Author Archive

Underlay Options

In my last post, I discussed underlay in general terms.  Today, I’d like to show how to control underlay with just a couple mouse clicks in Inspirations’ Perfect Embroidery Pro.

Let’s take a look at a butterfly from Inspirations’ Butterfly Majesty Collection, design #98723718. If you don’t have this collection, open a design with fill, satin and run stitches.Buttbl

Select the first color, the upper wing area.Butt1bl

Click on the Underlay icon in the Properties Box.Butt2bl

The digitizer has assigned Contour and Perpendicular underlay to the first color (a fill area) of the design.  The Contour underlay is the red box and the perpendicular is the dark blue stitching.  The grayed lines are the actual stitching lines of the designs.Butt3bl

If you notice gaps between the fill and the outline after testing this design, you can add more underlay.  Click on each box to view the options.  Parallel runs underlay stitches in the same direction as the final stitches.BUtt4bl

Zigzag runs at angle from top to bottom and back again.Butt5abl

Lattice runs at forty-five degree angle.Butt6bl

Full lattice runs the lattice in both directions.Butt7bl

You can customize the density, stitch length, run stitch length, inset and zigzag inset of the underlay.  All of the options let you find the settings that work for any fabric and any design. Experiment with these tools as you advance your digitizing or design editing skills.  Make a note of the changes you make and you’ll know when to apply these settings to your next project.  Don’t be afraid to experiment – experimenting makes you a better embroiderer!

Spanx® for Machine Embroidery Designs

What is Spanx for embroidery designs? It’s underlay – the seamless foundation for beautiful embroidery. Without it, you’re going to see a whole lot of puckers, wrinkles and divets. Things that are very undesirable in embroidery and fashion.

But how do you know if you need it?  Well, in fashion, a mirror will tell you if Spanx is a requirement for a certain outfit.  In embroidery, a stitch out of the design will reveal the ugly or blissful truth.

Professionally digitized designs start with underlay since the underlay stitches are the foundation for the visible artistic stitches.  Underlay, like Spanx, should be invisible with its presence known only to the stitcher/fashionista.

The amount of underlay that is in an embroidery design was decided by the digitizer at the time of creation.  The digitizer takes into consideration the end use of the design and applies the appropriate type of underlay before laying down the beautiful stitches.  For instance, when Designs in Machine Embroidery created the fonts for the Perfect Towel Kit, the end use of stitching on terry cloth was taken into consideration.  The result, a double layer of lattice underlay, permanently holds down the nap of the terry cloth through the life of the towel not just until it is laundered. A double layer of lattice is two columns of fairly tight zigzag stitches that support the heavy satin stitches in the final design.


Formal H from the Perfect Towel Kit


single layer of lattice underlay


actual underlay of the Formal H design

Romanesque 2 is a beautiful collection of monograms in a delicate frame available from Embroidery Arts.  If you take a close look at this lettering, you’ll know that the digitizer created this collection for medium weight fabrics such as bedding, table cloths and napkins.


The letter E from Romanesque 2, Embroidery Arts.

The underlay on the tall, vertical column includes three straight lines of stitching spaced across the width of the column providing a frame for the satin stitches.  On the short horizontal line of the E, you’ll find a triple line of underlay stitched close together, creating a bed for the satin stitches.  The two approaches reflect the push and pull of the fabric as there is greater stress on the wider vertical column than the short horizontal column.  This underlay reflects the work of an experienced and knowledgeable digitizer.


The underlay stitches have been changed to black thread.

Our friends at OESD have a lovely collection of open and airy designs, Radiant Blossoms.  The designs are intended to be used on delicate fabrics, nothing heavier than linen and often something as delicate as satin and chiffon. UblVery little underlay is included in the designs.  More often than not, you’ll find an edge travel; a line of run stitches that lays down at the perimeter of the design segment and provides an anchor for the satin stitches. U1blU2blAlways stitch a test of an embroidery design before you begin the actual project. But don’t just critique the final outcome; watch the process so you can see what underlay was included in the design.  This will provide clues for what type of fabric the design was digitized for, saving you guesswork. You may discover that more (or less) underlay is needed for your particular fabric.  In your digitizing software, go to Properties, Underlay to add or subtract underlay.

Admit it, fashionista, don’t you wish you could do that to the image in the mirror? I know I do!Seams Sew Special Blog Banner

Do you find yourself watching your machine stitch a design? Are you fascinated by the process?  What have you learned about underlay while watching a design stitch?  Share your thoughts and four readers will be randomly selected to win a $25 gift certificate from Seams Sew Special.


Look What I Found in My Mailbox

A catalog for embroidery designs!  It’s been ages since I’ve had the pleasure of receiving a catalog (all 40 pages) of luscious embroidery designs.LionBL

At first glance, I thought it was Nancy’s Notions late summer catalog. Imagine my surprise when I opened it and saw page after page of embroidery designs.HalloBL

You might think my reaction is funny but I’ve been at the helm of Designs in Machine Embroidery for over 16 years and have seen so many industry changes.  Embroidery catalogs were a regular occurrence in my mailbox ten years ago. In fact, I took them for granted.  Postcards announcing the arrival of a new collection were commonplace. Today, promotions are sent digitally and often ignored with the old ‘been there done that’ mind set.

But for someone like me and maybe you – it’s delightful to browse through page after page of beautiful embroidery. It’s a printed version of today’s digital ‘look book.’  But you know, I’m old school – I still love to hold pages in my hand whether it’s a book, magazine or catalog.  I enjoy that uninterrupted experience – it’s my time on my terms – and I get lost in the pages.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m attached to a computer most of my waking hours and I hang out on Instagram and Pinterest. But in today’s image consumption environment, we tend to forget just how much effort goes into those images we flip by or ignore. Some are WORTHY of print. For instance, look at this spread on page 10-11.GardenBL

There are three towels and four potholders showcasing the designs. A lot of effort went into that! I love seeing someone’s interpretation of how to use a design. I know a catalog is selling designs but for me, it’s eye candy. Those images are springboards for more ideas.

How about you, do you enjoy print or digital?  And why?

Stabilizer Experiment

2016-07-30_16-41-18Normally, I use fuse polymesh stabilizer to the wrong side of the design area to stabilize knit fabrics. But recently, I was working on a couple of knit skirts. The brown one, shown above, is an a-line skirt and easily slips over the hip. I used polymesh cut-away stabilizer on it with satisfactory results. The second skirt, a pretty avocado green is more fitted. I really needed to keep the stretch of the skirt so it could slip over the hip. I opted to use Piece & Stitch  wash-away tear-away stabilizer instead of my usual cut-away.2016-07-30_17-06-54

As you can see, the stitches are lovely, they sit nicely on the fabric without a ripple.


This Piece & Stitch wash-away tear-away stabilizer breaks down in water leaving soft fibers in the embroidered stitches and practically vanishing from other areas. And I was thrilled with the results. The stitches are gorgeous and after laundering, the skirt has not lost any stretch.  As a bonus it’s so comfortable to wear because the remaining stabilizer is very soft.

Do not confuse Piece & Stitch wash-away tear-away stabilizer with a water-soluble stabilizer. Water soluble stabilizer means it dissolves and disappears in water. Wash-away tear-away means it breaks down in water, like tissue paper, leaving no gummy residue.  2016-07-30_16-57-43

It’s good for many uses but not a substitute for water soluble, so don’t try to make lace with it!  Normally, I use it for piecing quilt blocks in the hoop but now it’s my go-to stabilizer for stable knits.

Heirlooms, Objects or Moments?

Not every embroidery project you make qualifies as an heirloom. So when do you decide to add that title?  I think that’s a very personal decision. I use that term when I’m sure it’s something I want pass down to the next generation. I want it to be something that will stand the test of time. I mean, will chevron pockets really be appreciated by the next generation? I don’t think so.PocketBL

Will subway art designs be cherished by family members in the next century?  I’m not so sure.BubbleBL

So what is an heirloom?  The dictionary definition is a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations. Break the definition down and you’ll notice three key words: valuable, family and generations.  Valuable is relative – there is no dollar sign involved.  Value can increase because of scarcity and age. Family of course, means it remains in the hands one family.  Generations speaks to age – the passing of time.

Heirloom status is not really determined by today’s generation. It’s determined by the next generation and the next and so on.  Even though we may want our creation to be an heirloom, it may not pass muster with the next generation. We can pour our heart and soul into making an embroidered project but unless the recipient holds onto it, it’s not an heirloom.

When you are pouring your heart and soul into a project, enjoy the process.  The process may be the only return you get. It’s the selecting of materials, the planning, the execution and the finishing that makes it an heirloom in my mind. The creation process is a loving act – it’s prayful.  It’s time to reflect on the recipient, the occasion and the family members who will be in attendance when it is shared.  That’s the heirloom moment for me.

What about you? When you’re creating, it is an heirloom moment or do hope it’s an heirloom object?

Share your thoughts and four lucky random winners will receive a $25.00 gift certificate to


Quilting Your Row by Row – Part 2

Part Two

Last week, Rebecca Robinson, owner of Sew Suite Studio, a DIME Authorized Dealer in Lexington, SC, showed you how to quilt your Row By Row quilt strips. She used Inspiration’s My Quilt Embellisher to create the stippling.blog1


This week, Rebecca kicks it up a notch by changing the quilting to a star-shaped echo. Open My Quilt Embellisher and load the quilt row image as a backdrop. Select the stipple design and click on the Shape Echo tool. Choose #17, the five-point star. Click OK. Change the Density to 35mm in the Properties box.blog2


Customize the star a bit further by re-positioning the center point of the star. Click the Shape tool and drag the pink circle to a new location on the striped fabric section; click Apply.blog3


These auditions certainly assist in the design process. If you have a large enough hoop, you can save the design in the format for your machine. Or if you like to free-motion quilt, you can print a template of the design and use it as a pattern.  Either way, My Quilt Embellisher makes quilting fun!


Quilting Your Row by Row

Meet guest blogger, Rebecca Robinson, owner of Sew Suite Studio, a DIME Authorized Dealer in Lexington, SC. Rebecca is here to teach you how to quilt your Row By Row quilt strips. Take it from here, Rebecca.


No doubt about it – the Row by Row Experience is here to stay. Chances are you have been traveling here and there collecting row patterns and you’ve even sewn a few together. Now what? How do you get them quilted? Turn to My Quilt Embellisher to finish the job.


Since this is Sew Suite Studio’s first year to participate in the popular quilt shop hop, I’ve learned creating something from nothing can be a little intimidating. The questions of doubt – “Will they like it?” “Are the instructions clear and complete?” “Is it too simple or difficult?” We forged ahead and based on recent feedback – we have “hit it out of the park”. So, read on for some ideas on how to use My Quilt Embellisher to audition the quilting for your Rows.

Part I: The Backdrop Tool

Take a picture of your completed row. Open a new blank file in My Quilt Embellisher. Bring the picture into the software by clicking the backdrop tool. A window appears showing the last folder accessed – you may need to browse to get to the folder with your Row picture. Select the picture of your Row. Look to the Properties box in the top right of the screen to view the size of the picture displayed. Most likely, you’ll need to change the size to actual. The easiest way to do this is to click on the small arrow below the backdrop tool. Another box opens; choose Define Scale. The cursor changes to “+”. Left-click on the left edge of the star block then drag across the block to the right edge (as shown with the yellow line in the picture below).Image1BL

Release the left-mouse click and another box opens. Enter the actual width of this block. Since I know the finished width for the star block is 9”, I entered 9 in the window. Click OK.Image2BL

The backdrop picture is now the same size as my pieced row, approximately 36” x 9”. Double-click on the Zoom tool to view the complete picture. Now, on to the embellishing…


Audition the Block

Click the Embellishment tool. Click the + sign to the left of Elegant; Select Elegant06; Select Embellishments 24. Click OK.IMage3BL

I just love this design and I think it will look beautiful as the decoration on the star blocks of my Row. The best part of this process is being able to view the designs you think will look best without actually stitching. When you know what the designs look like, you’re not wasting time ripping out what you don’t like. Audition these designs to your heart’s content.

With the design selected, drag it over to the right to center on the star block. Notice the design is too small for the block – Also notice in the sequence view there is an artwork line around the embellishment. We want to remove that artwork (although there is a good reason it’s there, but’s that’s for another post)Image4BL

To remove the artwork, click on the artwork in the Sequence view and press your Delete key on your keyboard. Now change the size in the Properties box using the Transform icon

Change the width to 8.5, leaving the checkbox in Maintain Aspect Ratio; Click Apply.Image5BL

Click the 3D icon  for a better view. Now let’s stitch this embellishment with a thicker stitch so it’s more visible. In the Properties box, click the run icon and change the Type to Two Ply; Click Apply.IMage6BL

Change the color to white with a Left-click on any color in the color chart; select white from the thread palette box; Select OK. The below image shows what the embellishment will look like when stitched.Image7BL


Now click File/Save As/ choose file type in your machine format. Also remember to Name your file “Row Embellishment” or anything suitable for your project.Image8BL

After naming and saving the file you may delete the stitches from the screen. We will use this same backdrop to audition the stipple around the state outline next.


Create Stipple Around a Shape

Draw a line around the outside of the state shape by selecting the Artwork tool Choose the Pen. Trace around the state outline keeping the pen point along the outside edge. This can be tricky and my tracing wasn’t very straight. Don’t worry – we can fix it using the Shape tool. Do the best you can – a mouse will be very helpful here. After tracing the outside of the state, the artwork line is generated when you release the mouse. You’ll see the artwork over in the Sequence view. Select the state outline artwork, then select the Shape Tool

This tool lets you fine tune the line you drew around the state. The shape tool changes the artwork shape showing little blue boxes around the shape.Image9BL

Click on any blue box and move the dot fine tune the outline. The shape tool is very handy for making corrections and editing mistakes without starting over. When you are happy with the changes click Apply. This becomes Artwork Index 1 in the Sequence View.

Next, create an artwork rectangle defining the outside edge of the striped section of the Row. Select the Rectangle Artwork tool. Left-Click and drag to create a rectangle approximately 17 ½” x 9”. This becomes Artwork Index 2 in the Sequence view. Select both Artwork 1 and Artwork 2 in the Sequence View. Click the Combine tool . This combines the two artwork segments into one segment. Now the fun really begins – with this combined artwork still selected, click the Stippling icon . We now have stipple stitches generated over the stripes, but NOT over the state. Pretty cool. In the Properties Box, change to pattern to Hilbert with density of 10mm; change color to white; click 3D to get an accurate view of what this will look like. Next week, we’ll explore some options.Image10BL

Rebecca Robinson has been sewing since she was in 5th grade and was making her own wardrobe during high school earning the “Best Dressed” of her graduating class. She later became a CPA implementing accounting systems, still continuing to sew for fun and home decorating across moves over six states. In 2009 she purchased her first TOL sewing/embroidery machine and when she discovered the combination of sewing and SOFTWARE – she was hooked and hasn’t looked back. In 2014 she opened Sew Suite Studio, a DiME Authorized Dealer in Lexington, SC to share her love of sewing and embroidery to all who want to learn. View online at;;

Stitching in Ombre – A New Approach in Monochromatic Embroidery


Embroiderers love threads – it’s a well-known fact. We love the sheen or the matte, the brights and the dark. Truth be told, many embroiderers are hesitant to select their colors, they’re afraid they’ll make a ‘mistake.’  Many stick to one-color embroidery designs. Monochromatic doesn’t have to be boring rather, it can be quite dramatic.  Stitching in Ombre is great way to learn about thread value and its appearance on fabric.

You’ll find a fantastic example of ombre stitching in the latest issue of Designs in Machine Embroidery Vol. 99 July/August 2016.MagBL

Nancy Zieman’s Ombre: Black to White illustrates how to achieve an ombre look by repeating one or two designs in gradated thread values.

She advises stitching your threads in a satin column on the selected fabric. Study your sample and work on the arrangement of colors to help move the eye across the embroidery canvas.SampleBL

It’s also a great idea to print templates of the designs so you can ‘see’ the layout before you stitch. Make notes to remind yourself what thread spool to use and when to use it.  You’ll be glad you did if your stitching get interrupted.

I fell in love with this look. It has everything that appeals to me about embroidery – the dark on dark at the bottom of the vest is a textural feast for the eyes, then as the eye moves up the garment, the thread gets lighter and lighter. At the top of the vest, the last horizontal row is stitched in white bringing attention to the face.  The sparkly zipper is just plain fun and adds a wonderful finishing touch.

Next time I’m out shopping for thread, I’m going to make sure I buy not only the color on my shopping list but all of its companions up and down the value scale.

Tell me, would you wear this vest? Do you like the technique?  What color would you experiment with for your own wardrobe?

Multi-needle Monday: Sport Theme Can Cooler


Machine embroiderers have more choices every year when it comes to purchased blanks. If you have a multi-needle machine and machine embroidery business, you have discovered that purchasing blanks is the most profitable way to make money. Maybe you embroider just for gifts and charity and profitability is not important. In either case, quality purchased blanks are a must-have staple in your embroidery studio.

For example: the can cooler or can koozie. I have stocked the plain blank koozies for years for my customers and thought I have seen or stitched all the styles available. Last week while searching the website of ,I found the sport theme can cooler/koozie. It is exactly what I had in mind for my tennis team giftsSportThemeKooziesBL.

The sport theme can koozies are available for tennis, golf, basketball, football, car racing, softball and baseball. The can cooler will arrive flat, embroider the name, logo or initial on the neoprene fabric and proceed to sew the two side seams after the embroidery is complete. Here are a few tips to remember when planning the embroidery process:

1. Measure the front area of the can cooler (small target ruler from the Embroidery Tool Kit works great) that will be embroidered and place a target sticker in the center location. Only one side of the koozie is generally embroidered.

2. Remember the can koozie will need to be able to stretch to enable the can to slide inside.

3.Double check the orientation of the design on the touch screen before you stitch.

4.Reinforce the side seams because they will take some wear and tear.

5. Use sticky back tear away stabilizer.

The can coolers make perfect gifts for coaches, team mates and anyone who appreciates the sport and enjoys a cold drink on a hot day.

In the book, Hoop It Up we show you how to hoop multiple koozies in one hoop by positioning the koozies side by side and embroidering one side of the koozie only.

Use the small Target Ruler to precisely find the center and slide a target sticker underneath the crosshair.koozie1BLkoozie2BL Remove the ruler and insert a piece of sticky back stabilizer in your hoop. Keep the protective paper intact. Take a pin and score the protective paper with an X, carefully remove the 4 sections of the protective paper. The reason for this step is to keep your hoop clean and free of adhesive residue.koozie3BLkoozie4BLkoozie5BLkoozie6BLkoozie7BL

Place the koozie on the sticky tear away stabilizer and double check the orientation of the embroidery design. Align the needle bar with the target sticker’s crosshair and remove the target sticker when ready. Embroider the name or text and remove the stabilizer from the hoop. Carefully remove the sticky stabilizer from the back of the koozie. Fold right sides together and pin in place. Sew the two side seams together turn right side out.koozie8BL

final canBL

Join me in my Craftsy class to learn more about starting a Machine Embroidery Business.

Totally Over the Top


I just have to share this article I saw online last weekend on both Yahoo and Huffington Post.  This gown made my heart swoon.  Bride Kresha Bajaj Zaveri always dreamed of designing her own wedding garments. When the time arrived, she rose to the task.  Mrs. Zaveri stitched a love story, chronicling her and husband’s matrimonial journey in metallic thread. The stitches tell how they met, dates they enjoyed and the marriage proposal.

Imagine the hours that went into this gown – the design phase, the digitizing process and finally the stitching.  The article doesn’t say if the gown is hand or machine embroidered but I’m guessing it’s a combination of both.   Imagine trying to artistically portray a story into seven panels that complement each other yet blend across the skirt.  From a distance, it looks delicate and intricate. It’s only upon close inspection that the stories behind the panels begin to unfold.


Imagine finalizing the designs and then…stitching them in metallic thread! Gold and white are traditional Indian wedding colors but wow – there are miles of metallic thread on that skirt. Obviously, it’s not Kresha’s first design attempt, she’s a fashion designer by trade,,  so I’m sure she knows the secrets to stitching success.

She intends on framing the gown as artwork to display in their home. Thank heavens it’s not going to wind up in a box in a closet!

Please click on the links below to read the whole story and see the dress in detail.


More details on Huffington Post:

Last week’s assignment was:  Achieving a goal is often easier to complete if you write it down. Who is the next person you are going to embroider a project for?  What will you make? Post your comments and 4 random people will receive a $25 gift certificate for use at Baby Kay’s Appliques!

Here are the winners from last week’s assignment ….

Virginia: A sunhat to protect my bald little granddaughter’s head.

PatO: A fun summer t-shirt for my brother and his boys.

Karen W:  What a lovely thought to help a grieving family.

 Fay Williams: Will be doing things for my 6,4,and 2 year olds grandkids and for the new one due in August. Love my embroidery machine.

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