Saturday, March 18, 2017

How To Sew on the Go

Do you know what to take to sewing class?

Do you have a good machine caddy and sewing kit to take along to class, on vacation, or wherever you want to go? How can you be sure to have what you need?

If you need some tips, ideas, and suggestions, check out my post and video on the subject at the Sewing Machines Plus blog: Sewing on the Go. This post includes my recommendation for the best travel iron, and everything else that you'll want to be sure to keep packed in your kit.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing to you!

Monday, February 27, 2017

St Paddy's Day Sewing Project: Luck o' the Irish Flag Quilt

Hi, friends. If you are looking for a sewing project that is perfect for St Patrick's Day, then I have a tutorial for you. I made my very first sewing video for this post, too. Click over to Sewing Machines Plus Sew Blog to read the step-by-step tutorial for making this fun and easy-to-sew wall quilt. The video shows how to make the patchwork strips. There's a downloadable pattern for the four-leaf clover and all the info you need to sew this project for St Patrick's day or anytime. 

I have to admit that I'm a little nervous about the video and especially about my Alabama accent being on Youtube, but I hope it is helpful and I hope you enjoy making this project.

I really appreciate y'all reading my work over at Sewing Machines Plus! Luck O' the Irish Flag Quilt Tutorial

Happy St. Patrick's Day and happy sewing to you!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Guide to Embroidery Software and Designs

There is a wide array of embroidery software and design choices available

Embroidery Software Pin

When I shared an embroidery machine buyer’s guide last week, I did not touch on the subject of embroidery software and downloadable designs. That’s because you don’t need to buy any software or additional designs to start creating on an embroidery machine.

But once you have gotten comfortable with your machine, chances are you will want to expand your capabilities and design options by investing in more designs and/or software.

Without a good understanding of the different options, this subject can be just as confusing as choosing a machine. Let’s look at the different types of embroidery software and additional designs available in order to gain a clear view of the different types of software and other options available for extending your possible embroidery designs. Your choices include:
  • Design collections
  • Membership club
  • Digital downloads
  • Editing software
  • Lettering software
  • Digitizing software
  • Thumbnailers
  • Cataloging programs

Designs on disc

An easy investment to start building a larger library of embroidery designs is to purchase collections on CD-ROM. There are a ton of options to choose from in this category. Each will include many designs within a particular theme.

A great choice for these is Anita Goodesigns, which offers a huge collection of gorgeous designs. Sewing Machines Plus has fifteen pages of different Anita Goodesigns to choose from, including:
  • Baby designs, from vintage to cartoon-style, and everything in between
  • Holiday, seasonal, and religious motifs
  • Animal designs, both whimsical and realistic
  • Butterflies, dragonflies, and bugs
  • Fruits, vegetables, and baked goods such as cupcakes and donuts
  • Foliage and flowers galore
  • Faeries
  • Customizable designs for your sewing club
  • Mandalas
  • And plenty more
Anita Goodesigns Sun

These collections work for many different machine formats: ART, DST, EMD, EXP, HUS, JEF, PCS, PES, SEW, SHV, VIP, and XXX.

VIP Club

Individual design collections on disc are an inexpensive way to start expanding your design library. But if you are like me, you will want them all! Buying all the individual collections separately would require a tremendous investment. But luckily, the folks at Anita Goodesigns realize that we will want them all, and so they made it easy for us to get them with their membership club.

The VIP club gives you ALL of the designs previously released, and then sends you the new designs that are released throughout the year. Plus, they include more member benefits, such as all the quilt and cutwork designs, as well. To read about all these benefits and extras, head over to the Anita Goodesigns Club page.

Digital downloads

You can find many designs online, through Etsy and elsewhere, available as digital downloads.

You need to know which file format your embroidery machine requires before downloading designs. Different machines require different formats and other formats are not compatible. For example, most Janome machines use .JEF files, Singer uses .XXX, Brother and Babylock generally use .PES format. Be sure to choose the correct format for your machine when downloading designs. However, if you own editing software, which we will discuss next, you can convert design formats.

You can find some free designs for digital download online. It is also possible to get premium designs for free. For example, Floriani includes a POP coupon code for a free design download on the label inside each package of their stabilizers. Once you collect ten of these codes, you can redeem them for ten design downloads. You will need stabilizer for all your embroidery designs. Floriani stabilizers are high-quality and are available in all types and weights. So the free download bonus packaged inside makes choosing these stabilizers a no-brainer.

You can also get five free Floriani downloads every month after you buy their Total Control software, which we will discuss soon.

Embroidery software for editing

Editing software will allow you to do many things, such as:
  • Resize designs and recalculate stitches
  • Merge designs
  • Convert thread brands
  • Colorize
  • Add lettering, including large letters
  • Convert design formats to the type your machine accepts
  • Overlap designs
  • Change or remove individual colors in a design
  • And more
Editing software is available in a wide range of prices. Embrilliance Essentials is an awesome option that is super affordable and will allow you to easily do all of the above, plus more. This program works on both Windows and MAC operating systems, too.

Embroidery software for digitizing

If you want to stretch your creativity further and make your own designs, then you need digitizing software. This type of software will take a piece of clipart, a vector drawing, or other image and convert it into an embroidery design.  Digitizing software will also convert fonts from your computer into letter embroidery. They can do lots of other amazing things, too; for example, you can use them to convert regular embroidery designs into cross stitch.

Many folks consider Floriani digitizing software to be the best. It is a super high quality all-in-one program which covers every possible editing and digitizing function. It also comes with the added benefits of having tons of tutorials and other help available online, and the five free design downloads a month that I mentioned previously here.

I prefer a different option, however.  I’ll be going with the Artistic Suite and Artistic Premium upgrade for my own embroidery software, and here’s why:

The Artistic Suite and Premium software costs less and includes more. This software goes beyond embroidery and includes a slew of helpful applications for quilting, appliqué, reverse appliqué, fabric cutting, heat transfer, and making elaborate rhinestone designs.  It is also useful for scrapbooking applications, and will make cut-outs from most anything, including paper, foam, and even balsa wood.

Artistic Suite does all these things as an editor, and the Premium upgrade adds digitizing capabilities. I’m amazed by everything I can do with these programs, and I can buy both of them without spending an arm and a leg! The Artistic program is available for both single needle and multi-needle machines.

Embroidery software: thumbnailers and cataloging

The Embrilliance thumbnailer is a little program that you won’t want to be without. And the price is so nice that there is no need not to pick this up right away.

This program collects all your embroidery designs into one place on your computer and lines them up as thumbnail images so that you can easily them all. Without it, you have to search and view every design individually, which can cost a lot of time and cause much frustration. But there is no need to waste any time or be frustrated at all when this solution is so simple. It is compatible with both PC and MAC.

There is another option for cataloging your designs into categories on your computer. That is Floriani’s My Design Album. This program is easy to install and will find all the various embroidery designs on your computer and compile them into one easy-to-find place. Then you can set up categories to find these designs more easily. The Design Album includes some editing capabilities as well.

You can find all of the options I have listed at Sewing Machines Plus at a great price, and with free shipping, too.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

How To Choose an Embroidery Machine: A Buying Guide

Which embroidery machine should you buy?

Here’s an embroidery machine buyer’s guide to help you decide

Choosing an embroidery machine can be confusing. There is a dizzying array of model choices and feature options available.

But there is no need to be overwhelmed. For the last several weeks, I have studied this issue to get a clear idea of how to choose the best embroidery machine. I have tested and played with every machine I could get my hands on. I also poured over the details for most every embroidery machine on the market.

And I talked to Torrie Root, the super helpful Sales Manager at Sewing Machines Plus. We talked more than once for a long time and I asked her a ton of questions.  She answered all my questions in depth. She also sent me more info so I could study this question further.

I have compiled everything I learned into this embroidery machine buyer’s guide. Hopefully this will help you decide which embroidery machine to buy to suit your needs best.

Embroidery machine considerations


There are several things to consider when buying an embroidery machine. These include:
  • Cost and Value
  • Embroidery field and hoop sizes
  • Design library
  • Connectivity
  • Display quality
  • Embroidery only vs combo machine
  • Extra features


Cost and value


Because embroidery machines tend to cost more than regular sewing machines, you want to get the most value for your money. You also want to ensure that you choose a machine that will serve you happily for many years. It would be a waste of your money to go for a model that you will soon outgrow.

Your embroidery machine is an investment and you want to choose the best machine you can afford.
For me, I know an entry-level machine will not satisfy me for long.  I will want more and better features than a basic machine comes equipped with. So I would rather save up for a little while to be able to afford a higher quality machine that I can grow with, rather than one I will soon outgrow.

Embroidery field and hoop sizes


Many embroidery machines are limited and can embroider only a small area. Some of these lower priced machines have an embroidery field of only four inches square!

I know I will want more creative freedom than a four inch square field, and I bet you will too.
There are many options for machines that come packaged with multiple hoops in different sizes. And most of these machines offer other hoop sizes and shapes that you can purchase separately to use with these machines, too. I definitely recommend choosing a machine that offers you multiple options for hooping.

Design options and connectivity


Different machines are loaded with different sized libraries of embroidery designs. Some have many more than others. And some offer prettier and more useful designs. I looked at a few machines that had boring designs and nothing much that I would actually want to use. Of course you will want to choose a machine that offers you plenty of embroidery designs that you like and will want to use.

However, you can also download and/or purchase additional designs online or on disc, so you will not be limited to the design library that comes with your machine.

Some machines make this easier to do than others, however. There are some embroidery machines which require an actual computer connection for additional designs, while others have a USB port so that you can use a little flash drive for transferring extra designs, instead.

This makes more sense if your computer is a desktop in the den, for example. I wouldn’t want to have to connect my embroidery machine in the den; that computer desk doesn’t have enough space for an embroidery machine. So I’ll definitely buy one with a USB port so I can sit at my computer in the den to shop and download designs and then easily bring the designs to my sewing room on a thumb drive.



Here’s another reason why I know I don’t want a basic model embroidery machine: there is a drastic difference between the displays of different machines. Some offer only a tiny window and no clear picture of the designs to choose from.

I want a clear view of the design I am embroidering, and I don’t want to have to consult the book or connect to the computer every time I use my machine. This is an important consideration when you are making multi colored designs, for example.  I want a display where I can see at a glance an actual picture of the design in full color.

Embroidery only or combo machine?


Since I already have a sewing machine that I really love, I was thinking that I would be able to get the best value for my money by going with an embroidery only machine. I figured I didn’t need to spend money on sewing capabilities when I am already well equipped for sewing. I also thought it would be more efficient to switch between two adjacent machines for two functions rather than having to switch functions on the same machine between tasks.

I’ve changed my mind about this, however. That’s because most of the better machines are combination sewing and embroidery machines. This is great because a machine that both sews and embroiders offers more bang for your buck. And these machines are larger with more sewing features and space than most regular sewing machines have.

If you are a quilter like me, you will really appreciate the extra space these machines offer. It is not likely that your favorite sewing machine is as nice as your new sewing and embroidery machine will be! So in addition to adding an embroidery machine to your collection, you will be adding your new favorite sewing machine, too.

There is one reason you might prefer to go with an embroidery-only machine, however. If you plan to operate a home business and do a ton of embroidery, you may want to consider a multi-needle machine.  This kind of home embroidery machine will complete your designs more quickly.

Multi-needle embroidery machines are also the only machines that will do a good job with embroidering hats. Torrie told me that all the combination models have a little trouble with this task, so if you think you will want or need to do embroidery on hats, you will want to consider this type of embroidery-only machine.

Helpful features:


Some embroidery machines are complicated to use. Extra features ensure ease of use and add a lot of extra value to some machines. Here are some helpful features that you might really want your machine to have:
  • Automatic thread tension – When your machine automatically adjusts the thread tension, there is no chance of mistakes due to improper tension.
  • Thread trimming – Trimming all your threads by hand can be a pain. A machine that automatically clips all your threads for you will save a lot of time.
  • Embellishment capability – In addition to regular embroidering, you may also want to be able to do sequins and beadings. Some machines offer attachments that will enable you to attach these.
  • Archable fonts – Allow you to curve your lettering. This offers more design freedom and can look a whole lot more attractive than straight monogramming when combined with other designs.
  • Onscreen editing – On some machines, you can’t edit designs much, if at all. Many machines allow size editing of no more than 20%. A few machines offer greater size editing, and some allow you to create your own designs by offering corners and borders which can be combined with other design parts.
  • Variable speed – Some machines have variable speed controls, which you can set to start slowly and gradually speed up.
  • Knee lifter – This handy gadget lets you use your knee to lift the presser foot, leaving your hands free.


My choice:


I thought I was in the market for an embroidery-only machine, but after carefully considering every option available, my choice for the best machine for me is the Janome Memory Craft 9900 combo machine. On this machine, you can sew with the embroidery unit attached, so you don’t need to reconfigure the machine when switching between functions.

The Memory Craft 9900 offers 175 different embroidery designs, including pieces and parts for creating your own designs, and 200 sewing and quilting stitches. It has archable monograms, a knee lifter, and all the other helpful extra features I have already listed. Plus a full color display and much more.

This exceptional machine is packed full of value with way too many extra features for me to list here. Instead, I’ll invite you read all about it at Sewing Machines Plus.

I am a Janome loyalist because I have consistently found Janome machines to offer the most user-friendly features and best value for my money. Though the MC9900 is not Janome’s most expensive machine, it offers top-of-the-line features. And Sewing Machines Plus is throwing in hundreds of dollars worth of extra attachments, for free. All this is why I see this model embroidery machine as clearly the best choice for me.  If you are looking for a great value for an exceptional machine, I recommend that you choose this one, too.

Check out this and all the Janome embroidery machines using this link.

Monday, January 30, 2017

How to Sew Valentines: 33 Valentine Sewing Project Ideas

I had some fun sewing valentine projects this weekend. I shared what I made, as well as thirty other sweet project ideas that I collected from all over the web on my newest post at Sewing Machines Plus. There are links to several cute quilts, other patchwork projects, a darling softie toy, kitchen gifts, and many more. I think you will find inspiration and ideas to suit everyone you love. Please click over there to read it now. I challenge you all to show your love by sewing all your valentine gifts this year. Thanks for reading!