Posts Tagged ‘advice’

5 Must-See Tutorials For Getting Started In Machine Embroidery

Machine embroidery is pretty neat.

I’m not just saying that. Really. This stuff is awesome, and there are lots of folks out there who think so. However, there are lots of misconceptions out there about what it is, what it’s for, and how you do it.

One, it is NOT just for your Great Aunt Bitty to embroider pictures of cats on things. Sure, she can do that too. Cats are all the rage these days, just ask the internet. Also, it’s not dark arts wizardry, thought you might be forgiven for thinking that the first time you tried to get something to stitch out correctly. Embroidery machines are neat little gizmos of technology that sometimes take on a personality of their own when embroidering your favorite designs, and ESPECIALLY when embroidering on your favorite shirt. If you just grab one out of the box and hope for the best, you and your machine may have issues. Plus those suckers can be complicated beasts to set up sometimes.

So for your ease and enjoyment, here are 5 easy tutorials if you’re just starting out that should make your journey a bit more pleasant, and stop you from throwing that magic technology out a window the third time it eats a design.

5 Must-See Tutorials For Getting Started In Machine Embroidery

First up, we go old school UT! Yup, this is one of the first tutorials I ever did (and that’s our old studio… so pink!) and it’s all about how to set up an embroidery machine. All embroidery machines are different, but it covers some basics of what it’s like getting that shiny new toy out of the box, and the first steps to setting it up. It breezes over some of the embroidery basics, so for that, I’d really recommend…

5 Must-See Tutorials For Getting Started In Machine Embroidery

This tutorial on machine embroidery basics. Once you’ve gotten a little more familiar with your machine, you need to understand some very important things like proper stabilizers, hooping techniques, and proper fabric choice to really get solid results out of this cool technology. This is an absolute must read for anybody just starting out.

5 Must-See Tutorials For Getting Started In Machine Embroidery

Next is for those moments you feel like defenestrating your machine. (That means throw it out a window… word of the day!)

Gotten your machine all set up, followed all the instructions, and you’re still getting terrible results? Well, this tutorial all about preventing shifting and gapping in designs should help. I hope for you sake your stitch outs aren’t looking quite as bad as that example above, but if you’re getting wrinkled fabrics and edges that don’t line up, try out these tips for getting great looking embroidery every time.

5 Must-See Tutorials For Getting Started In Machine Embroidery

For a little extra finesse, try using templates to perfectly line up your designs! This tutorial teaches you how and where to get your templates, and then easy steps for using them to get perfectly aligned designs. We use templates quite a bit in our tutorials, so it’s pretty handy to know to print and use them when the time comes.

5 Must-See Tutorials For Getting Started In Machine Embroidery

Finally, if you’ve learned to set up your machine, know a bit about stabilizers and hooping, figured out how to get a template, AND you haven’t thrown your machine out a window yet, congrats! You’re well on your way to becoming a seasoned embroiderer. Now comes the fun part… experimentation! Check out this tutorial for design hack ideas, basically super easy ways you can change up designs to get totally unique results and make them your own. It’s everything from changing up colors to specialized threads. The design is just the beginning… what you do with it is a whole different thing!

Got all that? Great! Welcome to the world of machine embroidery. If you’re looking for more ways to get started, there’s a whole section dedicated to it in our tutorials. They go beyond the basics and start talking about specialized tips like for stitching perfect freestanding lace to using applique designs.

Good luck! Your machine will thank you for it. No matter how cool a word you think defenestrate is.

How To Be A Craft Show Genius

It’s getting to be that time of year… holiday shopping and craft shows! Are you one of those crafty folks who embroiders things to sell, like our Urban Entrepreneurs?

Well, if you’re gearing up for another season of craft shows, or if maybe this is the first year you’re going to give it a try, check out this helpful guide from Dirty Laundry on How to be a Craft Show Genius. This lady knows her stuff about how to prep and survive a craft show, making sure you and your goodies look their best.

Good luck stitchers, I hope this holiday season is a good one!

Guest Posting On Designs In Machine Embroidery – Stitching For Guys Who Don’t Like Golf

If you haven’t picked up this month’s edition of Designs in Machine Embroidery, you totally should! Partly because it’s awesome, and partly because I have a tutorial in there all about how to stitch on graphic tees for guys, to make cool shirts like this…

As a follow up to that article, I’ve got a guest post up today over on Eileen’s Blog, about how to stitch for guys on occasions that don’t call for golf, or hunting, or beer. Trust me, there are a lot of options besides the usual that let you use your embroidery machine to make really cool stuff for the modern dude, and it’s all covered in the article, with examples to get you started.

Go check it out over on Designs in Machine Embroidery!

Your dude will be glad you did. He really loves his golf shirts, but he might just be ready for something different.

Mailbag Mayhem: A Stitch Is Like a Hug

Welcome to a brand new, no-promises-as-to-regularity blog series: Mailbag Mayhem! Sometimes a note comes in that I really want to share with all of you … a question that gets asked over and over again, or a particularly charming comment, or what-have-you. This space will hold the greatest hits of the Urban Threads inbox. Education! Outrage! Hilarity! You’ll find it all here. Well, mostly education in this post. One thing at a time.

Today’s topic is shifting and gapping of machine embroidery designs. It’s by far the most common “help it’s stitching funny” question I get, so it seemed an apt inaugural post. Let’s say you just bought an embroidery design, and you’re about to stitch it on something. This shark looks nifty on the site…

But when you go to stitch it out, everything goes awry. Slightly condensed from a recent email:

The last two designs I have tried to use have not lined up properly. The first one is the Ace of Spades w/flames. The bottom right corner of the card (where it sort of flips up) was off. I did it on a shirt for my 10 year old grandson, and he really doesn’t care about it. Then today I tried to do another shirt for him with the Shark. It is a complete mess!! The eye and teeth are too high and get covered by the blue/green of the shark’s body. From there it goes downhill. I kept working on it, thinking it may “fix” itself, but no luck. I finally just gave up. Can you give me any ideas as to how to fix these problems? I love love love the stuff on your site, and hope you can give some suggestions so I can keep using your designs. … My grandson loved the ace of spades (he didn’t notice the flaw), and he keeps asking me when I’ll have his shark shirt done.

And indeed it was a complete mess. Some of the stitching landed where it shouldn’t, leaving all kinds of gaps and general chaos in the design.

I asked a couple follow-up questions:

What kind of fabric? (T-shirt knit.)

What kind of stabilizer? (Water-soluble on top and bottom.)

Culprit found.

Thing is, a stitch is like a hug. It squeezes the fabric together a little bit. When you’re working with tens of thousands stitches … well, that’s a lot of hugs, and they can make the embroidered fabric shrink up a bit. This can, in turn, make the fabric within the embroidery hoop shift around a little bit, causing parts of the design to line up oddly. Stabilizer is meant to prevent this. But different kinds of stabilizer work in different ways:

Cutaway stabilizer is the stablest stabilizer, and it’s what I recommend almost all of the time. The fibers do not come apart or break down easily — try tearing some and you’ll see what I mean. Stick it to the back of your fabric with a bit of temporary spray adhesive for even more stability. Don’t like the stabilizer edges on the inside of your shirt? For small or lightweight designs, sheer cutaway stabilizers like Sulky Soft ‘n Sheer or Floriani No Show Mesh are a softer option.

Tearaway stabilizer looks a lot like cutaway, maybe even more paperlike. It’s meant to tear away after the design is done, so the fibers come apart easily. Tens of thousands of needle perforations tend to help that process along. Yes, there are some instances where it’s a perfectly decent choice … a very light-stitching design on a tea towel comes to mind. But for a solid stitch-filled design, or anything on a knit, I’d stick with cutaway.

Water-soluble stabilizer can look either like a clear plastic sheet, or a white mesh similar to a tearaway. Like the name says, when you get it wet, it dissolves. I use it for freestanding lace and as a topping on fabrics with a pile, like terrycloth.

Different people will give you different advice on what stabilizer to use when, and passions seem to run high on the matter. This is what we’ve found tends to work. Take it for what you will.

After a second try with cutaway stabilizer, the embroidery looked much better:

And the shirt made a sharkalicious gift.

How have you solved shifting and gapping problems? Leave a note in the comments!

And remember … if you’ve got a question, just drop us a note!

Featured Project – Illsabelline the Steamwork Doll

Happy Halloween, stitchers! Are you all geared up for a weekend of tricks and treats? Well, one of my favorite parts of Halloween is seeing all the fantastic costumes that come out this time of year, and I have a really great one to share with you today.

Lately it’s been so much fun to bust out of the world of traditional stitches, and today’s featured project just cranks this up on more notch. Ladies and gents, get your game face on and your machines at the ready, because you’re not going to believe the work of this next Urban Threadster, Azre Greis.

She’s created this absolutely stunning Steamwork Doll costume called Illsabelline, and she created this as a basic machine embroidery newbie! This thing is not only dripping with embroidery, but all kinds of amazing steampunk details you just have to see to believe.  Azre joins us today to talk a little about her amazing project, and the crazy amounts of hours of work that went into bringing this doll to life.

First off, this is no small project…what inspired this? Was it for a particular con or event? Or just for the heck of it?

I’ve always had an interest in Steampunk and its style, but never felt like I understood it enough or had enough of a reason to do anything relating to it. Unbeknownst to me, two of my dear friends were part of an ‘airship crew,’ the Sky D.O.G.s (Delirium of Grandeur) and were doing a convention in the summer called A-kon in Dallas, TX.

They encouraged me to make a costume to go with their group and hang out together. They hand held me through concept, design, back story and even character name to make my transition into this brassy new world a gentle one.

Did embroidery inspire the steampunk or did a love of steampunk come before the embroidery?

I had originally planned a fairly plain skirt/top combo with a small box on the back for a key to come out of and didn’t even actually own an embroidery machine at the time the costume was started.

The machine came in May as a belated birthday present from my fiancé and my best friend (it was a plot) and she showed me Urban Threads, specifically the gothic and steampunk areas. I was in love. I immediately began coming up with places to put the designs I found and began testing the waters of making my own.

Talk us through all the embroidery… how many designs are on here? How long did it take to embroider it all?

The skirt is 15 feet of hem and took 2 weeks to do using a grouped cog design that I married together into a bigger group so I wouldn’t have to re-hoop as often. All of the cog sets are unique as I used no colour set and changed them out on the mood of the moment as I worked through it. There is a seal on the front left side of the skirt bearing the character’s name, Illsabelline, and her make/model information as well as steampunk butterfly. 

The shirt has a collar and sleeve trim lined in cog borders with the neck piece being overlapped and the sleeve are just pairs with spaces so it didn’t get too busy. The arm cuffs have the same cog border on the top and the bottom, but only the front, as the back is tied in a bow. The socks have the cog border, but only on the front as they are also tied in a bow in the back.

Then there’s the box itself. The doll box has cog border corners turned at different angles on the sides and the front, while the top has the steampunk compass and the right speaker holes are covered up a steampunk globe. The final piece was a large keyhole embroidered to nest with the metal key, the actual hole of the keyhole is cut out on the top for the key to go in and out of, as well as spin when turned.

Total embroideries are 7 on the doll box, 16 sets of cogs (two groups each) and the 1 seal on the skirt, 2 (1 per) on the socks, 8 border sets on the shirt, and 4 for the arm cuffs, so 38 total. I only did about 27 of those between May and June, when the convention was, and then did the rest over the course of a few days later in the year to ‘finish’ the costume.

Did you design the costume yourself? Was it based off a pattern or did you make it up on your own?

I sketch out all of my costumes before I get started on them to make sure I’m not getting in over my head before all the fabric is in a heap in front of me. I designed the costume along with my friends’ suggestions about Steampunk, but I did use some patterns from Simplicity for some basics like general shirt and skirt shapes then exaggerated them. The socks and cuffs are just out of the ether, and the box was 100% made up by myself and my friend.

What were people’s reactions to the costume and to all the embroidery?

Everyone asked where I bought it and were shocked when I said I made it. Many people got confused and thought embroidery was done by hand only, so I explained that I have a magical machine that makes it all happen for me provided I give it a proper sacrifice of compressed air, oil and Robison Anton threads. Several people asked me how long it took and were aghast at how much time was spent on the skirt alone.

There were lots of pictures and a lot of people played with the key on the box and spun it around. I’d pretend to get wound up or down depending on what was happening around us. I’m extremely camera shy so it was very surprising to me to have so many people coming up with shutters in hand asking to touch it and take close ups. The embroidery makes the outfit, it wouldn’t be anything of note without all of it.

Any challenges along the way? What advice would you give someone trying an ambitious costume like this themselves?

These are all things that smacked me square in the face along the way working on the doll. I can’t stress this part enough, plan ahead, don’t try to rush embroidery or you’ll wind up making mistakes or trying to take shortcuts that will only increase the time you spend and lead to frustration.

Make sure you have all the colours of thread you need before you get started and if you know you’ll be using a particular colour a lot, buy 2 spools. Make sure you research how much space you’re working with and therefore what size hoops you need and if you need to resize your designs. Don’t be dead set on one kind of design or idea, let the outfit and the embroidery take you in other directions. I was originally very set on everything on the outfit being all butterflies, but there were so many interesting aspects to the world Illsabelline lives in I couldn’t imagine all she’d adorn herself with to be just butterflies and branched out after surfing and tinkering for 30 minutes here and there.

Know your fabrics, some designs are too heavy for things like organza and other sheers to handle, while some fabrics are too thick to really show delicate details appropriately, and if you’re not sure, find someone and ask for advice. Be ready to take breaks, most machines get tired running nonstop and will get very hot, sometimes even causing more frequent thread breaks (this happened on my original machine all the time).

AVOID METALLIC THREADS IF YOU CAN! They are so beautiful but they are full of grief and will snap even under the most perfect of circumstances. 

What’s your next project going to be?

My next steampunk project is an evening gown for Illsabelline based loosely off of Koi fish and I have my eyes set on the fantastic steampunk Koi in Urban Threads steampunk area to inspire me.

For Halloween I’m working on Morticia Addams, which wound up being a lot less embroidery than I had tried to will it to be. When something is all black, not much shows up. But I just finished a Mrs. Lovett that I managed to sneak some in on, so all was not lost this October!

A little to my chagrin, I’m actually being a stitchpunk windup doll for Halloween, and I am very much thinking I should have just saved that one for next year. How do you top this? Well, I don’t, but I for one couldn’t be more pleased. I just love seeing what creative minds can do with the right designs.

So, did you get your stitch on for this Halloween? If nothing else, I bet this will inspire you to give it a go next year — after all, this thing was made by an embroidery newbie! I cannot wait to see more creations from Azre Greis.

Hair by Jamie Lee Laratta, makeup by Julie Edwards, and CCI photos as marked by Stephen Hertenberger

Do you want to be a featured project on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!

Know Your Needles

Do you know the difference between all your different embroidery needles? Can you tell a crewel needle from a tapestry needle?

Never fear, this awesome post over on Needle n’ Thread is here to help you out!

Small Biz Inspiration: Johnny Cupcakes

Are you a small biz owner? Maybe you make your own handmade goodies or even sell nifty things with UT designs stitched on ’em. You should check out this awesome interview with the infamous Johnny Cupcakes!

(Never heard of him? Prepare to become a fan. And buy lots of T-shirts.)

Johnny Cupcakes is a great success story for entrepreneurs just starting out, and was an inspiration for me when I decided to start Urban Threads. He’s got a great interview up on BU Today all about going into the biz and doing what you love. Check it!