A Free Calculator and Reverse Engineering a Design in AlphabetXpress

I have never been certain why Microsoft does not place a calculator on a computer screen. There are a number of them on the Internet, and I have one that I like for several reasons. For one, I can turn off or on the keyboard. With the keyboard off, I can just use my computer numeers. You can find it here.


When you first saw machine embroidery, it was probably done by a sales person who just pressed a couple of buttons and made magic!  Just like Dorothy, you must be warned not to believe all that you see. The Wizard of Oz can be tricky.  The good news is that you can learn all that trickery, alas at the expense of time and effort - OR by reading the Forum and the excellent blogs offered by AnnTheGran.

As each facet of embroidery is mastered, your projects become more and more professional and beautiful.  Look back at some of your original attempts (I hope you keep them, they can be very educational!!) and see that you have progressed.

Here are my tips (in no particular order):

  • Make sure the design fits both your hoop and the project. I have done some items only to find that they were too large or too small for the area.
  • Color changes can be exorbitant for a design. Keep in mind that more color changes means more detail and vice versa. But if you have to gather 23 colors, including 8 colors of blue, it can be a problem. For one thing, those blue colors may need to blend but not be too close in color. They may need to be highly contrasting and that could be very difficult.
  • Stitch count can cause issues in that a light fabric with a heavy stitch count can be too heavy for the fabric.  It can be too dense and cause what is known as ‘cast iron embroidery.' You have heard your machine sound like it was pounding rather than piecing the fabric. That can be the result of a poorly digitized design or too much stabilizer.
  • And here is my favorite -


Take a good look at the underlay and the over-all layout of your stitches. You may find that a design is not as great as you may have hoped. It could be skimpy and have the background fabric appear; or it could be too dense and be a sewing nightmare

Starting in Alphabet Xpress, look at the stitching underlay.


The first design I selected did not even have an underlay. It went directly from the writing (which may or may not have underlay) to the eyes.



I selected a second design that does have an underlay and started (lower left corner) to check the stitching of the words.


And I could see that as I move the indicator, the underlay of the first balloon starts as does the second balloon. I am looking to see that the underlay is light and great for the design. Some underlay will be heavier for various digitizing reasons.






I guess thats another reason why I just love Alphabet Xpress.


And, you may have noticed that Catalog Xpress is offering a super deal this week! Check it out! (You can get two free Morango Design Collections.  That is Collections which are dozens of exceptional designs, not just a design or two.


Comments (5) -

love to see

Microsoft has had a calculator for as long as I remember. I always add a link to my start menu to make it easy to get to. My keyboard even has a button that opens it automatically. You can use your number pad for calculation, too. It used to be in "accessories."  I'm not sure where it is now because I can just do a search for it in vista and add a shortcut to my start menu.  Character map is another invaluable tool in accessories for people working with fonts.

Thank you for the calculator and the tips.

thecomputerist 2/26/2011 2:58:04 PM

Thanks to all who responded.  

Elaur - I would like to know how you set up the Character map because I too like that tool. It would be great to have it handy!!


I actually just search for the character map on vista.  When I right click and check properties it actually says it's in the system32 folder!  I just pin it to my start menu after I find so I don't have to relook every time.

It's actually a bit small for large resolution monitors.  I've seen other programs that are supposed to show better but I've just stuck with character map.  

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