Design – not free

Kenneth D. King has a class at Craftsy/Bluprint on designing, drafting, and sewing pockets : Designing details : pockets. He emphasises pocket placement for flattery. Covers : patch pocket, single welt pocket, double welt pocket, zipper covered by double welts.

Pockets as embellishment – Diane Ericson has a pattern for 60 pocket variants, Just Pockets.

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Specific techniques – free tutorials

There are 3 different groups of pockets, roughly of increasing difficulty to sew.

Pockets which are applied outside the garment or bag surface, so the whole pocket is visible :
– patch pocket.

2 types of pocket where the pocket bag hangs behind the garment or bag surface, so the opening into the pocket has to be part of the design :

Pockets which hang from an existing seam, or a specially added seam :
– in-seam pocket.
– slant/hip/jeans/western pocket.

Pockets which hang behind a specially made opening in the middle of the fabric :
– letterbox pocket, usually with exposed zipper closure.
– welt pocket.

Many many variants on each of these. I’ve just listed the basics.
All pocket types can have an added zipper closure to the opening. The only one I’ve mentioned is the exposed zipper pocket. In bag making, pockets without a zipper closure may be called ‘slip’ pockets.
All pocket types can have an added flap covering the opening. I haven’t given links about flap making.

Patch pocket

Patch pockets are one of those techniques said to be easy for beginners, which actually need care to get a good result.
As the whole of a patch pocket is visible, they need to be carefully shaped when pressing, and when placing on the surface. The quality of a patch pocket may not matter on a garment made from a busy print and worn for moving around, or inside a bag. But when a patch pocket is noticeable in a stable location, such as a chest pocket on a shirt, it needs more care.
At the extreme, couture and bespoke tailoring patch pockets are sewn on by hand.
As usual in sewing, several methods, so try them to find which technique and result you like best.

Here’s a video from Sure Fit Designs, on several shapes of patch pocket (from 5.05).
And a photo tutorial on sewing a patch pocket with curved corners, from Jules Fallon of Sew Me Something patterns.

She uses a pressing template. I prefer the more accurate shape from pressing angled corners over a template too.
You can cut your own card pressing template for the specific pocket.
You can also buy pressing templates.
For angled corners there’s the Prym marking/ironing set.
And this metal pocket template has several different radius curves.

There are many variants to patch pockets which add capacity with pleats or gathers, or add depth with gussets.
As patch pockets are added on the surface they can make a strong design element. Many ideas for patch pocket shapes on this pinterest board.
Starter ideas for piecing and embellishment in Diane Ericson’s pockets pattern linked above.

Lined patch pocket :
This pdf from U. of Kentucky is about making a lined patch pocket with curved bottom corners.
Lined circular patch pocket, photo tutorial from Sew me Something patterns.

Pockets hanging from a seam

In-seam pocket :
In-seam pockets, photo tutorial with pattern piece, for a pocket in a vertical seam, from Sew Over It patterns.
I add a square of light fusible interfacing at the upper and lower corners, to support these stress points.

Slant pocket :
Here’s a photo tutorial on pattern making for and sewing a slant pocket, from By Hand London patterns.
Variants in the bag of a slant pocket :
These examples are about making denim jeans, but the methods apply to slant pockets in any garment made from any thicker/stiffer fabric.
Photo tutorial for sewing slant pockets with thinner fabric lining, from Closet Case patterns.
And a photo tutorial for a simplified method for that, from The Last Stitch.

Pockets behind a special opening

Exposed zipper pocket, zipper set behind letterbox opening :
Exposed zipper pocket insertion, video from Fashion Sewing Blog TV.
For a letterbox opening in woven fabric. Make the opening at least 5mm-1/4″ wider than the widest part of the zipper pull.
(Pocket bag : cut a rectangle of fabric about 25cm-10″ x length of zipper.
Sew one zipper-length side to one side of the zipper, the opposite side to the other side of the zipper. Close the sides of the pocket bag.)

An alternative method is to make the letterbox opening using a facing. Video demo at Sewing Quarter, from 1hr.24min. to 1.32.

This pocket is much used in non-fraying fabric such as fleece, as you can just cut out the box shape opening.

Welt pocket :
Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy – in marking, stitching and snipping.
Single welt pocket tutorial from In House Patterns.
Double welt pocket tutorial from Andrea Brown at Craftsy/Bluprint. Similar technique to a bound buttonhole, so sometimes called a ‘buttonhole’ pocket.

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Out-of-print books on pockets :
Pat Moyes
Just Pockets
Claire Shaeffer
Patch Pockets
Set-in Pockets


Interfacing fusing instructions

It’s important to use the correct combination of temperature / moisture / pressing motion / pressing time / cooling time for the specific product, to get a good lasting fuse.

Pellon products listing
download product pdf for instructions.

Vilene Vlieseline products listing
click on product name for instructions.
Product name printed on selvedge.

Small interfacing companies
These often have no on-line information, so keep the packaging for the instructions.

If you have to use interfacing without instructions :
make samples using a 2-dot iron, press for 10-15 seconds, and try pressing dry, with steam, and with a damp pressing cloth, to see which works best.

Choosing interfacing

There are hundreds of big company and small specialist company interfacings.
Most of us experiment a bit and then choose a small range of ones used in the types of item we usually make.

If you have not used a particular fabric-interfacing combination before, do make a sample to check that the result has the ‘hand’ you want. Does it feel and hang as you want it to ? How well will it stand up to stretching ? to compression ? Would you prefer to use a lighter or heavier, thinner or thicker, softer or stiffer product ? The answers will depend on your personal style, as well as on what you are making.

Fusibles are much loved by people who wear structured clothes, crisp blouses and tailoring. My style is soft and casual, so for clothes I just use interfacing at specific points where fabric needs extra support. ‘Light’ interfacing can be good for the same ‘hand’ with more stability. I usually prefer sew-in for clothes, and mainly use fusible for bags.

In the UK, MacCulloch & Wallis probably has the widest selection of tailoring support materials.

Choosing and applying fusible interfacing when making clothes

Fusible interfacing in clothes making is pressed from the interfacing side, best using a pressing cloth which is just used for fusing to protect from the glue.

If you just want the minimum basics, here’s a photo tutorial from Tilly and the Buttons.

More specialised detail about choosing and using in this photo tutorial from I Love Fabric.

Video class from Linda Lee at Craftsy/Bluprint (not free).

Using fusible fleece and foam in bag making

You can fuse fleece/foam without crushing it, if the iron is not too hot and you don’t press heavily.
Both fleece and foam are fused from the fabric side.

Fleece :
Here’s a video about using fusible fleece from Pellon (content 1.20-2.45).

This photo tutorial from Sacotin is about adding stiffness.
She recommends using 2 layers, a ‘regular’ interfacing (not batting, fleece, foam) fused on before the fusible fleece. So try light and medium, woven and non-woven fusible, and see which gives the effect you want.

If you would like an even stiffer result, here’s a video from Australian bag pattern designer Nicole Mallalieu, showing the result of using ‘pelmet’ interfacing as the extra layer with fusible fleece.
Note for Pellon users :
Vilene/Vlieseline S320 is a light-weight, soft and flexible fusible ‘pelmet’ interfacing.
Vilene/Vlieseline H640 is fusible volume fleece.

Foam :
Foam has more structure, so is inherently more supportive and does not need extra interfacing.

Here’s a video about using fusible foam, from Poorhouse Quilt Designs.
And here’s a photo tutorial from Stina’s Quilt & Sewing Supplies.

Bosal (no instructions on site) and ByAnnie (sew-in only, matt surface so sticks without fusing) are companies with specialist foam products for bag making. Foam is also available from the big interfacing companies.

Fusing is easy enough, but not a quick process if you want a good result !

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Links available March 2019

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Start using an embroidery machine – editing designs

There are 2 groups of software tools which can help with your embroidering. They are for :
– knowing what designs you have.
– editing to change designs.

If you have a big collection of designs on your computer and no longer know what they all are, Bernina ARTlink is a free download for Windows with design information, placement, and printing, plus simple editing tools.
Convert It, Mac, not free, no editing except change thread colours, does the same on a Mac.
Not necessary if you have editing software, which includes these tools, but very useful for keeping track of what you have if you don’t want to go as far as editing yourself. (I transferred a big collection of designs from a PC with embroidery software to a Mac without. Until I got Convert It, Mac I just had a big collection of numbered unknowns. It’s marvellous to be able to see them all again, as well as see complete colour lists and print full size templates.)

Changing designs on a machine

Do you find yourself wanting to change a design ? Entirely optional but it can be fun. The most likely changes are :
– adjust the size,
– add lettering.

You can do both of those on modern mid-price embroidery machines, without needing separate embroidery software.
On lower-mid-price machines you can edit single designs (re-size, rotate, flip) and produce text, directly on the machine. Design and text have to be stitched out separately.
Upper-mid-price machines also have simple options for combining, so you can group several designs, or design and text, in one hooping.

Though be aware – on a machine with a small screen you can’t see the fine detail of your changes.
To see the fine detail of designs, there are a couple of options :
a. embroidery machine with a large screen, convenient but expensive – basic embroidery software costs much less !
b. embroidery machine with small screen, plus computer, embroidery software, and a way of transferring designs from computer to machine :
– usb stick (or card on older machines).
– usb cable direct from computer to machine – many mid-price machines have this option.
– wi-fi on some top-of-the-line (TOL) machines.

Levels of embroidery software

If your embroidery machine does not have any design changing tools, or you want to see more than is on a small screen, and for more control over design changes – you do need a computer and embroidery software.

An embroidery ‘format’ (e.g. .jef, .pes, .vip) is the language used to give instructions to the machine, and sadly each machine company has its own way of doing things.
It is essential to know which format(s) your machine understands.
Get software which can input and output this format !
Single designs are sold on-line in individual formats, design DVDs usually include all the common formats.

No need to start with full-scope embroidery software. Most software is modular, so you can start simple and add more tools if you find you want them.

For some you can download a free manual so you can get an idea of how you would get on with it. Or look for ‘independent / 3rd party’ tutorials and videos – often much easier to understand than the official manual !
It is good if you can get a free try-out, to check both if the software runs on your system and if you enjoy using it.

I think there are 4 main levels of software, though different companies include different combinations of tools.
Very briefly :
1. free software :
– can re-size/rotate/flip designs but not usually add text,
– show a complete colour sequence chart,
– print full size templates to use for design placement.
– print fabric cutting patterns if needed for appliqué and in-the-hoop.
Designs are at real size or larger on the computer screen, so you can see what you are doing.
2. using low level software :
– you can also add text and combine designs in real size,
– perhaps choose between constant stitch count or constant stitch density when changing size,
– or remove hidden stitches when combined designs overlap.
3. with mid-level software :
– you can extract parts of a design,
– even alter individual stitches,
– do extra editing tasks such as :
– – split large designs for multiple hooping,
– – run a stitching simulator to check how your design works out, or the steps of an in-the-hoop design.
4. you need top level software :
– if you also want to do ‘digitising’, to make your own designs rather than adapting designs made by other people. Choose between auto-digitising (give the software an image and it produces the embroidery instructions), or manual digitising (you control the details).
[I’m talking about software for amateurs, there’s another level of complexity for professional embroidery designers, see e.g. Wilcom.]

Software from embroidery machine companies

Most embroidery machine companies have their own design editing software, though it is not essential to use it for their machines. May be given free with machine purchase.
Some of these work with several embroidery formats, some only work with the format used on that company’s machines.

Babylock Creator, Windows only.
Babylock Embroidery Works, Windows and Mac.
Babylock Palette, Windows only.
Bernina Toolbox, Windows and Mac.
Bernina Embroidery Software 8, Windows, or a Mac running Boot Camp.
Brother PE-Design, Windows only.
Husqvarna/Pfaff/Singer/Viking Premier+2, Windows and Mac. Premier+2 has a free download version which does simple editing and colour changes. Also iOS app for TOL Pfaff machine.
Janome/Elna Digitizer, Windows only. Also iOS apps for TOL Janome machine.

Independent embroidery software

‘Machine Independent’ editing software works with most embroidery formats.

Several companies offer embroidery software for Windows.
A well-known one is Embird, advanced modules include photostitch, cross stitch, manual digitising.
Wilcom Hatch includes both auto-digitising and manual digitising, for Windows, or a Mac running Boot Camp.
Embrilliance runs on both Windows and Mac, advanced modules for manual digitising only.

Stitch Buddy is for Mac and iOS, no digitising.
DRAWings Snap is for Mac and iOS, no digitising.
From a tablet or phone, you have to export your changed design to a computer for transferring it to your embroidery machine (unless you have a very expensive TOL machine with wi-fi).
I haven’t used these and don’t know about software for other tablets and phones, as I prefer a bigger screen for editing.

Ultimately you may want to digitise your own designs. Either auto-digitising (easier – give the software an image and it produces the embroidery instructions), frowned on for quality by purists. Or manual digitising (with more control over the details).
Some software can produce instructions for cutting machines to cut fabric shapes.
Although I love machine embroidery and often change a design a bit, I’ve never felt any desire to do digitising (I have done auto-digitising once !), so I’m not the right person to give advice.

So, in summary, use free software for simple design changes (re-size / rotate / flip, change colours, no text) and printouts : Bernina ARTlink or Wilcom TrueSizer for Windows, Premier+2 for Mac.
If you want more editing functions, such as adding text, or combining designs, then software from the machine companies is more expensive than from the independents.

For digitising, the top level of software from most companies will do that. I don’t know about all the software, but for digitising on a Mac I think the choice is : Embrilliance Stitch Artist (manual digitising), Premier+2 Extra (simple auto), Premier+2 Ultra (auto and manual) (they all work with enough formats to be usable with most machines, but do check).

There are so many attractive ready-made embroidery designs, there’s no need to make your own.
But modern machines and software do make it easy and fun to make changes to designs if you want to.

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Other posts in this group on using an embroidery machine :
Choosing an embroidery machine
Starter basics
Designs from the internet, more techniques

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