Embroidering in the Hoop-it-all

Couple of folks have expressed interest in how I did the Rose of Tralee sash in the Hoop-it-all so here goes.

Here is the digitized front sash. I used Bernina Designer Plus Version 5. (You can read my opinion about this software here…it is near the bottom of the post.) In the center, running left to right, there is a black line. This is a line of long stitches I added to mark the long center of the design, a center that would not change when I split the design. There are also 3 red crosses: 1 after the flower, 1 on the bottom of the “g”, and 1 above the “r” in “Tralee.” These reference stitches were digitized to stitch out first.
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Below you can see the crosses more clearly and a bit of the stitches for the applique process.
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The important thing to remember about the HIA is that although it affords you a larger stitching field, the embroidery machine is still only able to compute in its own sewing fields, the largest being the mega hoop. But, in order to use the HIA, you cannot use the mega hoop because mega hoop designs are automatically split and as that stitch out progresses you are asked to move the mega hoop to different positions that the machine recognizes because of the construction of the mega hoop, something you cannot do with the HIA. So, I used the large oval hoop as a reference to split the design for the HIA.

Here is a pic of the entire front sash as I begin splitting .
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The HIA Super Giant-long hoop has a vertical sewing field of about 21 inches… this front sash was a bit over that, so first I stitched out the flower in the oval hoop and then began using the HIA. In order to split this design into separate files, I copy what I need out of the original full front sash file and create new files, 4 in all for this front sash. Here’s the flower with 1 red reference cross and a shortened black center reference line. This black line works in 2 ways: 1) all the split parts of the design are centered on the same line so that I can line up the parts in the oval hoop manually on the center line of the grid; and 2) before I lay my fabric down on the HIA sticky stabilizer when I begin the rest of the sash, I run this line without thread so it punches holes in the sticky stabilizer for a reference line that I can align my marked fabric with. This line is not stitched out onto the fabric.
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After the flower was finished, I attached the sticky stabilizer to the HIA, opened the next design (the beginning of the words), tightened the hoop into the correct placement on my machine, and punched the black and red reference lines in the stabilizer by, again, running the machine with no thread. Then, I lined up the center of the fabric (that already has the flower) and the first red cross that was stitched out (in white thread onto the flower portion) with the lines punched into the stabilizer. You can see the red cross in the pic above and then vaguely in the pic below centered on the broken blue center line at the top of the hoop above the “R.” I then centered the rest of the fabric onto the center line of the stabilizer (which matched the center lines of the design files), threaded the machine and off I went.
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The stitch out above includes another red reference cross which sits in the crook of the bottom of the “g.” (Cannot really see it here.) This was stitched out in white onto the fabric in the design above so that when I was moving the hoop to the new position for the next design, I could line up my designs by using the cross as reference points for my needle. I do this by advancing the stitches on the Bernina computer screen to find the appropriate stitch, and then move the HIA until the needle pierces a corresponding needle-point. Then I tighten the HIA into place, and the next portion begins. Sometimes I did use the knob on the machine that shifts the design in the hoop by tiny increments to get it lined up horizontally.
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I repeated the process for the back of the sash, though it was more involved because of the overlaps. I still used the reference lines, but this one involved more movement up and down of the hoop. The parts of this design were numbered from left to right as follows: 4,1,5,2,6,3,7. We did decide finally that the back sash would only include the first 5 parts so I numbered these as 3,1,4,2,5. This all fit in the hoop. But there was another challenge…this design stitched out by moving the hoop down then up then down two then up 1…damn. So, here is what I did- I attached the fabric onto the sticky stabilizer and then stitched out the reference line & crosses (in white) as follows: 1) the short, straight black line at the far left which marked the top of the design and the first red cross; 2) then I opened each design in the finished order you see below so I could line up the first cross to then stitch out the second cross. When I was done, I had the reference crosses stitched out in the appropriate places on the fabric. Then I started over and began stitching out the actual designs, beginning with designs 1 and 2 which were the green vines and then 3, 4, & 5 which were the flowers. And it was so easy because everything was already lined up!
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I hope this was clear. If not, please ask questions. It is good for me to have to articulate this.

Digitizing & Embroidering

When oldest diva Molly hit the novice level in Irish dance, I decided to try my hand at making an ID solo dress. Her teachers did not really encourage solo dresses at that level, but her school dress was getting too small and we were all interested to see what I might do. I figured it would be a challenge, but I had been sewing since I was a child, had training and experience making clothes and theatre/dance costumes, and I had been altering the dresses for our ID school for a couple of years…I felt up to the challenge.

As most ID dressmakers know, no matter your prior experience, the learning curve is actually a vertical climb, especially when it comes to putting the design on the dress. In this area, I was a babe in the woods…in a vast desert…on an iceberg in the middle of a never-ending ocean!!! But I persevered, mainly because I was so ignorant of what I was about to take on!

Briefly, that journey went like this:
1) Tried to design a dress, found I was hopeless, so bought one. I found Alison Young of Darkwoods Studio and she made this design for me:
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She did exactly as I asked and we loved it. She emailed it to me and I just stared at it…now what? I figured it was up to me to enlarge it and transfer it to the fabric somehow. Seems that’s how most folks did it. Beginning of my vertical climb on the learning “curve!”

But I had bought myself a Bernina 200E…at the time, it was the top of the line in home embroidery machines. It came with embroidery software and I just assumed I could put the picture in there and it would do the rest….(wry smile, snort…SNORT, chuckle, cackle… GUFFAWWWWW! )

I quickly realized that the software I had was useless. Bought the Bernina Designer Plus…and began my journey. First I cleaned up the drawings because I wanted to use the auto digitizer function. So, I broke Alison’s design up into pieces. The drawing was originally done on 8 1/2 x 11 paper and was of course a hand drawing, a really good hand drawing. I knew that the auto digitizer was going to follow the lines exactly so I had to change this…
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…to this so the lines were even. Have to say that I felt strange “changing” another artist’s design. I hoped I was not messing it up!
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I used Paint in a very laborious fashion. Ugh. Now I know I do not have to do that.

Next, I sized them, and then I began the labor intensive process of learning how to re-hoop. The front panel alone took 6 hoopings in the mega hoop (about 5.9 x 15.7 inches, I think), and I did it the hard way by LITERALLY hooping the fabric each and every time. Makes me twitchy now thinking about how hard I worked, but here is my first digitized and embroidered design:


Knowing what I know now, I am amazed.

Now on to what I do now.

Susan (Gowin, my Feisdress partner) does all the designs I work with now. She gives me the designs in the correct size, placed correctly on the pattern, in either an EMF or JPEG file. Sometimes the file is in color, sometimes black and white. This is the bodice design for the flower solo as sent to me by Susan.
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All embroidery lines are to scale, tho’ sometimes we fuss after the fact. I then digitize. Even though the embroidery software can digitize embroidery and applique automatically, I do not use those functions because I do not like what happens. Strange computer logic that irritates me. I do it all “by hand,” so to speak. This is a pic of the flower dress bodice in the software after I finished digitizing.
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I am not always diligent about using the correct colors of thread when I am digitizing…the blue here should be green…but I know what I want. If I were doing this for someone else, I would use all the correct colors. The single stitch curved lines down the center are placement lines for the green ribbons. I digitized the blue first because its ends must lie under the appliqued flowers. There is an underlay stitch under the blue satin stitching. The appliqued flowers are digitized as follows: placement stitches for the applique fabric, tack-down stitch that runs after I have secured the cut applique pieces within the placement lines, then satin-stitches with underlay. There are several ways to digitize the varying thicknesses of the satin stitch lines…I use whatever gives me the best look.

In the center of the design, I have put in a single stitch cross of black (it was actually white and was removed when I was done embroidering). Since this design is too big for one hooping and I have to split it, I add this basting stitch to help me line up the designs when I re-hoop. Below is the first section I did.
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Below is the second. The top of the cross matches the cross above.
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And this is the result:
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So, how do I re-hoop? I use sticky stabilizer. I attach the sticky stabilizer to my inner hoop. I put another layer of stabilizer, usually a tear-away, behind this and put it in the outer hoop. Then, I sew the line of placement basting stitches, the crosses in the pics above. I remove the hoop from the machine and then carefully line up the basting stitches on the fabric from the first embroidered pass with the lines I have sewn onto the sticky stabilizer. Once it is lined up, I make sure the fabric is secured to the sticky stabilizer by rubbing it down. A basting box I have digitized into my file now sews out to make sure the fabric does not pull up or shift which can happen especially when I am embroidering larges pieces of fabric like this:
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This one took 5 hoopings. And I bent way too many pins rolling this mass up in a variety of ways so that it would not drag on the carriage.

The embroidery software that I originally bought was the Bernina Designer Plus Version 4. Wilcom makes it. A friend who has commercial machines uses the commercial version of mine. I got a chance to see how he does things and he let me play with his software. Same capabilities but mine is WAY cheaper, tho’ still not cheap. I eventually bought bought the Version 5 upgrade.

There are other software applications out there and I have explored several. All the others seem to come in pieces: you buy a platform and then add on only what you want. For craft folks who only want to stitch out designs they have bought, this is a cheaper alternative. But, by the time I would have purchased all I needed to do all that I want, I would have spent a lot on software that ultimately could not do what mine can.

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