September 18, 2020

Embroidery Part 1: “Density, jump stitches, decorative fills”

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I have always yearned to have a hobby for which I could sell products. The object of my desire was to own a home embroidery machine!

My dream started when I saw a Singer embroidery machine demonstration one day in a fabric store in Miami, and I was mesmerized by what it could do!

I delved into research on the subject of my desire – size, price range, features, quality, hoop size, etc. I went on to the Net, I talked to many people who owned them, got their opinions on what was important, and what was just ‘bonus’ (and usually unused by most novices and home embroiderers).

Finally I bought one. Actually I ‘won’ it. Not exactly. I bid for it on EBay and mine was the highest bid. I was so excited when it finally arrived. The machine already had a few designs preloaded into it, so I immediately began to stitch on anything I could get my hands on i.e. towels, fleece baby blankets, scraps of fabric, even a pair of my boyfriend’s underwear! (Was he surprised the next day when he opened the brown paper package I placed secretly on his car seat.)

My ambition to embroider was unmatched, but what I was really lacking in was the experience and knowledge of the basics, i.e. stabilisers, thread type, needle types, and design density for various weight of fabrics. Most of my early projects look novice and ‘homemade’, the backs have thread nests, there are puckers on most of them, and I had to throw away about a third of the first few attempts.

I needed lessons badly. But where? There were no local lessons to be had and my time was limited anyway. So, I took to the Internet and researched my options online and found the Designs by Sick website. I was impressed by all the cute designs, and joined the forum.

I lurked and began to read the postings including a yahoo embroidery group, and in time, was confident enough to post messages myself. Mostly, I would stick to ISO (in search of) for various designs I wanted or needed, and sure enough, someone would answer me!

The friendliness and willingness of most group members to help someone they will probably never meet is a real draw to join a good group and become an active member. Since postings can be read and answered at your leisure, it makes for something to do at any hour if you need help or just want to vent that your machine has a mind of its own!

Like most newbies, I think I suffered from the disillusion that if I didn’t download EVERY free design immediately I would never again have the opportunity to do so. Thus began my freebie downloading binge. I would log onto the computer early in the morning, searching out free sites, joining yahoo groups and panicking that I would have to await approval. Never since college application days did I worry so much about getting accepted! I HAD TO HAVE THOSE DESIGNS!!!!

Hours upon hours of downloading, searching, and hundreds of designs later, and I still hadn’t really stitched out anything worthwhile – but I had those free designs! It took me a long time (and I still will occasionally slip) to come up with some guidelines about downloading what is right for me.

Each person has to decide what designs are right for them, but the rule of thumb I have developed is, if your immediate reaction to the design is “Ugh!” then DON’T DOWNLOAD it! You are only wasting your time, and computer space, as well as the time you will take to file it. I have several designs that are ugly to me, and while beauty is in the eye of the beholder, if I don’t get happy looking at the designs, and can never imagine stitching them out, I don’t download those types of designs anymore.

I have also begun to realize the benefit of downloading and test stitching ‘sample’ designs. You may see several of the same design (from shared clipart) among many designers on the web. Though the clipart may be similar, the actual quality of the design can only be determined by test stitching.

Density, jump stitches, decorative fills, tension of the design all affect how it will stitch out on your machine. What looks good as an image on your 2D monitor, may not actually resemble the 3D finished product. So, test, test, test!!! If you feel like you are wasting the thread and stabilizer, then use a square of similar fabric to your final product to do it on. Always use the same sized square (I use 9in. squares so I can test stitch up to a 5×7 design on them). Then when you have 20 or more, stitch them together to form a ‘raggy’ quilt or actually sash them to form a traditional quilt and give it to someone – or even better, donate it to a local charity!

To be continued

 

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