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Alignment and Placement Continuous Embroidery

Placement Guides, Alignment Marks, Placement Marks, What’s the Difference?

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Placement Guides, Alignment Marks, Placement Marks, What’s the Difference?

No matter what you call them, they are a visual aid to place fabric in a hoop so that the design stitches exactly where planned.

Placement Guides

A placement guide is usually a running stitch partial outline of an item such as a collar point, corner of a rectangle, pocket top or pant leg hem. The placement guide is normally stitched on tear-away adhesive stabilizer first and then the item is aligned with the placement guide for perfect positioning. The placement guide is torn away after the item is removed from the stabilizer. Nancy Zieman and I used this technique in Designer Handbags and Designer Necklines.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Placement guides are helpful for placing embroidery close to a fabric edge. They are not appropriate for embroidery that is centered in large expanses of fabric such as the center of a pillow sham, towel, jacket back, etc.

Alignment and/or Placement Marks

Alignment and placement marks (the terms alignment and placement marks are used interchangeably) are usually running stitches stitched in an arrow or crosshair formation that are included in the color sequences of the design. They can be located within the design’s boundaries or just outside the design area. Not intended to be pretty stitches, alignment and placement marks are functional only and will be removed from the fabric after the embroidery is complete.

If you link the alignment marks, the embroidery will be linked. The simple graphic style of alignment marks (arrows and crosshairs) make it easy for an embroiderer to determine if the designs are going to connect. The crosshair alignment marks stitch directly on top of their corresponding stitched alignment marks. The arrow alignment marks usually abut at one side of the arrow. Since the alignment marks are always the first stitches of a design, it’s easy to see if the designs will link as intended before stitching any of the design’s beautiful stitches (which are much harder to remove than alignment marks).

Let’s take a look at two embroidery designs from machine Embroidered Quilting and Applique. SwirlBottom is an ‘innie’ design and SwirlTop, an ‘outie’ design.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery BlogEileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

When placed end to end, there is a large opening between the two designs. Not very desirable for continuous embroidery.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

When I move the second design (SwirlBottom) up to the first design and abut the alignment marks, the stitches join seamlessly.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Here are some key elements to remember. Alignment marks must be stitched with every design so that you can connect the designs. Normally, you will align the bottom marks of a stitched design with the top marks of the design you are about to stitch. (This can change if you are moving right to left or vice versa.)

Freedom to move the fabric to align the second design is VERY helpful. There are a few ways to achieve this.

  1. A flat magnetic hoop such as Snap-Hoop or Magna-Hoop gives you the opportunity to move the hooped fabric to align the placement marks. Advance the needle to the first stitch (the alignment mark) and move the fabric until the stitched placement mark is positioned right under the needle. Travel through the alignment marks to verify placement.
  2. Adhesive stabilizer in a standard hoop will let you slide the fabric under the needle (which is advanced to the first stitch, the alignment mark) before pressing the fabric to the hooped tacky surface. Travel through the alignment marks to verify placement.
  3. Perfect Alignment Laser(PAL) precisely matches alignment marks when used in this simple fashion. Stitch the first design including the alignment marks. Remove the fabric from the hoop. Hoop adhesive stabilizer and stitch the alignment marks of the second design on the stabilizer. Remove the hoop from the machine and slide the hoop under PAL’s beam. Move the hoop until the horizontal beam is sitting on the horizontal line of the stitched alignment marks and PAL’s vertical beam is centered between the alignment marks.Eileen's Machine Embroidery BlogSlide the fabric under the beam aligning the first design’s stitched alignment marks with the beam. The design will connect as intended because the beam is aligned with the second set of alignment marks even though you can’t see them at this point (remember, they are underneath the fabricEileen's Machine Embroidery BlogWith the fabric secured on the adhesive stabilizer, attach the hoop to the machine and stitch the remainder of the design.So where do you get placement guides and alignment marks? If you’re comfortable with digitizing, you can create your own and add them to any design you want to transform into a continuous embroidery design. Just remember, the stitches need to be like basting stitches – easy to remove.

    A wide assortment of placement guides can be found in Place & Stitch. Click here to view the product.

    You can add your own alignment marks with Perfect Alignment Software.

    Perfect Alignment Software and PAL are on sale this week. Click here to view a video and see the special.

Here’s your assignment this week:

What type of continuous embroidery project would you like to see featured in Designs in Machine Embroidery? Post your comment for a chance to win a $25 shopping spree on the Designs in Machine Embroidery website.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

The winner of last week’s assignment answered the following question:

Tell me about your embroidery habits. Are you stitching Valentine and Spring themed projects now? Or maybe you are the type to get ahead of schedule and you’re stitching for the summer or fall? Post your comment for a chance to win 30 Favorite Embroidery Tips & Techniques.


The winner is:  Whitney H.

“I just finished a minky robe for my son. That stuff is hard to sew with! Worth it though, as the robe is the softest thing ever! Can you embroider that stuff?

I’ve also just made my way through a huge pile of ’round tuits’: various clothes that needed a small repair. I feel my wardrobe expanding already.”

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog


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  • Keri Tieman

    I haven’t learned how to do this yet. I loved reading about it and would love to learn. So I love all you articles that help me learn a little more. Thank you!

  • Carol Seavitt

    Would love to see shirt collar and front continuous hoop design … especially is the design need to be ‘reconfigured’. By the way, I am a walking commercial for the PAL — just love it Eileen.

  • Virginia Frazier

    I would love to see continuous border designs on a table runner or table cloth

  • Anne Marie Reilly

    I just purchased PAL but have not used it yet. The above explanation is very helpful. Reading about any kind of continuous border designs usage would be helpful to me.

  • Mitzi

    I would love to see some celtic chain work in continuous format

  • Donna

    I would like simple designs that would decorate a little girl’s skirt hem.

  • LeAnne

    I’d like to see an article on continuous borders for quilt sashings and borders. How about curtains and valances too?

  • Linda S

    I’d love to see continuous border lace designs for heirloom sewing.

  • Terri Vanden Bosch

    How about a sheet set??? A personalized set for a child would be fun to learn how to do.

  • sharon F.

    I would love to learn continuous embroidery. A tute showing this method on pillowcases and sheets would be great!

  • Marge Geraci

    I have not attemped this yet. So firs of all I would like to work on something small like maybe a table runner. But a pretty one. One I could use on a long coffee able in my country style living room.

  • Gail Beam

    I have never attempted a continuous design, but would love try the method out on a pillowcase, sheet, or bottom of a sweatshirt. Love all of your articles! They are always so informative with lots of pictures to help us understand how something is done.

  • Kathy

    Roses would be great,love learning all I can, love all your infor., that you give us,love all the books, designs, everything, can’t get enough. Just don’t have enough time to get everything done.( don’t sleep) ha,ha. can’t say thank you enough

  • Barb Miller

    Something with moon, stars, sun etc. I am making a pillowcase for a little girl with glow in the dark thread. I need something for a special “Good night, Sleep tight” pillowcase.

  • karin

    I’ve been embroidering for a few years and I have never quite gotten the hang of continuous borders. I have lots of designs that are digitized for it, just haven’t done it yet.

    I’d love to incorporate this type of design in a quilt border or tablecloth, or even a Christmas tree skirt. Or the hem of a square dance dress! There are just sooo many uses, I can’t decide which one to do first! Thank you for taking the mystery out of the process!!

  • Martine

    I’ve done this type of embroidery with the ‘Endless Hoop’ on my Designer1. What I find difficult is to make sure the middle of for instance a towel coincides with either the end or the middle of a design and I hate it to be off.

  • Nell Summerlin

    I would love to see continuous embroidery on hemlines for children and adults and on jackets.

  • Barbara

    Wouldn’t it be fun to see continuous embroidery scarves and shawls? Just in time to make light covers for the summer when we need sundresses outside and something to keep the super air conditioned chill off when inside!

  • Colleen Bell

    Thank you so much. That was so helpful to this newbie. A fancy belt for my college girls’ sweater dresses would be so fine.

    Uh – I just read the post above me – yes – scarves and shawls would be fun. We live near NYC and can get pashmina scarves on the streets from the vendors for $5. When you come to the sewing event in May at Mystic, CT, you should consider a visit to NYC and the garment district – fabrics beyond the imagination!

  • Rhonda Gillette

    I’d love to see more quilt border designs. Both in narrow width’s and some as big as 4″ wide.

  • Donna

    I have some very plain blouses that I bought that I would like to do some continuous designs on, as well as some jackets I am making.

  • Linda

    I have often wanted to do a continuous cutwork embroidery on the the hem of a blouse and wondered what to do about the seams if I am making the blouse myself

  • Tricia Kemp

    This is great information. I have purchased Pal and have not tried it yet. I would like to know how to handle continuous embroidery around the bottom of skirts and pants, so that it looks good at seam lines.

  • Beth R

    I would like to see a continuous lace design used to make lace for a tablecloth or table linens.

  • Jean

    I’d like to see a whimsical continuous design of owls to be used on home furnishings such as table runner and/or pillows.

  • Shirley R

    I would like to see ideas for using continuous embroidery in varous quilting applications.

  • Jacque

    I am too scared to try continuous borders. So anything to help explain it and make it seem not so intimidating. I would like to do on bottom of skirts or shirt tails.

  • Jacque

    Can you tell me how to print out these instructions on the different things you show us? I have a notebook that I put things like this in so I can refer back to. It would be so helpful.

  • Rachel

    I think an assortment of designs in the decor category would be so useful. With the change of seasons, types of items, there’s just so many situations to use them.

  • sheila

    I would like to see continuous embroidery design matching up for kitchen curtins and a table cloth. Or bedroom curtins and pillow shams and sheet set.I have a coninuous ecbroidery hoop and have never used it after having it 4 years, Sheila

  • Devora

    I would love to learn how to size designs to be able to put a llarge design on the back of a shirt and a smaller version on cuffs or collars.

  • Whitney H

    I’d like to see a men’s shirt with an embroidered stripe of design down each side. There’s so little to stitch for men!

  • Alo Sen

    I love cutwork and I would like to see some cutwork continuous embroidery.

  • Nancy Nebeker

    Cutwork continuous embroidery for me too especially addressing hooping something that has been cutaway on the previous stitching

  • Susan J

    I’m with Rhonda: would love some quilt border designs in different sizes and designs. Just got the PAL and I am looking forward to using it.

  • Janet K

    I would love to see a continuous design placed around the neckline of a woman’s T-shirt.

  • Donna G.

    I’d like to see a continuous border on a skirt or shirt where there are seams. Is there anything different to do when embroidering over seams to get the designs to line up right?

  • Fran Dispensa

    Just purchased the snap hoop for my machine to make it easier to hoop and line up continuous borders and split designs. Now trying to save up for the PAL. Would love to see a continuous border for round table toppers.

  • Veronica Harper

    I would like to have more ideas on continuous embroidery for table cloths. I do so enjoy your blogs and this is the first time I have made a contact with you.

  • Calla

    I’d love to see more continuous embroidery border patterns with coordinating corners. Long skirts are popular again and they look great with a continuous border along the bottom hem. A basic tunic is transformed with a continuous border along the bottom and corner designs at each slit opening. I could go on and on with table runners, blankets, etc….
    And of course, they would all include alignment markings!!

  • Judith Carlon

    I recently did a sweatshirt makeover and wanted to use a continuous design along the front opening but I chickened out. Just wasn’t sure how to do it. I just placed a design at the lower front and a smaller design at the brooch area. Would love to learn how to do continuous designs perfectly and confidently.

  • Elaine Caskey

    I would like to be able to confidently create borders in different situations like in decorating or on clothing. I would like to know how to take a design and create a border out of it by repeating it and lining it up properly. Is that possible to do successibly? I appreciate all of your ideas and helps.

  • angie

    I would like to see how to create a continuous border and scalloped hem edge of a skirt, blouse, tablecloth etc showing to align each section with the PAL ( I just ordered one!)

  • Lenny Wolfgramm

    Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the issues. It was really informative. Your website is very useful. Many thanks for sharing!

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