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  • Cutwork with a pair of scissors

    Original text by Marina Belova 
    I'm giving a serious thought to creating cutwork on the embroidery machine. Once and for all I decided to work out the technique to the last detail and to learn all the secrets of cutting out the holes by hand. 
    I've encountered this embroidery technique many times before. Even drew the designs for it in Corel Draw. Though I'm not an artist. Like the majority of designers that create their own embroidery designs, I've never thought how to make a drawing of such quality that it could be embroidered right away. To take into account all the slight and subtle differences (what should be done and what shouldn't), one must understand both the digitizing and the embroidery processes. Well... that's why the embroiderers offered some criticism of my designs. After all, the resulting look of the embroidery depends on the original idea a great deal. 
    In my grandmother's coffers, I found a cutwork curtain, make in a free-motion embroidery technique. This machine made piece was created 40 or 50 years ago. 

    The curtain has been washed and washed again many times but the embroidery is still there: nothing has frayed, nothing has worn away! I also want to point out that the embroidery on this particular piece is very delicate. Which cannot be said about machine embroidery designs created on a computer. Here's a typical design from one of the most popular Russian embroidery shops, Advanced Embroidery Designs. (Nota bene: you can also find a variety of such designs in our shop). 
    Thin borders are not perhaps the best-looking but their main advantage is that nothing will fray or detach. Such items are not excessively thick, the embroidery is very soft and looks more delicate. 
    Having seen all this once again, I decided to create my own design and achieve as thin bridges as possible. 
    So I found 2 designs. A flapper for sachet: 

    A rosette-shaped drink coaster: 

    I digitized the first design, for the sachet with a flapper: 

    After two unsatisfactory attempts and further corrections, I arrived at the conclusion that the density should be reduced to at least 0.7-0.8 mm and the number of running stitches under the bridges narrowed down to just 2. The bridges themselves should be made with two narrow zigzags running in the opposite directions. 
    A special focus should be on the first part of the design which contains the first parallel underlay with very short stitches and small zigzag stitches over it. This is the basis for the embroidery. The stitches should interlink so that the bridges won't detach and the satin borders around the holes won't fall off. You need to plan your embroidery sequence so as to keep the number of trims to a minimum. 
    An even greater attention should be paid to the choice of fabric. My first fabric was so battered with old age that it raveled out in my hands when I started to fiddle with it after the embroidery: 

    In the end, I embroidered this design on a linen piece and then sewn the sachet. I showed the photo in my article about cutwork creation: 

    I'll elaborate upon my second design because it turned out so much better than the first. Below is the preview of the ready design: 

    I planned to embroider it not with a rayon or a polyester thread, but with a cotton one (~30–35 g). In my opinion, lustrous embroidery threads are not suitable for cutwork because they make it look like a cheap Chinese product. 
    First, I hooped a heat-away stabilizer called Thermogaze from Gunold together with a piece of linen fabric. 

    Hit the start button and stitched a double outline along the perimeter of the design: 

    Right after that I added a small zigzag on top of it: 

    I took the hoop off the machine – time to cut out the holes. Cutting out took as much time as the embroidery and didn't please me the slightest bit.
    One hell of a task, not for the weak-nerved! In spite of all effort, I cut the stabilizer in several places: 

    Then I inserted the hoop back into the machine and embroidered the rest in one go: 

    This is the wrong side. It is rather neat. 

    Then I trimmed the rosette along the perimeter. 

    I now have little left to do – to remove the stabilizer. I put my rosette between two layers of paper: 

    And then place a very hot iron (no steam!) on top of it: 

    Wait for about 2 Tequilajazzz songs until Thermogaze will get darker. This is what I got on the wrong side:
    Rumple and pull the embroidery to remove the stabilizer. Also, this will help you to test the embroidery for endurance and resistance to wear.
    Here is the ready rosette: 

    It has the most ordinary look, and the bridges are not as thin as I wanted. But neither are they the thick monsters from the other designs. I believe that if embroidered with the ordinary #40 threads the bridges would be much thinner. A very pleasant fact is that nothing shifts or comes apart. 
    Why did I choose Thermogaze as a stabilizer instead of a water soluble film? Because it's much easy to use; the film would be very hard to wash away afterward. The only thing I like about embroidery on film – it is practically impossible to snip it with scissors when cutting out holes, which cannot be said about a heat-away stabilizer. 
    My entire design had only 2 trims: the first one for cutting out holes and the second one for trimming after completion. This was not easy to achieve. Also, I had to rack my brains over joining the parts of the embroidery with the underlay so that it would keep it together after the embroidery. My only mistake was not enough reinforcement of the edges. Satin border, in my opinion, insufficient. You need more reinforcement along the perimeter, like in a festoon. I'll do that next time. 
    Now I understand that the experienced pros of free-motion embroidery would make the best digitizers. They, too, try their best to avoid trims and plan the embroidery sequence right in the course of the embroidery. 
    In general, I learned that there is no sacral knowledge behind this type of the design. A cutwork design can be created in any embroidery editor.
    All the digitizing laws are just as relevant here. The only thing you need is to use your brains. 
    Download the ready design here. 

    Embroidery on terry cloth

    Original text by Marina Belova 
    Terry cloth is a fabric with loops. Every one of these loops is some kind of sponge that is aimed at soaking up water. Terry cloth made of 100% cotton is the most common. But it may be composed of other fibers: bamboo, cotton, linen, etc. 
    Lots of much-in-demand garments are made of terry cloth, and all kinds of embroidery are used as decoration. Therefore, I decided to write about the basics of embroidery on this fabric. 
    Terry cloth can differ in: 
    weight  density  composition  stability  loop height  loop twist loop on just one side of the fabric or both  All of these properties make their impact on digitizing for loop fabrics. 

    From the technical standpoint there is nothing difficult in embroidery on terry cloth. You hoop the fabric together with the stabilizer (I use thin tear-away one; although I've read somewhere that you can use a thin water-soluble film instead: put it on top so that the loops don't show between the stitches or better hoop it), and then embroider. 
    80/12 needle with a sharp needlepoint is usually recommended for thick terry cloth, and 75/11 ballpoint needle for thin and stretchy kinds. You can use any kind of threads. As for me, I prefer rayon – it is softer than polyester. 
    Digitizing a design for a loop fabric 
    The design digitizing process is not much different from the usual one, but there are some recommendations that you should follow. 
    It's better to choose bigger designs for embroidery on terry cloth. The object should not contain small and delicate elements, for after the embroidery the loops will raise and cover them completely, making the embroidery look worse. Therefore, it is better to use bold letters. Satins should not be wider than 8 mm and narrower than 1.5–2 mm. 
    When the stitches are over 8 mm it is necessary to compulsorily split them or apply short filling stitches to this object. This is due to the fact that garments made of terry cloth are washed rather often, and long stitches will eventually slacken or get caught in something — in both cases, it will damage the outer look of your embroidery. 
    It is recommended to increase the satin width by 10% or just add 20–30% pull compensation. 
    Double run for thin satins  Double run + double zigzag with short stitches that will keep the loops trampled for thick ones  Double run + full lattice at an angle different than the one in the main layer — for the filling.  Density: 
    I set density at no more than 0.45 mm for terry cloth. Though I've often heard that you should increase your density by 20% compared to the usual one. My experience shows that this will only lead to distortion — there will be waves on the embroidery surface. 
    You may consider using applique not only because this will allow you to reduce the stitch count and save on water soluble stabilizer, but also because it is easier to embroider small details on applique than on terry cloth. 
    But I didn't like the process of cutting out the applique with terry cloth still in the hoop — too much risk to catch a loop with your scissors and cut it open. Better to make an applique out of a ready template. 
    Digitizing for terry cloth is not really difficult. There is nothing in it that one cannot learn.

    How to position the embroidery design on the item

    Original text by: Marina Belova 
    There are rules for everything in the world. There is also a set of rules that makes embroiderer's life easier whenever he or she needs to position the design on the item. For it is at times easier to follow an internationally established guideline and not to rack one's brains to find the place where the embroidery will look best. It works good in case there is no need to create a highly unusual design that may demand departing from the rules. 
    Pictures below demonstrate the general rules of embroidery design placement: 
    Duvet covers and top bed sheets 

    Left chest 


    Center chest on garments 

    Turtleneck collar 

    Handkerchiefs, blankets, napkins 


    Left chest under pocket 

    Left chest on polo shirt 

    Back on a polo shirt or an ordinary shirt 




    An item

    Where to place the embroidery

    Polo shirts

    Left chest, centered 17.5-22.5 cm below the shoulder seam or 10-12.5 cm from shirt center. You can also embroider the name on the front, and the surname — on the back of the shirt. In this case the surname on the left should be mirrored to the name


    Left chest, 17.5-22.5 cm below the shoulder seam, centered between T-shirt center and the side seam or 10-15 cm from T-shirt center.


    Centered 2.5 cm above pocket or 10-12 mm below edge of pocket, centered between left and right seams, or centered on pocket

    Shirt front (a very small monogram on the placket)

    Design is positioned on placket between 2nd and 3rd buttons, centered between left and right seams.

    Shirt back

    12.5 cm below the collar bottom, centered between left and right seams

    Shirt front

    Left chest, 17.5-22.5 cm below shoulder seam, centered between placket and side seam or 7.5-12.5 cm from shirt center.

    Cuff (a very small monogram)

    Only the left cuff is embroidered — 3.5 cm to the left from buttonhole (or 2.5-3.0 cm from the cuff center). The lower edge of a design should be 0.6-0.7 cm higher than the edge of the cuff. A monogram should be visible in wear.

    Jacket front

    Left chest side 16-20 cm below left shoulder seam and 10 cm from center

    Jacket back

    17.5-22.5 cm below shoulder seam, centered between side seams

    Women jacket

    2.5 cm to the side from buttonhole and 0.6-0.7 cm above its top


    On the collar between left shoulder seam and collar center so that the embroidery is on the outside 10-12 cm from the fold


    Left chest, 17.5-22.5 cm below shoulder seam and 7.5-12.5 cm from the center or in the middle between the center of the sweater and side seam. On women sweaters the design may be moved 5 cm higher Or placed in the center


    Left chest, 17.5-22.5 cm below shoulder seam and 7.5-12.5 cm from the center.


    On the leg 10-12 cm from turn-up seam and 2.5 cm from side seam


    5 cm above the necktie's end


    Centered 10 cm above edge


    10-12 mm from upper edge


    Centered 10 cm below upper edge


    In the center


    10-15 below left shoulder seam, centered between flap and side seam


    Left chest, 17.5-22.5 cm below left shoulder seam and 7.5-12.5 cm from center


    3-3.5 cm from point of corner, sewn diagonally

    Hand towel

    5 cm above hem or 3.5-4 cm above border

    Bath towel

    10 cm above hem or 3.5-5 cm above border

    Bath sheet

    12.5 cm above hem or 6-7.5 cm above border

    Beach towel

    12.5 cm above hem or 6-7.5 cm above border


    7.5 cm from point of corner, sewn at the angle of 45°


    7.5 cm from upper right corner, sewn diagonally

    Table cloth

    12.5 cm from point of corner, sewn diagonally

    Top bed sheet

    Lower right corner or on wide hem 5 cm below the fold. If a bed sheet has shams, you can place the design on them

    Pillow case

    In the center If the opening is on the side, the design is centered on it. If a pillow has shams, it is possible to place the design in the center of every one of them.


    20-25 cm from point of lower corner, sewn diagonally

    Decorative pillow case

    Centered on pillow case


    10 cm from the bottom centered left to right or centered on the bag

    Of course, the numbers mentioned may vary. This happens because the size of the items differ. 
    And keep in mind the most basic rule: measure thrice and embroider once. 

    Quality benchmarks. Rendering corners

    Original text by Marina Belova 
    In these days all embroidery software embroidery offers the users a possibility of choosing their own type of corner or automatically create a new one in one click. But let's divert our attention from this very handy option and see what corner shapes exist in machine embroidery, and what determines your choice of them in a different situation. This, in my opinion, is necessary in order to start controlling the automatic process at least to some degree, and to manually fix anything that you don't like. 
    So, there are the following angle shapes in machine embroidery: 
    Capped corner  Mitered corner  Hand-sewing corner (or butt corner)  Tucked corner  Simple corner (rotating corner, also called main or regular corner)  Before we plunge into the depth and begin to sort out why there are so many of them, let's recall some knowledge that we took out of our geometry lessons at school. 
    The measurement unit for an angle is a degree. 
    Sharp angle is an angle that is less than 90°.  Straight angle is 90° even.  Blunt angle is the one that is more than 90°.  The factors that influence the corner shape and kinds of stitches used for decoration: 
    Angularity  The width of the columns that form a corner.  If you look at the picture below, it will become clear why you should use different kinds of corners for the columns of different width. 

    Corner size is defined by the point on its inner side to the point on its outer side. The size depends greatly on the column width and rotation angle, which determines the type of corner that can be used. 
    Had we not used automatic angles in embroidery editors, we would digitize them by hand in this way: 
    Capped corner 
    Good for sharp angles between 0 and 60° and narrow columns, so that the stitch length isn't too high when they cross each other in the cap. I.e., the width of the columns that form a corner should not be over 2—3.5 mm. 

    Mitered corner 
    This method is used for sharp and blunt angles alike, from 60 to 130°. Column width value can be quite high — 5—7 mm. In order to avoid gaps at the joint place, you need for the columns to overlap. A slightly different stitch angle in columns that form a corner is preferred. Just how much overlapping there will be, is determined by fabric type: the stretchier is the fabric, the more overlapping there will be. 

    This is important: You should use this corner type in small letters and designs with care — overlapping stitches result in higher density. 
    Hand-sewing (butt) corner 
    Used only for straight corners (90°). It is good for columns of any width that form an angle. Can be digitized as 2 outlines, connected butt-to-butt.

    Very easy, but attentive digitizing is a must in order to avoid gaps between the outlines. 
    There is also this variety of a butt corner: 

    The turning looks like it was embroidered manually. Embroidery software manufacturers recommend it for appliques. 
    Tucked corner 
    This corner is very similar to mitered corner and consists of 2 oncoming columns overlapping each other. The columns should be wide enough (over 4 mm) and be identical. Stitch angle in neighboring columns is not much different, unlike in a mitered corner. Therefore the joint place is almost invisible. 

    Simple corner 
    Simple corner is very good for any angle ranging from sharp to blunt, but can be used only with narrow columns or the stitches may become too long. This corner is digitized as a single outline. Most of the stitches are gathered on the inner side, and on the outer side they are the most sparse. Therefore, it is necessary to remember to make the stitches on the inner side shorter in order to avoid holes in the fabric, monitor the stitch length and the stitch angles in the corner area. 

    Signs of a poor quality corner embroidery 
    the angle is not equal to the straight sector. The difference is most obvious in the wide columns.  a lot of thread breakage in the corners  the fabric is perforated on the inner side of the corner  embroidery speed is visibly lower at corners or trimmer keeps turning on when the stitches are too long  embroidery is puffier at corners, they become rounded and lose their shape  corners are not smooth because of distortion 
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