Back to School Supplies for Embroidery

What do all of these school supplies have in common? You can use them in machine embroidery!

Whether you take advantage of the pre-school sales or you wait for the clearance prices to set in, this time of year can mean great savings on items you might otherwise walk past. School supplies can be very useful to sewers, quilters, and embroiderers.

Embroidery Uses for School Supplies

Pencil Grips

Tightening hoop screws can be painful to some of us. Pencil grips make hoop screws much easier, more colorful, and more comfortable to tighten. Just slip them on and make your hands and fingers happy.


Neck lanyards are a wonderful way to keep your scissors within easy reach. They are great for taking to class too, where it is easy to lose or mix up your valuables. You could easily have the same type of scissors as someone else.

School Glue

School glue is water soluble so it is quite safe to use with sewing and embroidery machines. Glue stick helps keep fabrics secured to the stabilizer when floating in the hoop. As a temporary adhesive, it holds applique fabric while running the tack-down stitches.

School glue in a bottle works much the same way. It is particularly useful when used to baste layers of batting (wadding) and fabric together or to keep quilt binding in place until it can be stitched.

Slap Bracelets

Kids love the metal bracelets that curl in a circle, straighten out, and slap on their wrist, wrapping around it. These little gems are a perfect way to keep rolled stabilizers in check. Often, they are on clearance following summer camp and Bible school season.

How do you use school supplies with embroidery?


Shortcut for Trimming Letters

Trimming jump stitches in embroidered text is one of my least favorite  tasks. I will share a little short cut with you that saves some time and keeps stitching clean.

I used to trim jump stitches between each letter as they stitched. That is monotonous, starting and stopping the machine to clip thread. Now, I cut that time in half with this technique.

When fonts stitch, the thread typically jumps from the end of one letter to the beginning of the next. Here, after the “S” stitches, it ends at position 1 and jumps to position 2.

I let the “a” at position 2 stitch a couple of stitches to secure the thread, stop the machine, and clip the jump thread at position 2.

Tension on the thread lets it stand up straight, out of the way. Start the machine back up and continue stitching the “a.” That covers up the spot where the jump thread was clipped quite nicely.

When stitching finishes on the “a” (position  3) and jumps to the “n” (position 4),  let the machine stitch a couple of stitches, stop the machine, and cut the thread at position 4.

Continue until all text is stitched. So long as the trimmed text stitches do not fall in the embroidery field, you can wait to trim them completely until you are done.

This works best with fonts that are not extremely small. In projects with small text, trimming is often done after embroidery and tweezers help to secure threads.


How Often Should You Change Your Needle?

Needles are the paintbrushes of machine embroidery. Without them, thread is merely, well, thread. Digitized designs allow needles to turn thread into works of art but, eventually, they wear out. How often should you change them?

There are three schools of thought for when to change sewing and embroidery needles: After each project, after a matter of hours, and when problems occur.

After Each Project

Projects vary. Some of the easier ones take just minutes while others, like a quilt, could take weeks or months to complete. Unless you stitch up the same types of projects on a fairly regular basis, this way of measuring needle life would be less than consistent.

After So Many Hours of Use

Some embroiderers change their needles after using them for a certain length of time. Common amounts vary from six hours to 10 hours of use.

Some embroidery machines make it fairly easy to track time by monitoring hours of usage. Of course you could keep track in a notebook, but who wants to do that?

When Problems Occur

The other alternative is to change embroidery needles when the need arises. Paying close attention to the way your needle stitches, and the way it sounds, will help you get the most life with the least issues.

Over time, needles can become dull or damaged and stitch quality suffers. When you notice skipped stitching, bird nesting, or shredded thread, it is time to change the needle.

Take note of the sound that a new needle makes when going through the stabilizer. When that sound changes to a dull thud, that often means the needle needs changed.

How often do you change your embroidery needle?

Create a PDF color chart with Artista V8

While I was embroidering the designs for my new quilt project, I have seen how much I needed the colour charts for my designs, especially for the large 30cm x 30cm designs where there are quite a lot of colour repeats. I also needed to include these colour charts with all the other design information with my design sets. That inspired me to create the PDF document for easy reference and because it is so easy to do it with the Artista V8 programme, I decided to share it with you.

I will explain to you how to create a PDF colour chart (Design Worksheet) document in your Artista V8. This can then be inserted in your embroidery files for future reference. You can also print the colour chart if you wish to have a printed copy.

The design I am using here is part of a selection that has been digitised for a quilt project. The project will be available in a few months as a PDF eBook that will be available for purchase on the Secrets of Embroidery website.


  • Open your V8 software.
  • Open the embroidery design for which you want to create a colour chart.
  • Select Design and click on Properties in the dropdown box that opens.

  • When the Properties dialog box opens, you will see that you can enter information there.
  • Enter any information in the dialog box that you wish to save with the design such as who you bought it from and when or what you digitised it for.
  • Click Apply and OK once you have entered all the information you want to keep.

  • In the Print Preview page, select Portrait as the orientation.
  • Your Print Preview page will now look like this. Note all the information that you have entered under the Design Properties will also reflect in the page.
  • All the other info such as colour threads and brand of thread, sequence of embroidery and design information will be there.

  • Your Print Preview page will now look like this.
  • Note all the information that you have entered under the Design Properties will also reflect in the page. All the other info such as colour threads and brand of thread, sequence of embroidery and design information will be there

  • Close the Print Preview page. You will be taken back to the design page.
    In the Print Design dialog box that opens, select the printer of your choice.
  • NOTE: If you want to print a paper copy, simply select your printer and click print.
  • To create the PDF document, select a programme that you can create a PDF document with such as Microsoft Print to PDF.

  • Click OK.
  • A PDF document will be created.
  • Select the folder in which you want to save it.
  • Name the PDF document and click Save.
  • The PDF document will be created and saved in the selected folder.


  • Select File/Print.
  • Select PDFfactory Pro.
  • Select Properties in the dialog box that opens.

  • Select the Metrics tab in the next dialog box.
  • Change the Resolution to 1200. (this will give you a better quality printout)
  • Click OK.

  • The PDF document will be created.
  • Save the document with all the relevant settings of your choice.
  • Save the document in the folder of your choice.

This is what the final document will look like.

I hope this information has helped you in some way to make your embroidery experience more enjoyable!


Into Embroidery



Anatomy of a Machine Embroidery Needle

Needles are an essential component of machine embroidery. They have a language of their own: eye, groove, point. Here is a primer for translating basic embroidery machine needle terminology.

Needle Terminology

The shank is the part of the needle that is inserted into the sewing machine. The shank is the heaviest part of the needle and is designed to minimize needle movement by attaching it firmly to the needle bar.

The shaft/blade is the narrow portion of the needle that supports the functional parts of the needle. Needle sizes refer to the diameter of the shaft.

Needle Sizes
Needles range in size from very fine 60/8 to a heavy duty needle 120/19. Most needles use the two-number measuring system. The higher number relates to the metric system and defines the needle shaft diameter in hundredths of a millimeter. The lower number relates to the system in the U.S. and is an arbitrary number also used to indicate needle shaft diameter.

The groove protects the thread by hiding it as it passes through the fabric on its way to join with the bobbin thread. Some needles have exaggerated groves to protect the thread when sewing on particularly dense fabric. A needle that is too fine for the size of thread used will result in inconsistent stitches and broken thread.

The eye of the needle is the hole through which the thread passes. As the size of the eye increases, the size of the shaft increases to support it.

The point of the needle is a primary distinguishing feature in needles. Points can be sharp or ball, or a hybrid of both. The angle of the point can be slender or acute. The point can be centered or eccentric. All are designed for a specific purpose and all give the operator unique applications.

The scarf is the cut away portion on the back of the needle just above the eye. This area accommodates the hook mechanism as it rotates past the needle to engage the thread loop formed by the lifting needle. The shape and position of the scarf increases the consistency of stitching with various threads and fabrics.

Needle Manufacturers

Here are links to some of the major needle manufacturers. Each features a variety of free educational resources.





Choosing Thread Colors: Solid Fabrics

When piecing a quilt or wall hanging, you often stitch embroidery designs into pieced blocks. That means changing the thread colors in your designs so that they match the colors in the coordinating fabrics.

I discussed how to match thread colors to printed background fabrics in this blog. What if you have a plain background mixed with other print fabrics?

In creating a wall hanging for Designs In Machine Embroidery Magazine (Vol. 110) I combined the  Rippled Dragonfly design by One by One Embroidery with some gorgeous fabric,  Essence of Pearl by Kanvas Studio for Benartex in Dragonfly Dream.

The fabric contained ivory and tan background colors accented by shades of blue, mauve, and teal.

Embroidery designs are digitized in certain colors, depending on the creator. That doesn’t mean that you can not substitute your own. In fact, I never use recommended thread colors. I always use threads that match my preferences or the materials I am using for the project.

The original design was digitized using more greens. I wanted to incorporate more blues. The fabric also featured pearlized accents that I wanted to complement. That determined the color palette that I pulled from my thread stash.

On solid colored fabrics, especially neutrals like ivory and white, thread colors tend to stand out more. Threads may match your accent fabrics perfectly, but may be too bold when stitched on a solid color. It is always a good idea to test stitch the design on the same or a similar color fabric to try out your new color choices.

Not that there is anything wrong with it but, had I stuck with the original thread colors, the center of my wall hanging would not have blended as well with the other fabrics.




AccuQuilt: The Only Way to Cut

Of all of the gadgets in my sewing room, one of the most valuable to me is the AccuQuilt GO! cutter. Not only does it cut perfectly, it is quick and easy and makes embroidery and quilting projects extraordinary.

AccuQuilt GO!

After stitching the  FSL Snowflakes design by  Oma’s Place, in the Freestanding Star Ornament blog, I cut a red felt shape using the AccuQuilt  GO! Star Medley 6 Point die by Sarah Vedeler. The largest star was the perfect size to show off the snowflake design. I just glued it to the felt.

The lace star was beautiful by itself but placing it on a red background really made the stitching pop.

The AccuQuilt GO! opens flat. The die is placed on one side, face up. Add felt or fabric over the correct shape (the GO! machine can cut up to six layers at once), add an AccuQuilt cutting mat on top, and turn the crank to pull the stack through the machine.

When you lift the mat off of the die at the other side, you have perfectly cut shapes.

In  Using a Stabilizer Window, I stitched an embroidery design from the  Shining Stars collection by  Designs by Celeste. It was also perfect for this size felt star.

Hooping the Star Shapes

I find it is easier to cut the felt before embroidery. Using the centering marks on your hoop, draw vertical and horizontal lines on your hooped stabilizer. Apply spray adhesive or glue stick to the back of the felt and position it in the center of your hoop using markings on the stabilizer.

Load your embroidery design, and stitch. When finished, remove the stabilizer from the back of the design. Cut another felt shape, place a loop of thread between the two for a hanger, and glue the pieces together. This design is from the 4×4 Folkloric Star Set by Oma’s Place.


Regular Maintenance: Cleaning the Bobbin Area

Ever wonder why the area under your needle plate gets so dirty? Regular maintenance is important, especially with embroidery machines.

These machines are calibrated to such tiny tolerances that it doesn’t take much dust to alter the quality of your stitching. Routine cleaning helps avoid a multitude of problems and it’s pretty easy to accomplish.

Tips for Routinely Cleaning Your Embroidery Machine:


My dealer requires a yearly cleaning in order to guarantee the machine’s warranty. It’s a good idea, even if it isn’t a manufacturer’s requirement. Repairs not covered under warranty can get quite expensive. We routinely get medical check ups and vehicle maintenance, right?

Better Stitching

Removing the needle plate and cleaning under the bobbin case helps your thread feed better. That makes for better tension and results in nicer stitching and beautiful projects.

Lint Buildup

Some cotton threads, and textured fabrics like felt and fleece, can create a lot of lint during embroidery. Lint accumulates in your bobbin area and can cause problems with stitch quality and tension.

No Expensive Equipment Required

You should routinely clean between maintenance appointments. Most machines come with a brush to remove thread clippings and lint from the bobbin area. You can also use a cotton swab or the loop made from a pipe cleaner.

Embroider a beautiful fabric cover for your machine and embroidery unit. That will keep residual dust from accumulating on the machine and electronic components.

Whatever you do, do not use canned air to blow dust and lint from your machine. All that does is blow the dirt somewhere else. Instead, use a mini vacuum or a small nozzle from your floor sweeper.

Make it Routine

Don’t wait until you have a problem to remove lint buildup. Clean the bobbin area every time you start a project or, at the very least, every time you change the needle. Preventive maintenance avoids a lot of sorrows. Embroidery is supposed to be fun!

Freestanding Lace Star Ornament

Christmas in July means it’s never too soon to start making gifts. This project is stitched in freestanding lace and makes a gorgeous addition to the tree.

How to Stitch Freestanding Lace

Freestanding lace is digitized in such a way that it stays together without having to be stitched on a fabric base. A heavy film-type water-soluble stabilizer is used in the hoop. After embroidery, most of the stabilizer is cut away and the rest is dissolved in water.

What’s left is lace that can be made into everything from charms and edging to doilies and runners.

Embroidering the Ornament

Load the FSL Snowflakes design by Oma’s Place on your machine.

Start by hooping a layer of water-soluble film. Load the same thread in the bobbin because the stitching will show on both sides.

Many freestanding lace (FSL) designs are rather stitch heavy and need additional support. Add an extra layer or two of film-type water-soluble stabilizer to the stabilizer in the hoop.

Scraps work well for this. Apply temporary adhesive spray to the back of the extra stabilizer and just cover the area of the stitching.

Stitch the design.

The design can be stitched in all one color or has the option of a different color for the center of the design. I opted to make mine white with a red motif in the middle.

Once embroidery is finished, remove everything from the hoop.

Carefully trim away stabilizer close to the design.

Rinse the embroidery to remove the rest of the water-soluble stabilizer. Blot it with a paper towel to remove excess water and let it dry flat. Attach a hanger to make an ornament or a gift tag.


Hooping Shortcut: Using a Stabilizer Window

When you are stitching out several similar items, you can avoid hooping the stabilizer for every separate embroidery piece by creating a stabilizer window.

Which Stabilizers Work?

This technique works well when embroidering on items that are floated in the hoop, like felt shapes. You can use tear-away stabilizers and spray temporary adhesive on the back of the shape and the stabilizer patch but adhesive or sticky-back stabilizers work particularly well.

How It Is Done!

Start by hooping your stabilizer and drawing the horizontal and vertical centering lines on it.

Add the item to be embroidered. Apply temporary spray adhesive or glue stick to the back of the item if you are not using a sticky-backed stabilizer that will hold it in place.

Embroider the design. This one is from the Shining Stars collection by Designs by Celeste.

When the embroidery is finished, remove your hoop and place it on a safe cutting surface. Use a sharp cutting tool to completely cut around the design so that it creates a “window.”

Cut another piece of stabilizer (sticky-backed stabilizers work extremely well) larger than the hole you just cut out of the hooped stabilizer. Peel away the protective paper layer and smooth out the sticky patch over the window.

The key is having a patch large enough to hold securely to the hooped stabilizer.

If you add the sticky stabilizer to the back of the window instead, it helps hold the next piece that you will embroider in place on the stabilizer. Just draw your centering lines and continue.

When embroidery is done, just peel off the sticky stabilizer patch from the window and it should take your embroidered item with it. If the items are not identical in size, you may need to trim some of the hooped stabilizer to release the embroidered piece.

Make sure that the stabilizer remains snug in your hoop. After a couple of times using the window technique, you will want to start with a new piece of stabilizer in the hoop as the framework will tend to sag.