Category Archives: machine embroidery techniques

Getting ready to appliqué with glow-in-the-dark thread. Hot tips!

A few weeks ago I bought some glow-in-the-dark embroidery thread.  And, while I have had lot of IDEAS about what I might do with it… (astrological symbol t-shirt), I have never actually used the glow-in-the-dark embroidery thread.  I have worked with – or at least tried to work with – metallic embroidery thread and found it to be a major pain in the ass.  So, I thought, before I get started – I would check in with the experts and see if I could get any pointers.  And I am so glad I did.

Here’s what my Facebook embroidery friends had to say:

“Treat it like normal thread.  But – don’t iron it! It melts with the heat of the iron!”

This is great to know – because since I was thinking of using the glow-in-the-dark thread on a Christmas gift – I might have ironed the t-shirt prior to wrapping to make it look a bit more presentable.

Another friend offered this suggestion.

“If there was a problem with [the thread] breaking try using a needle for metallics.”

Oh wait – there are special needles for sewing with metallic threads?  Again – good to know – maybe it would have worked a little bit better had I used the proper needle last time I tried to embroider with metallic thread!

My Facebook embroidery and appliqué friends also had a lot of project ideas in mind for ways in which they planned to use or had used their glow-in-the-dark embroidery thread.

“Gonna do a Ghostbusters emblem on a sweatshirt for my son and I thought it would be fun to do the ghost in glow in the dark.”

“[Glow-in-the-dark thread is] great fun! Kids love their names on pillow cases, and Halloween and fireworks designs lend themselves well. Have fun!!”

“I have used it and love it! it is also great for stars and satin outlines”

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the tips. I’m ready to give it a try.

I didn’t know it was possible to get your garment sucked UNDER your hoop. OMG

Sleeve getting sucked UNDER the hoop. UGH!!!

Sleeve getting sucked UNDER the hoop. UGH!!!

I have been doing a lot of sewing this weekend –  trying to get a jumpstart on all of my holiday gifts. Perhaps you recall last week when I mentioned that I was making some more personalized striped tunics for my niece, my girlfriend’s daughters and my own daughters. Well I had the last one on the machine and everything was going beautifully.  And then…. I took the tunic off the hoop. And I COULD NOT believe what I saw.

Normally when I am stitching a large design out on a T-shirt, I am especially vigilant about keeping the t-shirt out of the way so it does not get sucked back into the stitching and get sewn down into the embroidery design. So while I was stitching out the flower with the “I” on the tunic for my daughter, Ilse, I was carefully watching the sides of the shirt to make sure they didn’t get sucked into the stitching.  It would have never occurred to me that part of the tunic could have gotten sucked into the stitching UNDERNEATH the hoop. But it’s possible. I finished stitching out the flower design on the tunic and the top stitching looked beautiful but underneath there was part of the sleeve caught into the back of the flower. AHAHHHHHHHUGHHGHHGH!!!!!

I sat there staring at the mess for a few minutes before I could do anything. I was faced with a dilemma. But the first thing that came to mind was what one of my embroidery friends on Facebook had said: “anything is fixable.” With that in mind there basically there were two ways to try to solve the problem. 1) I could cut the sleeves a bit shorter and leave part of the sleeve stitched in with the design. Or 2) take out the stitching to release the sleeve from this stitching and go back and restitch part of the design.

I decided to go with the latter as I thought that the shortened length of the sleeves would serve as a constant reminder of my screwup – being that I would have to look at this tunic on a regular basis since it was for my daughter. I was able to take out  the stitching and save the sleeve but now part of my design was un-stitched. I would need to restart the design, lining it back up perfectly with the stitching already on the garment and stitch out the part that I was missing.

I was miraculously able to line up the design with what had already been stitched fairly accurately. But it always kills me when I add 30 or 40 minutes to my process by not being extremely careful from the get-go. But at least now the project is done and I can move onto the next one, having learned another valuable lesson.

How to remove the appliqué fabric in an enclosed shape

How to remove applique cut outs

How to remove applique cut outs

A while back I remember seeing some posts on my Facebook embroidery and appliqué groups asking about how to remove appliqué fabric after it has been completely stitched down. This is an issue that I encounter frequently – especially when appliquéing letters and numbers.  So when I made the number eight with crown birthday shirt the other day and had to remove the fabric inside the circles of the eight, I thought – here’s the perfect opportunity to create a “how-to.”

I was actually nervous about doing this when this situation came up initially.  But if you’re careful – it’s actually no big deal. So far – using this method – I haven’t cut any holes in any shirts.  (Knock on wood.)

 

Making a repeatable border machine embroidery design from the Celtic goddess symbol.

Celtic goddess repeat border on a headband.

Celtic goddess repeat border on a headband.

You may recall a few months back that I digitized a special design for my hostess in Switzerland, Caroline, who referred to me and my traveling companions as “American goddesses,” which of course we found HILARIOUS.   The design that I digitized was a Celtic symbol for goddess which seemed fitting since Caroline is Irish and, of course, referred to us as goddesses.  The gift that I bestowed upon Caroline was a set of dish towels with the goddess symbol stitched out on them.

Since making that gift I posted the Celtic goddess design on my Etsy store which has actually sold…. once.  But I actually think this design has more potential.  For weeks I have been wondering how it might look as a repeatable pattern with smaller versions of the goddess symbol placed next to each other in opposite orientations.

I finally got around to testing out my theory – setting up a new file with six instances of the goddess symbol next to each other and stitching it out on a small piece of fabric that I turned into a headband for my daughters.   The girls love the headband – but here’s what I am thinking… this may be cool on the bottom of a skirt.  It may require a bit of re-hooping but that may be my next challenge.

To make this design accessible for people with smaller hoops I set up version of the file with just three repeats.  So even if you have a smaller hoop, you can do the same thing with twice as many hoopings.

Check out the revised Celtic goddess symbol design on the Machine Embroidery Geek Etsy store.

Making my first patch on my embroidery machine

backpack-with-patch

I recently received an inquiry through my Etsy store asking if I could do something that I had never attempted: make a patch with my embroidery machine. The customer (and her daughter) loved my modern dahlia embroidery design, but did not have an embroidery machine to stitch it out. She wondered if I would be willing to make a patch based on the smaller sized dahlia in shades of purple so she could put it on her daughter’s backpack.

What a fantastic opportunity to try something new! And, I mean how hard could making a patch be? There are many tutorials on-line. Some scared me a bit – telling me that you needed some type of tool to burn off the excess material around the edge of the patch. Nevertheless, after reading a few I was ready to give it a try.

For the patch background, I used a piece off-white twill. To make it a bit more rigid, I ironed it onto a piece of heavy-weight interfacing. I then stuck the resulting piece onto hooped adhesive-baced stabilizer and began stitching out the design.

I did have to make a minor modification to the design before I could turn it into a patch. I added an appliqué outline around the dahlia. When digitizing, I used the “trim in place” setting to incorporate a tack down stitch, allowing me to secure the twill + interfacing layer to the stabilizer and then trim around it prior to completing the satin stitch outline. Therefore, when the satin stitch outline was being stitched, it was actually stitching onto the patch’s fabric background and stabilizer.

After completing the patch, I emailed a picture to my customer and her daughter who were super excited. I dropped in in the mail this week – just in time to get it on her daughter’s backpack for the first day of school next week.

How to prevent unraveling of your machine embroidery or appliqué project.

2013-07-01 08.22.23

Why is my embroidery unraveling?

I have had two instances recently when I completed an embroidery project and the last part I stitched started raveling and coming out… UGH! This experience made me think that maybe I was doing something wrong when I was digitizing my designs, so I posed my questions to the experts to see if I was missing something. Did I need to manually put in a locking stitch at the conclusion of digitizing each object to prevent it from unraveling?

Here’s what I asked the group.

Hi friends / digitizers (I’m thinking Sue L. might have thoughts on this…) I know that software varies, but when you digitize a design do you do any type of “locking” stitch at the end of shape to help prevent raveling or does the software take care of it? thoughts?

Here are the responses I got from two of the expert digitizers in the group.

Most software will auto lock at the end of shape/letter by its default settings. You normally have to switch it OFF rather an ON.

And another confirmation.

The software usually does it automatically. In PE Design it is there, you can’t switch on or off, but you can add or delete the stitches manually if need be.

So I looked at my software to try to find such a setting and for the life of me I couldn’t find it, which leads me to believe that my software is doing the lock stitch automatically.

And then something interesting happened. I put a simple name on a t-shirt using the built-in typeface in my embroidery machine and after I took it off the hoop it started unraveling! Something that I had not digitized had started unraveling as well! Maybe the unraveling has less to do with the digitizing and more to do with how you take projects off the hoop and how closely you cut the connector strings.

Again – after asking around a bit I learned that some embroiderers put a bit of fray check over the end points of their embroidered objects to keep them from unraveling. Until I learn more about why this might be happening I think this might be a good preventative measure.

Removing the adhesive sticky back stabilizer with a spray bottle of water

A spray bottle with water is great for removing sticky-back stabilizer

A spray bottle with water is great for removing sticky-back stabilizer

The other day I visited Make it Sew in St. Louis.  I had run out of green embroidery thread and needed a specific shape and brand to complete my embroidery project.  My plan was to be in and out of the store quickly but when Beverly (a lady who works there) started doling out advice I slowed down and started listening. Bev lives embroidery and appliqué all day, every day, so she has a lot of experience to share. After she taught me about patching stabilizer in the hoop, talking me out of purchasing smaller embroidery hoop, I started asking questions.

I’ve gotten down my appliqué technique and most of my projects turn out great – but one step I find a bit annoying is getting the adhesive sticky back stabilizer off the back of the design.  The stabilizer I bought is fantastic because it is really really sticky.  Unfortunately the stickiness makes it hard to remove.  My solution has been to toss anything I appliqué into the wash.  Once it comes out of the wash – the stabilizer peels off easily.   The problem is that this takes time for the item to get through the wash and the dryer.  So it’s not an ideal solution when I am in a hurry.  Also – some items I embroider are too delicate to go through the wash.

Bev’s solution: a water spray bottle.  She said that all you have to do is to spray the adhesive back stabilizer with some water.  Once the backing is grey-ish because it is saturated with water, let it sit for a few minutes, then it will peel away easily. The benefit is that only part of the item gets wet (primarily the stabilizer) so there is not a long drying time.  Genius.

Got a gunky machine embroidery hoop? It’s easier to clean than you think.

How to clean your embroidery hoop

How to clean your embroidery hoop

Before I started using adhesive backed stabilizer I secured my fabric to stabilizer with it temporary adhesive spray. If you’ve ever used adhesive spray, you probably know that it gets EVERYWHERE – especially your embroidery hoop.  And when your hoop is sticky – every fuzz ball and piece of thread in your sewing room will start to glom on to it. Soon you have a nasty, gunky machine embroidery hoop.

The question is… how do you clean it?  Rubbing alcohol works great – but for a large hoop, it’s difficult to have a large enough container and a large enough volume of rubbing alcohol to sufficiently coat your embroidery hoop.  For this reason – my large embroidery hoop has remained gunky even though I have don’t use the adhesive spray anymore.

The other day when I was at Make it Sew picking up the extra green thread for my applique flower project, I ran into Bev who was doling out advice like her life depended on it.  It was on that visit when she taught me how to patch my stabilizer in the hoop to reduce the amount you go though… which was genius.  Then she started talking about her new method for cleaning embroidery hoops, and I really paid attention.

At Make it Sew they sell both new and used sewing and embroidery machines.  Apparently, when the used ones come in – some of the embroidery hoops are really nasty.  Bev was trying to figure out how she would get the hoops clean so they would be presentable enough to resell and experimented with several different solutions.

Bev discovered that Dawn (and only Dawn) dishwashing liquid loosens the gunk on your embroidery hoop.  She said that she tried several other brands but that Dawn was the only one that worked.  So she made up a big tub of sudsy Dawn and soaked all the hoops and was able to get them as clean as if they were new.

Of course I had to try this myself. What I found is that – after a lot of soaking and a bit of scraping -my embroidery hoop looks pretty damn good as well!

How to save money on adhesive back stabilizer by patching

The other day I stopped in Make it Sew in St. Louis to pick up some green thread because I had run out mid appliqué (UGH) and I needed an exact match.  It was near closing time so I thought I would be rushed out but instead, Bev (one of the employees) was really chatty.  She was doling out embroidery tips so I just let her keep talking.

What you will see (below) is one of her hot tips.  She showed me how you can avoid un-hooping and hooping between every project by simply patching the hole in your adhesive back stabilizer and applying a patch.  Genius!  Think about all the stabilizer you will save?  I have no idea why Bev shared this information with me because she just talked me out of spending a lot of money (on a smaller hoop and more stabilizer) in her store.

Hopefully this tip will benefit all of you as well.

stabilizer-patch

 

How can you tell if you have enough thread to stitch out an embroidery design?

Running out of embroidery thread while stitching out a design

Running out of embroidery thread while stitching out a design

Last night I had the most frustrating experience that a machine embroidery enthusiast can possibly have; running out of thread in the middle of stitching out a design. I knew that I was taking a risk trying to use this particular green thread because it was a bit low on the spool, but I went for it anyway. Big mistake.

I was just about done stitching out a flower on one of my new Walmart tunic dresses and I ran out of green thread. UGH!  So I texted my sister (who also does machine embroidery).  After bitching at me for getting her out of bed – she offered her green thread that she thought might be close in color.  Well, thanks. But no thanks.

In this particular situation only a perfect match will look correct. The thread that I ran out of was a Mettler cotton green embroidery thread – #952 to be precise. My sister’s thread was a Singer polyester thread.  I learned a while ago that cotton embroidery thread is a bit thicker then it’s polyester counterpart. So not only would it have a different book, it would also have a different thickness. The reality is I needed the exact same Mettler cotton embroidery thread in this particular color.

After I ran out of the thread, I thought to myself… WHAT A DUMB ROOKIE MISTAKE. So I asked my Facebook peeps if there was a surefire way to know whether you had enough thread on the spool to complete stitching on the design. So far no one has a surefire method – just some tips to help try to avoid having this situation occur – which is not all that helpful at this point… but good tips nonetheless.

 “Just watch my thread sew and get used to seeing how the thread is wound. I have only ran out of thread while sewing at home a handful of times. If it is a color that I frequently use, I always make sure that I nave extra.”

“Very difficult to gauge what’s left on a spindle so keep two of your popular colours in stock.”

“I honestly just look at the spools. If I have a small spool I’ll use it for tack down but replace it before the ss.”

Fortunately thread colors are numbered so by specifying the thread number and type I thought I could find the exact same one, and fortunately this was the case.  I called my local sewing store (Make it Sew in St. Louis) and (HOOORAYYY!!!) they had the exact Mettler cotton thread that I needed.  I ran out there this afternoon and picked up another spool of #952 Mettler Cotton 60 weight cotton embroidery thread and was able to complete my project.

So… lesson learned.  I will always make sure I have plenty of thread before relying on a thread to complete a design. But if anyone has a good method for determining if there is enough thread on the spool to complete the design, I’d love to hear it.