Stitch files vs. working file. Whats the big deal?

Trying to edit or change stitch files is the biggest mistake new digitizers make.  You can save yourself lots of frustration if you understand this embroidery rule clearly.

Some new people find this concept confusing:  stitch file vs. working file.  Here is one way that I explain it to people:


Definitions:  stitch file – the stitch file that your machine understands PES, JEF, XXX, DST, etc.

Working file:  depends on your program, but are NOT any of the above files – Hatch and Wilcom are .EMB files,  Embird is EOF,  DG15 is PXF etc.   And no, you cannot take an Embird EOF file into Hatch and work on it – each embroidery software program has its own working file, and these are not interchangeable either.

The only way you can BEND this rule is to simply add lettering to a stitch file.  But thats not what we are talking about here- thats adding lettering to a file, not editing the file.

So yes, we are talking about editing  – changing things, not adding things to the file.

We have that clear.  Stitch files and working files are completely different files.

Then people ask – so what if I take my stitch file (a PES for example) and CALL IT A WORKING FILE.  (example, open up a PES file and do save as EMB), now its a working file, right?  NO.  IT IS STILL A STITCH FILE – NOTHING CHANGES.  YOU CAN’T “CONVERT” A STITCH FILE TO A WORKING FILE, IT JUST DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT.   Thats one embroidery rule that you cannot change.  If you take an apple, and paint the outside an orange color, is it now an orange?  NO.  It is still an apple no matter what you do to it.  Its still an apple.   Thats exactly what people try to do with the stitch files- give it a nice name for a working file (similar to the orange paint) and think that everything changed.  It doesn’t…the stitch file is still a stitch file and the apple is still an apple.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense.  What you are working on is different from what your machine understands.  If you could take any embroidery file and “magically” turn it into a working file and change the size, edit nodes and have all the editing functions, no one would buy very many designs from digitizers, would they?  If you could change everything that they spend hours creating in a certain way, their embroidery art, if you will – then there would not be many digitizers in business.  The digitizers have the working file, they create it, and they put it out in a stitch format for you to stitch out on your machine.    It is the digitizer’s creation.  And if you create a working file, its YOUR creation.  After all, you really wouldn’t want anyone to change your work, would you?

The stitch files have one purpose:  they are meant to be sent to your machine, and stitch out.   You can resize the whole stitch file a tiny bit, but be aware, you will be introducing errors and problems (and sometimes a big huge mess that breaks machines) if you change the size of the stitch file, or try to do any editing, because stitch files are meant for stitching.  So stitch them out, and enjoy.  Thats it.

I was having this conversation with a friend of mine, and she came up with a great example of visually showing everyone the difference between a stitch file and a working file.

Here is the working file in Wilcom Janome MBX v5


Look over to the right those are the objects in the (funny) shapes that she did.  Each object has a place in the resequenced list – there are only 4 objects in this file:  and each object has a symbol beside it, telling you what kind of stitch was used.  You can easily make many many edits:  click on the object, make it bigger or smaller, change the stitch type, add nodes, remove nodes, add underlay – the list goes on and on.


Here is the same file but as a STITCH FILE:


The design on the screen looks exactly the same, right?  4 objects…but now look over to the right in the objects panel.  Wow, what a difference – there are way more than 4 objects!  Each little piece has a few parts to it…AND THAT IS WHAT THE MACHINE UNDERSTANDS – STEPS TO STITCH.  THATS IT.  So now, if you wanted to change the stitch type on the orange embossed square?  How would you do that?  you can click on the orange, but you have to pick all 10 of the orange parts…and then there are no options to change anything.  That is because it is a stitch file.

That is how you can easily tell the difference between stitch files and working files.

THE EXTENSION:  PES, JEF, XXX, HUS are all files for your machine.

EMB, PXF, EOF are working files, your machine will not understand any of these files.

Take the quote at the top and put it on a sticky note on your computer or desk.  Remember it.  It will save you so much frustration!  most newbie problems begin with trying to change a stitch file.

So if you want to change a stitch file, STOP.  You are not meant to change anything on a stitch file.  Add lettering if you want to – but that is adding not changing.

Thems tha rules.

2 responses to “Stitch files vs. working file. Whats the big deal?”

  1. Happy Avatar

    I really appreciate the way you carefully selected your words. You’ve obviously worked people just like me! It’s reassuring if the explanation needs to be so simplistic. I’m not terminally unique after all!
    Where do I sign us for real classes?

    1. OML Embroidery Avatar

      LOL…Lots of people don’t understand the differences between stitch files and working files! you can get Embird and Hatch classes at – the links are on the front page. We also have many youtube videos that will help too :). HAPPY DIGITIZING!

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