestanding lace, Bernina Software 8

For some of my previous postings on freestanding lace, you can click here.

And here.

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?

When Your Sewing Machine Needs to go to the Spa

Well, I finally broke my machine.

Actually, I’m not sure I did anything wrong.  I just changed thread colors during an embroidery, started the machine up again and WHOA.  Needle broke and gears of death appeared.

It’s all OK.  I cleaned everything out and could only find 2 pieces of the needle.  A tiny tip is missing.  Normally I can set everything back to normal and just continue, but I think that little needle tip is scraping somewhere, so off to the tech we went.

Tech Update for Bernina 7 Series Owners

I chatted with my new tech for a while and told him about my machine issue.  He asked me if I knew that we were not supposed to oil in the top reservoir any more.

I did not know that.  I had heard some buzzing…questions from customers around the time the shop I previously worked for was closing.  However, we had not received any definitive information from Bernina at that time.

So here’s the deal:

–If you own a 7 Series, DO NOT put oil in the red-ringed reservoir under the stitch plate.

–DO oil the two felt pads in the hook and around the outside of the hook.

Heirloom Creations has a nice video showing and explaining this.

It’s important to know about this change.  If you purchased your machine longer than 6-7 months or so ago, you were likely taught to fill that red reservoir, and keep it filled.

The tech told me that too much oil was spreading, not only into the hook but also getting into the auto-thread cutter, and pieces of felt were working their way into the mix as well. I remember our tech at the store showing me how the machine looked with the thread cutter pulled out and oil getting on everything. At that time we had not heard the official “fix” from Bernina. Now it’s here.

With that resolved, I now have an embroidery design that’s not complete.

See those cute little flower buttons?  They are supposed to be embroidery.  Luckily, my “breakdown” occurred in a convenient place, and I think I can just add those flowers instead of embroidery.  Not exactly perfect, but it’s effective and I think it will work.

I’ll share the rest of the project as I get further along.

I’m determined to THINK SPRING. It has to get here eventually, right?

In the meantime, of course I have another sewing machine that I can use to continue piecing my quilt project. And it won’t hurt for my larger machine to be in the spa for a bit.

What’s Happening in Machine Embroidery?

I’ve been scrounging around on my machine embroidery sites looking for the most interesting projects and new ideas.  I’ve found that with machine embroidery, there’s always a new way to do something that’s been around awhile, or an old way to do something very fresh.

We have snow on the ground here this April, but I just KNOW that spring will get here eventually.  So I focused my search on all things inspirational for spring.

Enjoy!

Embroidery Library

Although they always have new product, I found their Garden Party Lookbook to be charming and full of spring-like ideas. You’ll want to check out all their lookbooks.  But the Garden Party book had an interesting technique (something I hadn’t seen before) for embroidering on straw hats.

 

Embroidery Design Studio

They are featuring a strong graphic spring collection called Grow Love. These cute little flowers and butterflies would be great on jeans or anything denim.  They also have their washaway stabilizers on sale through April 13.  If you are someone who loves freestanding lace (which I’m thinking about for Halloween) now’s the time to stock up on Aquamesh.

 

Urban Threads

So the big trend I’ve seen lately and it’s reflected quite a bit at Urban Threads is embroidery on garments everywhere.  Jeans up and down the legs, t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, everything.  This trend extends far beyond just the embroidery world.  The newest Dolce and Cabbana runway collection is just loaded with over-sized, all-over embroidery.  The kitschy-er, the better.  Urban Threads has some great examples in their Fashion Look book.  But it’s everywhere.

 

Kreations by Kara

OK, I was drawn to these lovely purple flowers in her sale bin.  I need them along the hemline of a summer skirt.  Wouldn’t that be lovely?

 

Kimberbell

Kimberbell, if you’re not familiar, is a wholesale design distributor. Their store locator is actually pretty accurate so feel free to use that to find a dealer near you.

Their products are always cheerful and sometimes over the top for me, but I fell in love with the designs on Hello Sunshine quilt. The quilt itself is a bit much at the moment, but who can live without the charming bike design, the mason jars, the watermelon?  Not me. I bought the collection and am already laying out something for a wall hanging for this spring/summer.

 

I recognize this list is not comprehensive, just a little tour to get your creative juices flowing about machine embroidery again.  I hope you find something that inspires you to dust off that embroidery module and rev it up for spring!

Freestanding Lace for the Holidays

freestanding laceI found these wonderful designs on Urbanthreads.com.  I immediately thought of Valentine’s Day, although these were likely meant for the Christmas Season.  I have not yet whip-stitched these together, but I love the look of them.

If you are not familiar with freestanding lace, a lot depends on the density of the designs and the stabilizer you use.

I used OESD Aquamesh, 2 layers for each piece.  Each envelope has 3 pieces.

freestanding-lace-4You can see the double layer of washaway stabilizer in the above photo.  Each section of the envelope took at least an hour to stitch out, so be sure you start with a full bobbin, a well-oiled machine, a new needle and plenty of thread.  I matched the bobbin thread to the top, using Isacord on everything.

free-standing-lace-2There were two different envelope designs to choose from, one was roses, as shown above.  The other was holly leaves, and I stitched that out in red.  Both of the envelopes I stitched were about greeting card size.

But I do have a smaller size design that would be perfect for business cards or a gift card.

freestanding-lace-3Once the design was complete, I trimmed away all the stabilizer, leaving 1/4 inch or so around the outside.

drying-frestanding-laceEach piece gets rinsed in warm water.  Some people recommend filling the sink and letting the lace soak.  That will work, but I usually keep the warm water running and rinse it thoroughly until all the stabilizer has dissolved.

The design needs to dry overnight, and I use a piece of florist’s styrofoam as a base, and flatten each design and pin in place.  This prevents any curling as they dry.

After that, it’s just a whip stitch to assemble the front and the back, and then the top to the back.

I had the most fun searching for just the right button for each of envelopes.  I plan to make a few more…I want the rose design in red. (Shhhhh…I think that’s part of this year’s Valentine’s Day gift.)

knitted-scarfFinally, I thought I’d share my scarf, which is moving along nicely now.  In fact, it’s probably twice as long as this photo shows…but not quite long enough to be complete.

The scarf will also have to be gently washed and stretched flat to dry. That way it will hold the shape.

If you enjoy designs from Urban Threads, you’ll get a kick out of their new holiday Look Book.

They also have their own line of fabric from Spoonflower now.

I actually have created my own fabric on Spoonflower with some of my black and white photography.  But I’ll have to save that for another post once I come up with how I’m going to use the fabric!

Little Ruby, Little Bags

minibags1cropSo I’ve been having fun with Little Ruby fabric from Bonnie and Camille.

At first I made some larger bags from a layer cake.  Then I made a bunch of tiny little coin purse sized bags from a charm pack.

All of this is done with machine embroidery using software.

smallbag1smallbag2I took the simple design of the larger bag and reduced the sides and bottom, keeping the zipper positioning lines the same.  Then I switched to a larger hoop and made three copies of the bag.

smallbagmulti

In the hoopI hooped sticky-back tearaway stabilizer, stitched out the zipper placement lines for all three.  Then, I placed the zippers and stitched out the line at the top of the zipper first for all three bags, then the bottom part of the zipper for all three.  Those fabrics top and bottom are just folded charm squares, with a small piece of batting in between.

After stitching the first batch, I went back to my software and moved them all a little farther apart from one another, so they don’t overlap.  I also added thread color changes between each step, just so the machine would stop stitching for me to place the fabric.

Finally, I put a tiny charm square quilt sandwich on top to form the back and lining of the bag.

multibagThen an outline stitches around each of the bags. It is set as a triple stitch and goes over the same line three times.

NOTE: DON’T FORGET TO MOVE THE ZIPPER PULL INTO THE CENTER OF THE BAG BEFORE ADDING THE BACKING!

That note is mainly for myself…believe me, if you do it once, you’ll remember not to do it again.  It’s not a terrible fix, but takes a little time and fidgeting.  You have to rip the seam to get the zipper pull through, and then re-sew the outline seam on the machine (not embroidery.)

When I take them out of the hoop, the first thing I do is tear away all the stabilizer from the outside.  Then with a little more care, I tear away the stabilizer from the inside of the bag.  This is actually pretty easy…a little bit of fussing to get it out, but not much.  Because the outline of the bag is a triple stitch, as well as the lines holding in the zipper, the stabilizer tears away very easily.

minibag2The final step is to cut away the excess fabric and zipper, and turn the little goodies inside out.  I give them a quick press and done!

minibagmultiThe final mini bags are about 4 1/4 inches by 3 inches.  My main goal was to use as much of the charm squares as possible without wasting.

If you own software…any kind…I encourage you to try building bags like this.  The digitizing is only rectangle and lines, and the corners are slightly curved.  Your expenses?  A charm pack and some matching zippers.  You likely have some scraps of batting lying around that can be used.

In a day, you can have stacks of lovely little bags to give away or to keep.  They are just about the perfect size for credit cards, ID, business cards, etc.

Here are some peonies for you, just for fun. Because they’re blooming and are gorgeous.

peonies