The Deeper Side of Toy Sewing Machines

The Deeper Side of Toy Sewing Machines

I remember being a child in a store when my mom was deciding to buy another child a toy sewing machine. I was too young for it, making it what could’ve been a dangerous option for me, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t jealous of the other child who would get the sewing machine!

Fast forward a couple of decades or so, and my brother asked me if a toy sewing machine he was thinking about buying would work. My response was something like, “No, they never do.”

Toys are for kids

In a world of game systems & electronics, toy sewing machines that may or may not work are still on the shelves.

In a world of game systems & electronics, toy sewing machines that may or may not work are still on the shelves.

This might be a misconception on my end of things in assuming that toy sewing machines will be, simply put, less than adequate. In fact, one or two of them probably do at least basically stitch together the small projects they come with. But it’s led to a question in my mind that I’d like to explore for a bit. That question is why sewing continues to be an intriguing prospect as the years roll by, to the point that in a world of game systems and electronics, toy sewing machines that may or may not work are still on the shelves. Even for adults, sewing can be seen as a throwback hobby, so why is it so appealing that a younger generation would still add a sewing machine onto their lists to Santa along with the latest Wii and the most impressive riding toy on the market?

Pass it on

Here’s a pass-it-on quality that goes along with sewing.

Here’s a pass-it-on quality that goes along with sewing.

Well, for one thing, there’s a pass-it-on quality that goes along with sewing, and as children, we were kind of prone to looking at what our parents were doing for inspiration. It’s no surprise this tradition passed on to today’s world if you think about things in that context. Our great-great grandparents may have needed to create their own clothes, blankets, etc. in a world that was very different than ours, and even when society changed enough to start negating that need through things like the division of labor, there were still probably little eyes looking up at the quilters and such who continued their crafts in spite of the changes, maybe out of genuine love of the endeavors. That generation could’ve kept the tradition going for another group of young eyes to latch on to, on and up to recent times when little eyes are looking at that little sewing machine that looks so much like the one at home.

Invaluable skills

Sure, you can pay a seamstress to sew the rip in your coat’s lining, but in the long run, being able to sew that lining yourself saves money.

Sure, you can pay a seamstress to sew the rip in your coat’s lining, but in the long run, being able to sew that lining yourself saves money.

It’s also practical! No matter who you are and what you do, you’re probably going to need something mended at some point in your life. Not only does this increase the odds of those little eyes seeing sewing in action, but it provides usefulness to the hobby that makes it a logical thing to learn. Sure, you can pay a seamstress to sew the rip in your coat’s lining, but in the long run, being able to sew that lining yourself saves money. I admit that most kids probably aren’t diving into the sewing world with money in mind, but being able to contribute with such a grown-up task could be appealing to them. Don’t believe me? Try baking a cake in a room full of kids and see how many offer to help!

A family that sews together stays together

Sewing, as it happens, has the added bonus of being so convenient that I can sew & watch my superhero movies at the same time!

Sewing, as it happens, has the added bonus of being so convenient that I can sew & watch my superhero movies at the same time!

Sewing, as it happens, has the added bonus of being so convenient that I can sew and watch my superhero movies at the same time! Because of this convenience factor, it can be an endeavor that comes with good memories and feelings for children. Think about it. If I were making a rag quilt, I could sit with my nieces while a cheesy cartoon played and fray the edges for the quilt. It’s a hobby that allows time for them, and that’s a detail that a child could easily appreciate. With those kinds of good feelings and that pleasant context, picking up a sewing interest isn’t that shocking!

A generational tradition

On the flipside, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles… We might appreciate the interest as well. Why? For one thing, it’s creative, which helps a child expand in imagination and think outside of the box. The little sewing enthusiast could construct a final product that really took time and effort, and that pride could be something that proves fulfilling enough to warm the nearby adult’s heart. Another appealing detail for the adults buying these toys and encouraging the interest is that sewing is a relatively safe activity for a child who’s reached an appropriate age. Clearly, you shouldn’t hand a three-year-old a sewing needle, but an older, more mature child would be able to dive into the hobby with little worry over injuries.

For child and parent then, this could be an easy interest to embrace! So, why was I confused about the continued existence of toy sewing machines again?!

Sewing on the Go: What and How to Pack for Class or Traveling

Sewing on the Go: What and How to Pack for Class or Traveling

Sewing on the Go: What and How to Pack for Class or Traveling

Whether you are attending a sewing class or planning a leisurely vacation, sewing on the go is something you will want to do sooner or later.

We’ve talked a lot about sewing rooms here on the blog, but we haven’t addressed the issue of sewing on the go here before now.

Sewing on the go won’t work if you aren’t properly prepared, so I’ve made this short video to cover all the areas you need to address to ensure you have what you need when you take your sewing on the road.

Here’s everything you’ll need:

Sewing on the go: portable machine

Janome Jem Gold

I already discussed this machine in my beginner sewing machine buying guide. It is definitely my choice for best lightweight portable machine.

Sewing on the go: machine carriers, luggage and totes

You definitely want to think about this before you get ready to take your sewing to go. I hadn’t ever considered this myself until the day before I taught my first sewing class at the community center. I suddenly realized I was going to have a lot of equipment and gear to lug and I had no idea how I was going to carry it all!

So I grabbed a thick piece of table linen and whipped up a humongous bag to carry everything.

So I grabbed a thick piece of table linen & whipped up a humongous bag to carry everything.

So I grabbed a thick piece of table linen & whipped up a humongous bag to carry everything.

While this bag has proven itself to be quite useful in other ways, I don’t recommend this solution for sewing supplies and gear. I only used it that one time for this purpose and then I found a more suitable option. I have appreciated the ample sack for carrying beach supplies for myself and my kids, and it carries three of our ukuleles in boxes safely in the trunk when we travel with them these days.

For toting your sewing machine and supplies, save time and trouble by ordering one of these great choices from Sewing Machines Plus:

Here is a link to SMP’s full selection of trolleys, totes, and cases.

Sewing on the go: sewing supplies

Here is the list of supplies to be sure to include in your travel sewing kit:

Here is the list of supplies to be sure to include in your travel sewing kit:

Be sure to get an extra pair of dress shears to keep in your go bag at all times.

You’ll also like to have a portable rotary cutter.

Here is the combo cutting mat/ pressing board mentioned in the video.

And here is that Rowenta travel iron.

The clover mini-iron is available in a couple of different options:

Here are the cooling sleeves for the mini-iron.

And that’s what you need to be well equipped for sewing on the go. Happy travels to you!

The Traveling Tailor

The Traveling Tailor

Sewing machines and supplies aren’t exactly the most portable things. Sometimes, when I’m not working fulltime on a show, I’ll get a one or two day job that requires me to schlep a machine and supplies to a work space. These are my least favorite kind of jobs – for no other reason than I have to transport my machine and a small kit of sewing supplies somewhere.

I live in New York City. I haven’t owned a car in over ten years.

What’s the big deal, you may ask, just throw it all in your car and go. Well, that’s the thing: I live in New York City. I haven’t owned a car in over ten years. The last time I drove was about two years ago. And I’m not a huge fan of Uber or even good old-fashioned yellow cabs. Cars are just not the most efficient way to get around the city. So, I’m usually dragging a sewing machine up and down the subway stairs to get to where I need to go.

On the go

I know I’ve recommended these machines before, but Brother makes some incredibly good and lightweight machines. I have two SC9500s. They are so lightweight that I carry them in a tote bag on my shoulder. I then use a backpack to carry my supplies: scissors, threads, rulers, chalk, a small collection of notions.

Other Brother machines that are very light weight are the CS5055 and the ES2000.

I also bike a lot, which is always the most efficient way to get around the city, and have been known to strap a machine (in a box) to the rear rack on my bicycle.

When going to a job that is only one or two days, sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to bring, especially if you’re trying to not lug your entire shop down the length of Manhattan and across the bridge to Brooklyn.

Here’s a list of what I usually bring to a short one-day job:

  • 1 pair of tailor’s points or small scissors
  • 1 pair of medium sized shears
  • 1 pair of pinking shears (because I’m certainly not bringing a serger along to finish seams.)
  • 1 gallon sized Ziploc of thread. Must have colors include black, grey, white, tan, a greeny-brown, nude, and a yellow-orange for topstitching on jeans.
  • 12” see through 2” wide ruler
  • 1 soft tape measure
  • Tailor’s chalk, red marking pencil, pencil, black disappearing ink pen
  • Seam ripper
  • Metal hem gauge ruler
  • Small container of straight pins
  • Extra bobbins for machine
  • Small collection of hand and machine needles (I always bring some leather needles and double needles, just in case.)
  • 1 gallon sized Ziploc of bias tape (black and white), elastics, twill tape, and hem tape.
  • Small containers of snaps and hook & eyes.
  • Muslin pressing cloth
  • Small collection of nude spandex and netting scraps and interfacings

Lighting is key

Sometimes it’s nice to bring along a small light of some kind. I often find myself sewing in inadequately lighted spaces. I tend not to bring a lamp because, well, the subway. I always make sure the light in the machine is working. And the flashlight on an iphone can be extremely helpful in especially dark circumstances.

Gear up

I’m not very high tech with my carrying cases but there are lots of really lovely ones out there if you’re not into backpacks and tote bags.

http://www.sewingmachinesplus.com/sewing-accessories-cases.php

The key is to keep everything super organized. And don’t worry about not having all the thread. Unless you’re topstitching, most things can be sewn with black, white, or tan. I know some tailors that only use those colors of thread. It really is ok if your thread doesn’t match exactly. And sometimes you just have to use what you have, especially if you are a traveling tailor.

March Madness – It’s Not Just for Basketball Fans

March Madness – It’s Not Just for Basketball Fans

Sewing lovers get their own version of March Madness! If you’ve been wanting to buy a new sewing machine, upgrade your current machine or purchase a different type of sewing machine March is the time to do it.

March Madness – It’s Not Just for Basketball Fans

March Madness – It’s Not Just for Basketball Fans

With the amazing sale at SewingMachinesPlus.com you can save up to $400 on the sewing machine you’ve been lusting after since last year.

As an added bonus, you’ll get FREE shipping on all orders over $49 – every day! And an additional 10% off qualifying items. Take a look at a sampling of the sewing machines included in this fabulous March Machine Madness Sale.

HQ Sweet Sixteen Long Arm Quilter with True Stitch Regulator

This quilting machine is ideal for quilting projects of any size while seated. The throat space is large enough to handle a king size quilt! The easy to use touch screen makes it easy to choose your stitches and easily access them the next time while the unique light ring brightens the area being quilted with 28 LEDs. One of several patent-pending features on the Sweet Sixteen is a low bobbin alert. You’ll never run out of bobbin thread and not know it again.

Singer 4432 Heavy Duty Extra-High Speed Sewing Machine

This machine is a workhorse! The heavy-duty metal frame stands up to daily use and provides skip-free sewing. The stronger motor enables you to sew through heavy weight fabrics without a problem. Its complimented by the adjustable pressure foot lifter meaning you can sew lightweight and heavy fabric easily. And buttonholes are no longer a struggle with the automatic 1-step buttonhole feature.

Every March Machine Madness purchase comes with optional no interest financing at the sale price. And just like all purchases from SewingMachinesPlus, you’ll get a lifetime of support from the talented customer service crew.

Check out the full line of products on sale at sewingmachinesplus.com!

Must Have Sewing Notions and Supplies

Must Have Sewing Notions and Supplies

Last week, I told you about my dream sewing room furniture. This week, I want to share with you my must have sewing supplies. And no, I don’t actually own all of them since I don’t yet have that dream sewing room. Call this my dream sewing supplies list, I guess.

Must Have Sewing Notions and Supplies

Dress Form

I adore making cute summer sundresses. Right now, I measure myself, cut along what I hope are the right lines in the pattern and hem it by hanging the dress on closet hanger. Not ideal, but so far at least, they’ve all come out fine. I’d love a dress form though so I could check the fit and make minor tweaks and modifications as I go. I’m kind of between dress form sizes right now, so I’d have to make a call on which size to get – or if money was really no object, just get both!

Amazing Sewing Scissors

Alright, so I do have a pair of fabric scissors. I couldn’t consider myself a sewer if I didn’t. But I don’t love them. The handles are hard plastic and someone (not naming any names) used them to cut paper at some point, which kind of screwed up the cutting surface. I’d really love a pair of fabric scissors with a softer handle, especially since breaking my right hand last year. Even better, the ones I linked to have a purple handle! That’s my favorite color. Definitely on my sewing supplies wish list.

How about you?

Long Ruler

I don’t necessarily need to cut long, straight lines making sundresses, but I do need to measure long stretches of fabric to line up pattern pieces. Right now, I use a soft measuring tape. I pin it down on one side and pull it taut to measure. It’s not ideal, but it gets the job done. A yard stick or long ruler would go a long way towards making measuring easier.

What’s on your sewing supplies wish list? Sewing Machines Plus probably has it! Check out the website and let yourself dream.

What You Might Not Know About Your Favorite Thread

What You Might Not Know About Your Favorite Thread

Click the image to get your thread!

Shop Thread Now!

Shop Thread Now!


Choose the right type of sewing thread for your next project

Any sewing enthusiast knows that a seam is only as good as the thread that holds it together. From polyester to silk, the type of thread you choose for your next project can leave you happy — or horrified. Luckily, we’ve put together a brief rundown of five popular types of thread, so that next time you’re at the fabric store, staring down hundreds of spools, you can confidently pick the right one for the job.

Cotton thread

Cotton thread is washable & wearable but has "give" — which makes it great for quilting, piercing & appliqué projects.

Cotton thread is washable & wearable but has “give” — which makes it great for quilting, piercing & appliqué projects.

A common “go-to” for many sewing enthusiasts, cotton thread is washable and wearable but has “give” — which makes it great for quilting, piercing, and appliqué projects. Keep in mind, though, that the lower the weight, the heavier and thicker the thread. If your next project is a thin blouse or lingerie set for example, consider using 50 weight cotton thread: this thin thread has less bulk, so your seams will lay flatter. For an “all-purpose” quilting thread, a middle-of-the-road 40 weight cotton thread is ideal (for both machine and long-arm quilting); it’s thin enough to glide easily through thick fibers, but strong enough to secure your quilt. Finally, a 30 weight cotton thread has the thickness necessary for dramatic accents in topstitching and quilting stitches.

Rayon thread

Rayon is relatively inexpensive & provides a decorative finish with shine.

Rayon is relatively inexpensive & provides a decorative finish with shine.

The most commonly used thread for embroidery, rayon is relatively inexpensive and provides a decorative finish with shine. Rayon thread also has high tensile strength: it doesn’t break easily and is very stretchable and flexible, even when wet. However, rayon is usually not colorfast and often fades or bleeds from fabric.

Polyester thread

Stronger than rayon thread, polyester thread is a great "all-purpose" choice that can be used for most sewing projects, both hand- & machine-sewn.

Stronger than rayon thread, polyester thread is a great “all-purpose” choice that can be used for most sewing projects, both hand- & machine-sewn.

Stronger than rayon thread, polyester thread is a great “all-purpose” choice that can be used for most sewing projects, both hand- and machine-sewn. Polyester thread has some “give” to it, so unlike cotton, it won’t break when you use it with stretchy fabrics; polyester thread also remains bright after several washes. If you need a thread that will slip through fabric easily, you can also choose a glazed polyester thread, which will have a wax or silicone finish. It’s important, however, to avoid using glazed threads for machine-sewn projects, because the glaze can rub off and jams your machine.

Metallic thread

Designed for embroidery, quilting, & decorative stitching projects, metallic thread can be used to create beautiful topstitching designs.

Designed for embroidery, quilting, & decorative stitching projects, metallic thread can be used to create beautiful topstitching designs.

If your handbag needs touching up, metallic thread may be the perfect choice. Designed for embroidery, quilting, and decorative stitching projects, metallic thread can be used to create beautiful topstitching designs. Often available in gold, silver, and copper varieties, metallic threads are smooth, strong and vibrant.

Silk thread

Thin but strong & flexible with a lot of "give," silk thread is also ideal for basting stitches and tailoring curved areas.

Thin but strong & flexible with a lot of “give,” silk thread is also ideal for basting stitches and tailoring curved areas.

When sewing silk or wool fabrics, silk thread is the obvious choice. Thin but strong and flexible with a lot of “give,” silk thread is also ideal for basting stitches and tailoring curved areas.

Now choose wisely

Overall, the key to a durable and professional-looking finish is choosing a high-quality thread that closely matches the weight and fiber content of the fabric you’re working with. Take it from us: using the perfect thread will make sewing your next project that much more enjoyable.


Click the image to get your thread!

Shop Thread Now!

Shop Thread Now!

Beginner Sewing Machine Buying Guide

Beginner Sewing Machine Buying Guide

Buying a beginner sewing machine is an exciting decision that will impact your future in wonderful ways, but only if you choose a good beginner machine.

There is a huge difference between a great sewing machine and a not-so-great machine

Beginner Sewing Machine Buying Guide

The difference a well designed machine makes to a sewing beginner’s journey will save an enormous amount of frustration.  With a good machine, you will enjoy the process and learn to sew without trouble. With a poorly designed nightmare of a machine, your progress will not be near as fast. That is, if you progress at all; many beginners have thrown up their hands and given up on learning to sew thanks to an overly complicated or inferior beginner sewing machine, and this is a shame.

I’m speaking from experience here. If someone had told me these things I could have been spared an awful lot of trouble and tears. I’m not exaggerating to say tears, either; I not only cried but also screamed and wanted to tear out my hair in frustration when I was learning to sew. Learning to sew seemed so hard to do, but this was only because I was trying to teach myself on a terrible machine. I bought it at the same store where I shopped for groceries and it was, to put it mildly, a piece of junk!

If I had only known that I could have bought a much better machine for about the same amount of money, I could have enjoyed my beginner sewing experiences so much more. I’d love to save someone else that same trouble.

Start with a mechanical model sewing machine

My first recommendation is to start with a mechanical-only model. There are awesome computerized and electrical sewing machines available, and soon you will definitely want to add one of these to your collection, too. But I recommend you start with a mechanical model for two reasons.

First of all, you don’t want to confuse yourself with too many options and features when you first start sewing. I think it is best to focus on learning the basics of sewing on a good, basic machine.

And perhaps more importantly, you need to have a mechanical back-up machine in your collection before you buy an electronic or computerized machine. That’s because computerized machines require regular maintenance that you cannot do yourself. Nor can you repair any problem that might arise on a computerized machine at home.

When your machine is away, sometimes for as long as a few weeks, you cannot sew—unless you have a mechanical backup. So I think this needs to be the first sewing machine you buy.

I’d think I was sewing and then realize that I was sewing without thread! Argh, this is what made me scream and want to tear out my hair when using that machine!

Don’t buy a beginner sewing machine without these features:

Built-in needle threader

You’ll be threading your machine every time you sew.  With an easy machine, you are going to love sewing and want to make lots of things, so you will thread your machine thousands or even ten-thousands of times.

Save yourself a lot of time and trouble by getting a machine with a handy dandy built-in needle threader. Even if you are young with great eyesight and steady hands, this will still make needle threading go a lot faster for you. I wouldn’t buy a machine without this feature.

Top loading drop-in bobbin

The poorly designed bobbin system was the thing that caused me the most frustration on my first sewing machine. On that thing, the bobbin was concealed inside the front of the machine. To change it, I had to take the case off the front and then remove the bobbin casing to get to the bobbin which was held vertically inside.

Besides all those extra steps, the problem with this system was that there was no way to see that my bobbin was running low on thread. So what would happen is that my bobbin would run out without me knowing it. I’d think I was sewing and then realize that I was sewing without thread! Argh, this is what made me scream and want to tear out my hair when using that machine! I’d have to remove my project from the machine, rewind and replace the bobbin, and then start all over again. NOT fun!

A top loading bobbin system is so much better. With this system, the bobbin just pops out and drops into place without your having to disassemble a bobbin casing to get to it. Even better, this kind of system is accompanied by a see through cover plate. So you can see at a glance when your bobbin thread is low. Believe me, you want to get a machine with this feature.

Free arm capability

With a free arm, you can sew narrow, round garment pieces such as sleeves and pant hems. If a sewing machine won’t convert to free arm sewing you can’t sew these things easily, if at all.

As a beginner sewist, you will want to make many small projects. That’s because they are easy and satisfying, not to mention useful. Not having the ability for free arm sewing is unnecessarily limiting. There are basic beginner sewing machines that do limit you in this way. Be sure the machine you buy includes this important feature.

My recommendations for your beginner sewing machine:

I always recommend Janome brand machines. That is because I have seen for myself that Janome offers the best quality and the best value, by far. From my experiences with my own nightmare first machine to my experiences helping others with frustrating machines when I teach sewing classes, I have seen clearly that there is a big difference in user friendliness between different makes of machines. I can’t imagine buying any other brand and I recommend them as being the best choice for beginners and experienced sewists alike.

Janome Sewist 500

If I were buying a beginner machine, I would buy the Janome Sewist 500. I like this one because, besides offering my must-have features listed above, it goes beyond being a basic machine and offers a lot of options without being overly complicated. It has 25 different stitches, including some decorative stitches, and a one step buttonholer. I love this option on Janome machines, it makes sewing buttonholes as easy as pie.

Janome Jem Gold 660

I would also recommend this machine as being a great choice for a beginner sewing machine. It too includes all the features I would demand. And besides the fact that the price is nice, this machine is also lightweight. This makes it easy to grab and go to class or wherever else you’d like to take it. While it only has eight stitches to choose from, these include everything you need. Almost all sewing uses either a stretch or a zigzag stitch. This machine performs both, and with adjustable stitch length and width. It also has two different useful stretch stitches and a buttonhole stitch.

With either of these as your beginner sewing machine, you will be sure to enjoy learning to sew and you won’t have to suffer needless frustration. Either of these high-quality Janome machines will continue to serve you well long beyond your brief time as a beginner.

To save yourself another easily avoided frustration, be sure to read my guide to machine needle selection, too. Besides using a poorly designed beginner sewing machine, nothing else can cause you as much trouble as using the wrong size or type of needle. You won’t have to suffer this problem when you clearly understand which needle to use when.

Happy sewing to you!

Embroidery Software and Designs Guide

Embroidery Software and Designs Guide

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

Embroidery Software Pin

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

Anita Goodesigns Sun

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

You may also like to check out design collections from Amazing Designs, Dakota Collectibles,  Michelle’s Designs and Notcina.

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.

Now is the best time to buy

February is National Embroidery Month, and Sewing Machines Plus is celebrating by offering big discounts on all embroidery equipment and supplies. So now is a great time to invest in additional embroidery designs and embroidery software. Take advantage of these great deals and expand your design library and capabilities today!

Embroidery Machine Buyer’s Guide

Embroidery Machine Buyer’s Guide

Which embroidery machine should you buy?

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

Which embroidery machine should you buy? Here’s an embroidery machine buyer’s guide to help you decide.

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.

Display

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.

Take a look at the difference between the displays on these two machines, for example, and you’ll see just what I mean:

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 to check out this page at Sewing Machines Plus to read all about it.

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.

Fabric Trend: Cats and Things Cats Love

Fabric Trend: Cats and Things Cats Love

Galaxy Cat fabric by Timeless Treasures

Galaxy Cat fabric by Timeless Treasures

Last October, I highlighted three lines of cat fabric for you including From Porto with Love, Cat Lady, and Meow or Never.

I should be honest however, and not call cat fabric a trend because our love for cats will never go away. To prove this, here are more cat fabric lines for you, including fabrics with things cats love.

Maker Maker by Andover Fabrics

From Andover Fabrics, you’ll find cats in blue, black and yellow. Along with their coordinating cat scratches.

From Andover Fabrics, you’ll find cats in blue, black and yellow.

From Andover Fabrics, you’ll find cats in blue, black and yellow.

Flower Shop by Alexia Marcelle Abegg

Inspired by walks through Mexico’s outdoor flower markets, Flower Shop brings you cats amongst flowers, bow ties, thistle, and cats with foxes, elephants & donkeys.

Flower Shop brings you cats amongst flowers, bow ties, thistle, and cats with foxes, elephants & donkeys.

Flower Shop brings you cats amongst flowers, bow ties, thistle, and cats with foxes, elephants & donkeys.

Smarty Cats by Maria Carluccio

Maria Carluccio’s Smarty Cats fabric line is for the true lover of traditional fabrics and traditional cats. You’ve got cats on books, playful cats, smarty cats, and mice, string and balls.

Maria Carluccio’s Smarty Cats fabric line is for the true lover of traditional fabrics & traditional cats.

Maria Carluccio’s Smarty Cats fabric line is for the true lover of traditional fabrics & traditional cats.

Whisper by Dear Stella and Riley Blake’s Double Gauze

These two fabric lines seem to coordinate seamlessly. Add a dash of Dear Stella with Riley Blake and you have the quilting cottons of Dear Stella on the top row in cats, mice, and dandelions, and the double gauze dreaminess of Riley Blake, featuring delicate cat, deer, and panda faces, with tiny Xs and Os and I Love You’s.

These two fabric lines seem to coordinate seamlessly.

These two fabric lines seem to coordinate seamlessly.

Tabby Road by Tula Pink

Tula Pink takes their coolness to the next level by combining cats + The Beatles. This psychedelic fabric line will arrive in most stores by March and perfectly blends your feline friends with the some of the trippiest nods to Abbey Road. Fabric names include: Tangerine, Strawberry Fields, Fur ball, Lucy, Cat Snacks, Blue Bird and Disco Kitty.

Tula Pink takes their coolness to the next level by combining cats + The Beatles.

Tula Pink takes their coolness to the next level by combining cats + The Beatles.

Pura Vida by Hawthorne Threads

Hawthorne Threads Pura Vida line is reminiscent of a Central American jungle and features wild cats and their surroundings.

Hawthorne Threads Pura Vida line is reminiscent of a Central American jungle & features wild cats.

Hawthorne Threads Pura Vida line is reminiscent of a Central American jungle & features wild cats.

Hemma by Lotta Jansdotter

For the lovers of all things Scandinavian, Lotta Jansdotter fabric line, Hemma, combines cat faces, tulips, lemons, half-moons, and clean & classic colors to give you a modern twist on cat fabric.

For the lovers of all things Scandinavian, Lotta Jansdotter fabric line, Hemma.

For the lovers of all things Scandinavian, Lotta Jansdotter fabric line, Hemma.

Do you have any cat fabric lines you love? Please share them with us in comments!

———————————————————————————–
Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.