Author Archive

Target Rulers

I use target rulers to quickly find the middle of a quilt block, pocket, placket or other embroiderable area.  Once placed on the fabric, I slip a target sticker into the hole, aligning the crosshairs. Then I confidently remove the target ruler and hoop the fabric.

Once the hoop is attached to the machine, I center the needle over the target sticker, remove the sticker and embroider the design.

Ninety percent of the time, I’m comfortable with that process. But 10% of the time, I need a little more reassurance.  So I tape the target ruler to the fabric and hoop the fabric. I make sure the legs are not caught under the inner ring.TS2BL

Once attached to the machine, I move the hoop to center the needle over the crosshair.TS3BL

Then I activate the trace feature, also known as the trial key. TS5BL

I touch one of the four center points (top, bottom, left and right) of the perimeter of the design. Then I proceed to the next center point always keeping an eye on the needle to see if it continues to align with the target ruler’s crosshair.TS4BL

If the needle hits the target ruler right on the line, then I know my design is exactly where I want it.TS6BL

That’s a simple step for solid confirmation.

Of course, I could use a printed template of the design and perform the same steps but sometimes I don’t have access to a printer or more than likely, the printer is out of paper, ink, or both!  There’s always a work around when you have reliable tools in your embroidery studio.

Blog image DIME

What is your favorite tool in your own personal embroidery studio? One lucky comment will be chosen to win an $100 gift gertificate to


Double Decker Applique Letters

Since we’re celebrating 100 issues of Designs in Machine Embroidery magazine, I thought I would share one of my favorite projects: curved, double decker applique letters.  I love everything about this project: the teal hoodie (so comfy), the split applique (trendy) and the double layer of applique (the perfect fabric combo: white felt outline and tiny bright print).2016-09-17_9-29-38Make one of your own in Inspirations’ Perfect Embroidery Pro. Open a new screen and select the Text tool, type LOVE in the Properties Box. Select High School Applique font from the drop down menu. Size the design to approximately 8” x 3.25”. CL12BL

With the Text tool selected, push the green circle at the center bottom of the text box to curve the letters. CL13BL

Select the text, right click and select Break Up Text. CL14BL

The letters will now be four individual appliques.  Grab the L and O and move them to a new screen. Select the L, right click and select Create Outline from the menu.  Change the distance to .25. Click OK. CL15BL

Select the outline, right click and select Convert To Applique.  CL16BL

Change the color of the new applique. CL17BL

You’ll have to do this twice for the letter O. For the outside, repeat the steps above. For the opening inside the O, select Inside when you create the outline and change the distance to .50. CL18BL

Resize the outline to fit inside the letter. CL19BL

Right click and Convert to Applique. In the Properties Box, change the Applique width to 2.5 to fit in the narrow space. Save the design as LO and go back to the original file and complete the steps for the VE.

You can find the actual stitching instructions in Vol 97, March/April 2016 of Designs in Machine Embroidery. Enjoy!

I Heart Puffy!

Meet Inspirations Education Consultant Melisa Nisius, this week’s guest blogger. She’s just as passionate about embroidery as you are so I thought it was a good idea for Melisa to share a recent experience with you. You can apply the techniques she outlines to your favorite designs or download the free-for-a-limited-time heart design by clicking here.

Take it away, Melisa!

Recently, while preparing to stitch a hat and searching through my design collection, this stylish heart caught my eye. I knew that I would have to edit the design in software if the finished hat was going to meet my vision. I needed a design with lots of dimension!image1

The original design is created with flat satin stitches. Let me show you how easily I changed that by adding puffy foam to just the heart creating a fun, dimensional design. We’ll need to delete a few stitches and recreate the stitches that currently form the satin-stitched heart portion of the design. Ready?

Open the original design in Inspirations’ Perfect Embroidery Pro. Left click File and Save As to save the design with a new name. This will protect your original design, allowing you to go back to the original at any time.Image2

Now let’s have some fun.  Left click on color 2 in the sequence viewer. You will notice it is highlighted in blue when selected. Delete it either by using the scissors icon or the delete key on your keyboard.Image3

Now, let’s do that again with color 3. Left click on color 3 to select it then delete it. You should be left with just colors 1 and 4.Image4

Right click on color 1 in the sequence viewer and choose Create Outline. Set the distance to 0.05. Click OK.Image5

Left click to select the newly created artwork in the sequence viewer and then right click on a new color in the Thread Toolbar at the bottom of the screen to change the color.Image6

Here is where the magic happens. Right click on the artwork, color 3 in the sequence view, and select Convert to: Puffy-Stitch. The width of the new stitches is fine but the design itself is too large to fit inside the original frame. We need to adjust the size to fit.  Make sure that the newly created puffy stitches are still selected and then in the Properties box choose the Transform icon. Verify the Maintain aspect ratio box is checked then change the width to 1.18 and click the apply button. Finally, right click on color 4 in the sequence viewer, select Order,  To Front.Image7


Click File, save. Your design is now ready to stitch.Finished Heart



Multi-needle Monday: Baby Lock’s New Product

What’s new with the Baby Lock multi-needle embroidery machine? Apparently, many things. I just got back from St. Louis, MO where I had the pleasure to attend the Baby Lock Tech conference for sewing machine dealers. During this conference the store owners view new product from Baby Lock and other sewing vendors. The event is always high energy, positive and exhausting at the same time.

DIME had a beautiful booth to show off our new Weightless Quilter frame along with our Stipple! collections, Monster Hoops and placement kits. As we greet the hundreds of attendees they are always so impressed by the quality of our tools, books and other products. However, a handful of new sewing machine dealers are not aware of the history of DIME and the actual magazine. It is always hard for me to believe that the magazine is not their first introduction to our company. Designs in Machine Embroidery just celebrated its 100th issue! I couldn’t be more proud of all of the hard work my sister Eileen Roche has put into this on-going endeavor. Congrats to the staff at DIME. We look forward to seeing another 100 issues.marieblog

There were many new products unveiled over the past few days but my main focus is the multi-needle embroidery machine. It has a new name: the Valiant. Valiant is defined as: boldly courageous, soldier, heroic. I think all of these words can describe a business owner too. You have to be bold to open a business, heroic when dealing with mishaps and think of yourself as a soldier going to battle when handling competition.valiantBL

The Valiant has a number new technical enhancements but some of my favorite features are: 5 LED lights to illuminate the hoop area, larger LCD touch screen, a color visualizer (random, gradient and vivid), super crisp and clear NeedleCam digital camera, ability to edit text on screen and insert letters or make corrections to text without deleting entire words, IQ Designing capabilities, linking capabilities up to 4 embroidery machines (perfect for a small business owner), 5X faster scanning, 3X higher resolution,  2 X faster CPU processing speed, exclusive memory storage for videos . These are just a few highlighted features that I personally find attractive.

Visit your local sewing machine dealer and take a look at many new sewing, quilting and embroidery machines along with the beautiful and powerful Valiant 10 needle embroidery machine. If you have put off purchasing a new embroidery machine for your business, now is the time to consider upgrading to the Valiant.

Join me in my Crafsy class and save with the coupon link below.

Multi-needle Monay: Kindergarten Rocks

Through my embroidery business I have stitched hundreds of corporate logos, team items and unique baby accessories. I am always open to new ideas. Once in a while a customer will bring me a special request. This time the request was for a kindergarten t-shirt. The mother’s youngest of 4 children was starting kindergarten in a few weeks and she wanted a special send off outfit for her 5 year old. The text was created in my Perfect Embroidery Pro software using a simple Arial font (Kindergarten) along with the Seaside font (Rocks).

Step One: Pre-wash a purchased child’s t-shirt (youth size medium was used) and press before stitching. Position the t-shirt on flat surface and place the template labeled: center front youth small/ medium on the t-shirt (Children’s Perfect Placement Kit). Line up the black bold lines on template with the bottom of t-shirt neckline ribbing. Place a target sticker in the center hole of the template. The target sticker will designate the center of the embroidery design.schoolt1blogschoolt2blog

Step Two: I sized my embroidery design to fit in a 5×7 Monster Snap Hoop to make hooping easy and quick. Embroidering a child’s size t-shirt is so simple with a multi-needle embroidery machine. The bulk of the fabric hangs in front of the machine and out of the way of the embroidery attachment.

Step Three: Use fusible cut away poly mesh stabilizer on the wrong side of upper portion of t-shirt. Lay the magnetic frame of Monster Snap Hoop on a flat surface and cut the stabilizer larger than the frame. schoolt3blog Make sure to iron the stabilizer centered in the area to be t4blogschool t5blog Turn the t-shirt right side out and slide the magnetic, teal frame inside the t-shirt (magnets facing the top). Attach the metal frame on top with target centered within the metal t6blogschool t7BL

Step Four: Slide the frame onto the multi-needle machine with the neck area placed over the bobbin throat. Use your hands to feel underneath the t-shirt for any excess fabric. Line up the target sticker with the correct needle bar (this is a great time to use the live camera if available on your machine).school t8blog

Step Five: Remove the target sticker and add water soluble stabilizer (light weight type) to the top of the fabric. Use the automatic basting file to tack down the stabilizer.

Step Six: Embroider the t-shirt and remove after stitching is complete. Turn t-shirt wrong side out and clip the basting files carefully.

Step Seven: Re-iron the cut away stabilizer from the wrong side of t-shirt. The adhesive is deactivated and can be trimmed.

Step Eight: Turn t-shirt right side out and spritz with water to remove excess water soluble stabilizer from the text design.

Repeat same steps for embroidering the back of the t-shirt.kinder1blogkinder2blog

* The poly mesh fusible stabilizer is perfect for knits and minimizes the urge to over stretch your fabric when hooping.

Use the coupon link to save $10 on my Craftsy class: How to Start a Machine Embroidery Business.

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


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