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Sewing: Using an Embroidery Machine

Learn to use the sewing machines in the lab.

Welcome to Embroidery!

Embroidery is the art of applying decorative designs onto fabric. Embroidering itself is complicated, but the machine makes it super easy! Here are a couple videos to get you started. 

Embroidery machines can stitch intricate designs, add decorative elements, create custom monograms, applique, and even quilt. They allow for precise stitching and can be programmed with various thread colors and pattern to produce stunning, unique designs. 

The Innovation Lab here at Hale Library houses two different embroidery machines. While both machines share similarities, this guide aims to outline their differences while providing comprehensive guidelines for their operation. Happy creating!

Getting Started with the Brother PE800

Know Your Brother Machine

1. Top cover

7. LCD (liquid crystal display)

2. Thread guide plate

8. Operational panel

3. Bobbin winding thread guide and pretension disk

9. Operation buttons

4. Spool cap

10. Embroidery unit

5. Spool pin

11. Thread cutter

6. Bobbin winder

12. Needle threader level

1. Handwheel

5. Power supply jack

2. Handle

6. Air vent

3. Presser foot lever

7. USB port (for a USB flash drive)

4. Main power switch


Brother Equipment Manual

Getting Started with the Bernette Deco 500

Know Your Bernina Machine

1. Handle

A. Main power switch and connectors

2. Spool Cap

B. Selection keys

3. Bobbin Winding Guide

C. "Start/stop" button

4. Upper thread tension dial


5. Face Plate


6. Presser foot lever


7. Needle threader


8. Presser foot


9. Bobbin cover


10. Needle plate


11. Bobbin winding device


12. Spool felt


13. Balance wheel


14. LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)


15. Hole for extra spool pin


Bernina Equipment Manual

The library also has multiple memory cards with a large number of designs pre-loaded on. Just ask for these cards and you'll unlock new and interesting designs. 

Stabilizing Your Project

What is stabilizer?

A stabilizer is a tool for supporting fabric to keep the stitching in place. Choosing the right stabilizer is key to any embroidery design. There are three different types of stabilizers: cut-away, tear-away, and wash-away. 

How do you choose a stabilizer?

Depending on the type of fabric you are using, one kind may be preferable over another. On knits or stretchy fabrics, always utilize cut-away fabric. It will keep the stitches from puckering and protect the design. When using a piece of sheer fabric, go for water-soluble for the best results. Also keep weight of fabric in mind. As a general rule heavier fabric should correspond to a heavier stabilizer and vice versa. Also keep in mind, the more stitches you have in a piece of fabric, the heavier of a stabilizer you should select. 

Benefits of each type

  • Cut-away: This is the most permanent and most stable type or stabilizer. Use it for clothes and fabrics that are worn and washed regularly.
  • Tear-away: Typically used to stabilize woven fabrics. Try not to use it on a fabric that stretches. 
  • Wash-away: Used for sheer fabrics. To remove, wash the design in warm water. Be sure to test it before just to make sure it works the way you are expecting it to. 

Check out this guide for even more in-depth information on the different types of stabilizers. 

Get to Know Your Threads

Bobbin Thread

This machine takes a particular size thread for the bobbin - 90 weight. It is thinner than regular thread. The weight influences tension between the top thread and bobbin. The lab has both white and black bobbin thread for you to use.

The bobbin thread does not show on the front side of the embroidery work. White should work for just about every project.  You can change to black if your fabric and embroidery colors are very dark.

Top Thread

The lab has Gutermann All Purpose Thread in many colors for your use. This thread is durable and has a mat finish.

We also have a small collection of polyester thread colors. This thread has a slightly shiny finish.

Embroidery designs usually recommend color numbers from a specific manufacturer. If you don't have that thread you can search the web for conversion charts or simply pick colors that please you.

Here's a more in-depth guide to  thread types. Have fun and happy embroidering!

Do's and Don'ts of Embroidery

DO know the fabric type and product type before starting

Especially when creating a design, it is important to keep in mind the fabric type so you well know how the design should behave. Also keep in mind the product type to choose an appropriate design for the space. 

DON'T use the wrong needle

Embroidery needles are sharp and slender, helping the thread pass through your fabric with ease. Using a needle that's too large or too blunt can leave holes in fabric and make stitching more difficult. 

DO choose an easily legible front when designing

A font like this will be much easier on the eyes when looking at the design. It will also be much easier for the machine to make, especially if there is a decent amount of space between characters. Remember to keep thread count in mind when looking at fonts. 

DON'T forget stabilizer, especially when working with stretchy fabrics

Stabilizer helps every design stay in place and come out clean, but this is especially true for stretchy fabrics. Forgetting stabilizer on these types of fabric can be detrimental because embroidery and stretchy fabric don't mix. 

DO use a high-quality image when designing 

Higher quality images will give you a crisper design. This way everything comes out as you were intending instead of being pixelated. 

DON'T be afraid to ask for help!

Embroidery can be stressful at first because there are so many different aspects but there are so many resources available to you. You can ask someone working in the lab or look up other resources specific to your project, either way, help is open to you.