The Sewing Diaries: Embroidery Edition – Week 1

I am in the middle of a sewing journey. One that begins with me not knowing anything about machine embroidery – and ends with me (hopefully) knowing better what I’m doing and sharing tips and tricks with you along the way.

As with all good journey’s this one includes a diary – so the explorers that went before can share their experiences after they have moved on to the next place. Overly dramatic, I know, but I think it works! (hee hee)

This post is sponsored by Janome Canada

I’m treating this 3-part series as a diary of the good, the bad and the seam ripped. I’m sharing all my mistakes, things I should have done, tips for next time and the successes too! Along the way, we will learn a lot about machine embroidery together. You can also check out the Sewing Diaries – Get to Know Your Machine posts if you want more sewing machine information.

As a very honest aside… I know many of you do not have an embroidery machine. I understand that and will highlight sewing tips as well. (Including a brand new sewing tutorial next week.) If you are curious about how machine embroidery works, there are behind the scenes photos and video links!

Hello, My name is Skyline S9… Janome Skyline S9.

Ok – it’s not quite James Bond, but it comes pretty close! This combination sewing/embroidery machine has everything a maker could ask for and lots more I’ve forgotten to mention or don’t know about yet! I featured the S9 a bit in the Maker Style posts this October, but I should give you a proper introduction.

  • LCD Touchscreen: The machine body is similar to the Skyline S7 (and S5) with the main difference being the S9’s colour touch screen. This screen runs all of the machine settings and allows you to program and edit your embroidery designs.
  • Wifi:Connects to your computer and Apple products through several Acutools apps and programs.

    I opened the design on my computer, then saved it over wifi to the Skyline S9 machine!

    Here I’m opening the file I saved on my computer. Wireless is the best!

  • Bobbin Sensor: Possibly my most favorite thing ever! It lets you know when your bobbin thread is running out.
  • AcuFeed Flex: Built in dual feed system works better than using a walking foot. The S9 provides several dual feed feet including a 1/4″ quilting foot!
  • Embroidery: 3 hoops in different sizes, plus exclusive Anna Maria Horner designs you can use!
  • Feet: Loads and loads of feet and extra pieces to play with. Love that Janome machines tend to come standard with so many “extras”.
  • One Step Needle Plate: Replace the needle plate without any screws! (Check out this instagram video if you want to see it on the S7.)

 Basic Machine Embroidery Supplies

To start embroidering you will need some basic supplies.

  • Embroidery Thread & Bobbin Thread
  • Needles – Blue and/or Red tipped Janome needles are recommended for the Skyline S9 machine
  • Stabilizers – one of about a zillion types!

More about Stabilizers…

This extra layer (or two) is used to stabilize the fabric you are embroidering. They give it more rigidity and strength, and allow the weave to hold the threads better.

I have so far liked the dissolving stabilizers since they are easy to remove and I have been making items where the back will show. This article from Threads magazine has lots of really useful information about how to choose the correct stabilizer.

Rule of Thumb: If you have a loose weave fabric or a more dense embroidery design you will need a stronger stabilizer (or more layers of a thinner one) OR If you have a dense weave you can get away with less/thinner stabilizer.

Where to Start + Some Beginner Tips

The best advice I got was to practice, practice, practice! Linda Pidzameky (from Janome) told me to start embroidering all of my dishtowels – and it’s the best advice I got. The easiest way to learn how to machine embroider is by trying it and making mistakes and trying it again.

I used an Anna Maria Horner design that looks like cross-stitch and one layer of Janome Aquasolv as the stabilizer. Since the towel fit in the embroidery hoop, I cheated and adhered it to the towel with my quilt basting spray – which seemed to work just fine!

For comparison, I also decided to embroider another dishtowel with a different design and a different stabilizer. This time I used the Unique Rinse Away I picked up at my local fabric store.

If you are curious what machine embroidery looks like, here’s a quick video I put on Instagram!

What I learned:

  • The dense stitching on the “S” monogram took about 34 minutes to embroider, despite being the same size as the AMH Cross-Stitched design. The AMH embroidering took about 11 minutes.
  • Both stabilizers worked well and held up great.
  • It would have been good to use a top layer of stabilizer. Called a “topper”. It’s clear and disappears after the design is washed. The topper helps to hold the stitches out of the fabric weave – which is showing through the monogram a bit much for my liking. I used a topper on this towel for comparison. You can see that the stitching isn’t affected by the plush towel fibres.

By the way – the Janome Aquasolv won by a long shot! (See the photos below) My Unique Rinse Away barely disappeared. I’m hoping it will go away with more washes.

Learn from My Mistakes

My mom has a saying we use whenever one of us does something “less than smart” – we call it “dumb things I have did”. I feel like that is a good title for this section!

  • Start with the Basics:Umm… what size is that design again?
    • I actually managed to start embroidering the “S” monogram onto my dishtowel before I realized it was about 4 1/2″ tall! Somehow I thought it was much smaller. Oops! *face palm*
  • Think it Through:Smarter stabilizing!
    • I used a tear-away stabilizer for part of my Design Diva Apron embroidery. Turns out it’s a lot of work removing all those tiny pieces! Might have been simpler to use a wash-away version.
  • Turn it Over:What will it look like when they see the back?
    • Colour the stabilizer and bobbin to the colour of the back of your fabric. Seems like a no-brainer, but I didn’t figure this out in time and the back of my Design Diva apron has white bobbin thread and white stabilizer on navy. Argh. This also would have been a good place for a better dissolving stabilizer!
  • Baste for Success:Right, until you try to remove them!
    • Trust me, I know from experience!  It’s much simpler to remove the basting stitches from the back than the front. The automatic tension is much looser on the back so they come out way more easily.
  • Desk Depth:Check the size of your furniture!
    • I just built a new sewing space, and it happens to have an 18″ deep area for the machine. Which is perfect, until your embroidery arm needs a 24″+ depth to work. Thankfully I can run the machine from my cutting table. No harm done.

Funn-est Thing of the Week

Random fun fact about the S9? LOVE that you can change the screensaver to whatever photos you want. Which means, wait for it… the sewing machine HAS a screensaver! And I changed the photos over wifi!

Wanna know what photos I used? You can find a video of it on Instagram!

Never in my life thought I’d be using a sewing machine with a screensaver and a wireless connection to anything. My tech-savy husband also thinks that’s awesome and gives it a thumbs up! (Plus he’s plotting planning all the things I can now embroider on his friends’ Christmas gift bags!)

Halloween Costume Sewing Tip #10

Halloween Sewing Tip #10:

Use all the fun and unique machine settings. Embroider, add text – be creative!

If you are anything like me, you default to what you know best. Using straight, common stitches and expanding to zig-zag when the need arises! With this last costume tip I want to encourage you to try out some of the fun stuff your machine can do.

Costumes allow you to be creative, even a little silly! Too much embellishment is never a problem. Use the opportunity to try out something new. Add a row of that decorative stitch you’ve been wanting to try or some Halloween text if your machine has a built in alphabet.

I recently found some glow in the dark embroidery thread at my local fabric store (on sale!) and thought it would make a fun Halloween themed project. The embroidery function on the Skyline S9 made quick work of the simple text I wanted. It has yet to turn it into the candy-basket I’m envisioning. But, how fun is it that it glows! And I’m pretty sure any child would be over-the-moon about glow in the dark on their costume. Plus, did you know, embroidery thread isn’t only for embroidering – you can use it for any decorative stitch as well!

Most of all, be sure to take lots of photos and have fun creating a costume you and your kids can treasure (and maybe enjoy laughing about!) for years to come. I hope you’ve found lots of inspiration in these Halloween Costume Tips. Thanks for coming along on the journey!

P.S. You can read more about machine embroidery in last fall’s series of posts.

Follow all 10 Janome Halloween Costume Tips with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Bloglovin’.

Disclaimer: I am a Canadian Janome Artisan. Janome provided artwork (with my photos) for this project and the Skyline S9 on-loan machine I am currently using. As with all the products I write about – I always tell you my own honest opinion.

Halloween Costume Sewing Tip #9

Halloween Sewing Tip #9:

Embellish trims to make your costume unique!

So, you are following yesterday’s tip (Ribbons and sequins are your friends.) and can’t find the perfect one? How about making your own? Use a zigzag, decorative stitch or multiple lines of straight stitches to create unique ribbons to add to the costume. If it is very special – and destined for the dress-up box, you could even spend time hand-stitching with embroidery weight threads.

If you are inclined to make a lot of unique trim, I’d recommend investing in the Janome Ribbon Sewing Guide. (It really would have made making this embellished gathered skirt (tutorial!) a lot more fun.) The machine foot makes embellishing unique trim easy! Trying it out for the first time a few weeks ago, it was user-friendly and simple to install. It screws directly into the machine’s needle plate and holds the ribbon in place as you stitch.

I tried a few Halloween-friendly trim ideas using the decorative stitches on my Janome Skyline S9. Since these won’t be usable for our costumes this year (maybe next!) I think I might use them for a themed shirt, or as hair ribbons closer to the end of October. The “Boo Cat” ribbon NEEDS to be used, it’s so cute! Uses in the future? Maybe school-spirit themed ribbons with their school name on them? Or personalized BFF bracelets.  #bestmomever

Follow all 10 Janome Halloween Costume Tips with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Bloglovin’.

Disclaimer: I am a Canadian Janome Artisan. Janome provided artwork (with my photos) for this project and the Skyline S9 on-loan machine I am currently using. As with all the products I write about – I always tell you my own honest opinion.

Halloween Costume Sewing Tip #8

Halloween Sewing Tip #8:

Ribbons and sequins are your friends!

Ok – you might not agree with me yet – but it’s true! Ribbons, sequins and trims are so fun. Use them with abandon in your costumes. They add the perfect touch, and – ribbon in the right places, allow you to match the look of a higher-end, more professional costume.

In relation to being more professional, I got to try out the coolest sewing machine foot for this post. Janome Canada lent me a Ribbon Sequin Foot and it is amazing! (And so much fun!) Clip the foot on and feed the ribbon through it and sew. The ribbon follows the direction of your seam and can be sewn on with a decorative stitch. It was so easy! I pointed the presser foot and let the Skyline S9 attach the ribbon.

This means CURVES! Imagine multiple rows of curvy ribbon sewn to the bottom of a fancy ball gown or down the back of a dinosaur costume. I wanted to test this out, so I fused a half-circle to a scrap of fabric and stitched around the edge with ribbon. Then I outlined it with a second piece of ribbon, just for fun, LOL. The sequins in the photo would have gone on next, but I managed to purchase one that wouldn’t lie flat, and was fastened with elastic. Apparently I have a thing or two to learn about sequins. LOL. #newbie

Follow all 10 Janome Halloween Costume Tips with InstagramFacebookTwitterPinterest and Bloglovin’.

Disclaimer: I am a Canadian Janome Artisan. Janome provided artwork (with my photos) for this project and the Skyline S9 on-loan machine I am currently using. As with all the products I write about – I always tell you my own honest opinion. 

How to Quilt on an Embroidery Machine

Turns out there are four ways to quilt something – by hand, on your home machine, with a long arm machine or on your embroidery machine. Guess which one I’m going to talk about today?! (#spoileralert Check the title!)

When I was loaned the Janome Skyline S9 combination sewing and embroidery machine last year, I was excited to see a page in the embroidery designs called “Quilting Designs”. Fast forward to now, and I’ve finally managed to use them!

Here’s a little tutorial so you can do it too!

I’m quilting an Easter throw pillow for this project. You can find the instructions for the traditionally pieced 12″ block here: Spring Bunny quilt block.

This post is sponsored by Janome Canada. The Skyline S9, AcuDesign app and iPad Mini have been loaned to me as part of their Artisan program.

1) Prep your project as you would normally for quilting, with batting and backing. Since the backing won’t show on this throw pillow, I used some inexpensive broadcloth in place of a better quality fabric.

2) Use a removable fabric pen to mark the areas to be quilted. I chose to mark out four equal 6″ squares for my throw pillow.

3) Choose a hoop and a design to embroider. I chose the first design in the Quilting Designs folder – the center reminds me of a kite – perfect for spring! There are 12 quilting designs included with the Skyline S9 machine. You will also need to choose a hoop size that will accommodate your quilting. In my case, the largest RE20a hoop worked well.

4) Set up the machine. You will need to thread the machine, attach Embroidery Foot P and choose a needle. I used a blue tipped Janome needle and regular Gutermann thread in both the needle and bobbin.

5) Size the design. You can do this on the machine, or send it over wi-fi or USB key to the AcuDesign app – available for purchase and downloadable to Apple devices. Use the sizing feature to re-size the file as needed. I wanted the quilting to be square, and just smaller than 6″. When finished, send the file back directly to the embroidery machine.

6) Hoop your project. I found that the thin batting I used fit in the hoop along with the pillow front and backing. Be careful not to overstress the hoop.

7) Position the file. I used the free Acusetter app (downloadable to Apple devices) to position my file. First, receive the file to the Acusetter app. It will lead you to photograph and line up the hoop. Then position, angle and scale your file as needed and send it back to the machine.

8) Place your hoop in the machine and start quilting! (Here’s a fun Instagram video of the machine working.)

9) Repeat the steps to embroider the other areas of your project. I took time to mirror the image for each of the 3 remaining corners of my pillow using the Skyline S9 embroidery editing mode. This way they look like one cohesive quilt design.

Finish your project as desired!

I love this feature on the Skyline S9 machine, it makes quilting very quick and easy. Plus, my pillows look super professional, and it only took about 37 minutes of total embroidery time!

This week, I’ll also be posting a tutorial including how I used the quilt bar and dual feed feet to finish the front and how to turn any 12″ quilt block into a throw pillow. See you again soon!

Let me know what you thought of this tutorial. Was it helpful? How do you usually quilt your projects?