\Hi....I'm New Here (Volume 1)
New Here (Volume 1)
Greetings! On a recent visit to an
embroidery news group at Yahoo.com I
saw a message from a new
embroiderer. She'd just gotten her
machine, and it was so new that it
was still in the box. She was so
excited -- and didn't know where to
begin. "Help!" she wrote to the list
members. "I just got my machine.
Where do I start?"
The other members of the group were
delighted to give her advice, and
emails flew back and forth so fast
they were a blur. Embroiderers and
sewists are generous by their very
nature. Everyone remembers when they
were new to the art, and I don't
know of anyone that learned to sew
by themselves. It's a tradition
that's passed on through working
together, whether it be in pairs, or
sewing and quilting circles, or
classes and workshops. And in this
age of technology, help is just a
This Kenny's Korner article is
intended to be a starting point for
those that are new to embroidery --
sort of a "embroidery for beginners"
guide that folks can use to help
them along their journey. I'll share
information that I've found to be
helpful, and quick links to get you
right to it.
If you are new to embroidery,
welcome! Kenny's Korner, and this
article in particular, is a place
for you to get free information and
advice, troubleshooting tips, and
useful help to make your sewing and
embroidery time fun and successful.
If you're not a beginner, I
encourage you to read this article,
even though you're experienced.
Then, send me an email at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell me
what I've missed, and what other
information would be helpful to
someone who is beginning to
embroider. I'd appreciate your
suggestions, and will be glad to
include them in the next volume of
Top Tips For
1. You're the boss -- and
When you're embroidering and
sewing, be fearless and brave.
Want to put a design upside-down
on a shirt? Do it! Want to
embroider a purple panda, a
yellow turkey, a bright green
sun? Go for it! You have
absolute autonomy when it comes
to what you do with your
There. Doesn't that feel better?
You might think that those are
strange examples, and you'd
never think about embroidering a
purple panda or a yellow turkey,
and that's okay.
But if you find yourself asking
the question, "Should the design
be 5.5 inches down on the shirt,
or 6 inches down?" just
remember: you're the boss.
You're the artist! It's all up
to you, and what looks good to
you. You can embroider anything
you want, anywhere you want,
with any colors that you choose.
what your machine
can do -- and what
it can't do.
Whenever you shop
for an embroidery
machine, you hear
what it can do. When
I bought my first
machine, I read such
rave reviews about
it that I was fully
convinced that the
machine would not
only stitch any
design I wanted onto
anything I wanted,
but the machine
would also pre-wash,
press, and fold my
fabric stash while I
relaxed in front of
And yes, embroidery machines are
a truly wonderful bit of
technology. They're smart and
savvy creatures, and they can
stitch a lot of things on a lot
of different materials.
But while it's important to know
what your machine can do, it's
as important to know what your
machine can't do. That's called
a "limitation," and every
machine has one.
The most common limits that
you'll encounter are "hoop size"
and "stitch count."
Let me address "hoop size"
All embroidery machines have a
hoop, and that hoop size is
hard-coded (permanently set)
into the machine. If you have a
hoop size that's 5 x 7 inches,
your machine will read a design
that is 5 x 7 and smaller. But
if a design a little bit larger,
such as 5.1 x 7.1 inches, your
machine will probably not be
able to read the design. Even
that small .1 inch difference is
enough to cause the machine to
give you the silent treatment --
or in some cases, beep shrilly
and pitch a fit.
How can you find out the hoop
size of your machine? Check your
user's manual, or with the folks
that sold you the machine.
You'll also find a partial list
of machines and hoop size on the
HELP page at the Embroidery
Click here to find that list.
In your user profile at the
Embroidery Library you'll find a
place for you to enter your hoop
Click here to go to your user
profile. Enter your
machine's hoop size information
and click "save." Then, when
you're shopping for designs, if
you add something to your basket
that is larger than that size,
the website will give you a
warning so that you can switch
the size before you complete
Next, stitch count. Some
machines have a "stitch count"
limitation. For example, some
Janome machines can only read
64,000 stitches at a time.
Certain BabyLock machines can
read up to 50,000 stitches at a
time. And, if you're using a
memory or embroidery card
to send designs to your machine,
then those cards will have lower
limits, usually about 30,000
How can you find out if your
machine has a stitch count
limit, or how many stitches your
card can hold? It's best to
contact the folks that sold you
the machine or writer box, or
check the user's manual.
What happens if you use a design
that has more stitches than what
your machine or card can hold? A
couple of different things. The
machine could give you an error
message. A card-writer might
give you a symbol of a hoop with
a line through it, the universal
message for "No way, I'm not
Or, the machine or software
could split the design into two
pieces -- and not tell you! If
that happens, you'll be having
the best time stitching out the
design and the machine will just
stop without a rhyme or reason.
When that happens, you've got to
do some sleuthing to find out
where that second piece is and
load it to the machine.
So -- you see a design and love
it, but it has more stitches
than what your machine can take
at a time. What should you do?
Just split it by stitch count!
It's easy to do, and free
instructions are on the HELP
page at the Embroidery Library.
Click here to find them.
3. Tips for
When you first got
your machine and
took it out of the
box, what's the
first thing you
your hand if it was
a towel. Yep, that's
what I thought --
it's the most
popular item for a
new embroiderer to
Towels are perfect for
first-time embroidery. They're
accessible (we always have old
ones stuffed in the closet), and
replaceable (again, more old
ones in the closet).
Towels can also be one of the
most frustrating items to
embroider on. Terrycloth has a
loose weave so it's prone to
shifting. Thick towels can be a
bit tricky to hoop. And, without
a special topping, the stitches
will sink into the nap of the
towel, and start to disappear
after the first wash.
Don't be discouraged! Deb and I
made a free video tutorial for
you, entirely dedicated to
getting great results when
embroidering on towels.
Click here to find it.
In a nutshell: Use cutaway
stabilizer on towels (yes, I
know that tear-away stabilizer
looks better on the backside,
but trust me, cutaway is the
best). Hoop the towel and
stabilizer together (yep, the
thick ones are hard to hoop, but
try), and use a topping (such as
a water-soluble stabilizer) to
keep the stitches from getting
lost in the terrycloth.
4. Tips for
towel, what's the
second thing you
cotton and poly
like a towel,
T-shirts are easily
something goes awry.
embroidering on T-shirts, choose
the design carefully. Almost any
design can be embroidered on a
T-shirt with good results. But
consider how the design is going
to drape. If a design is a
square or rectangle with solid
fills, then it's going to hang a
little heavy and not drape very
well. If it's more winding and
weaving, or has open areas, then
it'll drape better.
T-shirts are worn and washed
often, so use cutaway
stabilizer. Tear-away might look
better on the backside -- but
not a whole lot of people are
going to ask to see the inside
of your T-shirt. For
fabrics that are heavier, and
not stretchy, tear-away
stabilizer is a fine choice. But
a T-shirt is a stretchy knit, so
cutaway stabilizer is the better
Tear-away stabilizer is designed
to tear away quickly after a
design has finished
embroidering. But when you're
working with a design that has
solid fills, or satin stitches,
the needle perforations will
weaken the tear-away stabilizer
before the design has
finished embroidering. What does
that do? It can cause the fabric
to shift and scoot around, and
the stitches may have gaps.
Also, tear-away stabilizer will
get weaker and weaker every time
the T-shirt is worn and washed.
And that means that your
embroidery is going to look
less-and-less crisp every time
you pull the shirt out of the
Cutaway stabilizer keeps the
embroidery looking crisp and
neat through dozens and dozens
of wearings and washings.
Worried about how the stabilizer
feels next to your skin? After a
couple of washings the edges of
the stabilizer get softer and
softer, so soon it'll feel just
Deb and I have created a video
tutorial (free for you) that
demonstrates how to get great
results when embroidering on
Click here to find it.
5. Tips for
sweatshirts -- and
Library is in
means that we
principles are much
the same as
a cutaway stabilizer on the
inside of the sweatshirt to keep
those stitches crisp and clean
throughout wearing and washing.
Hoop the stabilizer and
sweatshirt together to make sure
that the stitches land exactly
where they should.
Sweatshirts are thicker than
T-shirts, so when you finish the
design and remove the hoop,
you'll probably see a ring left
over from the hoop. That's
called "hoop burn" -- but it's
not nearly as bad as it sounds.
"Hoop burn" is caused when
moisture is removed from the
fabric. When the hoop is
pressing the sweatshirt and
stabilizer together, the
moisture comes out and the hoop
makes a ring. What's the
solution? Restore moisture to
the fabric. Toss it in the wash,
or steam it with an iron, or
spray it with a water bottle.
If embroiderers made a top ten
list of their "pet peeves," I
think that "hoop burn" would be
in the top spot. It just
looks bad. If we're
making a sweatshirt as a gift
for a friend, generally we don't
want to wash it after
embroidering on it. And, there's
scarring about finishing a
design and seeing a ring.
How can you avoid "hoop burn?"
Some folks will wrap their hoops
with elastic braid to relieve
the pressure of the hoop on the
fabric. Others wrap their hoops
with strips of muslin for a more
gentle cushion. I just sigh and
toss the sweatshirt in the wash.
Remember: you're the boss, so
you do what works best for you.
There's a free video tutorial
that shows you how to get great
results when embroidering on
Click here to find it!
the right stabilizer
for the fabric.
good embroidery, and
there are a million
sticky-back -- the
list goes on and on.
When choosing the kind of
stabilizer for your project,
consider two things: the fabric,
and the design. If you're
working with a light or stretchy
fabric, choose cutaway. If
you're working with a heavier
fabric, choose tear-away.
I have put together a fabric and
stabilizer guide, and it's free
for you to print or download.
Click here for that guide.
There are exceptions to that
guide, and those exceptions
depend on the kind of design
that you're going to use. If
you're using a design with
layering and shading, or solid
fills, cutaway stabilizer will
be best. That's because the
needle perforations from making
all of those stitches will
really weaken the tear-away
Choosing the right stabilizer
for the fabric will make sure
that you're getting excellent
results. For example, having the
right stabilizer eliminates
Click here for another Kenny's
Korner that addresses that topic.
And, having the right stabilizer
eliminates gapping, too.
Click here for another Kenny's
Korner about that topic.
Opening, and Uploading
One of the best things about
having an embroidery machine is
having instant access to
thousands of designs. The
choices are endless! And here's
where machine embroidery
intersects most strongly with
being computer savvy.
Here's a tip when working with
your computer: Remember that
you're the boss. Make your
computer do what you want it to
do! Tell it where you want to
store the designs! Be the boss
of your computer -- don't let
your computer be the boss of
you. This takes constant
vigilance, as computers are
sneaky creatures and will wreak
havoc whenever they get the
Now that we've taken care of
that, let's get into the
details. When you find a design
on the Internet, there are three
steps: Downloading, opening, and
First, downloading. It's the act
of getting the design to your
computer, or a disk or storage
device (like a cd, or thumb
Second, opening. It's an
optional step. If you have an
embroidery software program on
your computer, then you can open
the design on your computer. A
lot of folks like to open
designs on their computer to
look at them first. But remember
that you can only do this if you
have an embroidery software
program installed on your
Third, uploading. This is the
process of getting the design to
Let's start with downloading.
Generally you'll have the option
to download files as "zipped"
files or "unzipped" files. The
difference is that "zipped"
files are compressed, and they
take up less space when you're
storing them. And, "zipped"
files must be "unzipped" before
your embroidery machine can read
Need instructions for unzipping
files? Visit the Embroidery
Library's HELP page, there's
great information there that
shows you how to unzip files.
Click here for that.
Now that you've decided what
kind of files you want to
download (zipped or unzipped),
click to download them. Your web
browser will do all of the work
for you -- it actually handles
the downloading process. (What's
a web browser? It's the thing
you use to "browse" the "web",
like Internet Explorer,
Netscape, Firefox, etc.).
Your web browser will ask you
where you want to save the file
-- and you pick the place. You
can save it to a design folder,
a "My Documents" folder --
anywhere you'd like.
Click here for more information
about how to download designs.
After you have the designs on
your computer, if you have
embroidery software on your
computer, you can open the
designs. But before you do,
let's take a look at how
Basically, a computer is
powerful, but dumb. It only
knows things that you tell it.
For example, a computer doesn't
know how to open an embroidery
file. You need to tell it how to
open an embroidery file by
setting what is called a "file
Computers run various software
programs using an "operating
system" (like Windows). If you
have a PC, you probably open
files by double-clicking on
them. When you double-click on a
file, your computer says, "Okay,
s/he wants me to open this file.
And it ends in .doc. Let me
check my list....okay, to open a
.doc file I need to open
Microsoft Word." And then your
computer opens Microsoft Word,
and then it opens the .doc file
that you clicked on.
Of course, it does this in about
.0003 seconds....but I'm sure
you get my point. Your computer
knows to open the .doc file with
Microsoft Word because the
Microsoft Word program is
associated with .doc files.
That's a "file association."
Now, let's imagine you're
opening an embroidery file, a .pes
file. You double-click on a .pes
file. Your computer says, "Okay,
s/he wants me to open this file.
And it ends in .pes. Let me
check my list....nope, no
program associated with .pes,
don't know what to do." And
it'll give you an error message
that says "Hey! In order to open
this I need to know which
program to use." Or, it might
make a guess and open it in
Adobe Acrobat Reader or some
other completely irrelevant and
So what do you do? Create a file
association for your computer.
And nope, it's not hard, and
free instructions here.
Once you have the file
association created, you can
double-click on the designs to
Third, uploading. Different
machines have different methods
of uploading designs. Some take
wireless transfer, some take
designs via USB cable. Others
take floppy disks, thumb drives,
memory sticks, memory cards, ATA
cards, flash drives -- and
probably other things that I've
never heard of.
To find out how to upload
designs to your machine, check
your user's manual or with the
folks that sold you the machine.
They'll know the steps that you
should take. But here are a
couple of tips:
**Make sure that the design is
unzipped. Embroidery machines
can't read zipped designs.
**If you upload the design to
your machine and your machine
gives you an error message or
doesn't display the design,
check #2 on the list. What can
your machine do, and what can't
it do? Specifically, is the
design larger than the machine's
hoop, or does it have more
stitches than the design can
Usually if there's a problem
reading the design, the machine
will give you an error message.
For example, a "cannot be
registered" error message on a
Janome machine means that the
machine's memory is full. A
"cannot be sewn in this mode" on
a Brother machine means that the
wrong size hoop is attached.
And, if you put a disk or thumb
drive in a ULT or Innovis, and
the machine gives you the silent
treatment and refuses to display
the design, that means that the
design is bigger than the hoop.
Now, that's a lot to remember --
so the good news is that you
don't have to. Just remember
that there are three steps:
downloading, opening, and
uploading (and the opening step
might be optional for you). If
you're having troubles with any
of the steps, send an email to
we'll be happy to help.
hope you enjoyed the first
installment of this guide. The
next installments will have
information on thread tension,
gapping, puckering, those crazy
colors on your machine and in
your software, and more! If
there's something that you'd
like to have included in another
installment of this guide,
please write to me at
let me know.
Kenny is a
master digitizer and Vice President of
Production at Embroidery Library, Inc.
Ask Kenny! Send your questions and comments to