Tag Archive | Brother

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!


Our Brother, He’s Special

P1030454Do you have a list of projects that you would just love to do? I most definitely do. Do you ever look at the list and pick something off that list as your next project? I rarely do that, but I did it this time. Hopefully you will remember back to the post about the fun monkey pattern I purchased on Amazon and I made a girl and a boy monkey from it and I had a great time making them. And also at the end of that post I stated that I wanted to make more monkeys in different colors? When I made that statement, I doubted that I would ever make another monkey from that pattern in any color but when it came time to chose my next project, I peeked at my ‘want to do list’ and a purple monkey from that pattern was decided on.


P1030452The first step was to pick the colors to use. I was going to use all shades of purple but then I dug out this variegated purple and blue out of my yarn stash. It matched the purples I had already picked very well and it would work great for the sweater look of the monkey too. The crocheting of this monkey’s parts was a lot of fun. I followed the same crocheting process for the purple monkey’s arms and legs as I did when crocheting the first monkey. I also did the purple monkey’s pupils the same as the first monkey’s were, but using 4-ply yarn and a smaller hook and just leaving off the second row. When I was picking the yarn color for the eyes and ears, my first choice was of aran, the same color of the other monkey’s muzzle, rather than the white yarn, but I switched back to the white color in the end. I can’t decide if that was the right change in color or not. The white in the eyes and ears really stands out but then it is a purple monkey and should stand out. The white in the eyes and ears really catches your attention when you see the monkey. The aran color would have been softer. P1030450The white color made this monkey look a little more mischievous looking which made naming this purple monkey easy.


As I completed the purple monkey, he took on male characteristics. As he sat next to the other two monkeys, he became younger too. So, this purple’s monkey’s name is Jimmy and he is the younger brother of the other two monkeys. You know, that younger brother that is always getting in your way and touching your things and you yell and scream at him, but he doesn’t care cause he is the younger brother. Yep, that’s the one!

The Little Brother, Red


Roxie, the amigurumi cow I made awhile back, has been lonely lately so I decided to make her a friend. While surfing Raverly.com, I found the perfect friend for Roxie. Someone had taken Roxie’s pattern and given it big long steer horns. How cute! I could not wait to get started.


IMG_0065Crocheting the parts for Red, the long horn steer, was easy and fun since I had already made the pattern once before minus the horns. This is a fun pattern and is simple to make. I totally enjoyed the crocheting part of the construction. As always though, yarn sometimes can vary, and sewing together the crocheted parts presented some challenges. I used Red Heart yarn which one would think would be fairly consistent across manufacturing lots, but the beige color called aran stretched so much more in the stuffing process than the orange carrot color had. It made Red’s nose huge compared to Roxie’s nose. I tried to stuff the nose less but then it seemed under stuffed. I spent quite a bit of time trying to shape Red’s head so that he was not all nose. When I finally declared that his head was done, I stitched the buttons for nostrils to Red’s nose and they instantly became his eyes because of how big his nose is. This was very discouraging to me. But with a lot of positioning of Red’s head on his neck, I finally got Red to sit so that you could see his real eyes and could tell that the buttons are his nostrils and not his eyes. The mouth did help with this. This was not something I experienced with the construction of Roxie.


P1030115Because Red is a boy, I did not get the pleasure of making him a popcorn stitch udder, but I did get to make him two long complicated horns. The pattern started at the tip of the horn and worked it’s way towards the head. This meant that the first couple of rows were only 3 single crochets big. The horns were difficult to crochet and count and then to stuff. I learned a lot while making the first horn. I learned to stuff it early on and as you crochet with just a little bit of stuffing. I also learned to use a post-it P1030113note to mark on the pattern which row I was on and move the note on the pattern as I completed rows. That way I did not have to go back and try to count those small rounds as I went. The turns in the horns took a lot of patience and counting to crochet them. I learned that I don’t really like crocheting into slip stitches. After completing both horns I pinned them to Red’s head to sew them on and realized that the width of his horns and head was going to be over 2 feet wide. That was just way, way, way too big! I unpinned the horns and undid the crocheting to the first turn of both horns. Pinning the horns back on Red’s head, this made a big difference. I was much happier with the width, now just 17 inches. I was disappointed that I had spent all that time crocheting and stuffing only to undue those parts of the horns, but at least I had not sewn the horns to his head before I decided to shorten them.


IMG_0066Now with Red completed and sitting next to Roxie, he immediately became her little brother. He took on a mischievous personality all his own and quite different from Roxie’s personality . It is amazing to me even though they are from the same pattern, they ended up being so different. But, I guess that is what is so fun about making amigurumi’s. They are never the same twice and their own look and personalities as you crochet them.

The foam, it was puffy…

After much study and thought, it is time to cut into the into the purple and white floral knit print that has no singularity. I found a pattern in the closet for a child’s tab front shirt using the cut away tab method instead of the slit method and I am very excited to give it a try. This knit will make great shirts for little girls and I can see many different things embroidered on it.


Knowing that the embroidery part of making these shirts would occur early in the construction, I started to look at designs and quickly picked several Snoopy designs to choose from.  But, as I thought about the white Snoopy’s on this purple floral print, I started to grow concerned that the purple floral print was going to show through and the last thing I wanted was the image of purple flowers hiding behind Snoopy’s smile. How could I hide the fabric underneath so I could embroider Snoopy’s on this fabric? After contemplating several choices, I decided to give puffy foam a try. I have only played with puffy foam once before without much luck, but I decided it was time to try and use it again.

Now, I have two different types of Snoopy designs, Brother designs that use a running stitch around the edges of the Snoopy’s and Dakota designs that use a satin stitch around the edges. So, with this in mind, I felt that the Dakota designs would be best to use with the puffy foam to seal the edges of the design around the foam. I decided to give it a try on a towel first which I could use to make into a bib later.

The puffy foam worked great. I hooped the towel as usual then I taped a piece of puffy foam in the center of the hoop and started stitching. After stitching everything but the outline, I removed the hoop from the machine and carefully trimmed the puffy foam away. I reinserted the hoop and finished the last color, the outline. It did take some extra time to embroider with the puffy foam but the process went smoothly.


After finishing the design with the puffy foam, I embroidered the design again on another towel without puffy foam so I had a visual comparison to go by. There was not much difference in the designs once they were embroidered on the towels. Yes, the puffy foam one was puffier  and more 3d looking, but not that much. Was it because I was embroidering on a towel and the nap of the towel had not let the puffy foam look puffy? Then I thought about the differences in the Brother and Dakota designs, namely the stitch count. The Brother designs averaged 8000 to 10,000 stitches where as the Dakota designs ranged 20,000 to 30,000 stitches. Maybe that many stitches was pushing the puffy foam down and not allowing it to puff up as it was designed to do.

Feeling that I had the technique of using puffy foam down, I did not want to spend any more time embroidering on towels, so I decided to embroider a Snoopy Brother design with puffy foam on the purple floral print fabric. I followed the same procedure as I did with the towel, and I embroidered all the colors except the outline,  then I cut away the puffy foam and then I embroidered the outline. It seemed to work great. The resulting design is puffier than the Dakota design on the towel, but the edges are not covered as completely as they are with the Dakota design. The puffy foam solved the show through problem very well though and I am pleased with the end results.

The Brother design with the running stitch edge looks great but my concern is how will it hold up over time. Will the stitches become loose on the puffy foam? Will the design be ok after several washing and drying cycles on the puffy foam? I am anxious to get the shirts made and give them to a little girl so she can wear one for awhile and hopefully answer some of my last remaining questions regarding the use of puffy foam.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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 3: The Art of Embroidery


My Sewing Machines – Part 3: The Art of Embroidery:

(Updated: June 13th, 2105)

Once you have decided that you want to get into machine embroidering, the purchasing of an embroidery machine is a big step in getting started that much is true, but it is far from the only step.

And don’t let the sales people tell you any different.

They try to tell you that the only money you will be out to get started is the cost of the machine. They say they will give you free classes and teach you how to use it and now for a limited time only even the $2000-$5000 design software is included for free. That is great that they offer that, but what if you don’t live close to the store, or you don’t have the time to go to their free classes?

Like I said before, once you have the equipment, now you have to learn to use it. 

Using the machine involves the purchasing of embroidery supplies and teaching yourself to use the machine by using it.

As mentioned earlier, the purchasing of some kind of embroidery editing software to make this all work is recommended but can be expensive and isn’t needed if you always plan on stitching out pre-made designs only.

The purchasing of designs is another big expense. 

There is also the purchasing of embroidery top thread for the designs (I now have almost 400 spools of various colors), and a special embroidery bobbin thread, and many different types of stabilizers for all of the different designs and fabrics. Even though these items may seem inexpensive by themselves, trust me they added up quickly. And then there is the specialized bent scissors that make trimming the jump threads easier, the specialized tweezers to hold the threads still while you cut them, the assortment of rulers and guides needed to help you hoop straight and the number of reference books to help you get it all right.

And so on and so on. 

I have several thousands of dollars invested in threads, bobbins, stabilizers, tools, patterns, designs, etc. and that isn’t counting the amount of money spent on the machines themselves.

I didn’t learn to sew or embroidery overnight and neither will anyone else. It will take a lot of time, patience, and money.


After you purchase your first machine, I would recommend that you purchase the book Embroidery Machine Essentials by Jeanine Twigg and read it. It’s the one I started with on a recommendation from a friend. Jeanine does a good job of covering what you need to get going and how to get started. She writes a whole series of books on machine embroidery that are all very good.

Once you have done that and had a little time to flip through the book, go to your local store and buy a small amount of embroidery thread, the standard colors of black, blue, white, green, yellow, red, etc.. Pick up some stabilizer too, both cut away and tear away types, and then just come home and get started with a design that is already in your machine. I feel this is the easiest and best way of getting started learning to embroider with your machine.

This also gives you a chance to work with different threads and stabilizers and see what types you like and what works for you.

After you have decided that this is the right hobby for you and you figure out what supplies you like the best, then get on the internet and search for the best prices on all of the supplies you need.

I have had good luck with a company called Marathon threads for thread and stabilizer and another company named All Brands for various hoops, tools and designs. Amazon has an ever increasing number of these items as well at great prices.

You can then buy in bulk, save some money and time. 

As far as pre-made embroidery designs, there are a ton of designers out there that I like.  I usually look for designs that I might want from the websites of OESD, Amazing Designs, Cactus Punch and Dakota Collectibles (My Snoopy designs are all from Dakota). Recently I have found a fabulous new site, with some really unique designs called SmartNeedle Embroidery Designs and I have been purchasing several of their embroidery packs.

As you can tell from my blog, I love to sew and embroider things for myself and for my family and friends. Sometimes I start with an embroidery design that I want to stitch on something and work out a project around it but, sometimes I had a project idea already designed first and then I have to find the perfect embroidery design to put on it.

Sewing is a way for me to relax (except when it is teaching me patience) and to enjoy life.

I hope to continue to do this for a long time as it is something that I really enjoy and I hope you will too.

If you missed the previous parts of this post you can find them here: Part 1 and Part 2.