Tag Archive | bernina

Oh Brother!

I don’t know how old Mom’s serger is but I do know that it is really old, old enough to have knob tensions and be extremely difficult to thread. I also know that it has been giving her fits for years. It has a hard time holding its tensions and the lower looper thread keeps breaking. She has had it in for repairs and service many times, but it just never seem to be fixed or to work correctly especially in the last several years. It was another phone call from Mom one week before Christmas, bemoaning that fact that Christmas was just one week away and that her serger would just not behave so she could get her Christmas sewing finished, that finally prompted me to push Mom again to get a new serger.

Years ago when mom’s serger started to act up, I tried to help her replace her serger. When I looked into the available sergers at that time, I found there were two types, the expensive ones, $2000 to $3000, with all the bells and whistles, and the cheap sergers, $200 to $300, with no features and that barely serged. What happened to a nice $500 to $1000 machine that had just a few features but still serged nicely? At the time, Mom was not sewing as much as she use to, so she did not want to spend a large amount of money on a new serger, so a Singer serger from Walmart was purchased.

Big mistake! The machine was horrible!

It rattled and vibrated and did not serge well at all! It was not long before mom had pushed that serger into the corner and went back to fighting with her old, original serger.

Over the years, I have kept an eye on the big expensive sergers, hoping that one might have that special feature that would make it worth the dollar amount it was demanding. But, I never found one that was worth the price. So, as mom complained about her serger, I did not know what to say. Now, I love my serger so I decided to try and help mom by finding a used serger like mine. After some time looking, I did not find a good used serger similar to mine, but I did find a lot of useful information about sergers.

It seemed that most of the newer more expensive sergers that were purchased were hated, with many owners regretting their purchase and they were trying to rid themselves of their new serger’s on eBay. Most said that because there were so many special features that the machine did not serge well or even perform the special features well. It was a bad case of featuritus. On the other hand, almost all the reviews for the cheap sergers could be summed up to one phrase – piece of crap. So once again, where were that middle of the line sergers?

This time though I found one of those great middle of the line serger’s, the Brother 3234DT. This serger had several great special features, but none that took away from it’s main function, serging.

I told Mom what I had learned and she decided to take a chance and to get one of these new Brother 4 thread with differential feed sergers. When it was unpacked and the owner manual read, I helped Mom thread the serger. It threaded very easily with color coded lay in threading, dial tensions, and even auto needle threaders. I then showed Mom the adjustable stitch length and width, and differential feed like my serger has. Mom was very excited about these features. But, Mom’s new serger had some special features that mine did not. One of these features is the auto needle threader. Another feature that this serger has is a free arm. The table portion of the serger can be removed and there is a free arm for serging cuffs and collars. Man, wouldn’t that be handy while sewing baby sleepers? An extended table also came with this serger. Once again the side is removed and replaced with an extended table that would come in very handy when serging heavy or large items. I was so excited about the extra features of this serger that I thought for a moment about replacing my serger with one of these, but then I decided that there was nothing wrong with my serger and it did not need replacing. (But, if and when my serger does need replacing, I know which serger I will look at first.)

Mom seemed very happy with her purchase. She has sewn a couple of things with her new serger so far and says it serged like a dream. No more nightmares from using that old serger. I am happy that she has a good working serger now and that she can enjoy sewing and serging once again. Plus, along the way I learned a lot about sergers that I did not know before.

So until next time, sew forth and serge on!

Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 3

If you missed Part 2 of this series, you can find it HERE!

Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 3: Creating a digitized design using Bernina Artista Designer Plus Software

(Updated: June 13th, 2015)

As I mentioned in my previous post I’ve tried most of the embroidery digitizing software out there over the last 10 years or so, and even after trying the latest greatest I always tend to come back to my stand by software, Bernina’s Artista Designer Plus. In this post I will take you step by step how I use it to create my own custom designs which are then stitched on my latest sewing projects.

Step 1: Get ready! Get set! Start your software! GO!

Do you have it up and going?

Great! Here we go!

You will notice that when Artista starts up it will be in freehand stitch placement mode where you can just draw stitches or shapes in freehand mode. This is the mode most embroidery software starts in.

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We need to change it to picture mode so we can load our previously touched up artwork and trace the bitmapped image using the auto trace tool. To do this click on the picture tab up at the top of the design screen. Then click on the icon in the left toolbar that looks like a flower coming out of a folder. This is the Load Picture tool.

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When the file browser comes up you can select your touched up artwork saved in a variety of formats like BMP (Bitmap), JPG (Jpeg), PNG (Ping), etc. I will be using my Mickey Indy Graphic that I touched up in Part 1 of this blog series. Click on the one you want to digitize and then click the Open button in the file browser and your design screen should now look like this.

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The next step is to use the built in Artwork Preparation Tool on the left toolbar as shown below. Once you click on it the Artwork Preparation window will pop up and show you the number of colors in your design as shown below. You want to choose an amount of colors that still gives you good detail of the design, but no more than necessary. I never use more than 16, but I usually try to stay around 4-8 colors if possible.

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Once you choose your number of colors and click on ok Artista will decrease the number of colors and smooth any lines in your design it can. It will also create large single color blocks if possible. This will provide the auto digitizing function with less work to do in the next step.

The next step is to take your prepared artwork and use the auto digitizer tool to insert stitches over your artwork. To do this click on the Design tab at the top of your design window as shown below. Then click on the Select Tool in the left toolbar. Next click on the prepared artwork image on the right. This will select it so it can be auto digitized. To do that click on the AutoDigitizer Tool on the left toolbar. It looks like a paintbrush with multicolored paint on it.

At this point you will see an AutoDigitizer window pop up where you can change your Fills and Details stitch types. I normally leave these settings at their defaults but you can use the different stitch types to create different looks for your designs. Choose your stitch types or leave it at the default and click on the OK button.

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Now you should see the bar at the bottom showing that the AutoDigitizer is creating the different stitch objects of your design. Once it has finished your design window should look like the screen below.

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If you click on the Artistic View tab you should now see a 3D representation of your completed auto digitized design as shown below.

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This is all looking pretty good at this point except you will notice that it automatically digitized the white background of the design.

I don’t want this to stitch so it needs to be removed.

So I click back on the Design Tab up at the top of the design window. Then I click on the object Select Tool on the left toolbar (it looks like a white arrow). Then I click on the edge of the portion of the white background and it will be selected and turn to a pink color to show it selected.

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Then I just hit the delete key on my keyboard and POOF it’s gone! It should now look like the screen below.

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You can click on the Artistic View Tab at the top again to make sure you are satisfied with the results. Now make sure and use the File/Save As menu option from the top to save your design. Artista offers several design formats to save to so choose the one your embroidery machine uses. I always save in the PES format since I have Brother machines.

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That is it! You are all done! Now you can change thread colors or resize your completed design to make it larger or smaller or rotate it, mirror it, or whatever else you would like to do with it using the built in tools.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post series, I sure had a lot of fun creating it!

Please let me know if you would like to see other topics covered or if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer.

If you missed Part 2 of this series, you can find it HERE!

Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of this Series, you can find it here.

Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 2: Which Digitizing Software should I use?

(Updated: June 13th, 2015)

First let’s get a few things out of the way.

The software you use to digitize your designs probably isn’t going to be a very important decision for you.

At first glance this might come as a surprise. But the reason I say that is simple.

Most of the embroidery machine makers usually have their own in house software that is made by a third party company for them. They don’t make their own software in house. There are only 2 or 3 major embroidery software creation companies in the world that create this embroidery software for them so they will all pretty much work the same way and have most of the same features.

So no matter what brand of embroidery machine you have, you can usually use whatever digitizing software you like or that suits you best for the job at hand.

Now they will tell you that you have to use their software so that you have the proper hoop support or the right thread colors, etc. but that is all bunk.

They are just trying to lock you into their particular product so that you always have to purchase their support, their updates, their supplies, etc.

Don’t buy into their hype and sales pitch.

I’ve been using a different manufactures brand software than the one that made my embroidery machines for over 10 years now without any problems whatsoever so use what YOU want to, not what they want you to use.

I have always only owned Brother embroidery machines (for why read this previous blog post),  but I dislike their PE-DESIGN embroidery software that comes with their machines. It’s seems too simplistic to me, and it will not allow me to do some things I like to do, the way I like to do them, so I use Bernina’s Artista (Now called Bernina Designer Plus) software instead.

Why do I use this particular software rather than another?

Well for me, it was because I spent a lot of time at different sewing machine stores trying out everything they had in software (digitizing software) and hardware (embroidery machines) before I purchased anything.

What I found by doing this was that after using Bernina’s Artista, Brother’s PE-DESIGN, Husqvarna Viking’s 4D/5D, Janome’s Digitizer/Customizer, Pfaff’s Creative 4D/5D, Singer’s PSW (Professional Sew -Ware), and several others along the way, I just liked the way the Bernina Artista software worked the best.

More than anything it fit the way I seemed to want to work. So many of the embroidery software packages I tried just kept putting up road blocks and getting in my way. The Artista software never seems to get in my way, it let’s me get in and get what I need done, get out of it and get on with actually stitching out the design on my machine.

Most of the embroidery software comes in what they call modules. What that means is if you want to do resizing you have to load a single program to do just that. But then say you need to change the colors or maybe digitize something? Well that will require that you close the program you are in and load another one instead. And you have to continue to re-load the same design into the different modules over and over again.

That was a real pain in the keister!

The Viking and Pfaff software really suffer from this since the same company makes them both. I think they have something like 14 modules in all to let you use all of the different features they offer.

The Bernina Artista software has all of the modules built in to the same program and will allow you to switch modes by just clicking a button in the toolbar. Simple, reliable, and easy to learn.

Bernina’s software is created by the world leader in embroidery software Wilcom, who also makes their own commercial software called Wilcom Embroidery Studio (Wilcom ES) for the big embroidery houses to which they happily charge $5000.00 PLUS for a license to use it. I’ve used a demo of the Wilcom ES software and I can’t see anything I’m missing in my Bernina Software. Not for a personal home user anyway.

Now I am sure many will disagree with my choice of software and will say how much they love this one or that one because of this or that feature.

And I won’t disagree with them. I’m sure they love what they use.

I am just telling you why I use the software that I use. I’m not saying that it is better than one software or another, just that it works best for me and how I like to do things.

I should mention at this point that I am an Apple Mac user and that most of my embroidery software is used on my Mac using Virtual Machine software running Windows XP.

Unfortunately for us Mac users, there is very little native Mac compatible embroidery software available, and the Mac compatible software that is out there is VERY expensive and is only made for commercial embroidery designers.

There are a couple of bright spots on the horizon though.

A friend of mine, Matthias Arndt, in Germany has for the last few years, been creating a Mac compatible embroidery software capable of letting you resize, recolor, flip, convert designs between several different formats and much more. His software is called StitchBuddy. It still will not let you fully digitize designs but it may in the future. It is shareware and can be tried out for free before you need to purchase it at a cost of $50. I was a beta tester for the early versions and I think it is coming along fine. He seems to add new features to it a couple of times a year. He also makes a Quick Look plugin and a Spotlight Importer which he provides for free to let you view your embroidery designs and search for them in the Mac’s Finder. All very, very cool tools and they have decreased my need to start up Windows on my Mac far less than I previously needed too.

One other company called BriTon Leap has recently started converting their Windows embroidery tools to the Mac, but they are close to 3 times the cost of Matthias’s Mac tools. Still they are much less expensive than something like PE-DESIGN or Bernina Artista, etc. They make a Quick Look Plugin called Embrilliance Thumbnailer, a design converter called Convert it, mac, and what seems to be the first steps of a full blown Mac compatible digitizer called Embrilliance Essentials.

BriTon Leap also has a new product called StitchArtist which runs on the Mac and will let you do more complete digitizing than their Essentials product will. I have not reviewed this product yet, but once I do I will add my thoughts on it here.

They also have a demo that you can download to try out their software before you have to pay for it. Clicking on any of the links above will take you directly to their respective websites for more information on their products. I wish I could say I was making money by linking to them here, but I’m not. I’m just trying to help out some friends I believe in and pass the word to other Mac users.

Ever since the smartphone (iPhone and Android)  and tablet revolution (iPad and Android) of a few years back, there have been several new tools released to help you digitize and convert designs on your smart phone or tablet. Both Matthias Arndt with his StitchBuddy HD and BriTon Leaps AirStitch app’s look interesting. I am currently trying out several of these new app’s and I will report back here and in a new post reviewing those tools specifically at a later date.

Stay tuned for part 3 of this series where I will take you step by step through a typical (for me anyway) digitizing session where I take the touched up artwork I created in part 1 and convert it to a fully useable, stitchable design.

If you missed Part 1 of this Series, you can find it here. Part 3 of the Series is here.

My Sewing Machines – Part 1: The Beginning

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My Sewing Machines – Part 1: The Beginning

(Updated: June 13th, 2105)

Someone asked in one of my previous posts comments what equipment I was using was in my sewing studio.

I thought about this question for awhile and I decided that it would be better to delve into this question a little deeper and not only answer the question of what I currently use but why I currently use it.

It will also give a good overview for anyone considering purchasing their own embroidery machine and the many joys, pitfalls, and costs of ownership of this type of equipment.

This information will be broken into several parts and posted over the next several weeks. It is a lot of information to get typed up and will be a lot of information for the reader to digest.

I hope it is helpful to some of my readers.

This will probably be more information than you wanted to know, but as long as I’m telling the story, I thought the beginning was a good place to start.

My mother taught me to sew starting at age 8 through a series of 4-H projects. If you don’t know what 4-H is you can check it out here.

As a young kid with very little interest in sewing, it was no fun and I struggled through the projects.

As I was doing the projects I thought to myself, my mom is an excellent seamstress, so why did I have to learn? Couldn’t she just sew it for me?

I also knew that I was going to be a professional career woman when I got older and of course, I would never have to sew for myself. I would be able to pay someone to do that for me.

It sounds like famous last words doesn’t it?

Oh how young, silly and naive I was!

Every year before the new school year started, my mom would sit us down with the pattern book and we would pick out a school wardrobe for that year and she would start sewing them for us. Mom would do her best to try and get us involved in this sewing, but it was easier to say, “No Mom, you just do it and I will fix dinner”, or I’ll do the laundry or whatever else so I didn’t have to sew anything myself.

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As strange as it may sound, it was my first trip to a big and tall store that got me into sewing. 

My husband and I had just married and we were going to college, poorer than church mice, and he needed some dress shirts for work. I did not even have a sewing machine at the time or really know what to do with one, but after laying out that kind of money for a few of his dress shirts, I decided I wanted, no make that NEEDED to be a seamstress and soon!

My husband purchased me my first sewing machine as a Christmas gift that year. It was not the smallest Brother sewing machine they made at the time, but it was the next step up from the bottom of the line model and I was so excited to get it!

A few days later my mother in law called and said she was getting rid of her serger and her sewing box and asked if I would like them.

Yes!

The serger she gave me at the time was just a three spool, but any thing was better than what I had which was nothing. Sergers also cost a lot more than a sewing machines did at the time so I was very grateful to have one.

Her sewing box was filled with many notions, pins, needles, bias tape, buttons, etc. so I was on my way.

At the time all of my sewing equipment was stored in the living room coat closet of our tiny apartment but I made do with what I had.99cents

The next big help for me in my sewing endeavors was a part time job I got at a fabric store. I got the job just for the extra money, telling them that my sewing skills were not very good, but they hired me anyway. I loved the job and enjoyed cutting fabric all day and talking to the customers about what they were going to make with their purchases. The other ladies that I worked with at the store were all so helpful and gave me great sewing advice as we worked together.

The store had inexpensive fabric at $2 a yard or less and the employees got a discount on everything and thus became the start of my fabric stash. The store also gave free fabric and notions to their employees to make fun projects for the store to display.

After being displayed in the store for 30 days, the display projects were yours to take home and keep. I made all kinds of fun stuff for the store displays that I would have never spent my own money on.

Once our schooling ended and we started our full time jobs we moved to a bigger apartment. With that my sewing equipment was moved to a larger closet in the spare bedroom. My ingenious husband got me a folding table that looked like an ironing board that fit in the closet. With my sewing machine on one side and the serger on the other, plus shelves on the side, my first sewing room was born.

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While out Christmas shopping one day, we saw a demo of the Viking Huskylock 1001L sergers from Husqvarna and I was in love with the 4th and 5th spools, differential feed, auto thread tensioning, and all the other great new features it had over my old 3 spool model. After listening to the lady’s sales pitch, we told her we would love one but just could not afford the machine at it’s current cost of just under $3000.

She told us if I did not mind a used one, that after the demo was over, she was instructed to sell the demo models at a discount, and would sell me one for less than the regular price. I was thrilled at this and agreed to purchase the demo model for just under $2000 with very little use on it. And it is the same serger that I am still using today.

Over the years, I have looked at the new models of sergers as they came out and debated about an upgrade, but decided against it since the only feature that I would gain that I might use is the cover lock stitch.

Serger and sewing machine technologies don’t seem to move very quickly forward as it turns out.

Speaking of sergers there are two types of sergers you can purchase.

There is the $200 kind at discount store like Wal-Mart or the $1500+ kind at a sewing machine shop. If you are a casual sewer the $200 models will probably work for you for occasional use, but if you are serious about sewing your money will be better spent on getting the more expensive models as they are built better, work better and will last you for a much longer time.

My Viking serger I mentioned above it over 20 years old now and I haven’t had a single problem with it in all those years.

I continued to use my little Brother sewing machine to sew curtains, sleepers, pants, shirts, bedspreads, comforters, etc. for many years until the arrival of the combo sewing and embroidery machines.

Stay Tuned for next weeks post: My Sewing Machines – Part 2: The Embroidery Machines