Machine embroidery resources

I was chatting with 2 ladies from my quilt guild yesterday about machine embroidery and all the stuff that goes along with having the machine and getting an outcome that you are happy with.  I went to a seminar in June with Floriani and learned a lot, and I have been gaining knowledge and skill by following along with the questions comments and answers in a Facebook embroidery group.

I thought I would share some of my favorite sources.

Designs – I mostly use free designs, however, I have purchased a “few”.  I download to my computer into an “embroidery” folder.  That folder is split into multiple sub-folders. (Think of it as a file cabinet with drawers).  I also print out the color sheet for every design I download, and put those in a 3 ring binder with similar divisions/groupings.  So, Autumn harvest designs are in a folder called Autumn harvest; and the printed sheet is behind a tab named the same. Autumn rolls around and I want to make something seasonal, I just flip my notebook open to the Autumn harvest tab, and page through the designs.  I tried to stick to just storing on the computer and using a design reader, but that doesn’t work in my brain.


Free designs – note – many sites have some freebies on their tabs, but they tend to constantly be the same.  These I am listing have different all the time. Of course, they also have designs for sale and they are all very nice quality when stitching out.  Most require you to subscribe/join etc.

Cute designs for sale – note; there are LOTS of people selling designs on line.  I don’t buy very many, but I love these websites.


Digitizing – If you don’t want to buy software, then you send your design off to someone to “digitize” for you .  Whenever anybody on the group I belong to on Facebook asks for a recommendation, the first name that ALWAYS comes up is Brad at   I’m sure other people do quality work, and you can buy your own software. I haven’t used his services, but will if I need them in the future.  The recommendations I read about him are great.

Great tutorials –


Stabilizer and Thread – I attended a Floriani product seminar in June.  I have been using Floriani products, purchased either at Delaware Sewing Center or at Quilt shows.  I love them!  The secret to good embroidery results is the stabilizer!  Spend some time on the RNK Distributing/Floriani website to get an idea of the products.

Download the Floriani Stabilizer workbook!

Note:  Floriani has a line called “Quilter’s Select” that they developed with Alex Anderson (The Quilt Show).  She LOVES the Floriani products.

I have not been disappointed with ANY of the Floriani products, thread or sabilizer.

I have purchased some supplies from Amazon, when I first got started.  My experience with everything has been GOOD.  My machine liked the thread, I have used up my supply of pre cut tear away and will order more.  It will take me YEARS to use up all the thread and bobbin thread I have purchased.

These are the supplies I originally bought:

8×8 medium weight tear away stabilizer

63 Brother Threads

HUGE Spool WHITE bobbin thread (90 wt)

I also purchased “water soluble” stabilizer (WSS) at Delaware Sewing Center.  It looked and felt a bit heavier than Glad wrap for food.  When using a WSS, it helps to make it larger than your hoop and pin it to your project outside the edge of the hoop. Slippery stuff.  Recently on the Embroidery group, I read that people were using a Vilene Water Soluble stabilizer.  Amazon is carrying that also – Vilene Water Soluble Stabilizer

Things I have learned from the groups & seminars:

  1. FLOAT a piece of tear away UNDER your hoop – EVERY TIME. (AMAZING what that does for your project
  2. Iron a stabilizer to the back of your fabric
  3. Make your stabilizer much larger than your hoop to avoid stretching your piece
  4. Most stabilizers can support about 10,000 stitches. When you have a design with MORE than that; add a second layer running in the opposite direction
  5. ALWAYS use a WSS on top. ALWAYS.  The theory has been to only use the WSS on things like towels and velvet or plush items that your stitches would sink into, but I saw a visible difference in “sinking designs” on t-shirts and cotton items.
  6. When your machine “acts up” stop, change the needle, clean the bobbin case, rethread everything and make sure you don’t miss anything.  These machines are stitching FAST; 800-2000 stitches per minute, and a dense design, if improperly digitized may “bend” your needle.
  7. Thread single needle machines with the pressure foot up until you get to the needle, then lower it.  It opens up all the tension areas, and you won’t “miss” getting your thread through the disk or channel.
  8. Use a CHROME needle by Schmetz or a Titanium needle sold by Superior Thread
  9. I used my embroidery thread in my regular sewing machine when I need to top stitch something and match a color
  10. Use the RIGHT stabilizer for the project (See the Floriani guide or the Embrodery Library “how to embroidery on any product)

Supplies –  These are one stop shop for supplies – stabilizer, thread and blanks

Thread Info


Don’t forget to check your BRAND of machines website.  Brother is “my brand” and they offer lots of free designs and information.

Join an embroidery “GROUP” on Facebook for your brand.

I hope you find this to be a helpful lists of sources and fun places to window shop designs etc.  If you know of other places that I may not have mentioned, PLEASE comment and include a link and why.  I will periodically update this list.



Machine Embroidery fun and challenges

I played around with my Brother PE500 Embroidery machine on Mother’s Day.  I purchased a few plain scoop neck t-shirts at Wal-Mart recently with the intention of embellishing them with embroidery.

My machine allows for a 4″x4″ design.  The actual hoop is almost 5×7.   I have learned a few things from a Brother Machine Embroidery Group on Facebook in the last year.   The most important thing I learned was to “float” a piece of medium weight tear-away stabilizer UNDER the hoop.  That’s right; UNDER the hoop…just slide it in after the hoop is in position on the top of the machine bed.  I don’t really understand why, but this seems to work well.  It is always a challenge to get things hooped properly.  I had the most interesting challenges using various products.

I have done a few t-shirts in the past and thought that I had mastered the hooping and stabilization process. There is however a big learning curve in this hobby.  I saw Nancy Zieman (Sewing with Nancy) use a product on one of her videos, so I thought “why not”.   I purchased the SULKY “sticky back” stabilizer that you “hoop”, then score, to remove the protective paper.  The intent of this stabilizer is so that you don’t have to hoop the shirt.   I like this idea; because it is hard on my hands to hoop.  Because I was working with a knit, I added stabilizer to the back of all the shirts I stitched.  I ironed on Floriani No Show Mesh stabilizer.  LOVE the Floriani.  Now, about that SULKY….Well, I can say; it works; sorta.  It was very sticky. It held the shirt in position.  But oh my goodness – it GUMMED up my needle causing my thread to break countless times.  So; alcohol wipes were my friend when I did the T-shirt in the first photo (purple).

Sulky sticky back with shirt floating

Sulky sticky back with shirt floating

You will notice that I use a combination of Red Clover Clips and safety pins to keep the shirt fabric “out of the way” while stitching.  I also floated a piece of water soluable stabilizer (WSS) on the top so the stitches would not “sink”.  WSS is usually used on items with nap; like towels; fleece. I have decent luck when adding to the t-shirts on a dense design.  Below is a close up of the finished shirt; still a little pulling of stitches and not a very dense design.  Centers of the flowers are not as nice as I had hoped.

Free design from Brother

Free design from Brother

In the next photo; I hooped the shirt in the usual manner. I added Floriani iron on tear away stabilizer behind the Floriani No Show Mesh. I also floated a tear away medium UNDER the hoop.

2nd shirt - Brother design

2nd shirt – Brother design

Other than a little pulling of the stitches; this did ok. Well enough in fact, that I would try shirt # 3…. Same method as # 2, except I added a clear IRON OFF stabilizer on top by Floriani. It was designed for things like velvet that can’t get wet. At some point…I had to remove it.

About the time the bluebird and the machine started to fight with each other….the sound of the machine changed, and instantly a mess under the machine with top thread wrapped around the bobbin….jam…emergency stop!! Out comes my exacto knife, the only thing small enough to squeeze between the hoop and the bed of the machine where the whole project is now held HOSTAGE by that birds nest.

In the process of freeing the hoop, I made a tiny little hole in the shirt. After 20 minutes of disassembly of the bobbin case; clean out, insertion of a new bobbin and another jam, I determined it was time to put in a NEW needle. Glad my hubby was upstairs working on his train repair table, reminding me of the “NEW NEEDLE” concept. Genius man. In the process of the jam up; that needle got bent. Did the jam bend the needle or did the needle hit a thick section, bend and cause the jam?

Oh; that hole, well, I fixed it. I left the project hooped; took it to the ironing table; added some more stabilizer to the back with my applique iron from Clover (that little triangle kind); and restarted the machine. The rest of the project stitched out perfectly. After all was said and done, I went back to that blue bird and stitched him again. The hole that is now covered in a thousand little stitches. And there is enough stabilizer on the back of the shirt, it’s not going anywhere. Glad that when I washed it the Floriani mesh gets very soft.

Shirt # 3

Shirt # 3

Of course; when I un-hooped after stitching, I realized the darn thing was slightly “tilted” in the shirt. Again; after washing, it is not terribly noticable. I can say this…..I’m glad I am not trying to earn a living at that machine. Maybe I would be better, but I do find a level of frustration that takes it from FUN to downright ANNOYING. Note to self….limit — one embroidery project in a day!
I did need to make a quilt label for my Grand Illusion Mystery Quilt (#1) that I will be taking with me this week on my trip. I waited until Monday to do it, and because I was using Quilters Cotton, it went smoothly. I cut a piece of fabric 8″ x 40″ and stabilized about 1/2 the width. I had 3 hoopings on this label. My biggest challenge is line up text, as I can only get a limited number at the smallest font on the line; and can not enter multiple lines on the machine at one time. I am pleased overall how it turned out.

quilt label

quilt label

Now I just need to get busy and stitch it on the back of the quilt. I did put fusible behind it, so I will press it down to keep it from shifting while I hand stitch. Oh; must remember to bury those thread tails from the top of the quilt!!

I am really glad that I signed up for a Floriani class next month!! Embroidery machines are fun, but there is so much more to learn. Sometimes I wonder if it is me or the machine? In any event, I have one more little embroidery project to do today. Wish me luck!!
Busy busy week before my trip! Happy stitching!