What I’ve Learned About Machine Embroidery In-the-hoop


If you read yesterday’s post, you will know that I recently completed my first in-the-hoop machine embroidery project. Now, I was really apprehensive about trying an in-the-hoop (ith) project. I couldn’t get my head around how the process worked, particularly as I had seen a zipped pouch that was made ith – and that really messed with my head! Maybe I was just being dense, or perhaps it was a lack of imagination, but there was no way I could bring up any images in my mind about how it would work.

Eventually, I bit the bullet and had a go at stitching the design I had bought to make as gifts. The whole experience, including knowing of others who are a little nervous of trying ith, made me think that it might be useful to write a post on here of hints and tips that came to mind whilst I was working on the project. This brings me to the first thing I learned:

1. Read the instructions before you do anything else.

I’m a real whatsit for not bothering to read instructions. For this project, I skimmed through the instructions, then set them to one side and tried to work from memory. Oops. Not a good idea. My first attempt was, sort of, OK but it certainly wasn’t right, which leads me on to my second thing:

2. Take a break if your first attempt is disappointing.

My character is such that if what I am doing goes wrong, it tends to make me downhearted to such a extent that I am likely to make even more of a hash of things if I continue at that time. For me, it is usually far better to walk away from the project and take a break. If I continue to work, I am likely to get frustrated and bad tempered – not a good combination!

When working on the scissor fobs I stopped after the first attempt and waited until the next morning to try again. Oh, and I did read the instructions before I began again. And so, on to number:

3.   Gather everything you need before you begin stitching.

I know this one sounds obvious, but it’s easy to overlook something vital. It can throw you into a bit of a panic when the machine is beeping at you to do the next step and you can’t because you don’t have what you need immediately to hand. I think this one is likely to become far easier when you are more experienced at working ith – similarly, number:

4.   Plan your workspace according to the steps that have to be worked through.

It’s all very well having everything to hand to make your project, but if it is simply strewn around your workspace it won’t be much help. This is particularly so if you will be making several of a single design. For the fob design, two pieces of vinyl are required, plus tape to affix the second piece and several different coloured threads (although I decided to use just one colour on each fob). I found it much easier to work with my materials in a logical sequence. Alongside this point comes number:

5.   Prepare fabrics and threads before you begin to sew.

I found, when stitching several of the fobs in one sitting, that it was easier to roughly cut all of the pieces of vinyl into shape before I began to stitch. I also precut the pieces of tape needed to affix the second piece of vinyl to the project. This preparation helped me to feel that I was still “in the flow” of making the fobs as I didn’t have to stop for too long between each stage. Another tip if you are making several of the same item and, like me, like to make the most effective and efficient use of all your materials:

6.   Work out the positioning of each item on the stabiliser.

With a design such as these scissor fobs, it is possible to stitch them quite close together on the stabiliser to reduce wastage. I found that I could “top and tail” them and keep waste to an absolute minimum. Although I don’t make items to sell, I’m sure that this planning could make quite a difference to the amount of profit made on each item. By cutting the stabiliser to a certain size, using the 4″x4″ hoop and “topping and tailing” the design, I was able to make four fobs using very little stabiliser and and discarding even less. And, finally:

7.   Have fun and don’t panic!



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