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buying software

Brenn | Posted in Machine Embroidery on

Hi, I bought a Bernina artista 165 a couple of years ago and just decided to use the embroidery unit.  I understand I can buy cards with patterns on, or buy their software and create my own.

What I would like to do is just sew my own designs without having to buy a very expensive piece of software (around £600).  I am an artist and already use professional illustrator software that cost a fortune!  I’m also a computer professional, but I can’t understand how designs get turned into stitches – and how to do it myself.

Could someone explain, or point me to a useful article or textbook please?  I emailed Bernina (uk) a few days ago, but they’re not talking to me (yet?).    Cheers   Brenn


  1. FitnessNut | | #1

    Good luck! I also have and use very expensive illustration software (Adobe Illustrator), but have finally given in and bought the Bernina Artista software ($2000 CDN). And it was even more expensive for me because I use a Mac and so had to buy another computer - it simply will not work on the Mac, no way, no how. However, your illustration software need not go to waste in this application. You can do work on it and import your design into the Artista software.

    I don't know if you can digitize your designs yourself without ending up writing a programme. Is that the route you would wish to take and do you have the skills for that? You may well find it not worth the time and energy....it may be smarter just to buy software and set about learning it. And, have no doubt, the learning curve is fairly steep, at least with the Bernina software. But it is, according to the research I have done, the best available and the most flexible when it comes to designing your own embroidery. As an artist myself, I cannot imagine going any other way.

    1. Brenn | | #2

      Thanks for that - If the Bernina software ends up the only option it's good to know that it's not bad.  It's good to know that I'm not alone with my frustration too - your's exceeded mine though - I have a PC not a Mac!

      What I want to do is just create my design in my drawing package (My favourite is Expression, though I have Illustrator) and just route it through to the embroidery unit.  I'm hazy on the tehnicalities but surely the illustrator files (which are vector files) are digital already, and hence something the sewing machine could use with little or no alteration.  I think the problem is mainly one of compatilbility.  Does the Bernina software give you anything you can't do in Ilustrator (apart from a route into the machine that is)?  I suspect there are things like stitch density - but I can't find a decent appraisal of the software anyplace!

      I didn't realise I could import my Illustrator designs into the Bernina software - that's a plus!

      I have Emailed Bernina in the UK and now USA and I'm waiting for a response.  Also - I've been looking at the Magic Box thing - this takes cards/downloads from any embroidery manufacturer and translates it into a card that a given sewing machine will read (you buy the magic box to suit your machine).  They have an impressive technical support web site and while they may not be able to help, I'm pretty sure I'll get an intelligent answer to my question.

      I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do yet.  I'll see what information comes back from the manufacturer and the Magic box people.    Cheers  Brenn

      1. FitnessNut | | #3

        The Bernina software is, IMO, the best on the market for someone who wants to design her/his own embroidery. You can transform any image you can get into your computer into an embroidery motif, including photographs. I'm still learning the programme, so I'm afraid I can't answer many of your questions. You do have control over stitch pattern and density, among many other things. Heck, it comes with TWO manuals....I've only scratched the surface in just a few months. There is a wonderful, free, on-line set of classes for this software....you may want to have a look at it to get some perspective. It is at http://www.creativesewing.com/Version%204%20Workbook/Table%20of%20Contents.htmI did alot of research before I bought my sewing machine and, three years later, the companion software. Because I'm simply not interested in many of the embroidery designs available and because, as an artist and fashion designer, I have my own ideas, this route suits me. I know it isn't necessarily the best choice for everyone....I think many people are intimidated by the learning curve or don't have the drive to get involved in the design process. I hope I've helped you to narrow down your options.Sandy

        1. Brenn | | #4

          That's really good information, thank you again!  The magic box people got back to me straight away - it won't do what I want it to, it just translates between embroidery formats.

          I contacted my local Bernina supplier and will probably buy the software.  I haven't quite got over the cost yet 900-1000 UK pounds - but I don't think there's much of an option if I want to create my own designs.  As an artist, I'm pretty sure I'd be frustrated if I didn't have something versatile.  I do like the idea of 2 manuals (I love manuals), and the on-site classes will be really useful.  Actually they helped me decide to buy the software - I was really struggling to understand exactly what it did.

          I'd like to have a look at your designs, do you have a web site?

          Cheers  Brenn

          1. FitnessNut | | #5

            ROFLMAO!!!!!!I wish! I'm just a beginner at this designing embroidery/software thing. Maybe one day.....Do YOU have a website?I have found those online classes to be invaluable and I'm not finished working through them yet. I don't know if I would be anywhere near as comfortable with the software without them. You might also check with your dealer and see if they offer classes....the dealer I bought mine from does and from all accounts, they are fabulous. However, I moved across the country (Canada), so couldn't take them. But the dealer did suggest that I could buy the lessons on cd if interested. Something to consider.Sandy

          2. Brenn | | #10

            I checked with The dealer about classes.  They don't do them locally but I could go to Bernina UK in London.  Apparently the classes are held sporadically and I'd have to phone direct to find out about them.  Considering the price of the software I'm not surprised there isn't a great call for classes.

            I would go to London but If I do get the software, knowing me, I'll probably have to get very stuck before I look at a video or anything like that.  I love manuals, but I hate video tutorials and on-line help stuff :-)

            Cheers,  Brenn

          3. FitnessNut | | #11

            Interesting.....here in Canada the software is very popular, as are the classes. The dealer where I purchased mine has been offering them on a continuous basis since it was introduced and I understand that they are always full. In fact, there is an assumption that if you buy such a machine, you will buy one version or another of the software. Machine embroidery is huge here, or at least it was in the West. I was very surprised, considering the cost of the software, but then I suppose I'm rather conservative in that area. I would rather spend money on gorgeous fabrics ;-)

  2. pinguin | | #6

    You should check out Embird software.

    Embird has all the features of the very expensive software at a lower cost and the folks who make the program LISTEN and respond to our needs. It can compete with the very expensive suites and no one can tell which program a design was created on.
    Because the parts are downloadable, you don't have to buy the whole thing at once. You can buy what you need to begin with and then add additional parts as need be.
    Embird has features that are only found in the more expensive programs, such as gradient fills, focus points, built-in shapes and the ability to create your own fills, motifs and outlines, ability to change the start and stop points, density as a real life measurement, and the ability to change both the size and the offset of fill patterns.

    When you want to digitize you need to start with Embird 2004 manager ($89.00) and buy Embird Studio ($134.00) as a plug in. Allthough it says 2004, it is up to date as there have been (free) updates.

    Embird 2004 includes resizing and some other nice features. Plus, you can use it for a month free...
    Embird 2004 has two different screens and in reality is two separate programs. One is for organizing and the other is an editor.

    There is a plug-in called Iconizer which converts all your designs into icons where you can see the design and with a single right click view information about them and that is worth the price of the program. Iconizer works in Windows Explorer, in Embird and in other embroidery programs as well. Very helpfull to find your design. Some people purchase just for this ability.

    The Editor part of Embird will let you convert designs, split designs,
    change colors, resize, and you can do other editing quite easily. There is even a Stitch View where you can see the type of stitch you have and easily change it (to get rid of extra jumps or stops).
    There is also a 3D view and a Sew Simulator...much easier to test sew a design on the computer before you get to the machine.

    This mailinglist gives you lessons and lots of good advice about Embird:

    Amy Webster has good info about Embird and lessons for a small fee.

    The Embird homepage:

    To buy it with a 10 % discount go to:

    Good luck,

  3. pinguin | | #7

    More info about Embird

    I re-read your message and as you say your an artist and want to create different designs from the usual ones found on internet I would also suggest checking out the sfumato plug-in for Embird. (USD$85.00)

    This kind of designs are more artistic. I don't know if you are familiar with Val Holmes'work, but she uses it as well.

    And one warning about embroidery software: don't expect to much from the automatic features, you need good graphics for that. And you end up spending your time making them. Just take the time to learn the software and you need just a very simple sketch to create what you want.


    1. nannylin | | #8

      Have any of you used Palette software?  Would it be of any use to a novice embroiderer?


    2. Brenn | | #9

      Thanks for the Embird information.  I took a look at their material and it was very impressive.  I thought I might buy it so I Emailed them, and got a reply very quickly - Unfortunately Embird doesn't output to Bernina machines!  Darn!

      The guy said he would pass the information on to the developers.  Before I saw this stuff I was working myself up to buying the Bernina software.  Now I know there could be an alternative I may wait a while and see what happens.  The Bernina price is so huge I could pay it but I'm having problems justifying it.  BTW they (UK or USA) still haven't Emailed a reply to my questions.

      Thanks for all the info



  4. MaryinColorado | | #12

    I have been looking into Correll Draw's embroidery software,  haven't made a decision yet, but it looks excellent and I think is under $1,000. Go to allbrands, com to see it.  Mary

    1. Brenn | | #13

      That's interesting - I like Corel Draw, and I have this feeling that I'd rather spend money on a graphics package sold by a graphics company rather than a sewing machine company.  I can't really justify that logically though - a sewing company would know more about sewing.  Now if Adobe and Bernina got together and produced something I'd be interested!

      I'll have a look at the Corel software

      1. FitnessNut | | #14

        Ah yes....Adobe and Bernina. It would be a match made in heaven. But can you imagine how much it would cost????This Corel software sure looks interesting and its considerably cheaper than the Bernina one. But I have to wonder if its as comprehensive.....Make sure you are comparing apples to apples. ;-)

      2. carolinecymru | | #15

        Hi Brenn - I'm also a computer professional and baulked at the software price, so thought I'd try to write my own. However the file formats used by each of the sewing machine makes eg DST, SEW, HUS are proprietary and I couldn't find out how they were structured (I know there cannot be very many commands, but they must vary quite a lot, since the file sizes of downloadable embroideries are often quite different for different file types). Also, the software seems to allow for the effects of fabric 'pulling' and tension - and that would have to be worked out by trial and error. So, I sighed and bought a second hand Husquvarna with software... BTW, Someone on EBay in Uk is selling VERY cheap embroidery machiens with digitising software thrown in (DST format)- there must be a snag somewhere?

        1. ixs | | #16

          Just picked up the digitizing message. Tell me more about Corel Draw. If one digitizes something, could/will it be as intricate as purchased designs, possibly taking into account one's learning curve? I am mainly a seamstress but think I have the basic Bernina software "down pat," and am pretty computer literate.Also, could I get comments about buying things like software on ebay? I've heard that counterfeits also are available. A little leery.....An acquaintance told me that Bernina had the best digitizing software. Any comments?Thanks for your time.

          1. carolinecymru | | #17

            No, it's not copied software. The person is selling brand new embroidery machines a bit like the Brother PE400 (?) as a direct importer from the factory in the Far East, with the appropriate software thrown in and a free 3/4 thread serger machine all for £400! The only thing stopping me buying one is that the embroidery field is only 4 inches square - and I'm looking for something bigger.

          2. ixs | | #18

            Hi, can't sleep......I guess I am pretty leery sometimes. How do you get service for these machines if there is a problem? Is there a warranty, and how does it work? I know my demo sewing/embroidery machine has had lots of tweaking done to get it to where I thought it worked well, and I liked the idea of a demo because most of the problems were probably resolved, and it had proven itself in usage at the store. I live quite a distance away from the dealer that I bought my demo machine from but have called them with lots of questions/problems, when necessary. I knew distance might be a problem when I bought my machines, but I decided to "chance" it. I did have an upgrade done by a local dealership and wasn't happy with the documentation, so I should have driven the hundreds of miles to have the work done at the original dealer. My choice/mistake. But we can't know everything/how to make those kinds of decisions all the time.

          3. carolinecymru | | #19

            yes, I was a bit worried too about that - and about how well the software works (though it can't be much cludgier than the ancient software I bought with my orchidea!). But the person who sells them provides service and support for school and college sewing machines, so is obviously 'into' support. Although I'm even more tempted by her 2/3/4/5 (inc cover stitch) sergers at about £280!
            The seller is jsm-distributor on ebay.co.uk - I'd be interested in other people's opinions

          4. ixs | | #20

            Hi,Have never purchased anything on ebay but thinking about selling some antiques on ebay; might just dip my big toe in with something interesting but inconsequential that I don't want or need. Now, when you talk about software, are you talking about database software or digitizing software? I'd like your comments if it is digitizing software.....

          5. carolinecymru | | #21

            Hi Ixs - I'm just talking about digitising software - I've got the VERY old Husqvarna stuff, and it is pretty basic - you have to construct your own sequence of stitches to form a 'locking stitch', limited fill capability etc. However, I have to admit that for the little digitising I do it has been perfectly adequate - simple outlines to create turned shapes for applique, single colour geometric filled shapes as crests for a fake samurai kimono etc... time is a bigger problem than the software!
            What do you mean by database software for embroidery? Do you mean those that give you thumbnails etc? I'm too penny pinching to bother with it!

          6. ixs | | #22

            I did not understand when I bought my embroidery machine that the software they included was a "database" of designs you could transfer to your embroidery machine to use, because all the designs couldn't be built into the embroidery unit or sewing machine memory. I also purchased a memory card to save designs, although I now realize I might not have needed it. I would like to "dabble" in digitizing, but I cannot justify the price of digitizing software, as I "dabble" in other hobbies. But I did see my 14 month old granddaughter in a knit outfit I made for her big sister with an embroidery on the front; it has held up well, so that makes me happy.

          7. sewfabulous | | #23

            Most digitizing software is quite expensive and has a fairly long learning curve. When you load a picture into the software you have to create every stitch point so it is very time consuming. My advice would be to only buy it if you were interested in designing and selling your own designs or wantint to start a business digitizing for other people. It is much less expensive to pay someone to digitize a special design for you whenever you want it. There are trial versions of digitizing software on the internet if you Google digitizing software.

          8. carolinecymru | | #24

            It's not that bad if all you are doing is starting from a bitmap image with decently well defined lines and areas. The software I use (even though it's old) automatically converts the lines into outlining stitch, then you can select areas in your picture and fill them in, choosing the type and direction of fill - and then it does the job just like the paintpot in Microsoft Paint! I only needed to do the stitch by stitch stuff to correct my things - but as I said, I do relatively simple things. My son did the crests for his pseudo samurai jacket, and was able to complete them in about an hour or two from first sitting down at the software! However, there are so many designs available on the web (and lots of designers offer freebies to get you to try their work) that it hardly seems worth digitising unless you have very specific needs

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