Basic Dimensional Effects In Machine Embroidery

It’s funny thing.. When I first became aware of machine embroidery it was about the time that I purchased my Bernina sewing machine. At the time, the Deco was coming out and I can clearly remember the dealer showing me what it did. I was totally fascinated. However, at the time, my husband was out of work, and we were living on our savings. If that Bernina hadn’t been being discontinued and my dealer knowing how much I wanted one, I’m sure I never would have gotten the deal on it that I did. At the time I was teaching quilting, and I would bring machines to that dealer of my students who needed a repair. Many times, Bob would fix these machines free of charge. It was a rare day where he needed to actually order a part and I’d have to keep the machine overnight. So to say that I gave Bob alot of business is an understatement. He was good to me as a customer and I was good to him. I absolutely loved his shop. Having moved so far away from Chambersburg, PA, I don’t know what’s happened to Bob and the The Sewing Center, but I do still have those fond memories of shopping there and that will live on as long as I do. Anyway… It would be another ten years before I would have the money to buy a machine embroidery sewing machine and that purchase was made just before we were moving to Germany in 2002. I purchased a Brother Ult 2001 sewing machine and I love this sewing machine. I firmly believe that Brother creates the absolute best home embroidery sewing machine. During the years that lead up to opening my blog last year, I put my best foot forward in learning machine embroidery. I purchased many designs over the years and tried stitching out many types of designs and over the years I have learned a few things that I don’t necessarily see happen in machine embroidery today. Most businesses in fact specialize in creating designs for sale. It’s a very rare thing to see a site where your learning the technique of machine embroidery as well. It’s basically left up to the dealer today to show you what you need to know to use your machine effectively. If there are blogs about machine embroidery, I do not know about them, I’m sure there are, but the few I’ve seen are more about selling you something than really teaching you something.

Either or, I always knew I was going to incorporate machine embroidery with quilting. Since I have always loved the look of hand embroidery and when I saw that Deco, I knew I would have a future with machine embroidery as well, but since they were new, I was willing to wait for “newer and better” to come out. That deco was a very small hoop, but the Ult I purchased years later had a huge hoop size of 6×10 and while yes, I really want a 12×12 hoop area, I also learned how to multi-hoop so I could have that additional area even tho it means a bit more work.

Today, I’m going to focus on effects you can do easily on your embroidery machine that you would normally use your sewing machine to achieve. I’m surprised at myself for not thinking of this sooner, but it occurred to me when I was drawing the block for Little Treasures 03 that I could use my digitizing software to create the shapes, and then it would stitch out like 10 times faster than if I used my sewing machine. With sewing machines, this technique is a stop/start technique, because your often stopping to turn the fabric for a curve or corners. In machine embroidery, this doesn’t happen, the machine does all the work and at a much faster pace.

So that is what I’m going to show you today.

I digitized the shapes for Little Treasures 03 in my Bernina Designer Plus software and they can be done in any digitizing software, this is a simple outline technique.

The following are images and instructions for how to do this via machine embroidery in the hoop methods. The normal sewing machine technique or via hand sewing is the basic idea of placing right sides together and stitching it out, then turning it inside out. Even if your not into machine embroidery, you might possibly learn something from how I do some techniques here as not all of it is machine oriented in the lesson.

This lesson is image intensive.

Supplies

You will want to use Tear Away Stabilizer (Preferably light weight)
I recommend you stick to Polyester or Cotton thread for this technique. You want a thread with some strength to it and something that doesn’t break or fall apart easily.
Fabric
Designs

I’m going to provide part the designs on this page as a bonus, they will remain with this lesson so that if you’d like to try the technique out without having the actual block in the future, that will allow you to learn the technique.

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I started out by digitizing the designs in my software.

I digitized these in a way so that there is a placement stichout and then a normal stitch out.

The placement stitchout uses a normal stitchout for the stitches.

The normal stitchout is done after the fabric is added onto the hoop and stitches with a triple stitch.

So let’s get started

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I hooped my stabilizer, in this image I am using recycled stabilizer. In other words, I had used it on another project and it was still good enough to use again. In the areas where you see the small stabilizer, I added a small piece to cover the holes from where I lifted off the previous project.

I save my stabilizer I’ve used in a 2 gallon freezer paper bag, thus I rarely have to fold it to fit it in and I keep my stabilizers including the bag in a garbage can. I normally buy stabilizer by the roll.

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If your like me and using recycled stabilizer, you could glue the pieces in place, but I normally hold them down with my finger and keep it down so that the needle and foot can pass thru without bunching it up.

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Here the machine is stitching the placement lines.

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I had a rather large piece of fabric left over from cutting out some of the parts of Little Treasures 03, but normally my fabrics are not this large in size, I’m pretty good about cutting only the amount of fabric needed.

I didn’t show that in this tutorial, but basically what I do is layout a fold of fabric that I think is large enough, I do lay it like you see in the above photo, so that any extra is sticking out and if I need it I can just slide the fabric down the fold until I have enough. Then lay the shapes on the fabric itself (I do not iron the freezer paper on) and make sure I have enough to cover the amount needed to stitch right sides together.

Once I know that, and after the placement lines are done stitching out, I then lay the fabric on top of the hoop. There is no need to glue it in place, or pin it, the fabric when used in this manner will normally stay in place without any problem and the stitches will stitch out properly.

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This image shows the machine stitching out the triple stitch line to create the shapes.

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At each change of fabric, their is a color stop (change of color in the thread) to help you know that it needs a different fabric or type of stitch at this point. The above is the change from the large bows to the hair shapes.

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The Triple Stitch a pretty thick stitch and you will feel the difference when you take the fabric off the stabilizer.

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This is the first set of designs all stitched out and ready to come off the hoop.

The next set of images will show the other part of the designs for Little Treasures 03 that will stitch out for the dimensional effect of the block:

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Be sure to cut those jumps 🙂

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It should look nice and clean like above once they are all cut.

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Now, when I have several different fabrics in one design, this design in particular is using 3 different fabrics

I will remove my hoop and cut around the parts of the open design so that none of the fabric from the other two designs is accidentally caught in the stitchout of that tulip petal (or shape).

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This image shows both fabrics having been cut.

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When it stitches out it will not interfere with any of the other fabric shapes.

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You can then tear the designs off the hoop. Depending on the stabilizer you’ve chosen and it should be tear away

I had to buy new stabilizer, I purchased lightweight, but it has the feel of medium weight. Suffice it to say I am not happy.

However, it will work with medium weight, you just won’t have an easy time recycling your stabilizer.

I am looking at alternatives, because the lightweight I had prior to this I could actually see thru it, that is how thin it was, this stabilizer is not see thru, it feels like flannel or felt in a way and it doesn’t tear easily. That is why I note here, be careful tearing off the fabric, not because it will break your stitches, but because it won’t be as easy as a see-thru stabilizer is.

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Just showing you how it looks once taken off the stabilizer here.

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You can then cut around the shapes allowing at least a 1/4-inch seam allowance.

However, when you get ready to turn these, you may want to trim at corners or curves so that the fabric doesn’t bunch up when turning. If to much fabric is in a point or a curve, you can feel a kind of “knot” in the point or area where the fabric is bunched up.

It’s better to trim and cut first so you don’t have to turn it inside out again to fix the problem.

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While I do cover this in a different lesson, I will add these here as part of this lesson also.

While these are applique samples, the same is true for this technique. At corners, it is good to cut these on a angle or straight across. The angle helps to give you less bunch of fabric in the point and you get a better point when their isn’t so much fabric in those points. In the above case, I also trimmed the straight edge to 1/8-inch seam allowance as well.

The following are two instances of curve cutting. In the stem, the curve is not so obvious until you go to turn it under for the applique

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These seam allowances haven’t been cut as yet, but they were trimmed again after the cuts because of the skinniness of the stem.

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With this above piece, these trims are on what I call a hard curve. You do not want to cut at the top of the curve, what happens if you do is you end up with a pointed effect. Instead, cut your slits at the edges of that curve. Trim seam allowance to 1/8-inch.

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Like in piecing, we are going to press the stitches, please don’t ignore this step, it take a minute and makes such a big difference.

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Sometimes when removing the stabilizer from the fabric, the threads will be attached, just simply cut this off, it will not affect anything.

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Trim any additional threads. This is important when you have fabric where little threads might be seen thru the top when turned inside out.

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I’ve already covered this, but just once more, Press both sides, it only takes a moment, and it seems to relax the threads.

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Nicely trimmed and cut out, be sure to cut a few little slits around curves, and lesson that seam allowance to about 1/8-inch. I know it seems small, but it will not hurt anything. It’s the poking around once turned that is usually the problem. However, these designs were created with a triple stitch, so unless you have cheap fabric, it’s not likely you will run into problems.

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Prepare the tools you use for turning fabric inside out.

There are many things you can use, I personally use a medical needle holder for this. I use it for almost all of my turning.

What I love about this tool basically is that you open it (It has a locking feature), you slip it inside to the area at which you turn first and I usually go straight to the hardest area I know is hard to turn, I pinch the fabric with the needle holder, lock it back in place and pull it thru gently. It works like a dream.

However, the following are a few other tools you can use to help you with points, curves etc..

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A point turner, a pair of self-locking tweezers, and The Purple Thang.

When I can’t find my Needle Holder, I use my tweezers. I got these when I worked in the industrial sewing industry, which was more than twenty years ago, I have several pairs of them and use them for various sewing techniques.

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To use the Needle Holder, open it by unlocking the area at the handle (Usually just lifting with your fingers will remove the lock)

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Place it inside the object or shape you plan to turn inside out.

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I am hoping this image will show the small pinch I created at the top of the tulip with the Needle Holder.

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You can see that the Needle Holder is holding onto the fabric with it’s grip once I start pulling.

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Bring the fabric thru to the hole.

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Wala, isn’t that cool!!

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You can then remove the Needle Holder and use your fingers to do the rest.

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Once it’s turned inside out, you can then flatten it with your hands and smooth it out.

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With Needle Holder closed or your other tools, smooth out the curves on the inside and give it a point if needed. (The tulip doesn’t have a point in this case)

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Smoothed out

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Press it flat

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At this point I like to make sure my shapes are fitting properly. I’m always amazed that it’s working. Sometimes it’s easy to think, that’s not the right size. 🙂

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With Little Treasures 03, I’ve created a double bows effect, where you have 2 different fabrics created in 2 different bow sizes. I love how this worked out in this block design, but this image is just to show something additional you can do with this technique.

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They fit great.. WooHoo!!

In this design, the hair pieces and bows needed to be stitched with outlines after being turned inside out.

These images show how that was done.

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Once they are turned inside out, ironed, and the placement lines are stitched in the hoop, you can lay them down onto the hoop. Be sure to put the proper shapes into the right placement area shapes. They don’t have to be exact, but they should be close.

I forgot to take a picture of me holding the shapes in place, however, this will give you an idea of how I do that

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These are the bows getting the outlines stitched in place over the placement lines

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With the bows, I do not recommend using the satin stitch know that I also created for this block. Use the applique shape and stitch it down that way. Their is alot of fabric with the bows, and the satin stitch will not stitch out well if you use it.

Because I did the bows in this way, I needed to change the shape of the face and hair parts. I have included this in the block templates, but I’ve also added a lesson here on how to do that.

This is just an image showing how it will look with the hair pieces in place.

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Also, not included in the block templates is an additional leaf shape that I added while stitching the doll out. The original image of this has a shaded green in the leaf and I didn’t include that in the design of the block at the time. I got the idea of how to I could add it during the process of stitching out the doll, so I added the additional parts to the pattern as well.

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This lesson was mainly created for Little Treasures 03, but can and will apply to other projects I do in the future.

Here is a look at the dimensional effects I did with this block.

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I would absolutely love it if you try this technique and let me know how you liked it.

Enjoy!!

Marian

3 thoughts on “Basic Dimensional Effects In Machine Embroidery

  1. Thank you for all the detailed photos!! It helps a lot to actually see what you are describing …feels like we are looking over your shoulder! 🙂

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