1. Find a focal point. Examine the garment to determine if there’s a design detail that could serve as the starting or focal point for the embroidery. On this plain sheath, the slit is the only detail. I can choose to accent it or ignore it.
2. Sketch a few possibilities. You don’t have to be an artist. You can trace a similar garment from a pattern or catalog. You only need the basic shape and some dots, squiggles and lines to simulate the embroidery.
3. Print templates of the embroidery design(s). Never take a stitch without seeing the design in actual size on paper. Any embroidery software is capable of producing a template. Just go to File, Print. Consider using transparencies or vellum for translucent templates. Otherwise, cut the templates out paper-doll style. The template must have a center crosshair with an arrow designating the top of the embroidery design. If your templates do not have those markings, add them by drawing a crosshair with a centering guide and marker. Place one arrowhead at the vertical line pointing towards the top of the design.
4. Audition the templates on the garment. Tape the templates on the garment while wearing the garment or using a dress form. It’s very important to ‘see’ the embroidery on the figure. Garments laid on flat surface appear to be much larger than the actually are. Machine embroidery placement is often skewed when decided on flat garments. Take the time to plan the layout correctly.
5. Experiement with the layout by making subtle changes in placement. Take caution when placing templates around the bust line and hips. These are danger areas and can draw unwanted attention (or add girth) to the figure. Sometimes, all that is needed is a small adjustment, such as moving a flower 2” above the bust point. Use a digital camera to record your progress, review the images to decide which placement is best.
If some designs stitch on top of others, write numbers on each template to indicate the stitching sequence.
6. Play with scale. Machine embroidery designs in a variety of sizes create a more interesting layout than repeating the same size design.
7. Add contrast with color, sparkle and shine. If you match the embroidery thread to the base fabric, what’s the point of stitching all of those designs? Separate the embroidery from the fabric by selecting threads that are a different value or color from the base. Incorporate a little splash with metallic threads or crystals. Sparkle gets the eye in a subtle way, remember less is more here.
8. Don’t overlook the power of appliqué. Machine embroidery applique comes in many forms, you can always find one method that works on your fabric. It can pack a powerful punch when dealing with delicate fabrics like lightweight knits, and sheers. It’s a great alternative to high stitch count designs.
9. Include decorative stitching. Want to make your embroidery look like you had an embroidery machine with a 3 ft. sewing field? Just connect the embroidery designs with decorative stitching or satin stitching. In this cover garment, flowers were sprinkled on the bodice then down the sleeve. I satin-stitched the stems to fill the area. Simple to do and very pleasing to the eye.
10. Plan the Process. Once you’ve gone through the first 9 steps, you’ll know what to stitch first, second and third. This embroidery layout plan or schematic will guide you through the whole project. If you get interrupted before completing the project, you’ll know just what to do when you return.
Do you have any favorite tips for planning your embroidery projects? Tell us what works for you when planning a machine embroidery project and you’ll be entered to win a Magna-Hoop!
“I LOVE purses…currently I probably have about twenty in my closet! I have all styles and colors (as I like to have something appropriate for different outfits) but only when I started designing and sewing my own bags did I get something that felt truly “me”. I use my bought handbags as inpiration and combine my favorite details from each to make something unique and useful.”
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