Friday, February 24, 2012

Crafty Gear 411: Learning to Machine Embroider

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Machine embroidery is a real perk of home sewing.  Being able to do your own personalizing, monogramming and stitched designs really adds a special touch to things you make or add extra style to store-bought stuff.  It's also a lot cheaper than paying to have it done.  It's actually the reason I chose my first sewing machine, a Brother SE-270D, nearly 4 years ago (I've got a full "meet the machine" here).  I'm just a bit embarrassed that it's taken me almost that long to get going on embroidering!


Truth be told, I was a bit afraid to get started & kept putting it off. Getting some of the new Pellon embroidery stabilizer finally gave me the kick in the pants I needed to give it a go and I discovered how much fun it is to do.

There are some fancy, pricey embroidery machines out there that can do just about any design and size imaginable.  Which is nice if you've got a big budget.  My sewing/embroidery machine combo was really reasonable in price at just a couple hundred dollars.   It came with a load of programmed designs (even licensed Disney ones) and has a card slot to be able to download more (which more than meets most people's needs and means).

After 4 yrs of serious daily sewing use that machine finally died, but I immediately bought the Brother SE 400 model to replace it, which is even better (it has the ability to download embroidery files as well as use cards).

Now, I'm going to share what I've learned so machine embroidery isn't so scary for anyone else wanting to give it a try.

Ready?  Let's embroider!!

The first step to successful embroidery is setting up the fabric.  The stabilizer always needs to be larger than design being embroidered.   If using something like a fusible or stick-on variety it can be adhered in place on the wrong side of the fabric.  For non-adhering stabilizer, cut a piece larger than the hoop so the hoop will hold it in place:


The fabric is placed over the stabilizer and hoop bottom and the top of the hoop pressed in place on top.   Then the hoops are tightened together so the fabric taut like a drum (pulling the fabric at the edges to remove any ripples):


Then the hoop is locked into place on the machine.  Next the design is selected.  My machine has a digital screen where it's easy to choose the font, lettercase, size and letters:


I threaded my machine with embroidery thread and hit start.  After about 6 stitches it's time to pause the machine to clip the thread tail (so it doesn't get tangled in the design):


The machine does it's thing for all the letters:


And when done the thread is cut and then the threads connecting the letters are cut off too.  Using variegated or ombre thread is a way to add a colorful look without any extra work.  My kids were thrilled to see their names sewn into their stuff:









Doing more complex, multi-colored designs is just as easy.  The machine will tell you which part of the design to load first (I wasn't using lime green thread, but knew from the image which leaves would be done first and used my own color choice accordingly):


Follow the same steps as for the letters to get the design going.


When the machine stops, cut the thread, load the next thread color and repeat the starting steps.  Do the same for each color change until done:



Then clip any of the connecting threads that are not part of the design: 


Gently tear away the stabilizer on the back if it's a removable variety. There are also some water soluble ones or leave-ins (great for baby & kid's wear for a soft underside).  You can choose which ones to use based on preference and fabric type.  


And a beautiful, made-by-you custom embroidery is done! 

  
I'm really excited to be able to add some pretty & fun designs to clothes for the kids, on cloth diapers, when I make bags for me and for personalizing gifts now that I finally figured out machine embroidery.


Sharing this with my FAVE LINK PARTIES too so click HERE to check them out!

27 comments:

  1. EarbudsAtDangerousLevelsFebruary 24, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    So does that tearaway stuff just rip right out or do you need to use some precise, careful ripping? Looks pretty neat. Could really make some funny comments embroidered on someone's shirt that doesn't know what's about to happen.

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  2. Very neat! I've always loved the look of embroidery, but never have tried it. Thanks for sharing these tips!

    ~Angela

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  3. I embroidery by hand and love doing it. I'm not sure I'd be able to master the machine, but, with the right tools, I guess anything's possible.

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  4. Oh how beautiful! I love it! I sooo wish I had an embroider!! I have had my Singer since I turned 18 (10 years ago) and I only know how to do the very basic stuff...I would love to take a sewing class or sit down with someone who really knows how to use my machine to help teach me!!
    gatheredinthekitchen.com

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    Replies
    1. I started with a one-time basic sewing class at Joann's and then just kept practicing on my own. I only started sewing 3 yrs ago and have come a long way, so don't be afraid to give it a go!

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  5. Gorgeous! Headed over to enter your giveaway! Thanks for linking up to Manic Monday!
    Melissa

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  6. One day I'm going to get myself a machine that does embroidery! Till then I'll just have to admire yours and others beautiful work....


    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a fabulous week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success
    http://www.jembellish.blogspot.com/

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  7. I just found your site and this post and I have to laugh. I got my Brother 900d sewing and embroidery machine 2 years ago & it took me almost a year to start using the embroidery side. I have since made a number of projects & am currently on a 30+ bag project with a team name & each student's name. Where have you found the Pellon Fuse N Tear or Stick N Tear? I've been using the Solvy brand but they are expensive & I missed when JoAnn's clearanced them recently. I was trying to use a non fusible tear away but it's not working well with the flannel fabric I'm using.

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    Replies
    1. It's funny how machine embroidery seems to scary, but once you get started it's so easy & fun! Pellon has just released these products in package form that are now available at Joanns and soon other sewing stores. They are in blue boxes. And you can get them at a great price!

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    2. Thank you for the quick response, I'll have to make another trip to JoAnn's tomorrow, darn it anyways. :)

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  8. wow.. Love the tutorial and the tree is so cute..
    Thanks for linking up at friday fun party
    Love
    Hani
    http://craftionary.net

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  9. wow you did a great job!!

    Thanks for sharing on Serenity Saturday

    Natasha xxx

    www.serenityyou.blogspot.com

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  10. Thanks for linking up to my party! I wanted to let you know I picked your link to feature this week! See my post and grab my feature button here http://toastiestudio.blogspot.com/2012/03/made-monday-9-picks.html

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  11. I purchased an embroidery sewing machine about a month ago to be able to offer embroidery on my hair bows and dresses to my customers; I have an online hairbow business. Well, I have been too afraid/intimidated to use it. Thanks for the motivation. I think I'll give it a go today.

    www.facebook.com/uniquebowtiquecustomaccessories

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    Replies
    1. I'm so glad this helps - it took me a while too, but it was well worth it. I'll be embroidering some towels as a present this week and reminding myself how much I've made in the year since I finally gave it a go. Have fun!

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  12. I just got my first machine, a Brother LB6800, and I'm nervous about embroidering. I bought it to make feltie hairclips. I've had it for about a month and I played around with it and put my name on a piece of felt. You make it sound really easy....I think tonight'a the night....lol. Thanks so much for the tips.

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    Replies
    1. Definitely give it a try Jen. It's a lot easier to get started than it seems - don't be like me and wait years to muster up the courage!

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  13. Forty years ago at the age of 12 I learned to sew. Five years ago took a class at a local shop that specializes in heirloom sewing. As a newbie (one week to be exact. I bought my machine from Amazon) I am learning to sew machine embroidery and have a question that I hope someone can answer. When sewing an heirloom pattern or from a standard pattern (Simplicity, etc.) that will include machine embroidery when do I embroider the pattern on the garment? Before or after the garment is completed? I have not been able to find a web site to help with this question. I am hoping the class I have enrolled in at Jo Ann Fabrics will be able to help with questions like this but since we are to bring a sweat shirt I'm not sure what to expect. Thank you in advance for any help that can be given.

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    1. This is a bit tricky to answer - it can depend on the item and how easy it is to hoop and your hoop size. The model we both have has a smaller hoop than full-on, just-embroidery machines. Personally, if I'm making something from scratch that will have embroidery, I like to do the embroidery before it's completed. For example when I did this project:http://www.sewcando.com/2012/04/bunnykins-dress-big-brother-easter-wear.html I did the embroidery on the front panel of the pinafore before I sewed the lining in. It was easier to work with on the machine and to center & the back stitching was all hidden inside for a nicer finish. Sometimes, as with embroidering on finished shirts, you don't really have a choice, but I'd say the rule of thumb would be to ask yourself "How big a pain in the neck would it be to try to hoop the item if it was finished?" If it's too big/small/fiddly to easily hoop completed, or you want the back to be nice and finished instead of exposed, go with embroidering before assembly. Hope this helps Laura!

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    2. So glad to have come across this post, and your reply! I too am like Laura: I learned how to sew from my mother and took my first sewing class at the age of 12 (46 years ago!). My sweet husband purchased me a Viking Rose with embroidery kit in 1997--I took one class and used my machine only one time after that! (A shame and a disgrace, I know) BUT, it has survived all of our military moves, and now I have the desire and time to pull it out and use it. It is a GREAT machine! I recently purchased the Husqvarna 4D Professional Embroidery software and the Amazing Little Box to bring it into the 21st century--so now I am hoping to get going on it and be creative! We have a move coming up shortly (yes, another one--I am so used to those and so ready to be done!), which means a new house to sew things for and to decorate, along with a beautiful teenager who needs things, and then our adorable grandbaby (can you believe our son is also military, and our sweet DIL is a new nurse! They are the proud parents of our first grandchild), and of course family, friends and church projects that I can sew and embroider for at will. Anyway, I know I've gone on too long, but I am so excited to be in this circle of seamstresses and artists again and I look forward to being part of a creative future! Thank you Cheryl for such a wonderful place to get smarter and have fun!

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    3. Glad to have you joining in and hope you'll share how your new machine works for you. It's never to late to get back into it! I'm ashamed to admit I still haven't used the serger I asked my husband to buy 4 years ago, but this year I plan to get it going and do more embroidery too. I hope you'll follow me here so we can keep up with one another's experiences:)

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  14. P.S. The machine I bought is the Brother SE 400.

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  15. I've read your tip adding more ideas for my site. thank you for sharing. your tip is easy to understand. Can you help me put out your ideas in my site? http://www.embroiderymachinecenter.com/how-use-embroidery-machine-for-beginners/

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    Replies
    1. I'm not really sure what you're asking for - I do not allow my content to be copied onto other sites.

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  16. Thank you for your post!

    I am completely new to embroidering. Does an adhesive spray need to be used with the tear away stabilizer? Is there a particular brand of thread you prefer? And is there a way to do 3 letter monograms with the Brother SE400 machine? I'm mostly looking to do names and monograms. I did not know if it was necessary for me to purchase an expensive software just for these things.

    Thank you :)

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    1. No you don't need to use adhesive spray. I sometimes pin mine to the fabric (well out of the way of the design) if I want to use a piece smaller than the hoop. I prefer Sulky embroidery thread to the others I've tried - just be sure whatever brand, that you use embroidery thread not all purpose thread. the SE400 does come with several lettering fonts and some fancy single letter designs, so those will work for most monogramming. This machine also allows you to download single design files from online embroidery design sites using your computer, so you can find additional things inexpensively too.

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