Sunday, December 27, 2015

How to Use Your New Embroidery Machine with Software (A Tutorial for My Aunt Joan)

During Christmas, I met up with my Aunt Joan at the mall, and later, on Christmas Day at my house, where the subject of embroidery came up.  She found an awesome deal on an embroidery machine at a yard sale (everyone should be so lucky!!) but she put it away because she couldn't figure out how to use it.  My take on this:  it is not an awesome deal if you don't use it!  So, for her (and anyone else that finds this helpful especially those who got an embroidery machine for Christmas), I have created this tutorial. From here on out, I will be talking to Joan (and you) directly!

There are two keys to going from having a "never-used" machine to having a stitching addiction:

  1. Know your machine.  Do that by reading the manual so that you can thread your machine, thread your bobbin (even if you will be using pre-wound bobbins, which I highly recommend), get files from your computer to your machine, skip color steps in a design, and go back a few stitches (one stitch at a time).  You need to be able to use the built in letters on your machine so that you can test-stitch when something goes wrong with your machine.  Learning to fix stuff (like thread that shreds) means that you will want to test to be sure you "got it" before you put in your real project on the hoop.  I only use my built in machine designs for testing.  
  2. Get software and learn to use it!  It should be the last sentence at the end of the machine manual!  I got my software just after I finished going through and trying everything in my manual.  It was three days after I got my machine so it is never too early to get software!
I use Embrilliance and I started with Essentials.  That is what I suggest to EVERYONE.  It is the only embroidery software I have ever used (so I cannot compare it to others) but it was so easy to learn Essentials and it has everything you need to really get going with this. You can find it at

Essentials will allow you to merge files, add text by simply typing, alter the size (with stitch recalculation) and placement of files, add color stops, change colors, see a virtual stitch out of the project, and make a real-size paper printout of the design with a list of steps by color.  You can place a design in the center of your frame with one button click as well and size your design to the maximum hoop size with a second click. You can import any embroidery file format and save in your machine's format!  You can save machine applique pieces as SVGs so that you can cut them in your die cutter.  (I use my Silhouette to cut the fabric for my appliques.)  You can split designs for multi-position hoops.  (That is how I embroider my pillowcases).  You can convert thread brands if you like to show on the screen the colors that your brands will stitch out.  If you merge different files together and make them overlap, the program will automatically remove under-stitching for you!  You can group and ungroup objects. The program gives you stitch counts on your project and allows you to select elements to see the size they will stitch out.  It will tell you if your file is too big for your hoop.   

Two GIANT benefits of getting Embrilliance over every other option:  keyboard text (using bx fonts to type in fonts instead of importing one letter at a time and manually placing them) and being able to add more features to the program by buying more modules later.  I have been reading that some stitchers use the free Embrilliance Express to get keyboard fonts but then use programs like Sew What Pro for their basic program in order to save a few bucks.  Aside from that being a bit of a pain to do (creating text then opening a second program and importing Embrillance text), what if you want more special features?  Like knockdown stitching?  Like stitch editing?  Like 4x mirroring?  Like digitizing?  Like density repair?  Those other modules with these features fit seamlessly with Essentials but not at all with other programmers' software!  And the most expensive way to buy Embrilliance is to buy the wrong thing first and then buy it later once you realize that you need it and like it better!  

Important:  Embrilliance is sold in modules or nuggets of features.  Essentials will have everything you need to get started but there are lots of things to add when and if you are ever ready.  I have them all but I have really awesome and talented friends who have everything they need with just Essentials.  It is about options and not being forced to pay for things you might not need!  

So this is a photo tutorial of how I go from a file I just bought online to a finished item, ready to gift!

I open my Embrilliance.  Every file, no matter if I will be changing anything or not, starts with Embrilliance.  

I have all the modules so there are more buttons here than your Express or Essentials will have.  I tell you that to keep you from being annoyed if you refer back to this once you have the software AND to emphasize that that modules all plug into the same software.  They fit together seamlessly; adding modules means simply adding features and each modules does something different.  

Then I click on the Merge Stitch File button.

This is how I bring a digitized file to my virtual hoop on my screen.

I have organized my files by vendor on my computer (and I have all my files on Pinterest by vendor, type, and theme. For info on how I did that, you can check out this page on my blog:  Organize With Pinterest.)  I find my file and click import.  (You can see that these are all zipped files and it allows me to import them without unzipping!)

It pops up on my screen.  (This file is from Boutique Fonts.  I just took advantage of a deal where the entire site of 870 files is $50, but you can also buy it as an individual file.).  

Since "Mom's BAKERY" is all one color, I could delete just that color step (by selecting it on the objects pane and clicking the delete button on my keyboard.  I could replace it with "Joan's Kitchen" or even "Joan's Bakery" if I wanted to change the font.  But for purposes of showing what else you can do, I want to change my design to remove "Mom's" and add "Joan's".  There are quicker ways in an editing module from Embrilliance, but even in Essentials, I can do this.  Since all the lettering is the same color, I can't just remove a color step, so I use the Stitch Simulator to create a color stop!

I play the simulator, and as soon as the stitching is finished for the "s" in Mom's and moves down for the "B" in Bakery, I click the little stop sign....

A window pops up to allow me to change the color of the word "Bakery" and then I can delete the word "Mom's" since now the two words are two different objects!  

I do that by selecting the object I no longer want and hit the delete key on my keyboard.

With the word "Mom's" gone, the artwork on my screen now looks like this.

So now, for fun, I am going to put in the text "Joan's" using a BX font.  (This one is Davidson from Applique Corner).  I simply click the Create Letters button...

I type in the lettering I want to add using my keyboard and pick the font I want to use.

I can resize the lettering I added to fit perfectly by holding the shift key and moving a corner handlebar toward the center.  I can also change the color back on the word "Bakery" so that it is colored like the original file.  I can change the colors of any objects I want to here or just make changes when I select my actual threads to stitch out.  (I usually don't change the colors in the file unless the digitizer has used something crazy that is too distracting, but if it is simple like this, I just decide my colors at the machine.  The reason I changed the "Bakery" to match the "Joan's" is so that it would be one color step, but sometimes keeping them different even if you are going to stitch the same color makes sense because it eliminates a jump stitch.)

I can also now rotate the design so that it stays that size AND still fits in my hoop by selecting all objects (control and A at the same time) and clicking the rotate buttons....

Or I can resize the design to keep the orientation but fit the hoop by clicking the Fit To Hoop button.

Since this will be on a kitchen towel, I know I will be adding a topping so that the stitches won't sink in.  I add a basting box that will be the first step of my embroidery.  It is temporary and I often use them whether I will use a topping or not because I always "float" my embroidered blanks instead of hooping them.  To add a basting box, go to Utility and add Baste Hoop or Baste Design.  This temporary stitch is very long and easy to remove once the stitching is done and you take the project off the hoop.  

Then, I like to save my design.  (File, then Save As.)  I save all my embroidery files, even ones like these that I have put in Embrilliance and altered, on my external hard drive.  

And then I print it.  (On the upper toolbar, just like for Windows applications, select File, then Print). Printing gives me a full size mock up of the design and a list of color steps!

OK, before I go any further, I want you to see the Stitch Simulator (since that really will show you so much about your file and it is what I used to do that color stop earlier).  I run this whenever I have a question about a file and sometimes just so that I won't be surprised about what order things are stitching in or if I am not sure what step number is actually stitching.  It is really helpful when I merge lots of things together or add text to things like in-the-hoop 3D items.  It allows me to make sure that my additions are in the right order.  So this is the Stitch Simulator of the final file...(please excuse my very amateurish efforts on video!) 

Next, I move a copy of the file I have just made to my thumb drive because that is how I transfer files to my embroidery machine.  You will need to read your manual to see how your machine needs files transferred.  I always keep the original file (before my changes), as well as my altered file, on my external hard drive.  I TEMPORARILY put a COPY of the file I want to embroider on my thumb drive.  I find that it is easiest for both me and the machine if I only have one file on my thumb drive at a time!  (The external hard drive is the house where my files live; the thumb drive (also called a flash drive/usb drive) is the car that takes my files to the machine where they work!)  Your machine may use a cord to connect it to your computer instead.

Then I open the file on my embroidery machine. (Read your manual to see how to do that for your specific machine!)  

I prep my hoop.  I am stitching on a dish towel for this project.  I prewash my dish towels since I am one to abuse and misuse my towels and then toss them in a rough wash and a hot dryer.  I expect you do the same, but I do have friends who do not pre-wash and who do hang their embroidered dish towels to dry.  So you have options.  

I hoop tear away and use the insert to mark the vertical and horizontal lines of the cross-hatch. 

I iron my dish towel in half, right sides together to make a center crease.  

I use my paper print out of my embroidery to decide where I want it placed.  (I have placement charts on my embroidery page on this blog if you would feel better with a guideline.  You can find them here.  Scroll down on the page to the section called "Embroidery and Monogram Placement Guides."  I usually "eyeball" it.   

I lightly spray Mettler WebBond on my hooped stabilizer. I do it all  the way at the end of the room, away from my machine.  A little goes a long way and you only need it to hold a short time until the basting box sews.

I lay the fold of my towel on the vertical axis.  I match the horizontal axis of my paper pattern to the horizontal axis of my hooped stabilizer, shifting the towel up or down as needed to get the paper mockup in the correct place.  My design will stitch in the center so I make sure my design cross-hatch marks are placed to match the stabilizer's cross-hatch marks.  

I move the paper pattern away and open up my towel. The wrong side of my towel is now smoothed against the hooped stabilizer.  The right side of my towel is facing up and ready to be embroidered.  I do tend to roll up and pin the sides of my towel to be sure they don't accidentally get under my hoop!  

I use my print out with color steps to pick my thread colors. 

I start by placing a topping of water soluble stabilizer (WSS) and allow the machine to stitch the basting box.  

Then I stitch my design.  When it is done, I remove the hoop, cut my jump threads, remove the basting box and WSS.  

I find that I can use the rubber end of my seam ripper to help with removing WSS.  

Any WSS that will not come off, can be removed by placing a damp wash cloth over the design and going over it with a steam iron.  

I try to avoid this so that I don't have to wait for my towel to dry.  I remove all the tear away from the back of the towel.  Any that you miss will eventually get washed out but it is best to remove it before it goes into the wash.

Start out for FREE:  
And if you read all of that and honed in on FREE EMBRILLIANCE EXPRESS, then yes, there is a completely FREE version of Embrilliance that will only allow you to use the bx fonts.  I did start by doing the free software.  I found it frustrating because I wanted to do so much more, but if you are unsure, then guess what?  There is an awesome tutorial that shows you a link to get the software, a how-to for downloading the program, a how-to for using the program, and they give you a FREE bx font for lettering so you can play with it.  IT WILL ONLY ALLOW YOU TO WORK WITH BX FONTS!!  I emphasize that so that you don't go a-tryin' to add files and stuff like that.  It only does one job!  OK, so if that sounds like a better starting place for you, then check this out from digitizer, Itch2Stitch:  

By going on and downloading the free version, you will have Embrilliance on your computer.  Once you are ready to "go for it" and add Essentials, all you will have to do is to add the product number you get emailed to you once you pay, close the program on your computer, then open it back up and VOILA!  New Essentials features will be there for you!  That is how it works to add any modules to the program.

OK, so there you have it.  If/when you are ready to get it, go to the store on the website.  If you buy it there, you get the advantage of any sales going on and get a 90 day money back guarantee if you really don't like it.  And you will want to join the Embrilliance page on Facebook so that you know when they offer coupon codes for an extra 10% off.  It is typically around holidays.  

Links mentioned on this post (none of these are affiliate links; they are all direct links):
  • Embrilliance Essentials info:  click here.
  • Embrilliance Essentials in the store to buy:  click here.
  • Free Embrilliance Express tutorial and free BX font from Itch2Stitch:  click here.
  • Organize with Pinterest page on this blog:  click here.
  • Boutique Fonts' file -- Mom's Bakery:  click here.
  • Boutique Fonts' Entire Site Buy Out (fundraiser):  click here.  EDITED DEC 30:  her buy-all sale is over at this time.
  • Davidson Font (Applique Corner):  click here.
  • Also, I have all of my notes on my blog's Embroidery page with resources, sources for where I buy my supplies, lots of tutorials from other sites, general info about Embrilliance and embroidery in general.  There's even a link to a tutorial on how to download files you buy if that is eluding you.  
  • Be sure to join the Brilliance Embrilliance group on Facebook for news and support as well:  click here.  
Lastly, be sure to follow some of the Facebook pages of some of your favorite digitizers.  That is where you will find out about sales. Many also have customer/fan pages where they give away free files but some of them are secret groups and you must request to be a member. There are also a number of Facebook pages for people who do embroidery.  Those are great places to look for help or ideas.

Be looking for the towel I made, Joan.  I am sending it to you via mail.  :)  Happy stitching, everyone, and thank you for checking out my blog today!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hooded Towel to Make a Gift Set!

This is the first Christmas gift-making season that I have my embroidery machine in my crafty arsenal!  Like many people I know, everything we see in stores becomes a potential for customizing, monogramming, or embroidering in some way.

Thinking of the kids on my list this year has had me thinking of what I can embroider for them.  No matter what, I do still remember being a kid at Christmas, though, and no way am I just giving a garment for Christmas.  (Opening clothing was the worst when I was a kid!)

So my solution is to combine embroidered items with toys to make fun gift sets.  My first set is for my little niece.  I was told that Ariel, who she calls "Mermaid," is one of her favorite characters.   I picked up an Ariel bathtub doll and paired it with the hooded towel I appliqued, personalized and sewed for her to make this gift set!

I found the embroidery file for this character on the French Frills website. The coolest thing about this company is the awesome little private customer Facebook group they have where they have tons of files with instructions for all kinds of things from the classic hooded towels that is the hallmark of their site to hats to stockings to hooded blankets.  You can go to their business Facebook page and message them to be added to their secret group.

I found a great video that showed me how to self-line the hood so that the backside of the embroidery is hidden and it is absorbent and comfy for kids.

French Frills has their own YouTube channel for how-tos as well for learning how to attach the hood to a towel (although it is basically matching the center of the hood to the center of the towel and sewing in place).

What makes all of this more fun in my opinion is that you can personalize it for the specific child it is going to.  I simply added my niece's name, but there are all kinds of add-ons available, especially if you are open to using files from other digitizers as well.

The font I used is Ballerina from Itch2Stitch.  It has become one of my favorite fonts!

Then I just folded the towel up in thirds and then rolled each side toward the middle and secured with ribbon.

The most fun to me is the presentation.  Several French Frills' customers have posted using cake boxes to package their hooded towels.

I found this box at Walmart sold as a pack of two in the cake decorating department.  This is a window cupcake box (without the insert).  This one is 13.25" x 10.25" x 4".  Many are buying them in bulk at Amazon or BRP Box Shop.

This is the label for the boxes I purchased at Walmart.
I will be wrapping the boxed towel and the doll together and voila!  One gift is done!  Only eleventy-billion to go!

Links Shared in this Post:

In the event that you are wondering....This project was done using a Brother PE770 embroidery machine, Embrilliance Essentials, a bx embroidery font file, Heat N Bond Light to fuse the applique fabrics to the towel, Metro embroidery thread, tear-away stabilizer, water soluble stabilizer for topping, sharp Titanium needle with embroidery eye, and a pre-wound white bobbin. The appliqued face fabric is crepe; the hair fabric is flannel.  For links to where I buy all my supplies as well as general embroidery info, check my machine embroidery page on this blog, or click here.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

ITH Hand Sanitizer Case for PocketBacs

It's that time of year when we have to come up with lots of inexpensive gifts for gift exchanges.  We usually try to find our best deals on Black Friday but, this time, all the stores are doing early sales. For a ballet class gift to exchange that my daughter needed, we found a clearance dance bag at Claire's.  We needed to add something to it to make it a $10 gift so we picked up a sale PocketBac hand sanitizer at Bath & Body Works and I made a case with my embroidery machine, a simple Brother PE770.  

The case itself is a file from Bows and Clothes.  Using Embrilliance software, I added a file from Embroidery Boutique for the mini ballet shoes. I added it after the first step in the hoop.  

I had vinyl that looked like sequins in my stash.  The file required that the fabric used be something that does not fray so vinyl is perfect.  A PDF with directions is included in the embroidery file.  Once all the stitching is done, you have to cut the tear-away along the stitching so that the case opens!  I will admit that that part threw me for a second! I was very glad I had used black tearaway and black bobbin thread.  All the tearaway must be removed from all the stitching, but it is surprisingly fast and easy to do!

I used a Kam snap to complete the case.  This is a project where having a hand-held snap-setter is required.  The space is too tight for a snap press to work.  I used hardware from Mikri to allow it to be attached to the dance bag.

Links shared in this post:

  • Case for Bath & Body Works hand santizer.  This is made entirely in the hoop on an embroidery machine:  click here.
  • Bath & Body Works PocketBac hand sanitizer:  click here.  
  • Mini ballet shoe filled design: click here.
  • Swivel lobster clasp:  click here.
  • Embrilliance software:  click here.
Thank you for checking my post today.  For a gallery of my embroidery projects, links to my supplies, and videos I used to learn to do machine embroidery, check out my Machine Embroidery page on this blog, or click here.  A gallery of my paper projects can be found in the Paper Project Gallery page, or click here

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

October Stitching!

This busy summer meant that I didn't have much time for crafting so I am so excited for October and a little more time that can be spent in the craft studio!  I got back into the zone a couple of weeks ago with a class with Reen Wilcoxson, owner and designer for Embroidery Garden.  Embroidery Garden is a company that specializes in in-the-hoop embroidery projects, including fully lined and zippered bags and 3D stuffed animals.  It gave me an opportunity to just make something (which is so freeing) and it reminded me how much fun this is!  

I made this simple bag in class.

This is available to purchase on her website:  click here.  It is super easy to match stripes because of the way it is cut at the very beginning!

Last weekend, I shifted into high gear and decided to get my daughter ready for Halloween.  She typically has one costume for trick-or-treating and a second costume for ballet class.  The trick-or-treating costume has to be warm; the ballet costume has to be one she can dance in.  Once we were able to use the same costume for both, but usually it just doesn't work that way.  Since my kiddo loves dressing up, Halloween, and putting together characters, she has fun with this and prefers two different ones.  This year, her ballet Halloween costume is Minnie Mouse.  

Because all the photos of Minnie showed the edge of her bloomers...

...I thought making a crinoline would duplicate the look but be easier (and more fun!) for dancing.  It has been many, many years since I made a crinoline, but I remembered that the key to make this easier was to stitch the ruffle placement lines onto the slip first.  This means that no thread tacks or marking is needed!  I also zig zag onto a cord (I use perle cotton thread) to make gathering a cinch!  Cutting the netting was super easy by folding it into fourths and using my rotary cutter to lop off each section.  Instead of grosgrain, I find that fold over elastic is more comfortable to wear.  I used my nifty Kam snaps as a closure for the crinoline.  

The skirt and crinoline were cut from Simplicity 3836.  The skirt is a short, circular skirt with a waistband and zipper.  It only has to fit at the waist so this was really fast and easy to make.

She is wearing her required leotard, tights, and shoes.  The headband is one we bought at Disney World.  The gloves belonged to my grandmother that I had in my stash of stuff.

I gave myself the day to do the costume, but it really only took a couple of hours so I spent the rest of the day making up projects my daughter had requested when I was busier during the summer.  She uses her iPad to look at my embroidery files online that I have pinned to Pinterest.  (For info on how I have created an online "catalog" of my embroidery files and have organized them by type, theme, and vendor, check out my Organize With Pinterest page, or click here.)

Info about these designs:

Next, I made a toddler top for my little niece.  Her mommy is expecting a new baby next month so I barely got this done in time!!  

I am not gonna lie: this project put me through changes!  I got the opportunity to deal with bird nesting.  I got the opportunity to struggle with metallic thread.  Then, as if that wasn't enough, I somehow bumped my machine and the final step, stars, stitched in the wrong places, including on top of some of the text.  I figured no one would know so I tell on myself just in case you buy this file and wonder why mine looks different!  The file is from A Stitch On Time.  The thing to know about this company is that some files are instant download, some are emailed to the customer, and some require info because they are customized.  I *think* this one was an instant download.  

The headband was purchased with the satin covering.  I added the bow and spikes I made.  The ribbon used is 1-1/2" wide.

Next, I found an inexpensive fleece baby jacket and added a Halloween image to it for my little nephew who just graduated to the 3-6 months size!  This is a Garanimals brand jacket.

The little vampire is from Embroidery Library. continue telling on myself...I greatly reduced the size of this file because I had purchased it to fit my 5x7 hoop.  That works just great with Embrilliance, but I should have used the Density Repair Kit (which I also have in my Embrilliance suite) because this design was bullet-proof (as can be the case with Embroidery Library designs sometimes anyway)!  It was so dense, that it shredded and broke the thread when it tried to stitch the fangs!  

I don't exactly adore the way they chose to fill in the face color, but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the what they did the hands on this design!  And I love the hair.  

The text for the name is the block font that is built in on Embrilliance.  It's the one that comes up when you add text if you don't switch it to a different one!

I also embroidered a dress for his big sister, a second-grader. 

I didn't want it to be creepy.  I went with a fairy tale Halloween look, all the way to the monogram.  I was inspired by a photo in one of the embroidery Facebook pages, but I moved the carriage to the top and switched the name to a monogram.  That switch to a monogram was really for safety as most people where I live don't put kids' names on their clothing or backpacks so that strangers won't know kids' names.  (They also aren't into monograms much either so we will be trendsetters with this.  hahaha).  

I loved this font because it had a fairy tale look to me.  This is Carson from Itch2Stitch.  I also really loved the way it stitched out with the beautiful satin stitch.

The carriage is from Applique Corner and I just loved it.  I added another "C" from Carson on the applique in my software.

And back to Embroidery Garden, I made her Owl Stuftie for my daughter.  This was an easy, easy project.  The entire project is made on the hoop using the step-by-step directions that come in the file. 

Once all the sewing steps are complete, the excess fabric is trimmed off and the owl is turned, stuffed with polyfil, and the bottom opening is slip-stitched closed.  The finished owl has a pocket on the back that is perfect for placing a note or gift card.  When I took the class earlier in the month from Reen, she told us that she NOW likes to use poly mesh stabilizer instead of the tearaway that the pattern calls for.  As a person who has made several in-the-hoop stuffed toys, I can tell you that the poly mesh makes a HUGE difference.  So I am passing that tip to you too!  I also did not use the Heat N Bond Lite for the applique.  I always use it for garment appliques or for anything that will be laundered, but this project never will.  I didn't see a change in not using it on this owl.  

So that was the result of my binge sewing and all brought on by a simple and fun class!  I am looking forward to stitching for Christmas next!  And I have an upcoming paper crafting retreat so that might help me get my paper craft on again!

Links shared in this post:
All of my embroidery projects are done on my Brother PE770 and all designs are put into my Embrilliance software before taking to my machine to stitch out.  For info on where I get my stabilizers and other tools and supplies, check out my Machine Embroidery page, or click here.

Thank you for checking my post today!  

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