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Patching Denim with an Embroidery Machine

I love wearing denim blue jeans, but chasing my boys and taking care of my small zoo, they get lots of wear and tear. One of the worst things is having to scrap a favorite pair because of one too many rips. I’ve repaired rips in a utilitarian way in the past. This time I thought I’d try patching denim using my embroidery machine. I haven’t done much applique, so I learned some things along the way.

This tutorial makes use of an embroidery machine and serger. You could also adapt it to use a sewing machine or applique by hand and embellishing with hand embroidery.

Items needed

  • Denim jeans or other item to repair
  • Interfacing
  • Thread in colors of choice
  • Seam ripper or similar tool
  • Scrap of fabric at least 4 in x 4 inches
  • Stabilizers: Cut away or tear away, water soluble optional
  • Floral denim patch applique design file

Step 1: Open the side seam.

Since I’m repairing a ripped knee, I needed to take out one of the side leg seams on my jeans. Using a seam ripper made this easy, but you could use small scissors, too. I left the seam intact at the hip and ankle, only removing what was necessary to lay the ripped area flat in the hoop without risking sewing it to the back. Leaving a little intact makes it easier to resew the seam at the end.

Step 2: Prepare the rip.

Iron the area around the rip so it’s smooth and flat. If there’s a lot of loose threads around the rip, trim them. I caught this rip before it frayed too badly, so no trimming was needed.

Before photo patching denim
Side seam removed and jeans ironed flat.

I wanted the embroidered area to be solid, so I applied some interfacing to the back of the rip. I used some medium weight interfacing, but any should work, since it’s job is just to hold it together while the jeans are embroidered. This is a perfect project for using whatever scraps are handy.

Interfaced rip
Back of rip with interfacing applied.

Step 3: Hooping.

For denim, tear away or cutaway stabilizer is best. I chose cutaway for the most stability. It’s stiff, but it should soften in the wash. If not, I’ll switch to tear away next time.

I tend to float projects and only hoop the stabilizer whenever possible. This project seemed like it would work better tightly anchored in the hoop. It took a few tries to center the rip in my hoop so that all edges would be covered by my design. My machine has a 4 in x 4 in embroidery field, so the rip just barely fit. Smaller tears will be easier to fit in my small hoop.

Hooped denim
First attempt. Once I put it in my machine and had it circle the embroidery field, I saw it needed re-positioning.

Step 4: Embroidering the patch.

Once it’s properly hooped, it’s time to sew. On my machine, the first color stop said “Applique Material”. I haven’t done much machine applique, but the ones I am used to usually follow the sequence: placement stitch, tack down the applique (then trim excess), sew the final applique stitching. So, confused I just put the applique fabric and a water soluble stabilizer (optional) on top of the rip and pushed start.

stitching denim patch

What my machine was telling me to do was to just hoop the applique fabric so I could remove it from the hoop and cut it neatly. The second color stop was the positioning stitch. That would be stitched on my jeans and then my neatly trimmed applique could be placed in position and the stitching completed. Since I did everything at once, my applique isn’t as tidy as it could be. I will definitely listen to my machine next time.

Finished sewing, but still has water soluble stabilizer on top.
Finished sewing.

Step 5: Remove from hoop and cut away excess stabilizer

I also steam pressed over the back of the patch to start softening the stabilizer.

Patch from the back.
Patch from the back with stabilizer trimmed.

Step 6: Sew the leg seam.

To repair the leg seam, I used a lock stitch setting on my machine. You could also sew the seam twice to reinforce it or just use really heavy thread. I then serged the raw edge. If you don’t have a serger, an overedge stitch or zig-zag stitch would also work.

Finished!

Finished patching denim
Finished patch. Next time I will use heavier thread so the embroidery shows better.

Not bad. I wish I had used heavier thread so the embroidery would show up better. Listening to my machine and cutting the applique fabric to size before I sew it on to eliminate the raw edges peeking out is another improvement for the next time I’m patching denim.

If you’d like to use this applique design, you can download the file here. You can use the design on items you make to sell as well as for personal use, but please don’t sell the design file.

Floral knee patch applique
Floral knee patch applique design image.

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Peppermint Coasters in the Hoop Tutorial

I love in the hoop embroidery projects. They, more than anything, are what make me wish my embroidery machine had a bigger stitch area than just 4 inches by 4 inches. Even with such a small hoop size, there’s still plenty of in the hoop projects available.

One of the easiest ITH (in the hoop) items to make are coasters. To make these peppermint coasters, all you need is fleece, one or two thread colors, stabilizer, the design file and, of course an embroidery machine. Once you see how they are made, you can easily swap out the design and colors to suit your needs. They are so simple to make, they are perfect for last minute gifts or as decor to match a party’s theme. You could also make a themed set for each month, season or holiday to decorate your home.

In the hoop peppermint coasters

Supplies to make one coaster

  • Two pieces of fleece cut to your machine’s hoop size
  • Red thread
  • White thread (optional)
  • Tear away stabilizer to fit your hoop size
  • Water soluble stabilizer (optional)
  • Peppermint Candy Design File

Prepare your hoop

  • Hoop the tear away stabilizer Hooped Stabilizer
  • Place one piece of fleece on top of the stabilizer in the hoop. For small projects I sometimes just carefully hold it smooth while my machine stitches. You can also use a glue stick outside the stitching area to glue the fabric to the stabilizer, or pin the fabric to the stabilizer at the top and bottom, outside of the stitching area. I made the mistake of having a pin at the side, and even though it was clear of the design, it caught on my machine’s presser foot. Luckily I caught it quickly, but I will probably use a glue stick whenever possible to prevent that from happening again.Fabric pinned to stabilizer
  • Decision Time: If you want the peppermint to show on both sides, place the other piece of the fabric under your hoop while placing it onto your machine. The bottom fabric usually stays in place on its own, but you could use a glue stick as I mentioned in the previous step. To only have the peppermint show on one side, skip to “Preparing your machine”.Backing fleece.

Preparing your machine

  • If you want the peppermint on both sides, make sure the top and bobbin thread match. For a single-sided design, red or white in the bobbin is fine.
  • Place your hoop in your machine.
  • Upload the design file according to your machine’s instructions. The following steps are based on the Brother SE 400, so they may differ depending on your machine.
  • Resize your design, as desired. I wanted the peppermint as big as possible, so I followed the instructions for my machine to maximize the size. Mine maxed out at 7, which resulted in an overall size of about 6.5 cm. If your machine has a bigger capacity, you’ll need to decide how big you want the design .
  • Because I used white fleece, I chose to skip the white stitching and only stitch it in red. Again, I followed the instructions to skip to color 2, labeled red. Whatever color you choose, if you’re only sewing one color, skip to color two, because it has the outline. If you want to stitch both colors, skip this step.
  • Optional: Since fleece has a high loft, placing water soluble stabilizer is recommended. I’ve tried this project both ways, and I don’t see a big difference. For this tutorial, you’ll see the water soluble stabilizer in most photos.

Stitching your in the hoop coaster

  • Begin stitching according to your machine’s instructions.
  • If you are stitching both colors and want the peppermint on both sides, be sure to change the bobbin thread to match the top thread after color 1, white, is complete.
  • Continue stitching until the peppermint design is complete.Ready for the border

Stitching the border.

  • I like the border to match on top and bottom, so for this step I put red in the bobbin and for the top thread.
  • If you’re making a single-sided coaster like I did for this tutorial, now is when you add the second piece of fleece. Place it under your hoop as in the last step of “Preparing your hoop”.
  • On your machine, navigate to frames and select a circle frame.
  • Select the stitch type. I chose an over edge, blanket-type stitch.
  • Adjust the frame size. The frame size will determine the final size of your coaster. Make sure it is bigger than your design. Mine maxed out at 9 cm.
  • Stitch the border. I like a thicker look to the border, so once the border is done, I stitch it again. As long as you haven’t moved the fabric in the hoop, it will stitch directly on top of the first frame.In the hoop peppermint coaster stitching the border

Finishing the coaster

  • Remove the project from the hoop.Out of the hoop
  • Carefully remove any pins.
  • Trim thread tails.
  • Tear away the tear away stabilizer.
  • If you used water soluble stabilizer, cut away excess.
  • Cut fleece as close to the outside edge of the frame stitching as possible without cutting the stitching.
  • To remove remaining water soluble stabilizer, gently dab with a damp cloth or, swish it in a bowl of lukewarm water until stabilizer is gone and allow coaster to air dry flat.
  • Done!

I know that looks like a lot, but it’s really simple. I tried to be as detailed as possible, but if anything is confusing, please don’t hesitate to ask for clarification in the comments or through email.

If you notice, in the photo of the finished coaster, there’s a flaw in the border stitching on the left. That is where a pin caught the presser foot. Luckily that was the only damage. In the future, if I use pins, I will only pin at the very top and the very bottom. I really do prefer using washable glue sticks and keeping the glue well outside any stitching. That way my needle and machine don’t get gunked up, and I don’t risk hitting pins.

Finished Peppermint Coaster
Finished Peppermint Coaster
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New Embroidery Design Files and Freebies

While I love my Brother SE400, it didn’t take long for me to get bored with the built in embroidery designs. I found many cute designs online to buy. That helped, but  even that was somewhat limiting as my machine only has a 4×4 hoop capability. Besides, I’m a diy, hands-on person. Of course, that all led to learning how to digitize designs myself.  

The digitizing process is fun but time consuming. When I spend that much time on something, I want to share it with others. So, I am offering my embroidery designs in my shop under Embroidery Files and Freebies.  Each design is scaled to fit in a 4×4 hoop and come with the .CSD, .DST, .EXP, .HUS .JEF, .PCS, .PES .SHV, .VIP, or .XXX file types to work on most embroidery machines. New designs are listed for free for a limited time. 

You can find all of the above designs in my shop under Embroidery Files and Freebies. I would love to see what you create with the embroidery designs. If you’d like, share them here in the comments or on our social media channels. I also appreciate any feedback, especially if you have a different machine.

Tomorrow I should have a tutorial posted for using my Peppermint Candy design to create cute, in the hoop coasters. They’re an easy beginner project and make great gifts. You could also use a similar technique to create Christmas ornaments, or swap out the design in the middle to make them less seasonal.

Peppermint Candy Coaster almost complete
Sneak Peak of a Peppermint Candy Coaster in progress

If you’re not familiar with the term “in the hoop” it refers to an item that is completely or almost completely made by the embroidery machine in the hoop. I like in the hoop designs for things I’m making in sets because it’s easy to get nearly identical results. 

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Embroidery Machine Tips: Paw Patrol and Using My Brother SE-400

Thaddeus turns three next week! When asked what he wants for his birthday, he exclaims, “Paw Patrol stuuuuuufff!” He is also constantly asking me to sew basically the entire cast of Paw Patrol for him. I may be crafty, but that is a bit beyond my skill set. So, since I have a lovely embroidery machine that doesn’t get used nearly enough, I thought I’d purchase a Paw Patrol design set for my machine.

The set came from Etsy seller OhMyArtDesigns. It comes with all the main pups, Rider, Robo Dog, and the Paw Patrol Logo. They also come in a few different sizes and file types to accommodate different brands and machines. So far, I love the designs. The stitch density is great, and they have a lot of detail. The only problems I’ve had fall completely in the “user error” category.

Embroidery Color Charts Matter

My first mistake was using the thread colors displayed on the machine and my manual chart to choose my threads.

The thread colors and names used by different machine brands varies, so if a design is drafted using different colors than yours, the color suggestions can seem a bit off. I was in a hurry and didn’t pay attention to the color chart provided by the designer, so some of my color choices weren’t quite right.

Everest would be less blue if I had used the appropriate chart. Lesson learned. This also highlights the need to test run any new patterns before stitching them on your final product. Embroidery machine stitching is so dense that it’s almost impossible to remove without ruining the fabric.

Hoop Tightly

The other problem I encountered is also easily fixed. I just need to learn how to hoop my fabric properly. If you look closely, you can see the black outline on both Everest and Rider strays from the edge of the design on one side. I still have trouble getting the fabric and stabilizer drum-taut, so by the time the outline is stitched, the design stitches puckered the fabric in places. I have a magnetic hoop set on my wish list to see if that would help, but honestly it’s probably a case of needing more practice. Considering how many pups I have left to stitch, I may be an expert at hooping by the end of the week!

Rider in embroidery.

It is so fun to watch the designs being sewn. It’s like putting together a puzzle.

Embroidery. Everest after embroidering the first color.
Everest after stitching the first color.

Looking for new designs to try on your embroidery machine? Find my embroidery files and freebies here.

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Tips for successful machine embroidery.


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My New Toy

So, I got a new toy for my birthday:


Yay! Now impatient me with no time and a fear of leaving needles around accidentally in the baby’s reach can do embroidery too! It’s also a regular sewing machine. I’ve never sewn on a computerized machine before. I’ve never sewn on a sewing machine newer than from the early 1990s for that matter. Most sewing machines I’ve used have been older than me. Not that I don’t like old machines. You’ll have to pry my trusty metal mechanical Kenmore and back up Signature(s) from my cold hands.

It’s been fun learning how to use it. I also may or may not be a bit obsessive about switching off the power strip and then going back and unplugging it from the power strip and then making sure I’ve unplugged it again later, lest some random lightening storm attack my precious.

It’s a brother se400. I haven’t done much regular sewing with it yet, so I can’t do a full review. I can say that I worried a little about getting annoyed with all the threading and re-threading involved with a single needle embroidery machine. Brother took care of that by giving it the most amazing needle threader I’ve ever seen. I usually skip “automatic” threaders as I find them harder to use than just sticking the thread through the eye by hand. This one is some sort of magic. Seriously, if you were to stop over, I’d probably briefly introduce you to my family and then insist you come see me thread my sewing machine.

Aside from just playing, I’ve rescued a few shirts from (probably coffee) stains by embroidering things on them to hide the stains. Considering my clumsiness and love of coffee, that alone will probably help me get my money’s worth out of it.

I am looking for decent digitizing software so I can do things like embroider the SubEarthan Cottage logo and make traditional monograms a little easier. Embird seems to be the go-to, but it’s a little pricey. Stitch Era is more my price range, but I’m not sure it’s as user-friendly. I’ve also seen Sew What Pro mentioned, but haven’t looked into it enough to know what it’s like. Any advice on software would be appreciated.


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