Things I Wish I Knew When I Began Machine Embroiderery 6/20/08

I have been embroidering for just over 7 years.  I was generally self-taught and I started without a clue about machine embroidery at all.  Over that period of time, I have been learning by trial and error (make that trial and frustration).  During the past year, I have been fortunate to meet a good instructor whose group that meets regularly in my area.  I have been able to learn correct methods of embroidery; and, have had to unlearn some bad habits.

 These are my thoughts on things I wish I had known when I started.  I am sure you will recognize some and have a few of your own.  Please share your thoughts too and we will smile at the naiveté we once had.

  • Your initial investment of a machine is just the beginning. Just like any craft, there are multiple items that you will need for your arsenal. IHMO, the second biggest investment will be in the special thread required. But you need designs, fabric/other platforms to embroider and appropriate needles, scissors et al. 
  • The User's Manual for your machine's data and guide. Look at the Chapters (front of book) for items that interest you. The whole book is too much to take in because it is unfamiliar data. After you have played on your machine, you will want to read specifics you encountered. Keep the guide close and refer to it often. Use your machine as the company created it to be used. 


2)      I am computer savvy (taught software for 5 years) I can make a program to organize my designs

a)      After all the hours I put into this, I still don’t have a picture, size and other important information for my designs.

b)      Good and simple software for ME was hard for me to find.  Catalog Express is ME specific and insightfully user friendly.  Everything I need to have is at my fingertips.   (I would never recommend any item I deemed to be second class.)


1)      I have thread, needles and stabilizers already

a)      Specialized materials are necessary to achieve desired results. 

b)      Not only did those old materials not measure up, they would damage my equipment and cause me frustration.

c)       New and more inventive materials are being developed constantly.

2)      Joe’s Thread and Used Tires has a great deal

a)      A quality thread in ‘best seller’ colors is a true bargain.

b)      Quality thread often comes in exceptional storage containers helping us stay/get organized. [Photo below courtesy of Madeira]

(ATG carries the Thread Treasure Chest in White or Teak)

c)       I personally purchase here at ATG because quality is of utmost importance to me.

C)      Learning Curve:

1)      I can learn from a few lessons and the book provided by the manufacturer

a)      The book only shows the technical aspects of the machine.

b)      Lessons were actually inadequate from my dealer. 

(1)    I would be learning with every project.

(2)    I ask questions and answer some others as well.

(3)    I discuss and listen to experiences from users worldwide.

(4)    There is always some new technique to learn.

(5)    I keep notes on my computer (and use “favorites” at ATG-mark by clicking on "Favorites" in upper right corner of post, retrieve through your profile) on forum discussions, sites, lessons learned and possible resources, etc.

2)      I can figure this stuff out, I have been sewing since I was 12, I will just work through any issue. I got "A's" in Home Economics.

a)      Computers and their associated items have traditionally become obsolete in a brief period of time, and ME has the very same time frame.

b)      Innovations are coming available all the time.

c)       Keeping up to date will be an unending journey.

d)      Learning keeps us young.

D)     Alphabets versus Fonts:

1)      They sounded the same, so I bought Alphabets only

a)      Monogramming is only a single facet of ME.

b)      Placing words or phrases requires a ‘keyboard’ style of fonts.  Alphabet Xpress is very easy and versatile in this function.

c)       Monogram and words need to be in a large variety of styles and sizes.

d)      Professionally designed monograms come in so many motifs such as floral, bridal, sports to name just a few.  I don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

E)      Machine Embroidery’s Place in my life:

1)      I sure hope I get enough usage of this machine because it was so expensive!

a)      ME is an addiction which I am delighted to have.

b)      ME has a uplifting and honorable place in my life.

c)       ME is a joy.  I cannot draw a straight line, but I can create a lovely keepsake for each of my grandchildren.

2)      This is going to take over my life and I will become a recluse-

a)      I am so thrilled to have found so many new friends with which I have so much in common. 

b)      There are so many thoughtful and caring people who make my life even more fulfilled. 

c)       There are wonderful people in the ME community who make me laugh, cry and make me jump up and down with pure joy.


I suppose that few if any of us researched, prior to purchase, what ME really requires.  In the earlier days, where would we have found information anyway?  I think many of us saw a machine sewing away, got excited and the purchase was a forgone conclusion.  Computers have turned the world of embroidery delightfully upside down. 


Excitement is what this craft is all about, catch it!!


Next time, Needles Make Things Happen.


Comments (32) -

travelbug1237 6/21/2008 12:23:02 PM


  I'm in a real hurry out the door, but wanted to let you know your blog looks like it is jam packed with LOTS of helpful information!!!

  When I have time in a week or so I will REALLY read it thoroughly.

LOVE the organized thread!!!!! SmileSmile:


CinO headed for the beach...yeah!

jalcumbrack 6/21/2008 1:43:11 PM

Hi Pat,

Another good one ! There is just no replacing quality products and easy to use software.Personally I have some software that I paid mega bucks for that I absolutely detest.Why? Because it is so user un-friendly.It never worked very well to start,there were no updates on it and literally No support. Needless to say ,I don't use it  at all now.Why would I with ATG Catalog and Alphabet Xpress.

They are both so easy to use and have made the "chore" of searching and using designs so simple,now it would have to be pretty spectacular software for me to bite on it.

I love ME for the reason that it is a constant learning process,not to mention the fantastic folks I have met ,talked to ,and hopefully made some really good friends here at ATG.

I also like the fact I can get quality products from ATG for a reasonable price.Typically the two never as a rule go together.

Even though we don't agree on needle usage,(lol) we do agree that if you want a quality product,you have to use quality products.You can't scrimp on some things.

You are also correct that without computer's we would all still be hand stitching,LOL !They have come a long way since I went to school for it! I can remember the computer took up a whole floor !Now we carry them around with us..............Simply amazing !

The past 15 years or so have been amazing.  I love ME and will never quit.

I love reading all your hints...I am a newcomer to ME (6 months) and I absolutely love it, I have been VERY fortunate to have wonderful support from where I purchased my machine, which is a miracle these days. I am totally addicted and enjoy your tips.

I am new to ATG and have noticed in some of the  comments &nbsp, exactly what does that mean?


Thanks everyone!  I enjoy reading your comments and questions.  

Marcy- You just must tell us "newcomers" about what you worked with in the early days.  I am sure you have seen a lot of changes.

SPgreen- Thank you so much for your comments.  New or old, we all have so much to learn.  I do the blog based on my experiences and learning from others, including the Internet Community of ME.  I hope you learn things that will make your embroidery more enjoyable.  Who needs messed up projects?

Judy25718- I did not notice anything that says "&nbsp" but it appears to be some sort of HTML language.  Some times those come through rather than the symbol it represents.  

Deane61-Welcome to my Blog and ATG!  We would need for more info as to what your problem is exactly.  You could upload your photo to help us understand your issue.  (I say 'we' and 'us' because there are so many great ME people here who love to help when possible.)  If you are unfamiliar with how to upload a photo, copy and paste this link to your address bar.  It should help you.">  

Thanks everyone for comments, Pat

Hi a hello from Western Australia I am new to embroidery machine bought one 2 years ago have not have time to use it a lot , trying to teach myself , last week busy finishing up some placemats with local flowers in each corner got 2 finished started on the 3rd and my machine started smoking and blew up that was that now trying to work out what went wrong and how to fix it not easy when you live 100km away from town.

I love making things on my machine.


Oh, Irene, I am so sorry you are having problems?  Machine Embroidery (ME) is the most realxing and enjoyable craft and you have had a bad experience.  It almost sounds like an oil issues.

When I was in a very bad auto accident a few years ago, I could not get back to my machine.  I was hospitalized for 15 days and bed ridden for 4 more weeks.  I tried my machine and it was doing some dumb things like thread breaking and skipping stitches.  I took it to my dealer and they advised me that embroidery machines that sit for an extended period of time should be turned up before using again.  My length of time was about 4 months total.  

I hope someone can assist you with putting your machine back to working order.  That is not an easy problem because the machine is a combination of the usual sewing parts, but also driven by a computer.  A qualified technician will be mandatory, not just a repair person will be able to do anything for you.  

Let us hear about how it is going for you.  I understand that Australia is a truly beautiful country.  I go to the Internet and look up different countries of interest and I will be looking up Western (or all) Australia.  Hmmm... do you suppose I will find you?  (Smiling)



How wonderful the world is in ME. I myself is also "self taught". Sometimes I think we are better off. I had a bad experience where I got my first Brother ULT 7 years ago. The store offered a few free lessons, which was fine for using the machine, but not always good on advice for the many other aspects. The machine was the easy part.  

I learned by trial and error also and just searching for more and more information and reading blogs like yours absorbing every hint and trick to be found.

A few months ago I called a new sewing machine shop looking for a product and got talking. He asked what machine I had and asked if I knew about the new Duetta 4500. My husband and I took a drive (nothing is close up here in the mountains), we packed up my ULT  (just in case) for a trade-in. I was sold-my husband said, whatever you want (give that man a kiss!!) and we were driving home with my new machine.

The best advice is that if you have the right tools it makes ME so much more enjoyable.

Keep the information coming Pat. Nice Job.


I am so thankful for every hint I can get; I love reading your blogs.  When I lived in Wisconsin i got all the help I needed and I am so homesick because of it.  Now here in Florida, I have driven miles to find some good folks with a good club to learn.  No such luck; I am staying home now and wish there was an embroidery club in Kissimmee or near by where we can to at it together.  I am making too many mistakes alone.  I don't even have another soul who sews around me.

Boy, does this bring back memories.  Great tips!   have heard lots of really great shortcuts over time like:

just use your old dryer sheets for stabilizer and sharpen you needles with steel wool.  Quality products, I found are the key.   A new needle ( and the right one)  along with a good brand of bobbin thread and the right stabilizer for the project seem to solve most problems.  I don't know why but I have always hated to change my needle and so waited until it was too late more than once. I know changing the needle for every project is a pain ( I can't wait until the machine manufacturers come out with a self-loading one - kind of like a mechanical pencil).  One time someone gave me a big box of off-brand threads.  i didn't use it for a while and when I did I thought my machine was broken and took it in - TWICE.  The tech couldn't find anything and told me I just need to sign up for lessons.  Then I noticed there only seemed to be a problem when I used the thread in that box.  HMM.  I don't know if it was old or just a bad brand (I had never heard of it before) but I threw it all away and my problem went away as well.  Anyway, I learned pretty early that Good products made good embroidery.  DB

This ME community has some of the finest people in the whole Internet!

Your comments are cherished by me and I love knowing that we have similar experiences.  

db1921 - I do have the off brand threads, what a waste of precious funds.  I only buy quality these days.  I certainly love a good sale, but I want the vendor to make a fair price so that they are still there when I want them for something else.  

coonbill6-did you see the meeting for July 19 in Florida?  I don't know my way around that area, but I am sure they will be in your area.  Check the forum for that group.  You are in for a wonderful surprise.

I have a great blog planned for next time.  It is about needles and I know we all have lots of questions about those darned needles.  

Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blogs.  They have given me a lot of useful information.  My dealer has classes but it is 80 miles away so I will read your blogs with great interest.  Thanks for all the info.  

mattersoftheheart 6/26/2008 12:46:30 PM

Hello, I am kinda of new to ME. A little over a year now.  I live in illinois but am relocating to southern mississippi next month. Like coonbill6, hope I can find people to hook up with. If not, I can always check in here for support.  This was great information. It was my first time reading the blogs.

cettle and mattersoftheheart - Thanks for your comments.  Make sure you check the Hooping (6/6/08) and Stabilizer (5/24/08) because there is stuff in there that is great for newbies and more mature users.  There are no oldies around here.

Best wishes, Pat

Pat, I was looking in an old book full of collected tips and instructions culled from the old BBD (Brother, Baby Lock, Deco) mailing list by Cookie Gaynor. I was looking for some topics for my blog. Well, don'tcha know almost every single thing was obsolete. there has been a lot of progress in the past 12 years or so. Many of the things we struggled with back then have been made easy by our machines and software. Every time my Innovis 4000D threads itself I'm amazed. Who would ever have imagined a machine that could thread itself? (And I understand there is now a car that parallel parks itself!)

Something that has always piqued my curiosity is how people can spend upwards of $5,000 for an embroidery machine and then try to save a few pennies by using coffee filters or dryer sheets instead of the correct stabilizers or leave the same needle in the machine for months on end.   GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) applies to ME as well as computer programming.  

I'm loving your blogs, Pat. I'm still learning new stuff every day.        

Ann-Thank you for that input!  It is so true that obsolessence  is the name of the game.  If you still have a hoop for hand embroidery (yes, I do), you can see all the delightful things ME has to offer.

My hubby (now 'ex') never thought twice when buying the right equipment for his job.  He had a 'nail gun' that shot nails at a very fast rate.  I still feel some guilt when buying a specialty piece of equipment.  I do have to get over that!  Maybe DB1921 is on to something, Needle replacement is just a necessary and boring task!

New Blog idea here - What would you like to see on a new machine?  Ann, let's hear your ideas and we will add some of our own to your blog on this subject.  

BTW, have you seen the new "Peggy's Stitch Eraser?"  WOW, talk about the perfect piece of equipment!!


Pat wrote, "New Blog idea here - What would you like to see on a new machine?  Ann, let's hear your ideas and we will add some of our own to your blog on this subject."

This reminds me of a funny story. Well, it was funny at the time! It must have been in 1999. Several of us BBDers were attending an event and June Mellinger from Brother was there also. We all went out to dinner with June and we were talking about just this thing. We were getting silly and were talking about things like a bobbin that would refill itself as we were sewing and an infinite hoop that wold just keep growing with the size of the design. We noticed that there were several tables of MEers nearby who were all ears, so we started getting really ridiculous. We acted as if June were telling us about the new Brother machine, called the Millie, that would be coming out in 2000. (That's why I said it must have been 1999.) We kept adding on more and more outlandish things; I can't even remember what anymore. After dinner those of us who had gone out to dinner with June got together in someone's room and one gal signed onto the Internet. The chatter about the new Millie was already all over the embroidery lists. We were all ROFL, and the 2 empty bottles of wine had nothing to do with it.

You thought that was the funny thing? No! Here's the funny thing: Several years later Singer/Elna came out with new identical machines made by Juki. The machines had both a bobbin that refilled itself as the operator was stitching and an "infinite" hoop. I think there were some problems with that model because neither company sells it anymore. I have one of the Elnas that I used to use for sewing only before I got my Innovis 4000D.

So what would I really like to see on a new machine? I recently sold my 6 needle machine, so it wouldn't be that. (It was a great machine but I wasn't using it enough to justify keeping it and I have a good friend who had a little embroidery business and had been lusting after a 6 needle machine.) I wish it were easier to replace the shuttle when I remove it to clean it out. I wish the long sides of the large hoops were more stable. I really can't imagine what will be added to machines next. I'm still in awe of all the things my Innovis does. I clicked on the Brother ad on my home page and signed up for the "Dream Team" in hopes of getting a look at what's coming out next. Well, it was quite a teaser, but at least now I'm on the emailing list for sneak peeks as time grows closer until the machine is released. Meanwhile, I've started a little saving account for myself because whatever it is, I'm sure I'm going to want one!

Hi, 'mattersoftheheart'  

Welcome to South Mississippi!

There is great embroidery support  in the Village Sew 'n Vac store in D'Iberville, just North of Biloxi.

The owners and their staff treat us as family and take care of any and all of our needs.

stampsann-That is the way a dealership should be, an extension to your family.  Some business owners complain about the 'big guys' coming into their communities.  Well, 'little guy,' treat me right and I have no reason to abandon you.  I want to have competent assistance that the 'big guys' just don't have.

Pat (That is my 2 cents!!)

Hi Pat,

New to this, New to me too.From England, Cheshire

I'm dragon thats what my kids call me, enjoyed reading all this page looking forward to picking loads of tips and tricks  i've got the brother pr620 fab machine  but i'm still practicing

love Dragon (Chrissyb)









OMG dragon3-You have really been hampered with your physical issues.  I too suffered with my right hand. I was in an auto accident where I completely eliminated the skin from the top of my hand.  It is called 'de-gloving' and is not a pretty sight.  

So, most of my tips are geared to easy use of the hands and arms, where possible.  Even if you don't feel some discomfort while doing the project, you know that at 3:00 am your arm is going to remind you that you over did something.

I hope you enjoy my blogs and that they help you become the embroidery artist you want to be!



I am new to ATG and new to EM. I bought a Brother SE 350.

I really am enjoying this new experience ( sometimes a little frustating) I would love to know how to go about finding a group that is into EM. I live in Lafayette, Colorado. I have

been enjoying all of your comments and stories. If anyone out there knows of EM'ers in my area please let me know.

Barbara C.   Lafayette, Colorado

Thanks for all the great advice it is so rare that someone takes the time you do to share helpful hints. I really enjoyed your article, Thanks for your help. kmoses


AN OLD DOG CAN LEARN NEW TRICKS.  That would be me.  Thanks for your helpful email in response to mine.  I am so happy to have your blog for reference, consoling and cramming.  So many questions still in my small pea.  Next I want to find some meeting or class to get me going.  I've crammed about as much in 3 days as possible...loved every minute of them.

Sharon E, Hoover, Al

Hi everyone. I'm a newbee to ME and ATG. I purchased my Janome11000SE last month and I don't think I have let it cool down yet. I made all my Christmas presents and am working on next years. I purchased my ME from a small dealer in Douglasville, GA and the lady that was giving me instructions told me about ATG site. I'm sure I'm in heaven now. Thank you all.


Carrollton, GA

Help! I purchased an e-Motions embroidery machine several years ago and have never really done anything with it. I just got it out again, finally got software that would work with it on my computer, and now I just keep breaking needles. Even the simpliest designs break needles in the strangest places. Can anyone help me here? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated as I now find this machine is no longer sold and no one locally can give me any ideas. I may just have to break down and ask for a better machine for Christmas this year! Smile

Also, it is suppose to use Brother cards. I purchased one the other day inexpensively and put it in my machine. The machine recognizes that a card is installed, but can recognize the designs. Now what do I do?



What do you consider to be the best quality of thread?  Which is best, Rayon or Polyester?  I am also fairly new to ME and love it.



mernquilting 10/2/2010 6:58:53 PM


Interesting comments, very inlightening.  over the yrs. I have highlighted helpful comments and if they are emb. I save them under my own personal file & the same if they are sewing.  I save them and if I ever need them, I can access them at any time.  This is also my own personal idea of 'trying' to remember my middle age memory.  I also had to pay mega $$ to a HELP Line & they are wonderful & can even take over my pc to see what my problem is.  They are a network related to my s.m. so I can and do trust them.  MERN

I am brand new to this site and a new ME person.  I am so excited to find all of you! This will make my sewing and emb. a true pleasure. My first day on this site and I find I can't leave it!!

Please login to comment