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!)