Start using an embroidery machine – moving on from the basics

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

There are also thousands of designs on the internet, so knowing how to access them is a good idea. Notes on that in this post.

Once you know how to sew ready-made designs, that can lead to a lifetime of happy stitching.
Or there two very different and not at all essential ways to expand your embroidery skills :
– embroider a wider range of techniques on a wider range of fabrics – more on that in this post,
– alter designs or make your own – more on that in a separate post.

In this post I’m not going to give details about how to do things, just mention some of the many things you could try.

Internet designs

When you feel confident using built-in designs, move on to using 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
Husqvarna/Pfaff/Viking : 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, and where the download goes to on your computer – usually the same as for any other download.

Then how to transfer the design from computer to embroidery machine. See your machine manual as different machines use different methods:
– direct by usb cable from computer to machine.
– from computer to usb stick, which can then be put in the machine,
– wifi direct to machine, currently only on some expensive machines,
– (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 !

The next two sections are about expanding your skills, so you can embroider on more fabrics, and use more techniques.
All these can be done on a basic machine with a 4×4 hoop.
See the following section for some sources of tutorials.

Beyond broadcloth – more fabrics

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

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

More embroidery techniques

Learn more types of embroidery. Some embroidery techniques need special elements in the design. Some need special tools and supplies, or more personal attention during the stitch out.

Such as appliqué – adding fabric shapes. Three main methods (not inter-changeable, different steps needed in the design for each method):
– ‘trim in place’,
– ‘pre-cut’ (you may be able to use a cutting machine, some designs include cutting file formats for pre-cut fabric),
– ‘raw edge’.
Or make free-standing lace (using water-soluble stabiliser).
And use special threads such as metallic (with a special needle).
Also ‘bobbin work’ – use thick thread in the bobbin (and a special bobbin case) – and the back of the embroidery becomes the front.

There are in-the-hoop techniques for making zipped bags, stuffed toys, patchwork quilt blocks without having to do any steps on a conventional sewing machine.
Using your embroidery machine to quilt using pre-set designs is another option.
(Use a size 90 needle to stitch through many layers of fabric.)
Several methods for all of these too.

Here’s a post from Embroidery Online with images of different techniques.

What would you like to be able to do ? all these techniques, or just a few ? perhaps you already know enough to make what you enjoy 😀

If you like to use the internet for guidance

Many sources to learn from, whether you prefer written instructions or video.

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 recent DVDs. Register with them for many free pdf and video tutorials.

Tutorials for some more unusual techniques at Urban Threads.

There are many youtube videos on embroidery machines and techniques. They vary greatly 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.)

There are also formal on-line video classes, not free but they do include designs. From several sources, such as :
Craftsy
Martha Pullen
Sewing Mastery/Heirloom Creations (class on the Anita Goodesign fundamentals sampler)

If you find yourself wanting to change a design or make your own designs, there’s a final post in this group on tools for doing that.

But there’s no need to change designs if you don’t want to. There’s a huge wealth of ready-made beautiful / cute / jokey / heart-warming / goth / sports and other embroidery designs for every technique and hoop size. You name it, someone loves it enough to make embroidery designs. There are infinite opportunities for creativity using existing designs.

Enjoy !

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Other posts in this group on using an embroidery machine :
Choosing an embroidery machine
Starter basics
Altering designs yourself

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Rouleaux for fabric button loops

Two good photo tutorials from Tilly and the Buttons.

Using a bodkin or loop turner to turn

The key tips :
– Cut the strip on the bias, whatever the pattern instructions say. If that would waste a lot of fabric, cut 2 shorter strips.
– Cut the strip a couple of inches longer than needed, as the ends are likely to be a mess.
– Cut the end at an angle, so the first section being pulled through is narrow.
– Trim the seam allowances narrower than the loop. This is a technique I have great difficulty with, and that is the only thing that works for me. If this technique comes easily to you, leave the wide seam allowances (or just trim one side), as they give the loops more substance and wear resistance.

Using threads to turn narrow loops
Alternatives – use a thick thread such as crochet thread or perle embroidery thread.

Hand sewn buttonhole

A buttonhole needs to stand up to wear.

Buttonhole stitch is tougher than blanket stitch, and tailor’s buttonhole stitch is tougher yet.
Here’s how to sew these stitches.

Here are buttonhole sewing instructions from the days before zigzag sewing machines were available, from a school book called Clothing and Health.

Every schoolgirl had to learn this. Much practice needed to get the stitching regular and even !

Here’s a modern tutorial for hand made buttonholes in a tailored jacket.

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