But first, a word from our sponsor . . .

Ann at Community CircleOkay, that would be me, but now that I've got your attention I want to first address a couple of questions that were posted in the comments from last week's post. I thought I'd answer them here, rather than there, because the answers might be of interest to many of you.

For LolliConn, who asked if Catalog XPress could convert BLF files. The answer is no, it can't. There are 2 kinds of embroidery files, working files that work only with the software that generated them, and stitch files that can be converted to other stitch file formats. BLF, a Designers' Gallery file like Brother's PEM files, are working files. In order to stitch them you need to convert them into stitches, in both of those cases PES because Designer's Gallery is a Babylock product and both Babylock and Brother embroidery machines read Brother's PES file format.

For mspacman, embroidering on stretchy spandex and lycra fabrics is a challenge. I haven't done it very often myself. Sometimes I acknowledge my limits! I would recommend hooping a sticky stabilizer, pressing the stretchy fabric down solidly on the stabilizer and putting a layer of disolvable stabilizer on top. Use a fine ballpoint needle and 50 weight thread or lighter. Choose a design with minimal underlay. And, of course, sew out a sample before embroidering on your grandaughter's gymnastics leotard. Oh, wait, that was me . . .

For cleme, who asked about my James Dean doll, and how I can stand having him staring at me. It's not so much a long story as a boring one. A dear  friend and embroidery colleague was staying with me for a few days. Before she left for home we stopped at Toys R Us to pick up a gift for her son. I saw the specialty Barbie dolls along one wall and mentioned that someday I was going to get one of those James Dean dolls for myself. Keep in mind that Barbie dolls didn't come out until I was in high school and, although tempted, I was really too old for them. As my friend was leaving she handed me a package and, lo and behold, there was James Dean, looking right at me. So I've kept him on my desk as a connection to my friend. It was a long time before I realized that the doll resembled my college sweetheart, my first great love. So how can I stand his staring at me? Because when I look back into those eyes I'm a slim, pretty 20 year old riding side-saddle on the back of a motorcycle, long hair flying in the wind, holding 2 sets of books in one arm, the other clutching tightly around the young man in front of me. The question isn't how can I stand his staring at me, it's how do I get anything done.

The bio about me at the bottom of the page and throughout my site says that I began sewing doll clothes as soon as I was able to hold a needle. That's not quite true. I started sewing as soon as I was old enough to hold a needle without poking my eye out. Anyway, I see that paragraph so often that I don't even notice it anymore, but today I rooted around on the top shelf of a closet and pulled down a wooden box. I think the box had held 3 bottles of wine at one time, but I know that my father gave it to me when I was 8 or 9 years old. (See, I was stockpiling boxes even then!) I opened the top and there, right where I had put them more than 50 years ago, were 2 little dolls lying on a pile of doll clothes. I thought you might be interested in my first efforts at haute couture. Those little 8" dolls were the fashion dolls for the generation before Barbie. Mine were Vogue dolls from Madame Alexander, though Ginny dolls were much more popular. I just thought the Vogue dolls had prettier faces and even then I wasn't a crowd follower. I wanted a boy doll, but there weren't any. But there was a Mary Martin doll. So Mary Martin became my little boy doll. Here are a couple of those early efforts. Oohs and aahs are appreciated, but no laughing, please!

 Here they are, in some of their finery:

I thought you might get a kick out of the fine button detail and the evening glown with matching evening cloak. I think the charms might have come from the penny gumball machine in the supermarket.

The summer of my 12th birthday my father brought home an old Singer sewing machine that had belonged to my grandmother. It was a very heavy portable machine with a rounded wood case.That summer my father, who had owned a blouse factory, taught me how to use the machine and I made several of those circle skirts that were so popular. I sewed on that machine all through high school and took it to college with me. For college graduation my parents presented me with a new-fangled Kenmore machine that used cams to create fancy stitches. Imagine! That machine sewed all my dresses, then all my maternity clothes, then lots of baby clothes and nearly everything DD wore through college, including formals and party dresses. It went on to sew rompers for my first grandchild, dresses for my second, DD's maternity clothes, more baby clothes and rompers. Then,one day, my sister came down from Tallahassee to shop for bridal fabric. I took her and her future DIL to a local high end fabric store. While they were shopping in the back of the store, I was standing in the front, spellbound by machines that were embroidering lovely motifs all by themselves. A salesperson walked over to my side and, well, I guess the rest is AnnTheGran history!

I hope you've enjoyed this trip down memory lane as much as I have! TTFN




Comments (22) -

I just loved your article. I began sewing at around eight years of age and then moved on to a tredal when my Mom thought I was safe enough to handle one! I wish I still had some of my first's! But saddly a flood washed away alot of those childhood delites.

I guess I can no longer use your designs, and, I'm really unhappy about it!  Everytime I try to download, they come through as a .htm file extension, instead of the PES format.  With that format (htm) I can't convert any of the designs any longer.  I have tried to get help from your tec. service people, but all they send me is a "canned" response, that no matter what I do ( I follow their directions) I can't change it from the htm format to the PES format, which is what I need.

Dear Ann,

Thank you sooo much for taking the time to answer my question, it means the world to me that you cared enough!

As you can probably tell, I am new Masterworks II, it seems like a very good program, but looks like just with anything else, has a learning curve.

I loved the new blog from Cathy, I'm glad Beamish Boy talked her into doing this, I'm sure it will help us all.

And the blog from Pat and all of the upcoming projects she will talk about will be interesting.

Again, you have no idea how comforting it is to know "someone with knowledge" is out there and CARES.  Thanks again, Sincerely, Lollie Conn from Oregon

P.S. to all the others on this site......  BEWARE, this embroidery stuff IS addictive!!!!!!

Hi just love Embroidering, never tire of all the lovely things to do.

Joyce, I'm not sure what's going on. None of the designs is in HTML format. That's the format for the pages in the web site.. I think it's possible that you're somehow downloading something other than the designs you're wanting. What you should get is a ZIP file which, when you open it, will have the embroidery file inside. If you're using Internet Explorer, try right clicking on a design and selecting "Save target as." A small window will open so that you can choose the place on your computer that you want to store the design. The file extension will be ZIP. If you're using a different browser, try right clicking and selecting "Open link in new window" to get the same result. It this doesn't work send me a private email by clicking on "AnnTheGran" above this post. That will take you to my profile page and one of the choices along the left side of the page is "Send a private message." We'll get this sorted out.

I am a quilter from the get go.  I said never to an embroidery machine because as I am quilter.   I own 11 sewing machines. Well, never say never. I bought an embroidery machine.    Love it, Love it---creative juices are a flowing--My quilts, placemats, purses, dish towels, etc etc. include embroidered designs.  I enjoy  the designs from AnnTheGran-beautiful.   I share the embroidery addresses with friends.  

My Mom taught my three sisters and I all how to sew when we were around 8 years old. I think one of the only times she ever swore was when we broke the sewing machine needles from "speed sewing" straight over the pins! We had to show her that we could "sew" on lined paper in straight lines before we could really sew. My daughter is only 4 so I taught my twin nieces to sew a couple of summers ago. Thank you for your wonderful web site.

jbhomosassa 5/11/2008 5:29:34 AM

To Joyce Huck who can't download your designs - I had the same trouble, and got help from the internet.  He said that I should uncheck email protection on my firewall (I have CA ) .  I did so and now I can download the designs.  Don't  forget to turn the email firewall back on when you are finished downloading.


Thanks for the advice on "embroidering on stretchy material".  I love your blog, it is comforting to know someone knows everything you need to know and is willing to share. Bless you!

I just started embroidering a few years ago and there is so much to learn.  I do love it, just wish I could retire so I could embroider all day.

BTW I love your little dolls and dresses.  

OMG, I have a Madam Alexander Doll that looks very much like yours.  I have the little doll case with the all the clothes I made for mine.  I even have the original nylon stockings and high heels that came with her.  Had planned on giving her to a granddaughter but can't seem to part with her.  

I love your site, keep up the good work.  I retired his last January and bought myself a new embroidery machine, Brother 4000D.  I live in my sewing room now.  My husband will come up to check to see if I am still alive.  

kathykauffman 5/11/2008 1:26:02 PM

My little Mmm. Alexander is called Wendy-she looks just like yours, and, like you, I can't seem to let her go. I have the little outfits my grandmother made for her-even some knitted ones!

Great Blog and interesting information!!

I do have a suggestion for Mspacman.  I would do everything that Ann suggested but go one step further and DO NOT hoop your item.  Use the adhesive/iron on stabilizer on your fabric very, very carefully.  Then use an adhesive in your hoop and carefully place your fabric on top of the hooped, sticky stabilizer.  Spend some time making sure that the fabric and both stabilizers are flat, using your fingers to feel your way through the process.  

I would even go so far as to baste, using your outline design in a basting stitch mode.  Don't forget that top, water soluable stabilizer.  Typically a ball point needle is use on this type of fabric.  That is so that the yarn is not sliced, but 'pushed' aside in the design.  Cutting the fabric will result in 'runs' like you might get in nylon stockings (remember them??).

Find an old tshirt or buy a swatch of fabric to practice on, it will be time well spent.  That fabric is not for the faint of heart!

Let us all know how that worked for you.  


Now that you mention it, kathykauffman, I think maybe my doll is named Wendy, also, but I'm sure yours has a much more glorious wardrobe than mine. Ditto, kathy980. How about some pictures? BTW, kathy980, I'm sewing on a Brother 4000D, too. It's a very small world. PEKO, I haven't made a quilt yet, but I keep meaning to make one. I certainly have enough fabric to make a couple of dozen. One of these days .  . . .

I am a very new embroidery'r. I HAVE   A Futura 350 and it took awhile to learn how to use it but, I'm now addicted to it. My husband always says I must be married to it. I started to sew when I was in the ninth grade and made an a+ on my first project.I'm sixty three years old and that was a long time ago. I love you sight .

I am a very new embroidery'r. I HAVE   A Futura 350 and it took awhile to learn how to use it but, I'm now addicted to it. My husband always says I must be married to it. I started to sew when I was in the ninth grade and made an a+ on my first project.I'm sixty three years old and that was a long time ago. I love you sight .

Dear Ann, I got my Madame  A. doll ,Muffy in about 1956 .I had really wanted a Ginny but the store was sild out! I still have Muffy and  her table and chairs and bed with all the cute bedding. You are right she has a much cuter face than the Ginny doll. I was never very

creative but  I stil have clothes made by my Auntie and a older neighbor.   Thanks for the memories. Lu

I am interested in the Magna Hoop.  Does it work well on the Viking Designer 1?  I would like to hear from those who have used it and what you think of it and what you are doing with it.  

Thanks Ilene

alssweetheart 5/13/2008 10:12:01 PM

Hi Joyce (Huck),

with the problem that you are having opening and/or downloading the embroidery files : it sounds like something changed the program that opens your embroidery files.  Because you got the htm means that Internet Explorer is designated to open the files.  If you right click with the mouse on the design file and when it asks you what program you want to use to open the file, choose the program that you use to write designs to your card if it shows up in the box.  If it doesn't show up select browse and find the program (ie PE design, the amazing box, magic box etc...)  .  I had sort of the same problem and this corrected the problem.  Which Operating System do you use (Windows XP, Vista or MAC) ?  

serenemachine2 5/13/2008 10:58:16 PM

What  a great thing to have found.!  I'm sure it just made you warm all over!! And look how talented you were at such an early age.  My first attempt was in 9th grade and I cried alot trying to make a MuMu!!  Kept sewing the shoulders, front piece to front, instead of front to back!!  I know I ripped that sucker apart at least three times!!


serenemachine2 5/13/2008 10:59:15 PM

I also have a Designer 1.  What would the Magna Hoop do for me??


iosteen: Great question about the Magna-Hoop. What we would love to do is to have comments about the Magna-Hoop posted in our Magna-Hoop forum, at:


The good thing about leaving comments there is that they can be tagged and then anyone looking for that information will be able to find them in the future. We will eventually be linking all comments to the product itself so that you'll be able to find out all this information with just one click from the product page, at:


Thanks for the history! I am teaching my five year old to sew.  She loves making little clothes and things. Although not as well put together as your doll clothes!

I wish I had more time to sew. With three little ones it is challenging.

Thanks for all your great info on the site.

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