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Just for Fun Planning Embroidery

Stretch Yourself!

5 Tips for Expanding your Embroidery Expertise

Start an Idea Folder

I keep an Idea folder in My Documents on my computer. I have five subfolders in the Idea folder – Tops, Bottoms, Accessories, Quilts and Home Décor. As I browse on the web, I grab a screen shot of something that inspires me – a sweater, handbag, jeans, etc. I save the screen shot in the appropriate folder and then when I’m working on a new project, I flip through the images. These images help me explore embroidery layouts, interesting color combinations, proportion and scale. I might incorporate a sleeve treatment from one blouse and a collar from another into my finished project. The finished item usually has little resemblance to its original inspiration. And that’s okay with me; my Idea folders provide inspiration and get me going on a new venture.

Don’t Think Project – Think Technique

There’s so much to learn when you focus on technique and not the finished project. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves when we create a project that includes techniques or steps that are new to us. So take the pressure off and explore the technique. Use scrap fabrics – materials you wouldn’t mind tossing – and delve into a technique that’s been troubling you such as free-standing lace or reverse applique. After 60-90 minutes, you’ll have it nailed! Then move onto a new project that showcases your newly-mastered technique.

Reinvent an Old Technique

I’m seeing yo-yos on tons of ready-wear today in retail stores. But for heavens sakes, I’m not going to make yo-yos by hand! Really, ‘hand’ is a four-letter word in my book! But yo-yo’s are so easy to make on an embroidery machine. Here’s a link to a really great tutorial over at Threads. Jennifer Stern shares how to digitize a yo-yo but you can also do it right at the machine with built-in stitches. Most embroidery machines have built-in frames. Just select a basting circle that’s twice the diameter of the finished yo-yo. Next, select a circle (straight stitch, shorter stitch length). Center the two circles over each other. Enlarge the second circle (shorter stitch length) just a bit – about 5 mm. Load as many of the yo-yos into a hoop as you can fit. Hoop the fabric – no need for stabilizer, these are just running stitches. Once stitched, trim the circles. Pull the thread tail on the inner circle to gather the yo-yo. Voila – instant yo-yos!


Take a Class

There’s nothing more inspirational than taking a class from a seasoned professional and connecting with other passionate embroiderers. Sometimes, just walking into the classroom is enough to rev your engines. After all, embroiderers usually wear gorgeous embroidered clothing. Go with an open mind, the required supplies and an upbeat attitude. You’ll feel so confident when you’re back in your own studio working on your own.

Participate in a Challenge

Some people work better with deadlines. I know I do, I wouldn’t complete ANYTHING unless it had a deadline attached. Visit your local sewing machine dealer and/or quilt shop and see what kind of local challenges are scheduled. Or go to Google and search for quilt contests. Many quilt competitions have a digital embroidery division.

Here’s one that’s going on right now and every entry is a winner. Go to your favorite sewing machine dealer or independent thread shop and ask to join the Iris Thread Challenge. You’ll receive a free 600 yd. spool of Iris embroidery thread, one evaluation form (you’ll be the judge in this challenge!) and a link to download a free Anita Goodesign embroidery designs. This challenge will help you see the difference in different thread brands.

We’re giving away an Embroidery Tool Kit this week!  A comprehensive kit, The Embroidery Tool Kit combines my favorite tools with some new essentials never before offered. Whether you are facing hooping challenges or complex design placement, this kit has the tools to guarantee success.  I mention the yo-yos up above being a blast from the past.  We used to make them by hand and it would take forever.  Now simply make them using your embroidery machine and you’ll have a hoop full in no time.  What “old school” techniques have you resurrected from the past?  Or what techniques have you really wanted to but haven’t yet?  Let us know by posting a comment and you’ll be entered into our drawing!

And the winner of  Teddy, The Amazing Huggable Stitchable Bear is…Kelly!

Kelly  “I am always taking a little here and a little there. I am working on bridal and groom say hankies right now.”

Congratulations, Kelly!

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  • Lucy Byrge

    Hummm… yo yo’s in the hoop…. I’m interested

    • Sheila

      Awesome idea’s – I can’t wait to get sewing on this holiday off work day!!! I love Eileen’s new newsletter that I received today and the free design – fabulous!

  • Patricia Phaiah

    I am always interested in what you have to offer. It would be wonderful to be able to accurately hoop my design.

  • Gail Beam

    Hi, I have seen so many neat designs using mylar, but have yet to take the plunge!! I love the sparkling effect that it appears to have and I just need a deadline on a project to try it!

  • Pat

    Five excellent ideas. I know that just going to my embroidery store starts my creative juices going!

    If I had all the time, there would be more projects.

    Thanks for the inspiration, you are a great mentor.


  • Toni

    I’ve been nervous about stitching on fine, stretchy fabrics. I got a request this week to stitch a tiny monogram on a pashmina that was purchased in Dubai as a wedding gift. Scary! Thin, stretchy and no way to replace it if I messed it up! But, I pulled out an old one of mine, read some hints on various blogs and sewing sites, and gave it a try. Both pashminas turned out great – both mine and the one I was paid for! So now I can let go of THAT worry.

    • eileen

      That was the perfect way to approach a challenging project. Research first, then test on similiar fabric and stabilizer. You know there are only two kinds of embroiderers, those who test and those who wish they had!

  • katrina

    I want to try puff embroidery but I haven’t done it yet. Still a bit intimidated.

  • Judy Inhoff

    An old technique– I use to do applique with my sewing machine guiding the fabric while it did the satin stitch. I have done some machine applique with a design digitized to do all the stitching in the hoop. These are fun!
    Thanks for a chance to win.

  • Penny Kitzmiller

    I really do enjoy your blog, it is very inspiring to me. I am making yo-yo’s right now, (by hand), my mom is helping me. We are going to make a yo-yo quilt. I really could use this give away for my Singer Futura then I would have already finished this project and could be working on another.
    Thank you

    • eileen

      Hand!!!! ahhhhh! It’s a four-letter word! Get out your Futura and give it a try on the machine. You’ll be done in no time.

  • Karin

    I thought I was the only one that kept an Idea Folder! And, yup, the finished product usually has only a resemblance to the original inspiration, but that’s ok – I usually like mine better anyway! 🙂 That tool kit would sure improve my work and probably make life easier, too! I’d love to try fringes in the hoop – I have the designs, but have never had to guts to try one. Dunno why not – worst I can do is mess it up!

    • eileen

      Give it a try – hoop some scrap fabric and stitch away. It’s just fabric and thread – not muscle and bone!

  • Jennifer Mead

    I would like to try some heirloom lace or herloom embroidery, in the hoop, of course! I love yo yos and cannot wait to try some in the hoop!

  • Cheryl Bartels

    I have a new embroidery module for my sewing machine, and I am trying to get up the courage to connect it all up and embroider something.

    I like the idea of an idea folder.

    • eileen

      Congrats on your new embroidery module! Hoop some scrap fabric and give it a try. Experiment with a few designs before working on something that you’ll want to keep. Use the testing time to learn how edit on your machine, moving a design in the hoop, rotating, mirror imaging and the like. You’ll be comfortable in no time. Let us know how you progress.

  • Marjorie Paul

    A resurrected technique for gathering a ruffle for a skirt or anything is to use the gathering attachment on your serger or sewing machine instead of sewing long stitches and pulling the threads up for the ruffling. We wore gathered skirts when I was a young girl, and we had to sew two rows of long stitches at the top edge and then make all that fabric gather onto the waistband evenly.

    • eileen

      Oh those dreaded gathering stitches! When I was younger, I used to make custom home decor items. Ruffled pillows and bed skirts were very popular. Instead of using two rows of basting stitches, I zigzagged (SW: 5.0; SL: 4.0) over cording (like twine – strong, easy to grip). I used a cording foot (with a guide to slip the cord into) so that I wouldn’t stitch on the cord. I secured one end of the cord to the fabric with a pin, marked the fabric strip (and the base fabric) into quarters then pulled on the other end. The fabric gathered instantly, very smooth. I matched the pins and adjusted the gathers between the pins. Once the ruffle was stitched to the base fabric, I pulled the cording out of the zigzag stitches. I don’t to do this tehcnique very often anymore but it’s one I really enjoy because it’s so rewarding. It’s very fast with a lush professional finish.

  • Claudia

    T’hank You for your wonderful organizational ideas! I have been embroidering by machine (Elna, Pfaff, Brother and , now the new Viking) for about 12 years and seen so much progress in the industry. If I were younger, I might consider a ‘professional ‘machine. I also teach for free at my summer residence’s quilting and embroidery club I started 5 years ago. There is so much to learn it can be overwelming for the ‘newbee’. I recommend your magazine, show your videos and encourage purchasing them as one can only remember so much especially since we are seniors. We are making a whole new kind of heirlooms for our children and grandchildren! We are using different parts of our brain, keeping it healthy! Some of us even have husbands enthused and they are designing embroidery, building work spaces, and encouraging us in our and their retirement!
    I started embroidery by machine as a means to quilt because I have carpel tunnel problems. Little did I know I would learn a whole new concept and become so addicted! (a healthy, happy, useful addiction)
    Create with Claudia

    • eileen

      Hi Claudia,
      Sounds like you’re having the time of your life! Embroidery/sewing/quilting are such wonderful hobbies. I’m glad to hear your love of sewing has touched so many lives. Keep up the good work – I’m sure it’s keeping you young!

  • Bette Gove

    I’d like to try the 3 dimentional embroideries.

  • Debbi

    Have an yo-yo quilt which now may get done if I can do yo-yo by machine. Maybe be months end I will be one UFO down (and refuse to say how many to go)

  • Susan Spiers

    As a child, my friends & I spent many hours playing with cardboard paper dolls & the “tab” clothes we cut-out to dress them. We even took colored pencils & crayons to “design” our own clothes, remembering to add the “tabs”. With new paper materials, velcro, & fabric crayons, etc. available today, & the popularity of paper dolls brought back, maybe even some simple embroidery stitches could be added to our “designed” clothes? What fun & hours of our own satisfying creativity!

  • Barbara

    I like your method of organizing your projects. I just recently put all my patterns in three-ring binders. It’ll make it easier to see them when I’m flipping through the page protectors.

  • Betsy

    It’s Labor Day and I am excitedly laboring with my embroidery machine. I love your suggestion concerning organization of files. I should have thought that myself as I am a recently retired media specialist and frequently encouraged my teachers to organize their school documents. Practice what you preach, huh??? Glad to discover your blog. I sure hope I am the lucky tool kit winner.

  • LeAnne Law

    I have a couple of folders on my computer, Ideas for Embroidery and Ideas for Quilting, where I download pictures and projects I come across on websites and blogs. There are so many wonderful things people have done that I know I’ll never get to a tenth of them; but when I get stumped on what project to do next, I look through my folders and get tons of inspiration.

  • Lynda M

    I have a wonderful embroidery machine. I have had it for 2 years now. I have yet to use the embroidery part. This tool kit really looks like it would get me started. I have done lots of quilting, but would like to put embroidery into my quilting. I loved the organization ideas. I do that with pictures of quilts I see on the net. Now to make folders. Thanks for the ideas and yo-yos would be such a great idea.

  • Paule-Marie

    Crazy quilting by machine. Started out by hand on a machine sewn base, then I started using the wonderful decorative stitches on the machines with luscious threads (both on top and in the bobbin). I am now getting ready to do it all in the hoop.

  • Mary

    Thanks for keeping us informed on new and old techniques.
    I would like to try cutwork on the embroidery machine. Still trying to learn all that my machine can and will do with me at the wheel, so to speak. 🙂

  • Kathy Stoessner

    From humble beginnings, good things grow. Eileen you can never fully know how your inspiration (and I took a class from you at an Expo in Cleveland), can make things happen. I now have my own design website and still think of the early encouragement you were so willing to give to everyone.

    Kathy in Cleveland, Ohio

  • Peggy

    The project that I have resurrected with my embroidery machine has been to make fabric books. So much fun, so fast, and great gifts. I really enjoy your blog and all of the suggestions. I would take your tip regarding the folders one step further, I am burning my photos of inspiration to a CD. Have trouble remembering to back up my files, and I find if I just put them right on a CD, then it is done.
    I really appreciate the oportunity to win, although I feel like a winner already just finding this blog!

  • Sue Duisenberg

    I, too, keep ideas in folders on my computer. I have patterns and ideas, more than I can ever do! but I love looking through the folders and find myself making plans as I go through them, often combining techniques in new ways. thanks for keeping us thinking!

  • Mary

    Great ideas in this issue. I put pictures in the My pictures folder then I can set it to slide show and enjoy some inspiration.

  • Hope

    You have so many great ideas here, it is overwhelming!

    I would love to try free-standing lace. I have so many things to learn….. I am just a beginner.

  • Margaret

    I’ve made many yo-yo’s the traditional way. Now I can’t wait to try the In-The-Hoop method you suggest. I love your website and magazine for all the creative ideas. You are a constant source of inspiration. Thank you.

  • Kelly

    I haven’t found anyone carrying the irish thread yet, but I am not done looking. I do plan to try the yoyo process though. I have found alot of interesting information only your site.

  • VickiT

    Yo Yo’s in the hoop? I am very active in a large number of embroidery groups and I can’t say that I have ever seen where this is possible. I would love to know more about this for sure.

    The tool kit is a wonderful thing. I just read all the goodies in that and wow, awesome and very helpful tools. I’d love to win this kit.

  • Mitzi Barker

    I recently invested in a multi-day class – you’re right, it has really re-stoked my energy for embroidery! I am wanting to continue to explore more ways I can use my embroidery machine in my quilting, beyond my blue-ribbon winning entry from last year.

  • Kristi Ripley

    Hello! I am only a beginner embroider! But I am soo excited to learn and try new things! Thank you for the opportunity to keep learning!

  • Patty Ojeda

    I would love to learn how to hoop correctly! Everytime I put cotton fabric in the hoop, I can never get it tight or not wrinkled.

  • April

    My idea folder is really more of an idea book. I take pictures from magazines or anywhere I come across something that I love and add it to my book. I can then add my own notes about what I could do with it or change the original idea, etc. Of course, I could use a lot more time to get to those “some day” ideas.

  • Myrna

    I love reading your blog, so inspiring. I also have folders in My Documents where I store articles and ideas.
    One thing I really want to do, but am so nervous about, is an Heirloom Quilt using embroidery in some of the squares and also some of my special feet that I have never used. I don’t know why I hesitate but it feels daunting.

    • Lena

      That’s a smart answer to a diclfiuft question.

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  • Sue R

    I love this tool kit and it would be awesome to win this. I’m still learning to embroider with practice, but tools that help me with the task is awesome.

  • Jo-Ann

    Hi. I think this tool kit would be a great aid. I hadn’t thought about doing yo-yo’s with my embroidery machine and with the info on your blog, I’m going to have to try this. I find all of your ideas and inspirations in your magazine absolutely intriguing! You make learning to work with our machines and software so much fun.

  • Debbie

    I keep many files on my laptop, but my big problem is I have too many files, too many ideas and too many embroidery files downloaded. I would love to spend time just organizing these files, but always find myself heading to my sewing room instead. I always have a project in the machine, and two to three backed up behind it.

  • Kathy Meyers

    I also cannot find anyone carrying the thread!

    I know this isn’t really an old technique, but I do love my machine embroidery and someday I would like to tackle a quilt. They scare me! LOL

  • Jean Cardinal

    There are sooo many techniques that I want to try. It’s very hard to find the time and energy these days to try anything new. I am 68 years old and have various health problems that slow me down. When I do have the time and energy, I seem to be crocheting, knitting and sewing items for charity ( right now, it’s fleece blankets for babies and I have found an easy way to sew blocks together with a dec. stitch which means I can use up most of my smaller scraps in these blankets).
    I really need a few extra days in the week to do all that I want to. However, it is really satisfying and rewarding to do what I can.

    • Carol Seavitt

      You go Jean — I too have health problems but have found that helping others thru whatever you can is so rewarding.

  • Carol Seavitt

    OMG! I just received your e-mail and found that this blog is an answer to my prayers. You have wonderful information. Thank you.

    You’ll get a kick out of this one as to my embroidery challenge. Mom bought me a designer machine for Christmas (guess she had too much money to spend) and I had never embroidered. Anyway, I’m hooked.

    My 35th class reunion was approaching and I bought a nice dress pattern and decided to embroider over the shoulder using a fancy design from the Viking book. I purchased and learned Embird, modified the design and sewed the shoulder plus a small handbag. Both turned out beautiful… However, after talking with mom about my creations, and telling her that the design was very dense and my thread kept breaking, she just chuckled. Apparently, the design I used is Thread Velvet! As a beginner embroiderer, I still don’t know how this is suppose to work — but my design and dress were a big hit!

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