Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Saturday Sewing: Machine Embroidery 101


Introduction and Part 1

I have had my Single needle embroidery for several months now, and I am still in learning mode—and finally, I have gotten serious about learning the details of using the machine

At first glance, using the machine is easy, and I started doing embroideries with in minutes of unpacking the machine—You can too, PROVIDE you are familiar with any standard sewing machine.

The simple basics of threading the top thread, filling and loading the bobbin are so similar to a standard sewing machine, learning these skills are a snap.

Selecting a pattern to embroider, is pretty easy, too. Hooping some fabric, is not dissimilar to hooping fabric for hand embroidery. The biggest difference is the use of stabilizer. But if you have done home sewing, (clothing) and used a Pellon stabilizer for collars, cuffs, waist bands or facing—you are well on your way to using a stabilizer with embroidery. Machine embroidery has a greater selection of stabilizers –but there are a lot of similarities.

If you have no experience, (or limited) with a standard sewing machine, and with making clothes, It will take you a bit longer to become familiar with the machine basics.  But things are easier than they were on my first machine.  The thread path is outlined, and numbered, so it is easier to follow.

One of the biggest changes, is that an embroidery machine uses a touch button-- not a foot ped
le . But with just a single read through of the manual, I was able to make a practice design (One now uses as my ativar on FB,)and to make a patch , (sewn on a dress) by embroidering a patch on a scrap, and then turning the embroidered patch into a pocket that got sewn on a dress.

I wonder what percentage of sewers never do anything more than simple uses like this?

One short tutorial I watched, (6 lessons in less than 60 minutes) mentioned making a sampler. Samplers are pretty common for hand embroidery. There are also a good way to learn about machine embroidery.

BUT--Being me, I rushed in to working on a sampler. I made lots of mistakes, But I learned a lot!
If you are new to machine embroidery, I do recommend a sample. An organized, methodical sampler is likely best.. My sampler, (I see my myself making a second one, and perhaps even a third!) is not methodical... It is not yet complete, but already I have learned a lot (and made a lot of mistakes along the way.)  But if you are like me, you can still learn a lot by just rushing in.

When I purchased my machine, it came with some extras—extra bobbins, a Sampler booklet of over 30 different kinds of stabilizers, a pack of 10 sheets (8.5 X11) of mid weight tear away stabilizer, 4 spools of embroidery threads (white, blue. red, and yellow) and a number of additional stitch patters –My machine, like most, allows me to transfer stitch patterns onto a USB drive, and then to my machine. I already had some spools of embroidery thread--I used it with my standard machine to do some simple decorative stitch designs. (More on threads in next post0 

The claim was a $300 + Value. (I would say about half of the designa are things I will never use—but...and the files all had to opened to be previewed.

The booklet of sample of the different stabilizers, I first wrote off as useless—but.. I was wrong about that it just took a few weeks for me to realize that it is a valuable tool—and remember, I was familiar with stabilizers for home sewing!

So more about my sampler--(it will become samplers as I grow my skills!)

The machine manual starts with 6 pre-loaded alphabets—Each alphabet set has: Capitals and lower case, numbers, symbols, (pretty much what you find on a standard keyboard. Some include a bunch of accented letters, as found in spanish, french, and other foreign languages. Not all the alphabets have all of the same selections, but the selection of characters is extensive. (and I have since learned, the set come in a default size (shown) but can be enlarged and compacted. Being able to change the size is a useful feature.  
A side note  some patterns seem pricey, but they are often flexible and can be enlarged and shrunk .  Cheaper patterns often come in a single size...

Next, there are “frames” circles, square, diamond, heart, rectangle, oval and some others (I don't have the manual in front of me as I am writing. )--Correction--4 more frames—2 shield shapes, a stop sign (octagon) and a column. (the rectangle is sort of horizontal, the column is vertical) . The frames can be expanded (to about 4 X 4 inches) and shrunk to about 1 X1 inch.

The next group (over 160) are “ornimentals” some are small, some medium and others large. There are florals, and themes, (holidays & such) lacey elements, some that mimic cross stitch-- a nice general selection. Plus, of course, I have the 3000 designs that came as a bonus with my machine, and some free designs, I have down loaded, and a small selection of alphabets and a few other designs...

It is really easy to be seduced by all the designs avail –I think I have too many! So be a miser when it comes to buying designs until you have mastered your machine.

Finally there is a simple alphabet of lovely cursive script—this alphabet is capitals only—and good for simple monograms.

Image of 3 alphabet, showing just A B C in uppercase and lower case
To start my first sampler, I used a scrap (about the size of a fat quarter) and the mid wight tear away, stabilizer that came as a bonus with the machine. The scrap fabric was a light weight denim. I started in one corner of the fabric, hooped it and selected ABC, (and abc) and started working.

First off, I broke a thread. I had used the wrong size thread cap (used to secure the spool of thread on the machine spool holder.) Lesson learned

I had read the manual, but—I was more interested in seeing the size of the letters, so I just plowed on. (so font1 features a leg less letter A.) and I didn't check my selection—so I got a ABD not an ABC.
image of A B C in upper and lower case, for alphabets 4 & 5

So 2 things I learned—1) double check your work before you start, and 2) I needed to learn how to deal with errors as they occurred.

A third thing I sort of knew but hadn't thought about:placement. My machine, (all machines?) will place the design (by default) in the center of the hoop.

Another mistake—I didn't take notes as I changed the placement. For Font 2, I maxed out the placement to the top, (but what number was I north of center? I dunno. Mistake!)

When it came to making the lower case abc of font 2, I again just guessed... and the accender of the b overlapped the B. Still before this, I really had no idea what size the default alphabets were. So, while not perfect—I was learning.

At this point, I realized the alphabets were not going to be done in the same order as the manual—and went back to add 1 and 2—but 2 didn't fit. I wold have if I had planned ahead, but...

I plowed on. I was learning things—1) what the alphabets generally looked like, and the size, and 2) I needed to add a note book to my sewing room to keep track of the changes I was making, Guessing is OK for this sampler, which is a learning tool, but I would learn more if I kept notes!

Next I went to work on the Frames. I have a favorite denim jumper dress, that features 4 framed embroideries, that is getting old (20+year old!) I would like to replicate the design on a new dress, so frames are something I really want to learn.

I started with a pretty scrap of fabric, (left over from a dress lining) and pretty butterfly pattern. The next mistake was my insistence on using the mid weight stabilizer. It was too stiff for me to really get the fabric smooth with the stabilizer.

Between the alphabets work and the frame work, I re-read the instructions for “backing up” when a thread breaks.. but I still didn't master it, and the butterfly has a few errors.

2 examples of frames.  small frame has inset embroidery, large frame has an a single letter H that is not centeredAfter the second butterfly was completed, I selected the frame option, an sewed a single stitch frame around my design. (This was to be a cutting line for the embroidered patch .)

Next, I did a single stitch frame on my sampler. (this will help me place the embroidered patch onto the background denim.)

Displeased with the first effort of the embroidered patch, I made a second, and used a ligher weight stabilizer. This resulted in a much better embroider. (lesson learned: the right stabilizer makes a difference!)The second patch is not perfect, but better.

A bit of spray adhesive on the cut out patch, and a wider frame stitch (a simple satin stitch) and the results are a near success. I wanted to see how big a frame I could make, and made an other empty frame at the 10 mm max—I know from knitting that 10mm =about 4 inches. I thought I move the position to start low enough.. but—working free hand—I realized almost immediately—not enough. There are tools to help position embroideries, I just need to put them at hand (and not stored away as I continue to learm.

I am not an expert of frames (yet) but I feel the little bit of work (less than 2 hours, spread over 2 sessions) I have done making my sampler has taught me a lot. It has also given me a chance to make many mistakes! Glad the mistakes are on the learning sample, and not on any thing I value.

I will continue working on the this sampler, and I know I will make more mistakes, but I also know I will learn a lot, and it is worth every minute.

ebroidered lace on tulle, about 4 inches round. sown on cream felt
I also experimented with dong some lace embroidery... The design is one included with my machine, I layered some tulle, between some wash away stabilizer.  The design took almost a half hour to complete (all stitch time)  The tulle was lime green, the thread, the same giant spool that came as a bonus, the stabilizer is one of the ones I bought.  The plan is to secure it to  a felt backing and making it into a coaster (a coffee cup cozy.)

I know I need to learn more about placement (ie, working on designs that are not dead center in the hoop,) and more about about resolving issues caused by broken threads (top and bobbin) and more about stabilizers, (and which to use with different fabrics.)

When I get better at this, I have lots of “blanks” to practice with—Aprons, napkins, pillow slips, amd plush terry towels.  But that will be a while yet.. 

As I learn, I will continue to do some simple embroideries, (embroideries on scraps, that will turn into embroidered pockets.--a process that makes centering easy, and makes mistakes easier to work around)

Another part of my learning is making a list of ideas of things to embroider—I don't want to just do the same things over and over.... I want to experiment with embroidery on hems, and on collars and cuffs, personalized details for appliques, and for framed embroideries, and tote bags.

Eventually, embroidered quilts, and detailed personalized bed linens... I have a lot to learn, but I feel I am making a good, methodical start.






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