Choosing The Best Machine Embroidery For Your Project

Redwork machine embroidery from the book Modern Machine Embroidery

Machine embroidery is a wonderful tool for quiltmakers and sewists alike. Whether you use it to embellish quilt squares with pretty motifs or to monogram items around your home, an embroidery machine helps you create beautiful, professional-looking designs. In Modern Machine Embroidery, author Lisa Archer of Pickle Pie Designs shows you how to embroider like a pro through detailed step-by-step instructions with essential information about stabilizers, thread, fabric, and more. You’ll also learn how to create amazing in-the-hoop embroidery projects that take full advantage of today’s embroidery machine capabilities. Here’s a snippet from Modern Machine Embroidery to help you choose the right designs for your project.

Redwork from Modern Machine Embroidery


Types of Machine Embroidery Designs

Shopping for embroidery designs is one of the many joys of machine embroidery! You’ll find an endless variety of embroidery designs in any theme you can dream up. As you build your collection, think about the projects you plan to create. Do you want designs for specific events, such as baby-themed designs to make a gift set for an upcoming shower? Or do you want to collect more versatile designs that will work on many different types of projects? There are a number of different embroidery designs, some better suited for specific fabrics or blanks (the base for your beautiful embroidery projects). Let’s go over a few types and some great ways to use them.

Monogramed napkin from the book Modern Machine Embroidery

Monograms and Lettering

You can embellish an endless variety of items with monograms. Towels are a very popular choice, but lettering also looks great on napkins, T-shirts, scarves, jackets, sweaters, tote bags, pillows, and other home decor items. You can even create your own unique design by combining monograms with other embroidery designs. Many embroidery machines and embroidery software packages have lettering features built in. Embroidery fonts can also be purchased individually.

An example of a fill-stitch machine embroidery design

Fill-Stitch Designs

Just as they sound, these designs are made up of a filled area of stitches. You’ll find an endless variety of fill-stitch designs in every theme imaginable: animals, hobbies, sports themes, and more. They are perfect for embellishing clothing, towels, tote bags, and the like. When purchasing a fill-stitch design, pay close attention to the design’s stitch count. The higher the number, the more time it will take to stitch. High stitch count designs can also be very dense and give your final project a stiff look and feel, especially on lighter fabrics.

A pear redwork machine embroidery design

Redwork Designs

A modern-day take on a nineteenth-century art form, these light and airy designs are the perfect delicate addition to almost any project. Red was the first color of cotton thread that was colorfast. So it became popular for hand embroidering and adorning linens that could then be washed and line dried without fear of the dye running. Stitch redwork designs on quilt squares, tea towels, napkins, clothing, home decor items, and more. They’re traditionally stitched in red thread, but feel free to use any color your heart desires.

Redwork designs were traditionally stitched with red thread, but you can use any color that works for your project.

Appliqué Designs

Appliqué designs surround a small piece of fabric with stitches, giving you a fun, full-color look without the bulk of a fill-stitch design. Once the fabric is stitched down, you can add accent stitches to create different effects. You’ll love how easy, fun and diverse this embroidery style is! Stitch appliques on children’s clothing, home decor items, tea towels, bath towels, and so much more.

An example of a satin-edge appliqué from Modern Machine Quilting.

An example of a satin-edge appliqué from Modern Machine Quilting.

Satin-Edge Appliqué: The border of this appliqué is completely enclosed with a pretty satin-edge finish. You may also find decorative or blanket stitches in place of the satin stitches.

Raw-Edge Appliqué: After trimming your applique fabric, the final stitches of this applique style leave a rawedged border—giving you a beautiful worn-in look.

Reverse Appliqué: This type of appliqué features a window cut through your main fabric, revealing the fabric sewn to the reverse side of the project.

Lisa Archer’s quilted Hipster Bag from Modern Machine Embroidery.

Lisa Archer’s quilted Hipster Bag from Modern Machine Embroidery.

In-the-Hoop Designs

Imagine having a seamstress robot at your disposal, one that could whip up myriad custom-sewn projects at your command. You’d never have to learn how to sew to make your own one-of-a-kind purses, bags, and more—but you’d still get all the credit for making them! With “in-the-hoop” embroidery designs, you can do just that! “In-the-hoop” embroidery is such an amazing, creative way to use your embroidery machine. It automates the sewing process and gives you beautiful, consistent results every time.


Tip: Choosing a Design That Works

Before you purchase an embroidery design, it’s important to consult your machine’s owner’s manual for two things: design format and stitch field. The format is the file format your machine accepts, such as ART, EXP, or PES. This should be clearly stated in your manual, and you should always buy embroidery designs in this format.

The stitch field (also known as maximum embroidery area) is the largest design your machine can stitch within your largest hoop. This can get a little tricky because all embroidery designs list both hoop size and design size. “Hoop size” only gives you a rough idea of whether a design might fit your machine. For example, a machine that boasts a 4″ x 4″ hoop may only be able to stitch a design 3.8″ x 3.8″ or smaller. Learn the maximum embroidery area of your machine, hone in on the design size when shopping for embroidery designs, and you’re sure to end up with a perfect fit.

When choosing embroidery designs, think about the purpose of the project, and how it will be quilted. How it will be used—is it decorative or functional? Once you’ve determined what and how your project will be used, you can enjoy picking out or creating designs that will enhance your project and showcase any featured design elements. For more great machine embroidery advice and tutorials, take a peek inside the pages of Lisa Archer’s Modern Machine Embroidery.

Happy stitching,

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