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Embroidery Tips & Techniques

Time-Saving Habits

A few weeks ago blog reader Dee Bratcher wrote:

“Thank you for all the articles, sharing of projects, etc, now I just need to find more time in a day to work on all the things I see – can you help with that?  Seriously – quick tips, streamlining processes, shortcuts and things not to shortcut would be great to learn about.  Looking forward to the next article!”

Although I can’t hand you more time to enjoy your hobby, here’s a few of my favorite time-saving habits.

1. Stock up on supplies. Nothing slows you down more than running out of the right materials for the project. Always have a variety of stabilizers and threads on hand.  Take advantage of store sales and buy in bulk if necessary.

2. Pre-cut stabilizers to fit your most popular hoops. You’ll have a stack to go to whenever you’re ready to hoop.

3. Consider purchasing extra hoops in your favorite sizes.  This way you can prepare the next hooping while the first one is stitching. My number one go-to hoop is the 5” x 7”. I have four of them and I still believe they were worth the investment.

4. Plan your project by using embroidery templates and targets.  Make the placement of the embroidery on the item with the target stickers. When you’re interrupted during the embroidery process (and who isn’t?) you’ll know where you left off.

5. Keep all materials for the project in a zip-lock plastic bag or see-through container.  This eliminates wasting time looking for misplaced items.

6. Use pre-wound bobbins or once your bobbin stash has dwindled to four, devote a 20 minutes to winding bobbins to build up your cache.

7. Line up your thread by the machine in the order you’ll be using them.  If a certain thread has to be used twice, in a different position, designate the position with a penny or other small item.

8. Keep a note pad by your machine and use it to document the position of the design in the sewing field.  If disaster strikes, you’ll be able to resume embroidering quickly.

9. Make use of post-it notes to remind yourself when to mirror image a design, rotate or duplicate it.  I stick the note right to the machine so I know that I have to apply this feature when I stitch the next design. 

10. When making changes to embroidery designs in editing software, click on Save As often and save your latest version under a new name. You’ll be able to review your work quickly and efficiently.

Do you have any time saving tips that you use to keep your project flowing smoothly?  Share your tip by leaving a comment and you’ll be entered to win…30 Favorite Embroidery Tips and Techniques with Nancy Zieman and Eileen Roche!

Last week we asked you about your iron!  The winner of the $25.00 shopping spree at is…Bev Crabb!

“I am an auto shutoff girl. I am simply too forgetful. I have one of the older Panasonic cordless models that is great to take to retreats. There are times where taking the iron to the project rather than vice versa can be a real advantage.”

Congratulations, Bev!




  • Susan Wilson

    Recently I was going to applique several t-shirts for my grandson for his birthday using my embroidery machine. I used the “assembly line” approach:
    1) I decided on all of the designs I would use
    2) I choose all of the fabrics I would use and ironed Heat N Bond on each
    3) I sprayed a temporary fabric adhesive on the back of each t-shirt and put the stablisher on each
    4) I enjoyed stitching the appliques

  • Anne Marie Reilly

    I keep a 6 inch basket with a plastic liner in it next to my machine. When I clip a thread it goes right into the basket which makes cleaning up easier late on. When clipping a thread, I hold it taut with a tweezer so I can clip it closer to the project and not leave a tail.

  • Berenice Trickett

    I keep a small spiral notebook next to my machine and write down the name of pattern I am using, where it is in my computer or discs and which color threads I used on specific items. I also note if I did any tweaking on the project. It saves me lots of time looking for it if someone wants to reorder.

  • Greta

    I make a lot of burp cloths and have found that the assembly line works best for me. If I try to do them one at a time it is easier to stop what I am doing after the first is done.

    I also have all my stabilizers at hand and ready, fast frames clean, full bobbin, threads are filed in drawers according to family so I can get the ones I want quickly.

    The slowest part of the process is threading my machine… once all 10 needles are primed it begins. Today I made 3 burps start to finish and embroidered 2 blankets… a good days work 😀


  • Michele McLean

    I use and empty egg carton for my threads you can hold 12 colors and not worry if they might get mixed up, when a color I need to use twice I skip the spot in the carton and if more than 12 colors I just use another carton.

    • Joyce Iverson

      I saved and clean the narrow sticks from corn dogs when the grands have them, number the top and stick them in top of the spools in the order they are to sew out. Can put more than one stick in if used more than once.

  • Edith

    I don’t pre-cut my stabilizer – it wastes too much that way. If I cut any, I cut a few feet or so – something manageable. I hoop as close to one corner as possible and embroider, then cut/tear as close to the design as possible. I then hoop for the next design as close to that hole as possible and so on. That way, you end up using the “spare” space in between designs.

    • Anna

      Hi there, I do the same! I end up cutting a good length and use the hair snaps to hold the extra in a roll.

  • Peggy Johns

    I found that a beer carton is perfect for stabelizer. It’s not a neat as the store bought ones but it’s free.

    • Donna

      That is an awesome idea!

    • Sharon Hazlewood

      Cover your carton with brown paper of fabric to brighten it up

  • Kathy

    To help save time, I make sure that I have some regular stitching while the embroidery machine is doing it’s stitching. This way I can work on two projects at once. I have my machine set up at right angle so I am never far from either one.

    • Eileen Roche

      My machines are set up the same way! Very productive room layout.

  • Shirley R

    Eileen, all the tips you have given us here are so valuable. I line my threads up at the machine too, but never thought of putting a placemarker in the lineup for the 2nd use of the same thread – neat! I find that the 5 x 7 hoop is the one I use most also. So that brings to mind that even though I have the 5 x 7 hoop that came with the Babylock machine, and the Magna Hoop, I think it’s time to consider another 5 x 7 in the Snap Hoop – thanks for that tip – gives me an excuse to buy it, lol! I really don’t have an additional tip, but wanted to thank you for the wonderful ones you have given us!

  • Donna G.

    I use Nancy Zieman’s 10-20-30 Minutes to Sew approach when I embroider. If I have only a few minutes, I may plan my project or decide what “theme” to use. If I have 15-20 minutes, I’ll pick out designs, thread and stabilizer. More time will be used to hoop and sew out the designs. I find that even the smallest bit of time can be used productively!

    • Eileen Roche

      Donna, I agree! Taking advantage of small segments of time is the best way to get large jobs completed!

      • MrsFredPed

        I’m going to start doing that more, too. It is amazing how much you can accomplish, a little bit at a time! Thanks for the reminder! 🙂

  • Sue Cubberley

    I use a wine bottle rack to hold my stabilizer. When I changed my kitchen decor, I had a leftover one.

    • Joyce Iverson

      I have 3 wine racks, 1 for cutaways, 1 for tearaways and 1 for water solubles. I have less to go through when looking for something for a project. Also I write a code in the tube when I unwrap it, that I’ve set up so I know. F for fusible, S for sticky, etc.

      • MrsFredPed

        WOW! I love this idea. Now I need to find some wine racks!

  • Martha Hubbard

    These are all great tips! I do find myself spending more time searching around to gather everything, instead of really getting to the sewing. My goal for the winter is to realllly get my sewing room (guest room) arranged to have everything organized for easy access, instead of having to dig out all my embroidery supplies when I want to make something. Thanks for all your ideas!

  • Sue Abram

    Your time saving tips are great!! One that I borrowed that works great for me is to put all my supplies for a project, be it hand or machine embroidery, on an over turned frisbee. That way if I have to move things I just pick up the frisbee and away I go. A little hint about using the post-it-note at your sewing machine — Do Not stick the post-it on your sewing machine screen. When you remove the post-it a bit of sticky residue will be left behind and it is not visible until there is dust and lint stuck to it making a mess of your screen. 🙂

  • Mary Haggenmaker

    I once used the extra hoop method for a specific project I do once a year involving about 30 items. I now put the sticky stabilizer in a large hoop..5×7 is good and just line them up on the hoop and move the design from one to the next as I go. I only have to rehoop a couple of times and there is far less waste of stabilizer.

  • Desiree Kumpf

    If I know what I’m going to embroider tomorrow morning, then tonight I would print a template and color list. I find all the spools for the design. If I have time I thread all the colors, if not I line them up in order. Depending on how late it is, I may or may not hoop the item. So in the morning at most I have to hoop and snap it on the machine. If I have several things to embroider that use the same colors, I do those next so I don’t have extra re-threadings. I also have my hoops hanging on the wall by the machine and on the desk a small waste can for thread snips, tools, and bobbins. My iron and a small board are in a place where all I have to do is switch it on. And my stabilizers are all in one place so that I can find them!

  • Sara

    I work for an online retailer, so in order to streamline the workflow between to machine operators, we keep all orders in date order. This makes it so much easier, because we can grab the oldest order right off the top. I have 2 hoops for all sizes. This way while one is sewing, the other one is already hooped and ready to go. Since I generally am working on other tasks while my machine is going (and multi-tasking is a necessity), I generally do all my garment clean-up at the same time while the last one is sewing. This gives me a longer window to get something done, versus just he minute or two if I was cleaning up each one when it finished. We have a 6-head and a 15-head. Our most popular colors (white, black, red) stay in the machines at all times to reduce the number of rethreads and we only buy pre-wound bobbins.

  • Beth Rowan

    I have a journal that I keep all of my project info in – I list the design name (including file name on the computer), list of thread colors used, any problems with stitching, and the fabric, needle, and stabilizer used on the project, as well as the date and the number of hours it took to stitch (if I remember to note that part!). That way if I want to make another of the same item later on, I can make it exactly the same if I want to or change it if I need to do it differently.

  • Darlene Jacolik

    I love machine applique and set up my projects ahead of time by cutting all of the frabric I will need for each section and keeping in labeled in plastic zip bags. Eileen, I use most of the tips you mentioned, but have to admit, I have not made a not of any settings I changed. That is really a great tip! Thanks for all of your ideas.

  • Susan Constantine

    I like to cut ahead, keep work in bins and note 1,2,3 etc. Preparation is the key. When I find I have extra time I sew and embroider at the same time. I have extra hoops plus a hoop master and of course snap hoops and magna hoops. When cleaning (ha!) sewing room I usually have a one color design in the hoop, like FSL. When you love something, you find or make the time. My husband claims DME magazines are very expensive…….joke.

  • Charlotte

    Thanks for the tips, great idea to use a penny for a color repeat placeholder.

  • karin

    These are all such great ideas!!! I, too, find lining up all the spools in advance saves time. I have the 10-spool rack that sits at the back of the machine, so when I have a duplicate color, I leave a spool empty.

    I LOVE the idea of using wine racks for stabilizers – I usually attach a sticky note with a pin to labe each…but, even so, sometimes I find myself tearing the corner just to see if it’s cutaway or tear away..

    I keep all my embroidery blanks on one shelf, all my finished products on another, and all my WIP on yet another. You’d think I owned stock in Ziplock, as many things as I store in gallon bags!

    I guess my best time-saver, tho, is to trim jump threads off just-completed projects while the next one is being sewn out.

  • Carol Seavitt

    Ironing the leftover stabilizer and putting it in a large zip-lock baggie has been a huge time saver and money saver for me. I use a piece of stabilizer between the hooped stabilizer and the cutaway which gives the embroidery a nice finish. The baggies are marked and the pieces are ready to go for the next project.

  • Donna Noll

    I use a June Tailor wooden thread stand that holds 30 spools. I put a number at the bottom of each spool so it faces out. When I pull my threads for a project I put them on the appropriate number. If there is a repeat I put the spool on the next number after I use it. This really helps when there are large projects. I have a smaller one for the bobbins when they need to match.

  • Shirley Covert

    I too like to keep my snipped threads off of the floor but I have found a way to recycle at the same time. I recycle square tissue boxes by removing the plastic from the opening. The oval opening is perfect for depositing those thread ends. I have several machines and I have a box next to each.

    The salvaged snips can be used later as embelishments on projects using wss or, what I do most often, placing the threads in the bushes and trees in the spring for the birds to use in their nests. A mesh vegetable bag works great for this also which is recycling another discard.

  • Sheri Roach

    My biggest time saver is expensive – it’s to have two sewing/embroidery machines so one can be embroidering while I sew on the other.

    My next biggest time saver, ironically, is to read the pattern/instructions all the way through before I begin. I find that when I do this I am much better prepared and things flow more smoothly.


  • Martha

    I have a small thread rack that I’ve numbered each spool pin. This way I can go down the list of embroidery thread and place them on the spool pins in order. Once I start sewing out my embroidery design I have all the threads in numerical order.

  • Shelly

    I’ve just started machine embroidery (one week) but I already love the Madeira thread caddy. It lets me line up and prep all the threads for a design and I can thread my machine directly from the caddy instead of mounting and dismounting the spools directly on my machine.

    And my standard sewing machine is the same brand as my embroidery machine, so when I get caught short on bobbin thread in the middle of a project (yes, I did) I can wind bobbins on my standard machine and save re-threading my embroidery machine.

  • Peggy

    The best time saving method is being on vacation. This past week I have finished three items. I have enjoyed all of the tips and mine has been mentioned earlier. I save all of my thread tails. But I take it one step farther and use them in an applique embroidery with light stitching that holds all of the threads down. Very unique applique.

  • Peggy Schroeder

    Please check my little time-saving hints, that I of course, put in the wrong area. I put them in the same comment as the one about another tee shirt revamp. It certainly isn’t a time saving hint to put it in the wrong place—but that seems to be the way my life is running lately!!! I was talking about black pants, tee shirt and towel blanks, and just continued on with the hints. Maybe next time I will get it right, but I make no promises!

  • MrsFredPed

    Just recently I purchased the Embrillance (Thumbnailer) software program to help me organize my tons of embroidery designs. I thought it would take me weeks to complete the task, but working on it just a little bit each night, I was surprised when I was looking for more files but discovered I was actually finished! I re-categorized the designs as I unzipped files and now it’s SO much quicker and easier to find a specific design. All I have to do is click the file, look at the pictures, and make my choice! LOVE IT!!

  • Pam Corder

    To save alot of time using stabilizers – when I get a new roll of stabilizer I throw away the plastic paper but cut out the label on the plastic paper and insert it into the tube so that the words (telling what kind of roll it is) are on the end. Sometimes I put a rubber band around the roll and sometimes I use a small piece of scotch tape to keep the roll rolled up. It is so much easier, less messy and saves alot of time – WHAT MORE CAN WE ASK FOR?

  • Sis

    wonder when Janome will come out with a magna type hoop?

  • Bernice

    To secure rolls of stabilizers, I wrap the roll with a piece of Scotch self-fastening Garland Wrap. Since it sticks to itself, it comes off quickly and easily and can still be used as the roll gets smaller. This wrap is great for securing many other items, too, such as cords, etc. Really a great product.

  • Mary

    How do you store your threads? I have them in plastic bags right now. Reds all together blues altogether ect.. But I feel that is not a good way to do it. I would love a suggestion

    • Irma

      I use a cutlery insert draw and put it in a deep plastic pull out drawer on wheels,very good for the 5000mt threads,I hope this helps you

  • beth daniels

    I have alabel maker and I label all my stabilizers that I open up and keep on a roll. I clean out the plastic that our newspaper comes in and put the roll of stabilizer in it. It keeps it clean and no newsprint get on the stabilizer and the stabilizer is always protected. I use blue painter’s tape to pick up the little threads that are on the embroidery and the back of the embroidery after clipping. It does not stick to the embroidery and comes off easy. Leaves no residue either.

  • Belinda

    I use an adhesive lint roller to roll across my cutting mat, ironing board and other flat surfaces in my sewing room to pick up all those little threads and lint that collect everywhere. So much easier than trying to wipe them off with a dust rag on smooth surfaces and wonderful on the cutting mat and ironing board.

    I also have my sewing room set up with my machines back to back and side to side and use an office chair on wheels to move from one machine to the other. Saves time if doing several steps on different machines.

    I also plan my sewing so that when my embroidery machine is stitching, I am sewing another part of the same project or a different project on my regular machine. That saves time and also I can keep an eye on the embroidery machine should it stop or something goes awry.

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