August 27, 2015

Machine Embroidery Tips

I belong to several machine embroidery forums and groups on the internet.  I oversee one such group for my own brand of machine.  Several times throughout the year, members often post questions about how to treat fabric, stabilizers, how to hoop fabrics and how to avoid some of the problems frequently associated with machine embroidery overall.

I hope the following information I have learned over the years interacting with other embroiderers will help.  I am by no means an expert, I'm always learning and open to new ideas, but this is the method I have used for a while successfully.

First is the treatment of the fabric you are going to embroidery. I can't overstate how important this first step can be for the successful outcome to your project.

Use quality fabrics if at all possible, and if the fabric can be pressed (off course you shouldn't press velvets, suedes, leathers, some knits or specialty fabrics)----but if you are working with cotton, cotton blends or rayons, most likely you can press them using the appropriate settings on your iron. 

Press out any wrinkles in the fabric first: Then spritz the fabric with starch (not Mary Ellen's Best Press which is a fabric "sizing", and not a starch.) Press.

 Press your fabric, and repeat the spray starch, press again, and spray starch and press one final time.  Three or more times should do it. You want to add "body" to the fabric. Starching helps. It literally makes the fabric behave like "stabilizer".

Pressing and starching

I primarily use Fusible Tear Away stabilizer. It's my favorite for stitching quilt blocks, on shirts, kitchen towels, table runners, etc.  This particular fusible tear away is a Baby Lock product.  Press it lightly to the back of your starched project fabric, and hoop. There is no need to heavily heat and press the stabilizer to your fabric, or it will be difficult to remove when your embroidery is finished.

 I'm using Moda white cotton for this tutorial.

Loosen the gripper on your hoop and press the top portion of the hoop onto the base hoop. Once it is seated in place, pull just slightly on the hooped fabric edges to create an even tight smooth surface.

Now, take your fingers and with slight pressure push down on the edges of the top hoop all the way around which slightly pushes the top hoop downward into the sides of the bottom hoop, and tighten the hoop grip with your fingers, and finally use a screw driver to further tighten the hoop grip. Don't exert too much pressure with the screw driver or you will strip the hoop gripper, but just to the point of resistance.

For this tutorial, I'm using a dense design that comes with my machines built in embroidery designs.

Change the needle in your machine for embroidery frequently. I change needles on average every 8 hours of embroidery.  I may stop and change needles even more frequently when doing dense embroideries.
Some embroiderers like the smaller size needles. Use what works for you. I prefer to use Superior 90/14 Topstitch Organ needles for almost all my embroidery projects.

I don't use pre wound bobbins. I prefer to use Bottom Line bobbin thread for embroidery unless I need to match the bobbin thread in the back of a project or if I  am doing free standing lace. Then I will wind a bobbin with the same thread as my top thread.

I use a 10 spool Martha Pullen/Hemmingworth thread stand with the embroidery machine. I've tried various thread stands over the years, and this is the best one I've found. It's easy to load. Just remove the top of thread stand and take it over to your thread stash, and load your thread colors. Place the thread tails through the small holes at the top, and place the thread tales in the spring holder which is on the top of the thread stand. (sorry it's not showing in these photos)

Place the top portion of the thread stand back on the base which is sitting under and at the back of the machine, remove the thread tail from the holding spring, take it over to the thread guide at the side of the stand and proceed to thread the machine. Love this thread stand! So easy to use and perfect top thread tension all the time.

Here is the design we will be stitching out. 5 x 7 inch hoop. I prefer to not use thread charts, but pick my own colors of thread. Often I refer to the onscreen design for cues, but if it says "blue", I like to pick the shade of blue from my thread stash.  That is why you only see colored spools on the screen. Not thread chart color numbers.

Here is the completed embroidery still in the hoop.

Here is the same completed embroidery with the stabilizer removed.  Once an embroidery is finished I like to remove as much of the stabilizer from the back of the design as possible. Clip any taunt bobbin threads that may pull on the embroidery between the design elements.  Then I place the completed embroidery face down on a piece of terry cloth and press the back of the design with a warm iron. This will flatten the fabric, but not the stitched embroidery design. 

I hope these tips will help you have some fun and success  with your embroidery machine and projects!

August 26, 2015

Bathroom Redo - Finished!

I wish my quilting projects went as well, or as fast as the bathroom redo.  It was finished in less than a week. Some of my quilts take months---even years to complete.  I guess when you are minus a bathroom, it's all matter of priority!

Here are the results. It all started with this shower curtain at Kohl's. A pretty cotton print. 

I matched the paint to the background color of the curtain. Benjamin Moore Select, "Coastal Cottage".
(You do wonder who comes up with these paint color names.) It's sort of a "Rosy Beige" (my name for the color.) 

New halogen light fixture is a bit bright and revealing! Like ----When did that wrinkle happen! New mirrored cabinet too.

Some newer bath rugs and decorative touches finished off the redo.

Vintage perfume bottle collection.

Now back to the Elephants!

August 13, 2015

Bathroom Redo

It's long overdue. We are getting ready to paint the hall bathroom. 
Pictures say it all!

I really loved this old vintage design wallpaper when I put it up years ago. Time for fresh paint. I have the color all picked out. More later----back to scraping off glue. I would rather be quilting!

August 10, 2015

What's on the Design Wall

 I'm really trying to work on my unfinished projects. This is one of them.  It is so old, and has been packed away in a container on the UFO shelf, I can't even remember when I started it. I was tempted to just give it away to our local craft recycle thrift shop, but I have so much time invested in the machine embroidery and 30's print fabrics, I reconsidered.

All the machine embroideries depict the months of the year, starting with January in the upper left corner, and ending with December in the lower right corner.

What it needs for a "finished UFO" is a border, and of course the final quilting and binding.  It's been on the design wall for weeks now. (not as long as it was stored away though!)--- I really need to be more motivated and get it done!

I'm sort of stuck with the mitered corner. I don't miter good at all! So, I'm avoiding it. The borders you see missing in the photo are finished, I just don't have them up on the design wall.

I have the idea here, now to execute it----sigh.

Here are some close ups of the embroidery….I would post a link to the designs, but I can't remember where they came from.  This will make a cute quilt for a little girl. There was probably a little girl in mind when I started this, who is now all grown up!

August 08, 2015


Sometimes you just need a nudge to get blogging again.  Mary over at "Making Scrap Quilts from Stash" just did that for me.   She posted about considering the purchase of a die cutting machine to make a quilt she had created a pattern for, and also other projects she could use it for. Mary does so many wonderful quilts, I'm sure she would make good use of one.  When I saw her   Elephant quilt,  I   mentioned I had a die cutting machine, but hadn't used it much, so I would love to cut out some elephants on it from her pattern.

 I had not touched my Brother Scan n' Cut 550 since my first project. So, this is my second inspiration to use the machine.  Here is my first. The Little Bird zippered bag. It's a freebie on the Brother Scan n' Cut website. I did it months ago, soon after I bought the machine.

The blue fabric for the bird is the die cut. The satin stitch around the bird and the embroideries were completed on the embroidery machine. This is a all done in the embroidery hoop at the machine, except for the fabric die cutting. Even the zipper is inserted in the hoop.

For the elephants I needed to learn to duplicate, and also reverse Mary's elephant drawing. Having not done this before, I was a bit hesitant. But, as you know,  and I've said here, if I buy something I really want to use it. Not just let it collect dust in the sewing room, or I need to sell it.  I have felt a bit neglectful of the Scan n' Cut machine and a bit guilty that I had bought it, but only used it once.  Mary's cute quilt really inspired me!

This morning bright and early with a firm resolve,  I decided that I would embrace the learning curve and  do or "die" (pun intended) and cut out the elephants for the quilt.  I say "learning curve" but, really if you watch all the dozens of You Tube tutorials for the Scan n' Cut, you can overcome some of the "curve" on your own.  And of course, as always, learning to use a new gadget, you have to use it. Not just once, but often to get the best of it.

I'm so pleased with the Scan n' Cut! Really, I surprised myself! Once I prepped all the fabrics and applied Heat n' Bond Lite to the fabrics, I was ready to roll!

Here are my Elephants! It took me about 30 minutes or less to cut them out with the Scan n' Cut!

I even learned how to reverse them right on the machine screen!

Baby steps, but I'm learning.  What fun!