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embelishing projects–a wish

Sewdreamy | Posted in General Discussion on

I have been debating with myself for some time whether to spend the big bucks needed to buy a new Artista Bernina sewing machine in order to do machine embroidery. I work outside the home and don’t have gobs of time to sew–though I am a very experienced seamstress with lots of skill (used to have my own fashion design business), and I make about half my own clothes and a few gifts here and there. I have noticed that where we used to get wonderful magazine articles on embelishment, new ways to use our zig-zag machines for embroidery, and interesting ideas for adding style to our clothing, we now often get more articles on using embroidery machines. Occassionally, Threads and other mags will have articles on embelishing outside of using the expensive embroidery machines and cds, but not nearly as often as they used to. Whole magazines are now dedicated to machine embroidery using these machines. Surely it would be nice to have, but… My wish is that more of the sewing magazines–Threads included–would dedicate more space to embelishing outside of the embroidery machine. I love my old Bernina 1230. She’s a honey–does everything I need for high-end sewing. But it doesn’t have that embroidery hoop….Wondered what other sewers reactions are to this trend.


  1. Susannah | | #1

    I agree with sewdreamy.  My machine (a Janome) has a range of built in fancy stitches, but doesn't take computerised designs.  I would be very interested in more embellishment ideas using the built in stitches and free motion embroidery, rather than hoops and digitised pictures that someone else has drawn.  I think it would give greater scope for creativity, which is why I have found Threads such an inspiring magazine.  If I wanted to make exact reproductions, I would have turned to other magazines.

    This, by the way, is my very first post.  I have lurked in the background for a while, and have enjoyed reading the comments and suggestions of others.  When I come to Gatherings with a problem or in search of advice, I am sure there will be plenty of help!

    1. Glenda | | #2

      I wanted to put my 2cents worth in on this discussion.  I work full time and don't have a lot of sewing time either (not enough).  I have been doing machine embroidery for about 6 yrs.  I previously owned a Janome MC9000 and traded her in for a Viking Designer 1, I have not regretted this decision for one minute.  With my new machine I have the capability to download designs (free or purchased) from the internet and save them to a floppy diskette that goes right into the machine.  You can also buy designs already on a floppy from Husqvarna Viking.  You can digitize your own designs as well (like from a drawing, coloring book, etc).  I have a cross stitch program where I can scan colored hand stitch patterns into my computer and make them machine stitches, the capabilities are endless as you can tell. 

      One word of advice, look for a good dealer that you like because you will be spending a lot of time with these folks, they should also have plenty of classes you can take to learn to use your new machine, these are not your mothers sewing machines and can be a little intimidating if you don't take the classes. 

      As for the post about magazines with embellishments other than embroidery, I personally think that is inpsired by the fashion industry, look around at the malls you will see a lot of machine embroidery, it has been in style for a long time, and I for one am glad to see it is sticking around. 

      Well, thats my opinion for whatever its worth!


      1. marijke | | #11

        Everytime I am at the fabric store/sewing machine dealer I look at the D1. It looks fantastic. However, this store is about a 1 1/2 hour drive (and no dealers closer to home!) and I am worried that I would never find the time to drive back and forth to take all the great classes the store offers (and would therefore never really get to take full advantage of the machine's capabilities). Is it possible to learn on your own/from manuals? Or should I just forget about getting this dream-machine and putter along on my old mechanical machine?

        I work fulltime, so I don't have much time to sew. I do try to sew most of my two 3-year old daughters' clothes (a few dresses but a lot of pants as well). The D1 would be a major investment. I have hesitated because I don't know that I would get full use of its wonderful capabilities...

        Any advice?

        1. Susannah | | #12

          Hi Marijke

          You must be busy with two young daughters, working and trying to sew as well! 

          About 5 years ago I upgraded from the sewing machine my mother gave me when I turned 18.  It had basic stitches, and did automatic buttonholes, but no embroidery stitches.  I toyed with the idea of getting a full embroidery machine, but settled for a Janome with a lot of built in embroidery stitches, but that does not take digitised designs.  Like you, I work full time, but my children are older (DS 17 and DD 14).  I get some time to do basic sewing, and find the embroidery stitches handy (a row of pink satin stiched hearts come in handy to cover a fold line on a pair of jeans that are being let down).  Just after I bought the machine I attended a series of classes to make a quilt (20 different blocks, using a range of stitches and techniques).  It was a good introduction on what could be done with built in stitches, and I ended up making a top that incorporated some of the techniques in a panel on the front, which results in complimentary comments every time I wear it. 

          Had I not been able to go to this course, I might not have been able to utilise the stitches as well, and I suppose this was the basis for the post I made a few weeks ago, on the possibility for more articles on ideas/techniques for using built in stitches for embellishment.  There is an Australian sewing magazine called "Stitches" which does occassionally have artiles like this, and they are handy if you are learning, but don't have the option to attend classes.  Generally, "Stitches" is not as challenging a magazine as "Threads", but it sometimes is a good supplement, particularly in this respect.

          Having said this, your daughters are probably at the age where digitised pictures on their clothes would be very much appreciated (my mother used to applique pictures onto tops for my kids when they were young, and they loved it, particularly when the pictures were based on their own drawings!)  

          Good luck with making your decision!



          1. marijke | | #13


            Thanks much for the lengthy explanation. Yeah, the kids do like their clothes embellished. So far, I've done only things like stitching colorful ribbons on the bottoms of pant legs and some simple designs done in stemstitches by hand down one pant leg (butterflies for one girl and stars for another -- they chose the designs -- I used stencils to easily outline the designs).

            I am not familiar with Stitches, but will look for it. The store I like has a great series of classes. I took two when I bought my serger (came with the purchase) and it really helped me get started. The same teacher teaches a bunch of the machine embroidery classes. The main things will be the time investment and the money for my dream-machine.

            Thanks again for the explanation.

  2. lin327 | | #3

    >>>>>>My wish is that more of the sewing magazines--Threads included--would dedicate more space to embelishing outside of the embroidery machine.<<<<<

    I so totally agree with you!  Lack of time shouldn't be an excuse for lack of creativity!  I don't always want someone else's ideas on me.  I always preferred the "here's how to do it now you try" over the "Do it exactly like me" articles.  I'm a little odd and a little unique and I like everything I make to reflect that, whether it's for myself or for things that I sell to boutiques.  I find it frustrating to see so many sewing articles in so many magazines begin their instructions "Place embroidery card 25 into your Bernina or whatever."  Not to mention names, but *** Beaut**** is the worst offender.

    The article about the man who embellished western shirts was wonderful.  I wish there was more about him and how he worked.  I wish I could find an embroidery machine like he had...that machine was like an artist's paintbrush in his hands. 

    I've looked at the expensive embroidery machines in the stores, and I still stick with my old work horse.  If it can't do the basics, like straight and zig zag stitch, all the cute little duckies and bunnies in the world won't make me want to switch.

  3. reddragonfly | | #4

         I have the Bernina Artista.  I upgraded from my 35 year old Bernina because I wanted to be able to do the machine embroidery embelishment so prevalent everywhere.  I took all the classes and am really enjoying the heck out of the sewing part of the machine, however, I have not touched the embroidery module since I took the classes.  For one thing the embroidery cards are so expensive, plus I only found one I like.  Also, in order to download stuff from the net ( and I purposely got a computer that would be compatible with my sewing machine) I need expensive software.  The software starts at $400 just to be able to download and not be able to do any manipulation.  What I really want is the design software which runs about $1200.  Maybe after I pay off my $2800 sewing machine I'll be able to buy some software, but I have a hard time seeing myself getting my money's worth out of such an expensive program that I probably wouldn't use very often.  Has anyone out there had experience using this software?  How did you like it?

    1. Jmars0727 | | #5

      <<<<<<<<<in order to download stuff from the net ( and I purposely got a computer that would be compatible with my sewing machine) I need expensive software.  The software starts at $400 just to be able to download and not be able to do any manipulation.  What I really want is the design software which runs about $1200.  ...... Has anyone out there had experience using this software?  How did you like it? >>>>>>>>>

      I am completely new to this forum, so I hope you will forgive me for jumping into the middle of this discussion.  Just thought I would share my experience with the Artista machine and software.  They are great!  Been using both for 4-5 years.  Just last fall I made the leap from the Artista 180n to the 200.  Great machine.  As for the software, the full package is expensive, and you only need it if you want to actually digitized your own designs.  I agree, the design cards are very expensive, but there are some reasonably priced,really excellent designs available through the internet (check out: http://www.zundt.com). 

      I don't have any experience with any other brand of digitizing software, but I know that there are a couple much less expensive alternatives to the Artista Designer package.  One called Embird comes to mind.  Problem is that the Artista software is the only one that will write in or convert to the correct format for the ARtista machine.  There are 2 alternatives to this dilema.  One is to buy a card reader/writer.  Again, I don't have any experience with these, but frequently read about others who are successfully using them.  As I understand it, they are an attachment to your computer, and work on the same principle as the card readers people use to load digital photos from a card to a computer.  The difference being that with the reader/writer box you can send a design in almost any format from the computer to to a card in the box, and the box will write to the card in the Artista format.  The card then goes into the sewing/embroidery machine just like the pre-programmed design cards available from Bernina.  There are a couple varieties of these boxes out there, so you should make sure that the one you choose is compatible with the Artista.  The second alternative would be if you have the newer Artista 200.  With this method you are limited as to the formats of the design.  I think this will work with designs in the .art and in the .exp format.  With the new blank design card, you can insert the card into a PCMCIA slot  (almost always available on a laptop, and available as an accessory to a desktop) and use windows explorer to drag and drop the file to the card.

      Hope this is helpful!

      1. reddragonfly | | #6

             Wow! Thanks for the info.  I didn't really understand everything you talked about  and probeboy won't understand it until I actually get more involved in the embroidery part of the machine.  I have the Artista 185, which is the model right before the 200.  I've seen the 200 and it looks amazing but it's too expensive for me.  I have to pay off my machine before I buy any software.  I don't understand why the software is so darn expensive? 

        1. Jmars0727 | | #7

          I have been told that digitizing software, the actual writing of these type programs is pretty involved and complicated.  I don't know a thing about programming or writing program so I cannot personally attest to that.  I do have an acquaintance that owns an embroidery .  We sat down one day to compare digitizing programs.  The Artista program gave me virtually the same capabilities as she had with a commercial software package that cost $12,000 (hers is one of the less expensive commercial software pakages).  Since Version 3 of the Artista package has come out, I now have more lettering possibilities than she does.  Your are absolutely right thought, it is all expensive.  Although there are some lesser priced alternatives that will give you the ability to send designs to your machine without purchasing the Artista software, of the preprogrammed Artista design cards.  The only way I can justify (to myself) the expense of the software, is to avoid buying the design cards.  That way I do feel as though the software is sort of 'paying for itself".

  4. sewphaedra | | #8

    When I got my Bernina two years ago I decided not to get the embroidery model. I don't have the storage space for all the extra threads and equipment, plus I just didn't want to take the time to learn this complicated new technique. There were so many classes, and the more I read about it the more I realized it's too big of a new technique for me. I hand-embroider just fine and so far that's been sufficient for the gifts and clothing I do. Plus it's nicer looking!

    To machine embroider I'd have to set up the machine, fuss with stabilizer and hoop choices, download something (search for it first), then thread the thing up and size the design....by that time I can nearly have it done by hand.

    1. GhillieC | | #9

      My hands are too stiff and painful these days for me to enjoy hand embroidery so I am fortunate to have a Bernina 170 complete with the embroidery module. When I discovered how little it could do on its own I also managed to get the complete Artista software package. I have been on no courses but am managing to get my head round the techniques gradually.

      I 'don't do cutesy', hate the Bernina stock designs and am highly selective of the embroidery sites I will bother with absolutely refusing to have anything to do with heavy or clumsy designs. It annoys me that so many sites sell designs in packages - I don't want a dozen of anything so I shall probably end up buying nothing. An advantage of the Threads designs has been that they come in small packages, though I find the false colours of some of them difficult to manage. A couple of my favourites sites are http://www.stitchingart.com where there are plenty of abstract freebies to play with and http://www.miakaydesigns.com . Mia's designs are graceful and professional, but I wish I could buy them individually.

      At present I am fiddling around deconstructing, rearranging and resizing a handful of freebies from favourite sites to learn how the design and digitising process works and to make the designs my own. Soon I must move on to digitising my own designs. I have bought a few of the design booklets published by Dover so that I have a source of elegant but simple designs to practice on.



      1. mommydionne | | #10

        Have you considered buying a separate machine for your embroidery or have you looked at any other brands.

        i have a Bernina 160 for sewing (awesome machine) and a brother 180D (the smaller disney machine) for embroidery with the software pkg ($1000) I can digitize, download designs and convert some types including HUS (they have the nicest designs) I am limited by the 4x4 hoop but with the multihoop and some playing with digitizing can now do 8x4 areas without too much problem. 

        Plus I can SEW while the embroidery machine is working away, a real time saver, I work full time plus the occasional weekend shift and have 3 kids (ages 6 , 4 and 9 months).

        Bernina has the deco which is the same as the brother machine and uses PES files not ART,  elna also has a stand alone machine I think and I think Singer has one too.

        Just a thought.  Happy Sewing!

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