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Embroidery Help and Tips

   ~ Underlayment ~

Your design will be more stable if you use underlayment stitches.  These are stitches under a fill area that help keep the fabric from stretching or pulling.  You can add these after you have filled in your design.  You want your underlayment stitches to be at right angle to your fill stitches.  This means that if your fill stitches run vertically, the underlayment stitches run horizontally and vice versa.

Go to the first stitch in the fill area to which you want to add underlayment.   From the tool bar, select the draw stitches mode.  Place very long stitches from one edge of your fill area to the other (figure a):

figure a stabfil1.gif (1477 bytes)

figure b

stabfil2.gif (1783 bytes)
Figure a shows four long stitches (5 stitch points).  When you reach the end of the fill area, return with more long stitches (figure b).  Highlight these stitches, then select a stitch length of 2.5 to 4mm.  You now have underlayment stitches that will stabilize your design and improve coverage.  Each design requires different underlayment depending upon the size and density of the fill stitches.  A little experimentation will tell you whether to make your underlayment more or less dense.

~ Basting Stitches ~

You may also wish to use basting stitches to secure the fabric to the stabilizer.  These are stitches that sew before the design.  They stitch at the edges of the embroidery frame, so they can be removed after the design is embroidered.  They will help keep the fabric from shifting.  If you are embroidering a bulky fabric (such as a towel), hoop just the stabilizer, then lay the fabric over the hoop, so that the design will embroider where you want it.  Sew the basting stitches, then the design.  Click on the picture to download basting stitches for the most popular home embroidery hoops.

~ Selection of Artwork ~

Always start with artwork that is interesting. Look for a simple drawing that presents an interesting angle or includes something extra.  I like artwork that suggests motion or emotion, or conveys a special feeling.  Sources for artwork are clipart (be careful of legal restrictions), coloring books, photographs and small objects that can be placed on a flatbed scanner.  If you want to change something in the artwork, change it before you start your embroidery design.  It is much harder to make changes while you are digitizing.

For the Pfaff software, you will need a monochrome bitmap.  Auto-trace requires a line drawing or well-defined areas.  If you donít use auto-trace, you can use any black and white monochrome bitmap with fantastic results.  The density of the pixels (dots) in the bitmap will tell you where to place the colors.

You can create your own line drawing from a photograph.  Scan a photo and print it full-page in grey-scale.  Using tracing paper, draw the significant lines that define the area for each color.  If you are designing an animal, you will want to include a few lines here and there to indicate the direction of the fur.  Be sure to include any highlights, as these add real life to a design.  Go over your pencil marks with a black marker.  Scan this in black and white for your bitmap.

~ Which Fill? ~

In the Pfaff PC Designer, there are two automatic fills.  A-fill is a satin stitch; B-fill is used for larger areas.  Other fills can be created by hand, or by pasting in built-in stitches (try filling an area with snowflake stitch #158) or free-hand fills.

The satin stitch A-fill is best for long, skinny areas, such as a bold outline, for lettering, or any narrow strip.  A-fill tends to look raised and will jump out at you visually.  Always make sure you make A-fill a bit wider than you want it to appear.   The stitches will draw up slightly to be narrower than the design shows on screen.

B-fill works well for broad areas.  When doing a test-stitch, look out for long jump stitches that connect halves of a large fill area.  At your computer, highlight the fill area, click on TOOLS, click on SET STITCH LENGTH, then re-size any stitch over 4mm.

Click on the image to download the angle wheel.

Stitch this design and you will always be able to see what each angle looks like for B-fill.  I used a variegated thread to make the angles more obvious, but any thread will do.  You can see which fill angles stand out and which look flat.  You can also select in-between angles.

To create a very flat fill, try a spiral pattern.  You will need to place the stitches by hand, but the effect is worthwhile, and most such areas are small.

The Westie and teddy bear designs Iíve made are done in layers. 

A simple B-fill is used for coverage.  A second layer of fur stitches are drawn at the computer by hand.  A lighter or darker color for the second layer provides depth.   A few stitches drawn by hand add real character to a design.

Have fun!


Click here to see how to keep Madeira thread from tangling.
(includes instructions for making a small thread stand from a paper towel holder)

If you have more questions, click here to join the StitchFun Forum.


Machine embroidery designs from Perfect Little Stitches include thousands of miniature, mini, teeny embroidery designs, quilting designs, freestanding lace, applique, redwork and filled designs.