Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Organizing your Studio, Part 1

Welcome to our ongoing series on organizing your sewing studio! We'll be sharing some great tips to get you organized so you can get stitching...

If you're like me, you have several projects going at once - and each project is at a different stage. Last year, I was given three amazing opportunities - first, I was asked to write a book on machine embroidery; a month later, BERNINA of America asked me to become a BERNINA Spokesperson, and a few weeks after that I was given the opportunity to film a series of courses and videos for my Creative Machine Embroidery Magazine column "In the Hoop". All three of these opportunities required me to create several unique "in the hoop" embroidery designs and I knew it was time I created a system in my studio to keep me organized and on track. As a single mom and an ADD poster child, I don't have a set 40 hour work week. I have frequent interruptions and I'm not always able to complete any given part of a project in a day (sometimes not even in a week). I needed a way to keep track of many projects all at once, so when I had time to devote to a project I wasn't wasting valuable time locating my notes (which could be found in one of my many spiral notebooks), the fabrics I'd planned to use, prototypes I'd created, etc. I came up with a system that has been a lifesaver and I plan to continue with it because it's worked so well.

As I mentioned, I was constantly losing parts of my projects and spent way too much time gathering up everything before I could continue to work on any given project. If you have only one project, that may not seem so bad, but last year I was working on literally dozens of projects at the same time for BERNINA, my book, the magazine, and for my website, and I was going insane. So, what's a girl to do? Head to Target! There, I bought a wire shelving unit and several lidded plastic bins that stacked neatly. Back at my studio, I labeled a bin for each project I was working on. I then collected each and every part of each project and put them in their respective bin - fabrics, prototypes, notes, thread, needles, fabric - EVERYTHING. Now when I am working on a project, I pull the bin off the shelf and carry it to my workspace. It stays open until I'm done working on it and I put everything back inside, put on the lid, and it goes back on the shelf, ready for next time.

I also write notes on whatever is handy when I have a design idea - spiral notebooks, loose paper, napkins - and I promptly lose track of them. In the next post, I'll show you the solution that has completely changed the way I work; Evernote.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Know Your Needles

What do you think is the most important part of your embroidery machine? Perhaps you think it's the machine or the hoop? Surprise, it’s the needle! Choosing the incorrect needle can make or break a project, not to mention may cause you tons of time with the seam ripper!

Start every new project with the correct needle – and be sure to change the needle frequently. A good rule of thumb is to change the needle when you go through 2 bobbins. If I experience thread breakage, loud noises when stitching or other issues, I always change to a new needle to see if it resolves the problem.

Embroidery needles are specially designed to handle the constant penetration as it stitches out embroidery and the needs of specialty thread. They have a larger eye and a specially designed groove to lessen friction and prevent the thread from breaking and shredding. They also have a slight ball point which slides between the existing embroidery stitches and fibers of your fabric, rather than piercing them, as a sharp needle might do. 

Note: Ball point needles also work great for fabrics with a stretch, such as T-shirts.

You may use sharp sewing needles for embroidery on woven fabrics. However, you may experience shredding of your thread. If you do, try switching to an embroidery needle to see if that helps.

Needle Size

If you look at a pack of needles, you’ll notice there are two sizes listed. The first number is the European size followed by the American size. You’ll choose smaller size needles for fine fabrics, such as a 70/10 for light fabrics such as cotton batiste. Larger sizes are used for more dense fabrics, such as a 75/11 or 80/12 needle is perfect for a mid-weight cotton fabric. A 90/14 is used for heavier fabrics, such as canvas or denim. When it comes to needles, keep in mind that the larger the needle, the larger the hole in your fabric.

Titanium and gold embroidery needles are great for when you use adhesive stabilizers or coarse fabrics. These specialty needles allow the needle to better penetrate dense materials. These needles also last longer than standard needles.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

I'm so happy to introduce the Perfect Place Settings Collection. Create adorable Placemats, Mug Rugs, and Coasters with these start-to-finish 'in the hoop' designs! They feature a whimsical font and a lovely scalloped applique border that adds elegance to whimsy.

Perfect Placemats, Mug Rugs, Coasters 'In the Hoop' Embroidery Machine Design
There's a bit of a story behind the humungous placemat design. They are THE biggest 'in the hoop' designs I have ever created! As BERNINA's Spokesperson, I use their amazing 16 needle BERNINA E 16 embroidery machine in my studio. The E 16 has a big (HUGE!) 16" x 16" wooden hope that will make you swoon! The minute I saw the BERNINA E 16 at a BERNINA event last year, I started dreaming up BIG designs that would take advantage of the vast hoop size - including placemats and pillows.

Perfect Placemats, Mug Rugs, Coasters 'In the Hoop' Embroidery Machine Design
Perfect Place Settings In the Hoop Designs

This spring BERNINA asked me to create a series of designs that would help their dealers showcase the many fabulous features of the E 16. I knew an 'in the hoop' placemat would demonstrate just how big you can go with the wooden hoop, so I set off designing and fell in love with my creation. I decided to also create Mug Rugs and Coasters to round off the collection, plus a Sewing Pattern with Applique Monograms for those who aren't lucky enough to have the E16, but want to create the placemats - starting in the hoop, and ending on the sewing machine.

The Perfect Placemats and More Collection is available in independent sewing and fabric stores around the country, and we encourage you to buy local, if possible. If not, use the link below to purchase from our website. I truly hope you like these pretty 'in the hoop' designs as much as I enjoyed creating them!

See the collection HERE:

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Check out my monthly column "In the Hoop" in Creative Machine Embroidery magazine! This month I feature a sweet little zipper case - perfect for all those little things you want to keep close at hand!

This great little in the hoop design is FREE to download and the instructions can be found in the July/August 2015 issue of Creative Machine Embroidery - on newstands now!!


Friday, May 8, 2015

In The Hoop Teacher Gifts

It’s the last week of school, you are going from one activity to the next and suddenly you realize you have forgotten an important item – TEACHER GIFTS. There is nothing worse than realizing at 9pm the night before the last day of school either … ask me how I know.

Well, fear not! We have some great teacher gifts that are quick and easy. Simply download the design, hit your stash and stitch it out. In minutes you have an adorable, personalized present that looks like you slaved for hours in your sewing room.  

Mason Jar Toppers


Stitch out these adorable tags in any 4X4 hoop. Then simply fill a mason jar with some candy (purchase supplies at any grocery store) for a sweet teacher gift. Choose from eleven different designs included for both teachers and principals. Also included in with the designs are some recipes for Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix in a Jar and S’Mores in a Jar and directions for cooking the treats.

Teacher and Principal Badges

Perfect for year-end gifts, teacher appreciation week or any time your teacher has gone above and beyond, these adorable badges can be stitched out in a 4X4 or larger hoop. This In the Hoop design tells your favorite teacher that they are #1 in your book.

Teacher Gift Card Holder

What teacher doesn’t want a gift card from their favorite store or coffee shop? So stitch up a cute gift cardholder to show them who is your favorite too. The adorable apple design stitches out in hoops that are 5X7 or larger.

Boutique Circle Monogrammed Coffee Cozy

Your child’s teacher will be thinking of them every day when they use this beautiful cup cozy. This unisex design can be made masculine or feminine through fabric selection. Pair it with a gift card to their fave coffee spot for a gift that is sure to please. Requires a 6X10 Hoop. 

Stitch up a quick and easy teacher gift. These in the hoop designs are fun and easy. Have your kids choose fabrics and colors to make a truly personal gift your favorite teacher is sure to love. 


Monday, March 9, 2015

Stabilizer Savvy 101

One of the first ‘must-haves’ after you purchase an embroidery machine is stabilizer.  Not only do you need stabilizer for every single one of your embroidery projects, but using the correct type of stabilizer will make the difference in having a successful project, instead of one that's destined for the trash bin (or worse yet - the seam ripper.) Despite its importance, stabilizer may be the most confusing thing to purchase! Let's go over the most common types of stabilizers used with "in the hoop" projects to help clear up some confusion...

I've tried many brands of stabilizers over the years and firmly believe Floriani stabilizers are the best. I like them so much we started carrying this single brand on our website last year! In addition to having a superior product, the folks at RNK, the sole distributors of Floriani products, are some of the nicest people in this industry! Floriani offers a fabulous beginner's kit with several basic stabilizers to get you started, plus a bonus set of their gorgeous embroidery thread.

Click HERE to shop for more Floriani Stabilizers.

Here is a quick guide to help you as you navigate the wonderful world of stabilizers!

Tearaway Stabilizer

This type of stabilizer describes the fact that once your embroidery is stitched out, the stabilizer is easily torn away when you are ready to remove it. Because it is (usually) lightweight and less dense, it is best used with designs with lower stitch counts, and woven fabrics like cotton that can withstand being pulled. It is ideal in many in the hoop projects and the type of stabilizer I use most of the time.

Click HERE to shop Floriani Tearaway Stabilizers

Cutaway Stabilizer

Like the name states, cutaway stabilizer must be trimmed using scissors. It is dense and strong, so it can support heavy embroidery designs. The resulting design will also be less likely to distort or pucker with normal wear.

My go-to cutaway is Floriani's No Show. This type of stabilizer can be used on knits, such as t-shirts and stays soft and flexible under the fabric. I also use it in my in the hoop projects, such as purses, hot pads, coasters, and more. It is available in fusible and non-fusible varieties.

Click HERE to shop Floriani No Show Mesh Stabilizers

Sticky Stabilizer

Sticky stabilizer is a paper-backed product in which you peel part of the paper away after hooping to expose a sticky area that will hold your fabric in place. This stabilizer is perfect for items that are difficult to hoop.

Sticky stabilizer is also available with wet-to-stick activation where instead of peeling away paper, you spritz the stabilizer with water when you are ready to place your fabric on the hoop.

Both types of sticky stabilizer can be used in conjunction with a cutaway or tearaway stabilizer for added stability. I use Floriani's Perfect Stick Stabilizer along with Fusible No Show Mesh when I embroider T-shirts.

Click HERE to shop Floriani Perfect Stick Stabilizer 

Water Soluble Topping

This stabilizer is used on TOP of your embroidery project, in conjunction with tearaway or cutaway stabilizer. Water Soluble Topping helps keep your stitches from sinking down into the fabric when you're using a knit or high-pile fabric such as terry. It's also helpful to use over 'in the hoop' projects that have many layers which may get in the way of your presser foot.

Click HERE to shop Floriani Water Soluble Topping

I hope I've given you a nice overview without all of the overwhelm that often comes with trying to select stabilizers for your embroidery projects! Feel free to email us with any stabilizer questions at info@picklepiedesigns.com.

Happy Stitching!


Friday, February 27, 2015

Embroidery Machine Reviews By Our Customers

Buying an embroidery machine can be intimidating. With hoop sizes and price ranges – it is like learning a new language! Not to mention that the embroidery module bumps up the price of the machine. Often times, sewists throw their hands up and give up saying “I don’t need embroidered towels anyway.”

Buying an embroidery machine is so much more than embroidered towels and it opens up a whole new world of sewing! From applique to in the hoop bags, there are so many amazing things an embroidery machine can allow you to do beyond the monogram.

How do you begin your search? 

When you are looking for any new machine, the best thing you can do is try a variety of machines. While you can certainly buy a machine at “big box stores”, you cannot try out the machine before purchasing and there isn’t anyone there to teach you how to use it. Beyond threading the machine, embroidery has a learning curve. It helps to have someone to turn to for a lesson or for help when you need it. Sewing machine stores often offer lessons when you purchase a machine. They want to not only ensure you are happy but also want to establish a relationship with you.

If you can, your best bet is to go to a sewing expo at a convention center. Usually several sewing machine dealers are present and you can sit down and try out many different brands all in one day. If you don’t have an expo in your area, do a Google search for sewing machine dealers in your state. (Quilt shops sometimes carry machines too!) Take a week or two and visit a few. Have them stitch out an embroidery design so you can see the stitch quality in addition to seeing if it is easy to use.

What To Look For In A New Embroidery Machine 

I wanted to get some more tips for you, so I headed straight to the Pickle Pie Facebook page and asked my followers what they loved about their machine. The response was overwhelming!

Here are their top tips of things to look for in a new embroidery machine:

  • Hoops: The Bigger The Better! You may think you will only use a small hoop but if you have a large hoop, I guarantee you will use it. (Just take a look at the Chloe Crossbody and Tablet Bag if you doubt it) 
  •  Buy from a dealer that will teach you how to use the machine - you can work with a smaller hoop if you learn how. 
  • Embroidery only machines: Plus is that it only does embroidery, con is sometimes limited hoop size. 
  • Screen Size: Make sure you can see the design well enough to stitch out the design. 
  • Software: Do you need it? Is it easy to use? Chances are if you are just starting out, you do not need software unless you want to design your own embroidery designs or digitize images right from the start. 
  • Bobbin sensors make a difference! It costs more, but the machine stops when the bobbin runs out. You will realize you need this the first time you walk away from the machine only to return five minutes later to find the bobbin ran out!
  • Get the most bells and whistles you can afford. You may think you can settle, but if you have extras like different hoops, chances are you will use them. 
  • Multi needle machine – My fans really like their multi-needle machines. If you really get into embroidery, you will want to check these out. 
  • Brands Matter – Customers seemed to be mostly brand loyal, once they found the machine they liked, they stuck with the brand. One more reason to try out more than one brand. 

For more detailed information about specific machine models, see the comments on this Facebook link. There is some great information straight from people who use the machines. Just remember buying a machine is subjective - you have to find the right machine for you and your budget. Please like us while you are there to keep up with all of our sales including flash sales and $5 Friday.