What stabilizers do I need to get?

The Economical Embroiderer Series: Stabilizer

I have had fun doing the research to become an Economical Embroiderer! 

This week we are talking about stabilizers, and how to be economical with stabilizers.  Some people will go to extreme lengths to save a few pennies on stabilizers, and I am not going to suggest any of these solutions – I will briefly talk about them and why I don’t suggest following those suggestions, but that is going to be it on that subject.  I don’t really want to ruffle those darn feathers today!

START OFF WITH THE BASICS:  When you are starting off building your stabilizer stash, it can be quite overwhelming because there are so many options out there.  Where do you start, let alone how do you save money?   In this situation, my advice would be to start with the basics so you can get doing some embroidery.  The basic stabilizers are cutaway, tear away and WSS (water-soluble stabilizer).  That’s it!  3 rolls and you can get started on any embroidery.  Now there are different weights, sizes, cuts and so many other options for each kind of stabilizer.  I say go for the middleweight and get the fabric type WSS stabilizer, that will get you going.

THE BIGGER THE BETTER:  The only way to really be economical with stabilizer is to purchase the stabilizer in bulk – the bigger the roll the more money you will save.  Again, stick with the basics on cutaway and tear away.  You can really save a lot of money if you purchase larger rolls of stabilizer – for production purposes, we purchase huge rolls of 500 yards of tear-away stabilizer – it’s a massive roll – I only wished it lasted longer!

USE COMMON SENSE AND KNOW YOUR PRICES!  you always have to be careful when making ANY purchases – use common sense and of course, know your prices. If you are purchasing large rolls, make sure the price per yard is less than the smaller rolls.  Also, use your common sense – make sure that what you are purchasing is actually used for embroidery – that is super important – and make sure you will use that particular stabilizer.  Some people have purchased large rolls of stabilizer only to find out that they hate how it hoops or the end results in their hoop.  For that reason, spend the extra money and don’t worry so much about being economical, and purchase a SMALL ROLL of that stabilizer before you purchase the large roll.  Test out the type of stabilizer and make sure it is useful for you – and once you decide that it is, THEN purchase the large roll.  Having a large roll of stabilizer that saved you money and you hate using really is not saving you money in the end, is it?  Know your prices and make sure you are getting a good deal – some stores will just make it look like you are saving money – know your prices and make sure it is a great price.

MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ROOM FOR LARGER ROLLS:  Yeah, that may seem like a stupid thing to say, but some of the economical rolls can be very large – larger and heavier than you think!  You must be able to use the large rolls, and you must be able to store them somewhere.   In our workroom, we have a large strong table that can support the weight of the roll, and a cutting board underneath it so that we can cut the sizes that we need.  If you don’t have a set up like this,  you may not be able to use a large roll effectively.  Make sure you have room in your workspace and make sure you can get at the stabilizer easily when you need to!

REMEMBER YOU PAY FOR CONVENIENCE: If you purchase pre-cut stabilizer of any sort – even perforated stabilizer of a certain size, remember that you are paying for that convenience.  Sometimes it can be a lot more money per square if it is pre-cut!  Now I am not saying that pre-cut stabilizer is not economical – it certainly can be under some circumstances.  Production would be a good example of when the pre-cut cutaway stabilizer is economical.    If you need to stitch say 40 shirts on your 4×4 hoop, it will save you tons of time to just grab a perfectly sized square of stabilizer and then hoop and go.  In that example, the extra cost of the pre-cut stabilizer is saved in time.  Time is money, and if pre-cut stabilizer will save you time, it will save you money too.  I have a bunch of pre-cut stabilizers left over from our t-shirt production days, and I seriously rarely use it!  It does look great sitting on my shelf though – almost inviting me to do some 4×4 designs once in a while just to use it up!

NOT RECOMMENDED:  Here is where some feathers may get slightly ruffled – but remember this is just the writer’s opinion here.  I don’t think anyone should bother stitching scraps of stabilizer together to be economical, for any reason.  The stabilizer in your embroidery is the foundation of all embroidery – the foundation of your hooping and material.   If that foundation is weakened for any reason (such as running stitches holding it together), then your embroidery is going to be “weaker” as well.  If I have larger pieces leftover from other jobs, I will cut them into 6 x6 squares and save them for the 4×4 hoop, but the rest of the scraps won’t fit into any other hoop,  and those small or medium pieces need to be thrown away.  Remember that your foundation is everything.    Being an economical embroiderer is great, but I don’t think you can take shortcuts with your stabilizer foundation.

KITCHEN PRODUCTS ARE NOT STABILIZERS AND ARE NOT DESIGNED FOR EMBROIDERY ON YOUR EXPENSIVE FINE-TUNED EMBROIDERY MACHINE.  Enough said, right?  Foundations, foundations, foundations.   Coffee filters are for coffee, and you don’t make coffee on your embroidery machine….or do you?

Great embroidery starts with great products that will ensure that your embroidery looks great for a long time!

Until next time,


The Economical Embroiderer: THE BEST BEGINNER MACHINE

We have talked about saving money here and there, and ways that you can search out some awesome deals for great embroidery accessories. This week, let’s talk about your machine, or if you have more than one, your machines. In my house and workshop, we have lots of machines: Commerical level machines, multi-needle machines, fun older machines (not used for our daily production) and hobby single needle machines that are nice and quiet in my office.

FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU NEED. GET IT. Here is where it already gets tough – what do you need in a machine? What are you planning on doing for your business? You need to have some sort of a plan going on if you are intending to start a business – and NO you do not have to have a multi-needle machine to start a business, but you do need to have a plan. Are you going to be doing mostly baby clothes? Monogramming? Embellishing purses? Once you figure out your plan of action, then you can start narrowing down your machine by what you NEED. There is a difference between NEED and WANT when picking out a machine and being economical about it – you may only be able to get what you need and save the wants for later when your business grows. There is nothing wrong with that – after all, you do have to start somewhere, right?

BELLS AND WHISTLES ARE EXPENSIVE AND LURE YOU INTO AN EXPENSIVE MACHINE. True Story. I have all sorts of cool bells and whistles and extra things on my 10 Needle Brother (named Ragnar) and while some of them are cool and are very useful, some of them really are not. I got a great deal on Ragnar, so I am not worried about the things I don’t use – the machine has paid for itself already. I was not charmed by the extra thingies that the machine had, but I was aware of them so there was no sales pitch that was going to work on me – the sales guy was not going to wow me with anything at all or move me from my $$ goals because I came prepared – I already knew what the machine had to offer, and I knew it was exactly the same as the level up machine that would cost me $6,000 more – and I did not need to spend that. When you are machine shopping, make sure you know your stuff, so you won’t be wowed by some cool features that you won’t use. It’s hard, but try your best and stick to your price point. Go back to the first point, and figure out what you need and get that embroidery machine. Do not spend money on stuff that you don’t understand and won’t use, as tempting as it may be!

REMEMBER YOU CAN DO THE SAME THING ON A SINGLE NEEDLE MACHINE. People always forget that part of the machines. A multi-needle machine does the same up and down motion as the single needle machine – it forms the same stitches and follows the same patterns. There is no difference in the mechanics. You can do the same things on each. Now there are benefits to a multi-needle machine – the obvious one being that you can load up 6-10 threads and have them cut and trim and keep going without changing threads and re-threading. But is that inconvenience worth spending the extra money? Maybe, but it depends on what you are doing of course, and you can get single needle machines that cut and trim. Another big difference between the two types of machines is the shape of the machines and how easy it is to hoop and stitch things. For example, I think it is way easier to hoop and stitch a t-shirt on a multi-needle machine than a single needle machine – the sewing bed area makes it impossible for the t-shirt to simply hang while stitching – so you must keep the shirt out of the way. BUT, that is only a big deal if you do a lot of shirts or garments, right? If you are not planning on stitching on clothing, then that benefit will not apply to you! So do you see what I am getting at here? Another example…Hats. If you stitch out a ton of hats, hooping and set up time is so much faster on a multi-needle machine – you have an awesome hat hoop and the hats will turn out perfectly. You can do hats on a single needle machine, but you won’t have a hat hoop – you will have to flatten the hat out and secure it before you stitch it. Each hat will turn out perfectly, but it is easier to hoop and stitch one on a multi-needle machine – if you are doing 100’s of hats a day, that will be very important to you. If you only do a few, that is not one of the main features that you are looking for, so a single needle machine may have other features that you do need.

USED MACHINES VS. NEW MACHINES: Once you figure out what you need (and want) and can afford, start doing your research on finding machines that will suit your needs. There can be nothing wrong with used machines (we have purchased quite a few), but you need to be careful when purchasing used machines. Personally, I think the best place to buy used machines is from a dealer – they can offer you some kind of guarantee when you purchase. Just make sure you know your stuff when you go in to see the dealer, or you might be wowed by that brand new (expensive machine) that can do many more things than your “old used” one.
You can purchase great used machines from ads in newspapers and Facebook groups, but one word of caution: make sure you can see and test the machine before you hand over your hard-earned cash! I think you need to see the machine running, see all of the accessories, make sure everything that you need is included and then of course test the machine to make sure it works. Don’t forget to check the paperwork for regular maintenance, too. All of these things you need to do in person. We have actually rented a van and driven a few hours away to check out a machine before we purchased it – the van was so that we could immediately pay and take the machine home with us. Don knows his machines, so he is able to make a decision with confidence after testing the machine.

THE BIG QUESTION: WHAT IS THE BEST BEGINNER MACHINE? I see this all the time in various groups, and there is actually no way to answer it for the person. Most questions like this get answered with the names of the machines that people are using or have used, and sometimes each machine out there gets named, so there are not any helpful answers to that question.

ALL THE MACHINES WORK THE SAME AND YOU NEED TO DO THE SAME LEARNING ON ANY MACHINE. You have to read the manual. You have to understand all of the buttons on the machine. You have to hoop things properly and you have to learn the rules of embroidery and how to do each technique properly. ONCE YOU HAVE DONE ALL OF THIS LEARNING, YOU CAN USE ANY MACHINE. It depends on your budget, your needs and wants and how many bells and whistles that you want and how many you can afford. Basically, you want an embroidery machine – the more basic the embroidery machine, the less the price. That’s pretty much it. Seriously, I can’t offer any more advice on picking a machine (and no one else can either, btw) other than what I have written here – you have to do the work and decide what will work for you – your business, your hobby, and of course your budget. No one else can do this for you. The best beginner machine for you will be different than for someone else. Personally, I started on a 6 needle machine, and Don started on 2 6 needle machines, a commercial 15 needle machine, and a commercial 12 needle machine. So what Don thinks is a “beginner machine” (a 6 needle) is very different from what other people think is a beginner machine, right? Do your own research and homework and get the right machine for YOU.

One last point.  It is not a competition.  Really it is not.  There is always going to be a bigger, better and more expensive machine out there, or coming soon.  Just because someone has a more expensive machine, doesn’t mean they are better than you.  You may be a better embroiderer than they are, and are able to produce stunning designs regardless of what machine you are using – it’ s the skills and the learning that matter in the end.

Until next time,

The Economical Embroiderer,


Do you speak embroidery?

Embroidery Lingo

Let’s talk embroidery!  Do you know the lingo?  There are quite a few embroidery terms, short forms, and verbs that we need to be using properly to speak the embroidery lingo properly.  Using the correct terms will help everyone understand your comment or question better, and it will also help you make more professional posts and statements.  Also added in this list are some things that you should be doing in everyday embroidery.  Embroidery is a skill that you must learn!   I am not the Grammar Police, but I do see the same mistakes made over and over again – and as we discussed in the blog two weeks ago, presenting yourself and your business in a professional manner AT ALL TIMES, in every post and everything you do online is paramount to increasing your business.  After all, first impressions are lasting impressions – and social media works the same – even if we are not in person anymore, people do read what you write, and if you don’t present yourself properly in a professional manner, that is what everyone will remember.

I know everyone can read their manuals and find out these definitions, but I am not going to copy and paste any manual – I am going to explain everything in terms that everyone can understand, somewhat of a guideline to speaking and doing embroidery.

Stabilizer:  This is what you use under your embroidery to provide stability for your embroidery designs on your machine.   There are many kinds of stabilizer, just as there are many different fabrics:  you must make sure that your stabilizer is the correct thickness and type BEFORE you hoop.  Hatch has an “auto fabric” feather that will tell you exactly what stabilizer you need to use. Listen to Hatch’s suggestions and your embroidery will look much better, and last much longer too!

Hooping:  I know I sound like a broken record here, but I am going to keep saying it until everyone has heard me.  HOOPING IS PART OF EMBROIDERY.  You must hoop stabilizer AND the garment/material that you want to embroider.  Floating is an option and yes, it may work, and it may look OK, but it is certainly not as good as it should be.  Seriously.  I am confident that my embroidery will look great through many wash and regular wear – because I have the proper stabilizer and I have hooped everything properly.  I go for the best, so I take the time to do my best.  Learn how to hoop.  Some projects may be difficult, but it will be worth it!

WSS:  This stands for water-soluble stabilizer and it is one of the most over-used stabilizers around.  It is not actually a stabilizer – it does not stabilize your garment/fabric in any way.    WSS was designed mainly for FSL, and that is what you should be using it for!  You can also use it to help hold the stitches up (a bit) when you are stitching items like towels or anything with a high nap, but you will get much better results with a light fill stitch, stitching first to hold down the nap (also called Hatch Smash).  You do NOT need to use WSS for stitching designs on t-shirts or sweatshirts or jeans.  You are simply wasting money and time.

FSL:  Free Standing Lace is one of my favorite things to do in embroidery, as long as the embroidery is designed well.  The FSL design is made up of only thread – that is to say that you are not embroidering on any material, just some WSS, and when you have finished the design, you soak the design in water and wash the WSS away and you are left with a beautiful design.   I have noticed over the years that FSL designs have changed quite a bit!  I have done a few designs, and my machine was not happy going through layers upon layers of thread to stitch through. I do not continue to stitch when my machine doesn’t like it – I am not going to break or wear my machine down because of dense stitching.  When you are stitching your FSL design, your machine should be happily stitching, no banging, no thread breaks, and no design separation.  I have noticed quite a few people posting designs where the FSL has come apart, or parts have separated from the design, and even been “punched out” of the WSS before it is done!  That is not how FSL is supposed to be!  Some FSL designs are merely a crosshatch design with satin stitches over top and a few layers in between too – while they may be nice-ish, they are not going to hold up well and they are not going to make my machine happy.

ITH – In the Hoop Embroidery Designs: ITH is the short form for in the hoop – which means that the embroidery design is comipleteted in the hoop. Some ITH designs need some sewing when they are finished stitching, but they are still considered ITH. You can make bags, purses, zipper purses and even cute stuffed animals. Anything goes! My favorite place for ITH designs is Kreative Kiwi! Her designs are fantastic! If you want some fantastic machine embroidered ITH mugrugs or coasters, Kreative Kiwi is the place to be. You will love doing ITH once you try it!!


Embroidery vs. Embroider.  Ok, this is a bit of a grammar police paragraph, but it is worth mentioning.  Some people write “I am going to embroidery this design”.  Embroider is a verb (verbs show action) so the correct sentence is “I am going to embroider this design”.  Embroidery is the name of the skill that we are learning “I am learning embroidery”  or “I am learning to embroider” are both correct.  Of course, there are exceptions to all grammar rules, but that is the basics.

Digitizing:  I see this word spelled incorrectly all the time.  You digitize, or you learn to digitize, and I am digitizing.  It is not digitalizing.  Grammar police, again, but there it is.

Jump stitches:  When you are learning to digitize, one of your main goals is to get rid of as many jump stitches as you can.  Jump stitches are literally “jumping” from one object to another.  A jump stitch can be long (a no-no) or shorter (between letters in a word), some are acceptable and some are not.   Jump stitches between letters are fine, as long as they are not too long!  Again, if I am doing an embroidery design and there are huge jump stitches (my old single needle machine did not trim any stitches) I will STOP stitching that design.  If you have jump stitches everywhere, your needle foot may get caught on them and you might break your machine. If I am working on one of the big machines which trims, I still hear and see all that trimming going on, so I know that the design was not optimized properly – and that means that the digitizer did NOT take the time to digitize properly.

Connections or connecting stitches:  These stitches are what you need to eliminate the jump stitches to keep your design optimized.  You must learn optimization if you are a digitizer – you must!  You need to make running stitch connections between objects so you don’t have an excessive amount of trims or jumps.  Anything less than a maximum effort on optimization is not acceptable.

Optimization and optimizing your designs:  This should be the final check of your design that you are about to stitch.  Do you need to make connections with running stitches?  Is your design set out in a logical manner?  Do you have tons of unnecessary color changes?  Do you have tons of jump stitches?  Does your machine stitch one color at the top, then trim, and then move to the bottom and back up again? If your machine is doing any of these things, your design is not optimized and therefore not finished!  Take the time and finish it!

Design Registration:  This term has to do with your hooping skills, which includes using the correct stabilizer.  If your design is “out of registration” that means things don’t line up, your fill stitch is pulled back from your outline, or things are misaligned.  These issues are not usually the digitizer’s fault, more often than not it is the embroiderer’s fault!  If you don’t hoop everything and stabilize properly things will move around and pull.  Keep things looking sharp and exactly where they should be by learning hooping skills.

Hopefully, that will helps some people that are struggling with some of these terms.  If you don’t understand WSS and what it stands for, the whole process of FSL will be confusing!  Hopefully explaining these terms will help some of the new people understand some of the terminologies that we use in embroidery.

Now you speak some of the embroidery lingo!

Until next time,

Happy Digitizing

Sue Brown


So many stabilizers, so little time!
When you are first starting out with embroidery, you need to get a machine plus a ton of other things before you even turn on your machine. Having the correct thread is really important, but so is the correct stabilizer. Beleive it or not, using the right stabilizer and hooped properly can make or break any embroidery design. There are so many different kinds of stabilizers, which one should you get first? Wading through the stabilizer list can be confusing, and expensive.

I suggest you start with the basics and then move on from there. When you are new to embroidery, it is better to learn the foundations of embroidery including hooping skills and proper stabilizer for your embroidery. Once you get good at that, then you can start going through all of the “fancy” (and sometimes helpful) assortment of specialty stabilizers. So again, where do you start? Let’s go through the 3 basic types of the embroidery stabilizer, which are the must-have stabilizers to get you started, and you will probably always have a stash of each of these in your embroidery studio.

I keep large rolls of my most used stabilizers handy at my machine.

CUTAWAY STABILIZER: Just as the name states, you have to cut away the stabilizer when you are done doing your embroidery. Cutaway stabilizer is generally thicker than most other stabilizers and will provide a nice solid base for any embroidery. Because the stabilizer is thicker, it will keep supporting the stitches through many piles of washing without giving up and letting your stitches down. You should use some type of cutaway stabilizer for shirts, knits and any stretchy fabric. If you are using stretchy fabric of any kind, make sure you work on your hooping skills so you don’t stretch the fabric while you are hooping. The cutaway will keep the stretch away from the embroidery. If you stretch the fabric while hooping, the stabilizer will also hold this in place, and you will have somewhat curved embroidery that has stretched the fabric out of proportion. If this happens, keep practicing your hooping skills and learn to hoop without stretching. The cutaway stabilizer of some type should be a staple in your embroidery stash.

People ask all the time what “level” or “size” of cutaway do you need? That depends on what you are stitching really. You can go middle of the road and the stabilizer will not be too thick, or you can go the thinnest available and you may have to double up your stabilizer once in a while, depending on what you purchase. If you are doing anything with the embroidery after stitching (for example stitching quilting blocks together) you don’t want to have the thickest cutaway stabilizer – it will make everything too thick and make it more difficult to sew. I find that experimentation with the types of stabilizers is very helpful – get some samples and check it out, and you will decide what looks, feels and works best for you. Once I find a stabilizer that works for many different styles and types of embroidery, I buy it in bulk to save a ton of money. I always have a big roll of cutaway at my machine!

TEARAWAY STABILIZER: Again, just as the name states, this stabilizer tears away from the embroidery when it is finished stitching. Tearaway stabilizer is more like fibrous paper, and can sometimes be a little more difficult to hoop, but keep trying you will get the hang of it. Tearaway stabilizer is used when less stabilization is required for the design and/or the type of fabric that you are using. For example, thick toweling and a light-ish design will need tearaway to stabilize it properly. The tear-away will remain under the stitches, and you carefully remove the rest. If you are not careful when removing the excess stabilizer, you may end up pulling on some of your stitches, so I always recommend using two hands to tear away the excess: use one or two fingers to press down on the embroidery – at the edge of a circle, for example, and use the other hand to tear away and keep your stitches safe.

WSS or WATER SOLUBLE STABILIZER: I always have WSS on hand on my machine. Remember that WSS is not really a stabilizer because it doesn’t provide any stabilization to your stitches unless you are doing some free standing lace designs. WSS was designed specifically for FSL and using on top of a fabric that has a high nap (think towels) to smooth down the high nap fabric before stitching. It does not hold your stitches up or do any stabilization because you literally wash the stabilizer away. Sometimes you can use WSS for making free standing applique designs or designs that need a satin stitch edge free, but other than that, you should not be using WSS. If you are using WSS for the back of a towel, for example, that is not what the stabilizer is meant for, and remember it is not providing stability for your stitches, so it is really not doing any good in that regard. You do NOT NEED TO USE WSS AS A TOPPER FOR EVERYTHING, ONLY ON HIGH NAP MATERIALS. You are wasting time and money if you are using WSS as a “topper” on denim, leather and other thick fabrics. Why waste money if it doesn’t make any difference?
PRO TIP: I don’t actually use WSS as a topper for anything, ever. There is a special stitch that you can create in any software that will hold the fabric down before you stitch any embroidery, and it is called the Hatch Smash Technique. It is brilliant and will make your embroidery design (especially lettering) stand out and look way better than using WSS. Plus, it is a big time saver because you do not have to wash anything away when you are done or wait for anything to dry. Using the Hatch Smash technique will save you time and money, and your design will be finished when you are done stitching, even on thick fur or the fluffiest of towels.  I have created 3 different Hatch Smash videos, so be sure to check them all out.  Keep in mind, my embroiderer friend that you can use the Hatch smash technique with ANY EMBROIDERY SOFTWARE.  It is basically a fill stitch with less density…so you can do that in any software.

Need more proof? I found some really thick towels, and I did the same lettering on one piece of the fabric. On the bottom one I used the Hatch Smash technique, and on the other, I used WSS as a topper and made a big mess. The WSS was nearly impossible to remove. The results speak for themselves! Look how sharp the lettering is on the Hatch Smash lettering. That is what you want!!

knockdown stitches

Hatch Smash works perfectly for towels and fluffy fabrics!!

To get started, those are the basic stabilizers that you need: some type of sturdy cutaway, tearaway, and some WSS if you want to try your hand at free standing lace. FSL is one of my favorite things to do, so if you have not tried it yet, go grab some WSS and give it a go – especially great for Christmas decorations!
Until next time,
Happy Stitching!

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.

Beginner Embroidery

Hey everyone and Happy Friday!  Today’s blog goes out to all the brand new digitizers out there.

Good for you!  Welcome to the embroidery world!  Welcome to learning all about embroidery!  Embroidery is an exciting and creative venue, and I love figuring out new techniques and styles and generally playing with embroidery.

For the new digitizers out there, there are a few things that you must do once you decide that embroidery is what you want to learn about and eventually create.

If you have been embroidering for a while, and know your stitches and understand hooping etc.  this next section will not apply to you.

First:  you need to have an embroidery machine.    Really, you need to have one.   You don’t have to have a $10,000 6 needle machine,  a single needle lower end one will do – you need to be able to stitch out designs and see the stitches, see the mistakes and understand a few things, and I feel strongly that you can only learn all of these things by using an embroidery machine and watching it work.

Second:  RESEARCH AND LEARN.  Yes.  You must learn about embroidery…everything you can about embroidery…how to use your machine, hooping, stabilizers,  bobbins, different threads, different needles, different fabrics,  jump stitches, connections, color changes…the list goes on and on.  You have to learn embroidery – its a skill.  If you think you can pick up digitizing software and instantly you are a digitizer, you are wrong.  It takes so much more than that.  It takes WORK.  It takes LEARNING.  It takes TIME.  It takes RESEARCH….it takes a lot.  The more you put into digitizing, the more you will get out of it with beautiful stitch outs and beautiful designs.

No matter what embroidery software you are using, you must learn about embroidery.  You must understand that you can’t make a satin stitch 3 inches wide…you need to understand stabilizers and good hooping, you must understand all about embroidery before you can learn to digitize.  If you don’t understand embroidery, then you will be frustrated as a digitizer.  SUGGESTION:  watch different designs stitch out…pay attention to what is happening on your machine.  learn about connections…learn to see the difference between a good stitch out and a bad one and most importantly WHY.  Watch designs stitching from different sources – some are better than others.  Hoop…and re-hoop and practice hooping using the correct stabilizers.  You can have the best embroidery design ever, and if you hoop a stretchy material with tear away stabilizer, the design will look terrible.  Remember “you are only as good as your hooping skills” .  You also need to understand what Push/Pull compensation is, and watch it in action on your machine with different stabilizers.  Use your embroidery machine…embroider everything you can and learn to hoop even the most difficult fabrics or items.  How can you create a simple design for a shirt collar and make it fit properly, if you have never embroidered on a shirt collar?

And here are the big ones that I can’t stress enough time and time again:




Understand that these rules apply to ALL DIGITIZING SOFTWARE.   A stitch file that your machine can understand is something completely different from a working file…if you get frustrated and change softwares, those rules still apply.  People ask me this all the time…”I AM SO FRUSTRATED..I HAVE A .PES FILE THAT I BRING INTO STUDIO AND I WANT TO MAKE IT BIGGER AND IT WON’T WORK….I AM SO FRUSTRATED…WILL HATCH/EMBRILLIANCE/WILCOM etc.  DO THIS?  No.  No it won’t.  A STITCH FILE IS MADE FOR STITCHING, A WORKING FILE IS MADE FOR WORKING.  Understand this part, and you will save yourself hours of frustration and wasted materials.   WHAT DOES A WORKING FILE LOOK LIKE? my first answer is “it will look like YOU CREATED IT”   OK, in the software it looks the same as any other file, except that it is completely editable…and the name of it will be different.  Machine files are named depending on the type of machine that you use:  .PES for brother, JEF for Janome, XXX for singer, etc.  The working files will be named differently:  EOF for Embird .EMB for Wilcom, PXF for DG15, etc.  You can’t send a working file to your machine:  your machine will not acknowledge it as anything and it will not stitch.  So again:

STITCH FILES (.PES, JEF, DST etc) are for stitching on your machine, not for working on and editing.

WORKING FILES (EOF, EMB, PXF) are for working on and will not work in any machine.

Once you have mastered embroidery on its own, it may be time to move on to digitizing.  If you understand embroidery, you will better understand digitizing – it will make more sense.   Sure, you can get an embroidery machine and the software that it comes with and dive right in and do everything at the same time, but if you do one step at time you will learn properly and save yourself tons of frustration.   You can’t expect someone in grade 1 to understand something in college, right?  grade 1 is building the foundations for everything you learn in college.  Ok, I am not saying that mastering embroidery is going to take you 12 years, but it is going to take time.  Take the time.  Learn.  Have fun.  Learn some more.  Be happy.

If you have any brand new embroiders/digitizers that you know in your group, etc.  pass this information along to them.  It will be very helpful!!