Posted on

The love sweater featured in us magazine: proof that I was ahead of my time

Love sweater... I had this idea months ago!
Love sweater… I had this idea months ago!

I’m embarrassed to admit that – ON OCCASION – I watch the show Fashion Police. But I do. One of my favorite parts of this show is the segment called “Bitch Stole My Look.” The snarky hosts point out instances where two celebs wore the same outfit and discuss who wore it better.  It’s not that original of an idea – but it’s just such a funny name for the segment, it always catches my attention.

Anyway – today when I opened this week’s US magazine and turned to the “Gift Guide for Her” and saw Lauren Conrad showing off her sweater from her new collection – the first thing that came to mind was “bitch stole my look!”  Perhaps you will recall a few months ago when I made a love t-shirt for my daughter. I digitized the appliqué design and stitched out on a little gray t-shirt. My daughter wore that shirt all summer and got tons of compliments on it. Later I modified the design set to include a satin stitch appliqué version, as well as a small filled embroidery design. It is definitely one of my favorite designs.

The sweater featured in US magazine had a lowercase cursive “love” stitched across the chest, and it’s from the Lauren Conrad collection at Kohl’s retailing for $54. You could probably make a similar sweater that costs less with a whole lot more personality by just stitching out my love design with some cool fabric on any old sweater. AND – the Lauren Conrad sweater is acrylic. Ewww! Make your version better by stitching out the appliqué design on a sweater made of a natural fabric such as cotton, wool or even cashmere.

So take that – Lauren Conrad – you may have stolen my look but me and my embroidery friends are stealing it back.

Posted on

Abstract flower embroidery design inspired by my sister-in-law’s skirt is new and improved

Abstract flower design based on my sister-in-law's skirt
Abstract flower design based on my sister-in-law’s skirt

You might recall a few months ago when I digitized an abstract flower based on a design in my sister-in-law’s dress. I personally think this is a really cool design, but after stitching out my first attempt, I knew it was not ready for prime time.

The problem with this design was that I didn’t digitize it very strategically. The order in which items were stitched out and the starting points for stitching of each piece were completely random. There was a connector string between each of the thirty-six elements in the wreath – for God’s sake! This made for tons of clipping tiny connector strings.  Very time consuming!

This week I finally got around to making some edits to the file.  Now the order of stitching is much more strategic, hiding most of the connector strings under runs of satin stitching. To be sure – I stitched out the revised design, and oh-my-Lord what a difference it makes!

Now that I’m feeling good about this design, I listed it in two sizes on my Etsy store so that you all can enjoy it as well. I can envision this design being stitched out in bright colors around the hem of a black skirt and looking super cute.  (If you give this a try – I would love to see a picture. hint, hint) My plan for this design is to use it as a decorative element on the bottom of a skirt – but in a solid color that will bring out a color in the skirt fabric.  I actually have a pretty solid plan in mind… but I will save the reveal for a future post.   (I know, I know… you can hardly stand it.  ha)

Posted on

Why won’t the PES file that I created open on my customer’s embroidery machine?

Since I started digitizing I have gotten no complaints regarding any of the files I created. But if I had – I figured I would simply refund the customer’s money or figure out the solution to make it right.  I just had my first experience in trying to make it right for the customer.

Yesterday I received an email from a customer who purchased my tarantula embroidery file. Initially I had just set up the tarantula design to work in a larger hoop, however this customer needed the tarantula at a size that would fit in her 4″ x 4″ hoop. I gladly obliged, and set up a smaller version of the tarantula file and added it to my listing. She then purchased the design.

This transaction occurred a few weeks ago and I heard nothing from the customer sense. But yesterday she contacted me informing me that the tarantula PES file would not open on her machine. I racked my brain trying to figure out what might be going wrong. My first thought was that perhaps the version of PES file that my Bernina Artista software was creating was potentially incompatible with her machine. So I re-exported the file from my conversion software – thinking it would create a different (hopefully more compatible) version of PES file, and sent it to my customer. Unfortunately this did not fix the problem.

I turned to my embroidery Facebook groups to request their advice on the situation. Within an hour I had at least five responses saying that the reason why the machine wouldn’t open the file was because was most likely due to the fact that that design was scaled too large. If you want a design to fit in a 4″ x 4″ hoop, you actually need to make it slightly smaller than 4 inches. My Facebook friends recommended making the design no larger than 3.93″ So I scaled the design down a bit and sent the file back to my customer.  Once again – no luck.  But it seemed like we were getting closer.  It showed up on the machine but would not load.

Back to Facebook.  Someone suggested that maybe the design was not properly centered.  It turns out that the tarantula was actually not centered! The trick was to figure out how to fix it. After futzing around in my software I discovered that if i made the starting point in the center the PES version of the design would be centered.

Fortunately – the design finally worked for my customer!  Yay!  Now I need to go back into all of my designs and make sure the small PES versions are centered and no larger then that 3.93″ maximum in any direction.  I especially need to check the Varsity Numbers appliqué designs as I will be sending this file to my customer as a token of my appreciation of her patience!

Posted on

Geting inspired for designing applique patterns by my student’s astrological t-shirt

Astrological symbol machine applique design
Astrological symbol machine applique design

In my real life (not my virtual life as an embroidery blogger) I am a professor of interactive media at Webster University in St. Louis. Many of my students put in very little effort into what they wear to class (read: show up in their pajamas), but occasionally one of them shows up in something that gives me some inspiration.

One of my students, Mindy – who is adorable, frequently wears a t-shirt silkscreened with her astrological symbol: Capricorn. She clearly loves this shirt because she is wearing it almost every time I see her.

Seeing her in this shirt and knowing how much she loves it gave me the brilliant idea to digitize a set of astrological symbols as appliqué files. If Mindy loves it, won’t somebody else?

Thanks, Mindy for being my model and giving me such a great idea.  xo.


Posted on

Anyone can digitize (with Sew Art) in a few clicks of a mouse… yeah, right!

Tonight I was looking around for digitizing tutorials to see if I could learning something new and improve my digitizing techniques.  What I found was something unexpected:  I learned about a new digitizing software from a digitizer who claimed “anyone” could digitize a logo in a few clicks of a mouse.  REALLY???

If you spend any time at all on machine embroidery and digitizing forums, one thing you will learn very quickly is that you never want to use the auto digitizing feature in your digitizing software.  There are simply too many variables you need to consider and understand when digitizing. You will never get great results if you let the computer do the digitizing for you.  Computers are smart – but not that smart!

So I was pretty aghast when I found this video called “How to Digitize Yourself and Never Pay for Embroidery Files Again.” In this three minute video, the author shows you how to auto-digitize a (very, very simple) logo. While he makes it look super easy – what he neglects to discuss is setting stitch angle, density, pull compensation, adding an outline… anything above and beyond what the computer is doing by default.  So, in my opinion, I think the video is a bit misleading.

What I did find intriguing, however, is the digitizing software he was using: Sew Art.  I had never heard of this software but it is available as a free 30 day trial and (after looking at the on-line manual) seems to have features beyond auto-digitizing.  This might be a great option for people wanting to get in to digitizing but not wanting to cough up $1000 for fancy schmancy digitizing software.

I would love to hear your thoughts… is anyone out there using this software?  Let me know what you think.

Posted on

Embroidering initials on backpacks for back to school and why you should just stick to initials

Embroidering initials on backpacks
Embroidering initials on backpacks

My kids started back to school this week, which means last year we needed to do some back to school shopping.  Among other things, we were in the market for some new backpacks. Last year’s models were too small and looking pretty beat up.

We started by browsing online at They have great quality stuff, and they will even do the embroidery for you. But when you have your own embroidery machine, how can you in good conscience let Lands End do the embroidery for you? Also through Lands End you don’t have a lot of choices for thread color, and you are limited to seven characters for the embroidery. When your name is Adelaide, like my daughter, seven characters just isn’t going to cut it.

On a whim, my girls and I popped into Marshall’s the other day to see if they had any backpacks.  Turns out they have a great selection. And, they had some good quality brands like Jansport for less than half the price of the backpacks we were looking at on Lands End. Naturally, my girls picked out the two craziest looking backpacks and brought them home for me to embroider.

When I told my sister about the our plan for embroidering our backpacks, and how Lands End would only do seven characters which motivated me to do the embroidery myself, she informed me that you’re actually not supposed to put the kids’ first names on the outside of their backpack. Apparently it’s for safety because a stranger could start calling a child by their first name and convince a child to go with him. Okay… so we definitely don’t want to do that. So I decided to simply stick with stitching initials onto the backpack.

Our first step was to choose typefaces for the embroidery. My older daughter selected a casual but modern typeface for her Navajo inspired backpack, and my little one chose the Angelica typeface for her crazy sketchbook style backpack. Both turned out great, although because my little one started coloring all the white spaces its almost impossible to see the embroidery…

The one tip I would suggest in putting initials on backpacks is the same as putting initials on straw hats. Digitize the initials or monogram, digitize the center letter to stitch out first. Doing so, it helps to secure the item to the stabilizer and holds it all in place.



Posted on

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.

Posted on

Marimekko inspired flower appliqué design

Marimekko inspired three flower design.
Marimekko inspired three flower design.

Do you remember Marimekko prints that were popular in the 1960s and 70s? Oh man, I do!  And they still make me swoon!

Marimekko is a Finnish design company that emerged in the 1950s and became internationally known throughout the late 1960s and 70s. Their bold, graphic flower graphic prints are simply iconic.

Marimekko gained recognition in the United States after Jackie Kennedy purchased eight Marimekko dresses on a trip to Finland and started wearing therm in public. In the mid 1960s Marimekko prints got even more exposure when Crate and Barrel licensed their designs for some of the textiles sold in their store.   After falling out of favor for a while and nearly going bankrupt, Marimekko experienced a bit of a Renaissance when Carrie Bradshaw wore a Marimekko dress and bikini on Sex and the City.

Marimekko is still in business. They have a clothing and home decor items for sale on their their web site. They also have several stores throughout the United States and the rest of the world. A few years ago when I was visiting Vancouver, BC, I happened to be staying right next to a Marimekko store!

Shortly after that visit I was inspired to digitize a Marimekko flower – which turned out great – but a lot of stitching as a pure embroidery file.  This week I finally remade this design as an applique file and I stitched it out on some white denim.  I was very happy with the results, so I posted my design on the Machine Embroidery Geek Etsy store  – in two sizes.   And for this week only – it’s just $2.  Enjoy!

Posted on

Custom digitizing a horse appliqué

Galloping horse applique design
Galloping horse applique design

I took on the challenge of digitizing a galloping horse applique design. And when I say “challenge,” I’m not kidding. My client had an image of a jockey riding a horse from a blanket that she liked, and she wanted me to re-create it as an embroidery file.

The reason why digitizing this graphic was so hard was because it is an applique design that incorporates a lot of embroidery details. The stitching of the jockey and horse blanket lay over the applique fabric. in creating the outline satin stitch for the applique, I had to start and end precisely around the horse blanket and the jockey.

I was careful in specifying the stitch order of the embroidered pieces so that the connector strings would not be too long. I also varied the stitch angle on the different elements of the jockey’s body.

My test stitch sample turned out okay despite the fact that I used a very thick fabric for the appliqué. I would not recommend using such thick applique fabric for this particular design since embroidered elements span the background and the applique fabric and if the fabric is thick – it’s tough to make it look seamless over the design.

If anyone is interested in this particular design, the agreement that I made with my client allows me to sell the horse design on the Machine Embroidery Geek Etsy store. I will be offered on sale for $1 the remainder of the week.