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Embroidery Tips & Techniques

25 Little Steps Lead to Perfection

Sometimes I rush through an embroidery project and don’t take the time to think through each step of the process. Often, this is how mistakes are made. Print this checklist and keep it by your machine as a reminder of the 25 little steps you should take to ensure your embroidery comes out beautifully.

1. Change your needle

2. Use a full sheet of stabilizer not a pieced, taped, glued piece.

3. Clean your bobbin case.

4. Insert a new bobbin.

5. Check your hoop and remove any sticky residue.

6. Select the design and hoop.

7. Print template(s) of the design(s).

8. Place the templates on the garment/item and slide target stickers under the crosshairs.

9. Shoot a digital image of the templates in place in case they become separated from the fabric during the embroidery process.

10. Lay the selected threads on the fabric and view the combination.

11. Stitch a sample of the design on similar (weight, fiber and color) fabric.

12. Listen to the machine. Trouble often lurks around the corner but you can hear it coming your way before disaster strikes. By now, you should be familiar with the machine’s cyclical hum so if you hear something out of the ordinary, stop the machine and investigate.

13. Take a hard look at the test sample and determine if any changes are needed. The fabric should lay flat, outlines should match up, fabric should not bleed through the design (unless specifically digitized for that look) and the colors should be pleasing.

14. Hoop the fabric with stabilizer (if possible). Run your finger across the hooped fabric and make sure it doesn’t snowplow (form ridges in front of your finger). If it does, rehoop and get the fabric taut.

15. Review the template on the hooped fabric and make sure all portions of the design are within the sewing field.

16. Firmly hold the hoop at the attachment and right side of the hoop and slide the hoop onto the machine.

17. Select the design verifying the selection with the template.

18. Place the thread in sequential order on a thread stand or on the machine table.

19. Rotate the design if necessary and position the needle over the template/target sticker’s crosshair.

20. Check the area behind the machine and move any item that could obstruct the movement of the hoop.

21. Remove the template/target sticker and add a topper if required.

22. If your machine has a baste (or fix) feature, use it now.

23. Stitch the design, rethreading as needed.

24. Remove the hoop from the machine, turn the hoop over and clip the basting thread from the wrong side (this protects the fabric).

25. Release the fabric from the hoop, remove any hoop marks by pressing and trim the excess stabilizer.

In Step 13, I mentioned ‘the colors should look pleasing.’ Such an objective statement! As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder so tell me what color combinations you find ‘pleasing’?

Do you have certain colors you always seem to be using or does your taste change with the seasons and trends? If so, what are you current top picks? Share your comment with us and you’ll entered to win Machine Embroidery with Confidence by Nancy Zieman and a set of Robison-Anton threads in the colors Mandarin YLW, Coral and Van Gogh Bl.

Last week we asked if you had a  funny story to share about purchases you’ve made.  We have two lucky winners to announce this week as SewAZ Embroidery Designs graciously donated two $50 shopping sprees.  The winners are…Marsha Nelson and Melissa.

marsha nelson said…
“I bought a thingamajig to turn spaghetti straps. Dumb!  I don’t wear spaghetti straps. That would be scary. No one I know wears spaghetti straps. It must have been on sale. You know how we all are about sales. Thanks for all the great give-aways and all the creative tips.”

Melissa said…
“My biggest downfall to this day is when patterns are on sale for a buck each at Joann Fabric. I can not let that sale pass by. Can I tell you how many dupes I’ve bought? And I don’t even like to sew clothes in the first place!!!”

Congratulations Marsha and Melissa.  SewAZ will contact you next week with your coupon codes!




  • Bev Passwaters

    Right now I’m making a wall quilt with all shades of blues from light to dark so am using a varigated blue thread and quilting the wall quilt with roses in the design. Showed it to my hubby and he likes it over all the other quilts I’ve made. That makes it a plus for me.

  • Betsy

    Oh boy, I just don’t know how to get away from blue and white. My variation on that would be blue and yellow. I absolutely adore those color combinations. Combining several neutrals together is also very appealing to me. I find I have to make a conscious effort to use different colors in my projects.

  • Patty Ojeda

    At this time I am working on a embroidered signature quilt with a bunch of family names, on cream colored fabric with roses on top and on the bottom of the names. All in greens for the names, and, pink and green for the roses, and two light colored pinks for scrolls around the blocks. I am also surrounding the blocks with cream and light pink half-square triangles.

  • Karin

    I’ve loved purple & teal together since before it was popular! And, lucky me, just the other day, I stumbled across Jinny Byer’s Moonglow paper-pieced blocks of the month. Even luckier, yesterday, my local fabric-lady got in a shipment of batiks (which I ADORE) in all the right colors!

    So, I guess there’s no reason now not to start in on it (except the 86 page – yes, eighty SIX page pattern!).

    Hope mine comes out looking half as good as the cover picture!

  • VickiT

    I just love purples and blues as a combination but, I try very hard to steer clear of using purple so much. Because I try not to use it as purple is my favorite color, I find that I rarely use it which I STILL do not understand. LOL Color combinations I love other than that would be a mossy green and dark rose. That’s such a pretty color mixture.

  • Carol C

    Color combos? Someone in my “newbie” shoes can only dream of such fare!! I just began shedding the fear and trepidation that comes with learning how to embroider on my new machine. So far I do every thing in one color. As my confidence grows ….. and it does with each successful project…my choices will probably go with the seasons. I was born in the fall, so oranges and yellows are my favorites…but spring is coming….so yellow, pink and green are sure to be seen. Maybe tomorrow is the day for my “spring” into a multi-colored project.

  • Patricia

    I love green! My motto is: A quilt isn’t a quilt until it has some green in it somewhere. This may only be a leaf on the label, but there has to be a spot of green somwhere!


    i am an equal opportunity embroiderer. i use what suits my fancy at the time. love rich colors, bright, neutrals…….

  • Brigitte Cowan

    I am using Sulky 561 for a redwork quilt for my mother. She loves antiques and I couldn’t think of a quilt that would be better than a redwork quilt. I love redwork, no thread changes, lol.

  • Gail Beam

    I have never had a favorite color, as I love them all! It is fun to use different kinds of threads such as metallics, solar, variegated, and different weights of thread in combination with rayon and poly threads. 30 wt thread is nice to use on areas where I think the material might show from underneath as it is thicker. I use a jean needle when I sew with metallics and 30 wt thread as the needle eye is bigger.

  • Bobbi Joyner

    I love pink and flowers and find myself using the same shades over and over again unless I’m embroidering a sweatshirt for hubby. I really like most colors and love going thru my boxes of thread colors deciding on just the right shade for whatever it is I’m working on. Last year I made things for a Bazaar in our Over 55 park so I did a variety of things with different colors; what fun. Currently I am excited about the big SewExpo coming to Puyallup cuz you all know that we all “need” another pattern, book, fabric or thread.

  • Mary L Haggenmaker

    My favorite color is aqua. Sometimes I wonder if being a Pisces has anything to do with it.

  • Diana

    The colors I seem to be gravitating to are browns and creams on blue fabric. Love Love Love the look!

  • Donna G.

    I don’t have favorite colors, instead I like to use the colors of the season for the project I’m working on. I also like bright colors when I make something for my young grandsons!

  • Marié

    The thread I use most is a golden yellow from Madeira. It is not so yellow that it overpower my design and not so dark that it cannot add a spark to my design.

  • Sally in Saudi

    Like a child, I’m draw to bright, shiny colors. I have an abundance of these colors in my stash and I try to use them whenever I can. But there’s still some that I may never find a use for, like variegated, neon thread.

  • Susan Wilson

    I seem to use browns and creams/taupes a lot. I think they have a classy, rich look. I even used these colors on a baby diaper/burp pad and the Mom loved it!

  • Jolan

    Blues, blues, anything remotely hinting of blue!!!! My thread drawers are overflowing with shades of blue/blue green/green blue blue blue blue!!!

    • Denise Holguin

      We usually joke at the magazine because I’m always trying to add a hint of blue somewhere in our pages!

      Denise Holguin
      Managing Editor

  • Berenice Trickett

    Thanks so much for the tips!! I don’t know why, after over three years of embroidering, I have never heard of “snow plowing”. Hmmm, maybe that what is what was wrong with a couple of projects!!! Colors!!! Yahoo!! Anyone who knows my would say “GREEN!”. Grass green, that tender green of new plant shoots, emerald green, and of course that famous color from the green flash that occurs at sunset very rarely over my beautiful Pacific Ocean. Oh, then can we start on the shades of green that play there… My oldest daughter is telling me to mention lime green, her current fav with dark violet. I had to try the browns & creams on blue that Diana likes, not bad! Red, orange, yellow, GREEN, blue, indigo & violet are a great combo too!

  • marsha nelson

    Blue, blue, and more blue. I can’t stop buying blue! Lots of blue thread in every shade and hue. Lots of blue fabric. I have to concentrate on not buying more blue. I have a blue and purple quilt on my quilting machine right now. It will be stunning with my blue bedroom.

  • Myrna Leard

    I seem to be drawn to summer colours; the pinks, blues, yellows and greens we see in gardens in the summer. Of course, at Christmas time I go for all the colours of that season. Occasionally I try to change my choices but that will depend on what I am embroidering and who will receive the item.

    Thanks for all the information you pass on to us and your newsletters.

  • Gail Knight

    What Colors Do I Use? What a question–so i had to find out. Just a quick look can tell because of the spools that are the most gone. I use pastels the most. that is probably because I embroider many many baby blankets. But when I am embroidering, I want EVERY COLOR! I love to use lost of different ones, My big dream is to have a thread rack in my sewing room with All the colors on it for me to just go to and pick the perfect one.
    Love what you do for us. A request: An 8×8 snap hoop for the Pfaff Creative Vision. :0)

  • Greta

    I embroider mostly baby items but like the look of bright colors, so I have done ladybugs in lavender and lime green, elephants in raspberry with light pink or blue, trucks in bright yellow with vermillian, puppies wearing light blue pj’s with bright blue highlights and many more over the years. Playing with the colors is at least half the fun of embroidery!!


  • Shirley R

    As I look at my embroidery threads, I see an abundance of blues, purples and greens, consequently when I embroidered some dish towels with a coffee theme, I had a lot of browns and beiges to purchase. I do, however, also like the color combos of black-brown-beige and red-white-black. I am working on increasing my threads to a more well-rounded color stash.

  • Rebecca G

    I tend to stick with the colors I love. They end up in all of my projects. I love greens, browns, pinks and purples.

  • Valli Lopez

    For such a long time, I was such a primtive and Amish color person. For some reason, that I can’t explain, I completely when out of my box and am enjoying using bright colors. Maybe the light bulb finally worked in my darkness.

  • karen trott

    My color choices vary at lot and are most dependent on the design and project. However, the new neon colors have me creating designs just for those colors – pink, orange, green,yellow. They are such fun colors and really add pop to a design.

  • Aurora Woods

    I am new to machine embroidery and only yesterday took my first class with my new machine. I am already hooked and as for thread colors I am like a kid in a candy shop where everything looks so good. If I have to pick a favorite I do think that different shades of teal combined with olive greens and pinks would have to stand above the rest.

    • eileen

      Congratulations, Aurora! I wish you the best as you delve into machine embroidery. It is a very rewarding hobby and will challenge you at times but keep at it – it’s only fabric and thread not muscle and bone! Keep stitching – trial and error will help you grow you skills.

  • Sheila Eyre

    Although I use many colors and combinations depending on the project, I always seem to gravitate to using a surplus of greens, especially olives and “army” greens.
    My love of green has evolved through the years. When I went to away to college my mother would often send me a little treat or surprise outfit in the mail. All those items were green and when I asked her,”Why green?” She said, “It’s your color!”. That was in the days long before personal coloring–but my mom was right and it’s still “My color”!

  • pam duxbury

    My favorite colors right now are salmon and brown. It may not seem like they go together but they are the perfect blend for my 3 grand daughters.

    • eileen

      I seem to be using the combination of coral and tan or salmon and gray quite often. I love those combos – they seem very fresh – and wearable!

  • Susan Burns

    My longtime favorite colors, separate or together are blue and green. I am recently getting up to date by adding some acid apple green to the combo, and find this really makes my projects sing!

  • April

    My favorite colors lately are purple and turquoise, not necessarily together. Of course I end up stitching a lot of purple and pink because those are my two daughters’ favorite colors. I tend to like lime green and a deeper pink right now and anything with brown (brown and turquoise, brown and pink, brown and purple, etc). But anything design with fall colors, shades of red, orange and yellow will always grab my attention too.

  • Devora OLson

    Oh, how I wish for seasons. Living in So. AZ, being a transplant from So. CA, I really miss green and green and green. I didn’t realize how my quilting and embroidery color choices had changed until I starting thinking about your question. Looking through my quilt pictures, I have gone from Monet colors…early 80’s (soft greens, pink, and lavenders) to the 90’s with more earth tones always various shades of darker, browner greens. This is when I moved to the desert. Finding myself in the 2000’s I started using lighter backgrounds..more sun?..and using bright, vibrant embroidery threads. Today I find myself always using some shades of green in my embroidery. I always thought that my favorite colors were blue and purple. Wow, am I surprised! My favorite color must be green.

    • eileen

      Devora, sounds like you had a fun experience taking a look at your work through the years. Funny how our environment affects our work. Sometimes, the changes are subtle and take some time to discover.

  • Edith

    I’ve been doing a lot in pink and black. Those are my 7-yo’s favorite colors! I keep looking for a variegated or twisted or similar tread with a pink/black variation.
    My favorite color is purple. My husband and daughter bought me a large cone of bright purple for Christmas last year, so I have been using it for a lot of things too. It’s been interesting trying to find FSL designs that look good in purple 🙂

  • Carol Seavitt

    Teal, light green and pick — I was playing with colors for my daughters winter formal as she wanted a design and didn’t know the color. I married some designs then stitched out a sample with these three different colors and voila it was beautiful! Never would I have thought these three go together.

    • Carol Seavitt

      Oops — that was pink not pick (sorry)

      • Denise Holguin

        Nice selection of colors– I haven’t tried that combo either.

        As for your “oops” I can’t tell you how many times I have typed and made various typos. It keeps us human!

        Happy Stitching!

        Denise Holguin
        Managing Editor

  • Mary Parker

    Hi Eileen,
    It seems like I always us the same colors, purple, greens, reds and a little yellow thrown in. Why does it see so hard to get out of the color box??? I try, but am drawn to the colors I like best!!!
    I just picked out the fabric for a quilt class that is little dresses, and you guessed it, they are reds greens and yellows!!!!
    Guess there is no cure!!!

  • Peggy

    If it is blue it is beautiful! Blue always finds it’s way into my designs!

  • Connie Gozdan

    I cannot seem to keep my hands off the following Robison Anton thread colors:
    Green Dust
    Petal Pink
    Chinese Yellow
    Green Willow
    Its pitiful, I tell you! Of course having a new granddaughter would have NOTHING to do with that! Right? Thanks for all the fun and tips. I appreciate you!

  • Marcia

    I am working on a birthday door banner and placemats for my Mom’s 97th and Dad’s 90th birthday this month. For this project, I selected a bright turquoise fabric and used silver metallic, yellow, pink and turquoise for the applique gift and birthday cake. It is more fun to just let the colors flow for each design.

  • Monica Gerard

    I tend to gravitate to purples, teals, pinks (not pale). Last quilt store visit, I bought quite a bit of some beautiful batiks that had these colors so gorgeously integrated into browns (which I am not a fan of) and blacks. Have no idea what I am going to use these fabrics on yet… almost don’t want to use them yet. Just want to look at them. How funny ;).

  • Marilyn Hines

    I think tone on tone looks very rich. I also love pinks,plumb,berries,purple or grape , mauve,teal, turquoise, most blues and greens; depending what they will be used for. Yellow,brown,rust , cinnamon and orange are lovely, but I don’t weare them because they don’t do a thing for me and I need all the help I can get!

  • Cathy

    It really just depends on what project I decide to work on, lately it is all baby things for my grand baby that is due in June. Shades of blues, reds, greens and yellows have been my favorite lately for all of the clothes. Next will be all kinds of colors for the animal quilt I am going to start.

  • Vicky Morrow

    One of the first things I would do is a quilt for my sister. Monday, March 28 was her last working day; she is/was a physical therapist in a nursing home, and she was still working full time. She will be 72 1/2 years old. My next projects would be for my 2 granddaughters. The oldest granddaughter will be 13 in June, and I would really love to play with these products and do something extra special for her. My youngest granddaughter is 6 weeks old; I think her project would involve a lap-size quilt which had velcro loops to hold small toys and rattles attached to the quilt.

  • Evelyn Gonzalez

    My favorite color will always be true blue! That’s why I turn to the color wheel for diversity (and to escape my natural tendency to make everything in blue!) — something I learned about long ago in high school art class. With the color wheel, you can’t go wrong, even if you’re a novice. There are 3 types of colors: primary, secondary (or complementary) and tertiary. You start with the 3 primary colors:
    Then, from there you build the secondary (complementary) colors. Here’s where the fun begins. Your color wheel will now be full of colors. (Just “Google” the words “color wheel” and you will see many variations of color wheels). Back to our wheel. Pick a color: blue, for example. Draw a line straight across the wheel from the blue and you will land in blue’s “complementary” color. And so it goes around the wheel. Complementary colors are thought to complete each other.
    Read about color wheels whenever you’re unsure about color or just stuck in a color rut, like me. A color wheel might be your new best friend!

  • Calla Ferguson

    My top color picks are blends of purples, golds, and greens. The look is subtle but pleasing. I would love to have Nancy’s book. I do not have a good embroidery book that covers everything from A to Z, and this book would be perfect!

  • Evelyn J. Gonzalez

    i LOVE CREAM AND BLACK, ALSO TEAL AND A DEEP, CREAMY BROWN. But I’m a “Blue Girl” at heart — my closet is blue, blue, blue. My stash is blue, blue, blue. I don’t care what color someone favors; if I’m making them something it will undoubtedly be some shade of BLUE!

    Sound like I’m in a rut? Sometimes I feel that way and then I turn to the trusty old color wheel, which always gives me new ideas for color combinations. Or I go on line and see what some of my favorite designers are doing. Even if I can’t afford their pricey material, looking at their work gives me great ideas for color and design — and I just have to buy (for the moment – I have 2 in college) the less expensive, non-designer fabric…but it works!!

  • printed pocket folders

    Wonderful work! This is the type of information that should be shared across the web. Disgrace on Google for not positioning this put up upper! Come on over and talk over with my web site . Thanks =)

  • clay soap

    There are actually some fascinating points in time in this write-up but I don’t know if I see all of them center to heart. There is some validity but I will take hold opinion till I appear into it further. Very good write-up , thanks and we want more!


    I purchased Calligraphy Project Designer. I can import a design, add words, and save the new design.

    I don’t know how to save it to a file.

    How do I create a FILE NAME?
    Can someone help me get the design into a file so I can load it onto a USB stick. I have a Brother NV6000D embroidery and sewing machine which uses PES. format.

  • Richie Kander

    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I will definitely comeback.

  • Alice Cornelson

    I tend to use colors of the seasons, but also those that go well with specific projects. Thanks for your blog and useful ideas.