The first part of this was about learning the basics of using an embroidery machine, using the designs given on your machine.

Now we’re talking about expanding from the basics :
– using designs from the internet,
– learning new techniques,
– altering designs or making your own.

In this section I’m not going to give details about how to do things, just mention some of the many things you may like to find out how to do.

Internet designs

When you feel confident using built-in designs, move on to a design from the internet or a DVD/usb stick. Designs are supplied by everyone from huge companies to little cottage industries. Very tempting 😀

You don’t need special equipment for this, just your computer with browser and internet connection or DVD/usb slot.

Find what embroidery ‘format’ your machine uses. Shown by the 3 letter extension at the end of a design name. Some common ones are :
Brother : design.pes
Janome : design.jef
Viking/Pfaff : design.vp3
But do check your specific machine – some Brothers don’t use .pes, some Janomes don’t use .jef, etc.

Find how to download a design from an internet site to your computer – usually the same as for any other download.

And how to transfer the design from computer to embroidery machine – see the machine manual as different machines have different ways of doing this. The usual methods are :
– direct by usb cable from computer to machine.
– from computer to usb stick, which can then be put in the machine,
– (older machines) from computer to card in box, and card can then be put in the machine. You may need special software for writing to the card.

Then find how to find the design on/from your machine !

If you like to use the internet for guidance

The design company Embroidery Library has a useful techniques section with photo and video tutorials on many topics, Helpful how-tos.

Another design company, Anita Goodesign, has a sampler class of photo tutorials for many embroidery techniques, called Fundamental Curriculum and free on their DVDs. Register with them for many free pdf and video tutorials.

Sewing Mastery/ Heirloom Creations, who have marvellous training videos for several combo sewing-embroidery machines, are planning videos on making the Anita Goodesign sampler, Embroidery Essentials preview.

There are many youtube videos on embroidery machines and techniques. They vary hugely in quality and content, but you can usually find several on your model of machine or the technique you want to try. (Brother machines have different model numbers in different countries. You need to know the equivalent US model number to find the most videos.) The right side menu with the Sewing Mastery video is a starting point.

Beyond broadcloth – new fabrics, new techniques

You can spend a lifetime having fun with what you know so far. Or you could learn more machine embroidery techniques.

You can move on to embroidering fleece, towels, knits.
For these fabrics you do need to know about a wider range of stabilisers – more uses for cut away and fusible, also wash away and heat away.
Free class on embroidering towels at Craftsy.
Also methods for handling fabrics which would be damaged by hooping, such as velvet (using ‘sticky’ self-adhesive stabiliser).

And learn special embroidery techniques such as appliqué.
(Sometimes it’s possible to use a cutting machine to cut the fabric shapes used in appliqué – some internet and DVD designs include cutting file formats.)
Or make free-standing lace (using water-soluble stabiliser).
And use special threads such as metallic (with a special needle).
There are in-the-hoop techniques for making quilt blocks and bags without having to do any steps on a conventional sewing machine.

Then try embroidering onto 3-D shapes such as ready-made caps, clothes and bags (sticky stabiliser again). Some machines have special hoops to help.

Video teaching companies like Craftsy and Martha Pullen have classes on special techniques (not usually free).

Altering designs yourself

Another dimension of your embroidery skills – play with designs yourself.
On lower-mid-price machines you can edit single designs (re-size, rotate, flip), and produce text, directly on the machine. Mid-price machines have simple options for combining designs, including placing text without a separate hooping.

If your machine does not have these features, or for more control over design changes (and a bigger screen to see what you’re doing !), you need a computer and special software. No need to start with full-scope embroidery software. Most modern software is modular, so you can start simple and add more tools if you find you want them.

Several embroidery machine companies have their own software for Windows, though it isn’t essential to use it for their machines. Bernina Toolbox and Premier+2 from Pfaff/Viking run on both Windows and Mac.

‘Machine Independent’ software works with most embroidery formats.
Several companies offer embroidery software for Windows, a well-known one is Embird.
Embrilliance runs on both Windows and Mac.

Stitch Buddy is an app for iOS. You need to export your changed design to a computer for transferring it to your machine. I haven’t used Stitch Buddy and don’t know what there is for other tablets and phones.

Ultimately you may want to do your own digitising – make your own designs without starting from someone else’s. Either using auto-digitising software (give the software an image and it produces the embroidery instructions), or digitising from scratch (with more control over the details). Some of the advanced software also produces 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.

You can do all these stitching techniques on a basic machine. For even a 4×4 hoop, there’s a huge wealth of beautiful / cute / jokey / heart-warming / goth / sports and other embroidery designs. You name it, someone loves it enough to make embroidery designs. Enjoy !

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