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When planning a two-part series for the Sewing with Nancy television show, Nancy Zieman realized we hadn’t addressed embroidery basics in ages.  Since the hobby has welcomed so many new embroiderers, she felt it was time to address that subject. I wholeheartedly agreed. After carefully studying the embroidery process (hard to do when you stitch all the time and take many steps for granted), I realized it all boiled down to six easy steps.  You can watch the two-part series on Sewing with Nancy online or on your local PBS station.

I thought if I really wanted to get embroiderers off on the right path, they should be armed with the correct information and a few handy tools to get the job done right. So I packed some helpful tools, a 12” centering ruler, 6” target ruler, a sheet of target stickers and the patented Angle Finder, into Machine Embroidery in 6 Easy Lessons, a 64-page full color book. It’s everything an embroiderer needs to stitch beautiful embroidery.

Here’s what you’ll find inside:

Step 1. The Embroidery Machine. Learn why seven key features, (sewing field, design transfer, trace, rotation, mirror image, baste and stitch advance) are all you need.

Step 2. Embroidery Designs. Identify underlay, run, fill and satin stitches in lettering, stock designs, quilting designs, lace and appliqué and you’ll understand what makes one design stitch better than others.

Step 3. Placement. What’s the point of beautiful embroidery if it’s placed incorrectly? Discover the industry standards along with helpful positioning aids and tools to achieve perfect placement.

Step 4. Hooping. Standard embroidery hoops will handle 75% of your embroidery projects. Tackle the other 25% with specialty stabilizers, novelty hoops and ingenuous technique. After some practice, you’ll be able to hoop almost anything.

Step 5. Stitching. Reward yourself with beautiful embroidery by embracing professional habits for every design you stitch. Fine tune placement, add insurance to the hooping method, verify the design and orientation before pressing start!

Step 6. Finishing.  Time for the big reveal. Critique the design, remove the basting file and press it like a pro!

Machine Embroidery in 6 Easy Lessons is a helpful primer for all embroiderers. Seasoned embroiderers will pick up helpful tips on continuous embroidery, hooping stations, hoop comparisons, pre-cutting appliqué pieces, the embroiderer’s 12-point checklist plus my favorite 10 time-saving habits. Beginners will get a jump start on mastering this fun hobby in no time!

Here’s your assignment this week:

Get back to basics! Check out the special featuring Eileen and Nancy and let us know how the 6 step process has helped you – or what extra step do you add in your process? One lucky winner will receive a copy of Eileen’s new book Machine Embroidery in 6 Easy Lessons.


The winner of last week’s assignment is:

Do you doodle? Do you dream? Tell us how you get your inspiration from your head to a finished product and you could win a copy of Bobbi Bullard’s new book, Artful Machine Embroidery. Good luck!

And the winner is… “I dream up my projects while I am doing areobic tapes every morning in my sewing room. While I’m marching, kicking, and lifting weights, I hang a piece of fabric or picture on my design wall and concentrate on how I want it to look. It makes the excercise go faster and I usually come up with a new idea or two!”- Paula

Congratulations Paula! Wow, way to multi-task. Enjoy your book and thank for sharing. 🙂





  • Rebecca Grace

    Eileen, thanks for this wonderful review of embroidery basics! Santa brought me a new sewbaby for Christmas and I’m looking forward to getting back into more embroidery with the new machine. One little glitch: I was surprised to see that my new machine, a Bernina 750QE, does not have a slot for the Studio Bernina embroidery design cards I’ve collected over the years. Some of them I could bear to part with, but others — like the Holice Turnbow Heirloom design collection and the Keryn Emmerson quilting collection — I’m really upset about not being able to use with my new machine, especially since I can’t afford to keep my Artista 200E just to sew out these older design cards. Surely I’m not the only person in this boat. I know all the newer embroidery designs come on CDs or are downloaded online, and I do have Bernina’s embroidery software to convert formats if needed, but I have no idea how to get the designs off these proprietary PCMI cards and onto a flash drive that I could plug into my new machine. Do I need some kind of Magic Box thing, or do they even make those things anymore? If you’ve ever written about this in your magazine, please let me know which back isssue. Thank you!

    • froma sommers

      Hi Rebecca,
      I believe that you can attach the CD thingy from the 200E to your new machine.
      I haven’t tried that yet. I have the 200E and Baby Lock Ellisimo Gold.

      • Mitzi

        If you have Bernina Designer 6 software, you should be able to read designs from one of your design cards and save them to a file on your PC. Hard cards are, as you note, a thing of the past, and with your software, you should not have to ever direct connect a CD device or even a USB stick to your sewing machine. What you will need to do is create a library of designs to store on your computer. I actually have mine stored on an external hard drive just to keep space free on my PC.

        • Cathy

          Be careful with the external hard drive. I had ten years of embroidery designs stored on one and it crashed. As my techie s-i-l told me, if it’s a hard drive it will eventually crash, so back up to disk, as well.

    • Jane Jarvis

      You can use a magic box if you can get one. But while you have your 200 you can save the designs on the card to a USB stick. This will take some time because you can only do one design at a time. Your cd drive that came with your 200 will not work on your new machine. The language of your new machine is EXP. it will not read ART, Berninas language in you 200. Even if your 200 is updated to the old 730 the EXP is not the same as your new 750QE. So yes you still have to go through software to put into EXP. I like transferring it with Art Design a free down load software on the Bernina .com site. I think it’s the easiest. But I’m sure you can in your Bernina software. Some dealers have someone who will do this for you.
      If this doesn’t make sense please email me and I will see if I can explain or walk you through it.

    • Virginia Perry

      Don’t know if I’m at the right place to reply to the Blog about challenges. My hardest task is to design a jacket where the design goes up both sides of the front opening and around the neck in the back.

  • judit z

    Hi Eileen,

    Basics …. super idea. Most everything I have done was last minute and frantically searching internet blogs to see how should I do this? A basic reminder is good so I can mentally memorize and have the steps in mind before I think I should be researching. First I need to think basics.
    I have a Designer 1 and off and on I find the most critical situation I have is placement and possible hoop burn. My grand daughters prom dress was one of those dear last minute things with swimsuit fabric since that was the only thing that we could find her colors she wanted. neon green and sort of periwinkle blue. Never did anything like that and had no idea of the backing etc. This is where the blogs helped and then just plain jumping in. Dress turned out beautifully but I do not want to go through that stress again.
    I have placement helpers and hoop burnless frames on my wish list.
    Thank you so much for all your insructions. I have your purse CD and that is my next project.
    I believe I should purchase the kit for first time so I will have the proper stabalizers for the job.
    Now I am wanting to do great grand baby’s first fleece blanket with apliqued 3D butterflies.
    Again a big project but I am doing one square at a time. Researching again. Thank for the tips.

  • Sheriann

    Thanks Eileen and Nancy for covering this subject again! I have been embroidering since 1998 and could use a refresher course as some things have changed since then! There are new stabilizers and hoops and great tools for perfect placement that I will enjoy seeing demonstrated. I will be viewing this 2 part course and taking notes!!

  • Sue Winnie

    I have been embroidering a while but I still don’t get what makes a good vs bad or so so design

  • Wanda H Leffingwell

    I think this 6 step lesson will help mu Daughter , she and I embroidery a lot together , She has been embroidering 1 year now and she ask me for a little advise, this 6 step lesson she can teach me a few good ideas! Thank you for sharing your tips

  • maria elena

    Back to Basics–Perfect, I do embroidery and most of the times am unhappy with the restuls. The embroidery is beautiful but I can tell it is just crooked ot it is not in the right place. I need back to Basics badly!!!!! Maria elena

  • m crews

    I think I will check out the centering ruler you mentioned. Seems like that would be helpful.

  • JoAnne

    This will be a big help. I do quite a bit of embroidery and have tried to jury-rig my tools to help me center my designs. It is obvious the better the tool, the better the finished product!

  • Terri

    I am getting married in June 2013 and I plan on doing several machine embroidery projects for my wedding. The projects will include the vintage inspired dress I plan on making and the linen napkins that I will use as part of my reception decorations. The new series and accompanying book by Eileen and Nancy will be perfect for me as I am a complete novice at machine embroidery, but not sewing. The placement ruler looks awesome! Something I will defintely try!

  • Mary

    My wonderful mother-in-law gave me her older (and still fantastic) machine when she upgraded, but I haven’t been able to really get going because there is just so much I don’t know. This book looks like it holds many of the answers and just might get me moving!

  • Jan in SoDak

    Great advice and tips! I’ve been hacking away at embroidery for a few years now, but after more failures than successes I’ve decided that a more thoughtful, structured approach to learning is in order. Thanks for your tips and your well constructed blog, they are invaluable learning tools!

  • Rosalyn

    I am excited to watch the whole series. I am always looking for tips to help my embroidery look better and be alittle easier. I learn so much from other people.

  • P

    This is a wonderful idea. Sometimes even the experienced will forget certain steps when they are in a hurry or think they are doing all the right steps! Memory refreshers are always great!!! Thanks

  • Karen U.

    Sometimes we get so busy and in a hurry that we forget the basics! Thanks for putting it all in a book.

  • lynnswanson

    You need to master the basics even after you think you know what they are. Thank you ladies this will be amazing.

  • Sue fisher

    Placement is so crucial ! I love how your broke down into six components – makes it all seem manageable. Plus it is always good to go back and revisit the basics!

  • Nancy Owens

    This is new book and tools is coming at a great time. I haven’t used my embroidery machine enough to justify the purchase, (the fear factor always stepped in!)But one of my plans for the new year is to learn more about my machine and just practice, practice, practice. This new book will help keep me on the right track. Thanks Eileen and Nancy!

  • Sarah McKinney

    I really like the centering ruler. I have a brother one that is just a long straight strip but a cross would be very helpful in many situations. The book sounds like a great idea.

  • Marilyn Lewis

    I’m getting my first embroidery machine today and have been looking for a book that will teach me everything I need to know. I’m so excited to be starting this new hobby. I already sew, quilt, crochet and knit. I’m off to watch the Sewing With Nancy shows online now. Thanks!

  • Kim

    Thank you Eileen and Nancy for the step-by-step. I am teaching my granddaughter’s how to embroider and this helps tremedously. When you have been doing something for a while, you tend to forget what it was like when you were first learning yourself and you also assume others know the basic steps.

  • Kris Garst

    Thanks for the basics- a centering ruler sounds like a good idea!

  • SandraC

    What a wonderful package for the beginner embroiderer and for those of us who have been doing it for many years! Placement for perfect positioning of designs is so important for a nice professional garment or bag. Wish there was something like this when I first started embroidery as it has been a trial and error learning experience! Thank you for addressing this subject. Regards Sandra

  • Jayme

    I loved how they went over how you use different designs for different types of material and how you need a double underlayment stitch for terry cloth.

  • Merron Kay Skramstad

    Thank you so much for a reminder of the basics. The centering tool looks like it would really be an asset in my sewing room. I am going to check this out.

  • Ginger

    i’d like to think that common sense could dictate the things i’ve learned … but truth is, my common sense isn’t always the smartest or most efficient way and more often than not it’s Trial by Error! 🙂
    This book would be the perfect STABILIZER for embroidering, offering RULES and PLACEMENT inspiration, providing beautiful SATIN edging advice FILLed with encouragement …. it would be the next best thing to having a full time one on one Hot Line with Nancy and Eileen! Novice or experience, there’s always a new twist on how to do things …. and “community” brings great peace of mind!
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Robyn Morris

    Thank you Eileen and Nancy!! Once again you ladies have come up with a book and accessories to let us become successful at embroidery. Your desire to share your knowledge is the biggest gift any of us could every wish for. Once again thank you for your efforts to make us successful.

    • eileenroche

      Oh such kind words, Robyn! Thank you! Nancy & I love what we do and feel blessed to have the opportunity to share our passion with others.

  • Cecilia

    Thank you for this 6 step embroidery lesson. I’m not able to get your show on my local PBS station and although I have had my embroidery module 3 years, I haven’t used it enough to where I’m confident about what to do. So, each time I’m ready to try to embroider something, I have to go back to the manual and try and remember how to do everything. Thistle bookmarked this video and I’m sure it will help me a lot. Thanks!

  • Mary Anne Fox

    I always wait until the last minute to start a project and forget how to transfer a pattern or how to hoop a certain fabric. I get in a hurry and end up making mistakes. This is a good review to go thru on the upcoming snowy winter nights.

  • Viola

    I am very good at sewing, but a complete novice at machine embroidery. I do own a Janome MC9700, which I’ve never used for embroidery. This 6 step by step will be great for a beginner like myself. I do own a few machine embroidery books but not a step by step so this will be an asset to me. I take it the formula goes for any brand machines?

    Thanks Eileen and Nancy.

    • eileenroche

      Viola, the basic steps are applicable to all machines but keep your machine manual handy. It too is a treasure trove of information.

  • Judy

    While I’ve been sewing and teaching sewing for many years, I’ve put embroidery on the back burner so to speak- so this book would be a welcome addition as I pursue machine embroidery in 2013.

  • Enis

    Love the “back to basics” idea. I’ve been embroidering for many years now and sometimes a good refresher makes all the difference in getting a great result on a project. Thanks!

  • Paula Roney

    Way to go Eileen and Nancy. I’ve been embroidering for serveral years but we all tend to forget the basics at times. I liked the step by step break down. It helped me remember things I learned as a beginner but haven’t been practicing all of the time – particularly the tip about placement and embroidering the design on your stabilizer to use as a template. I know I learned that before, but completely forgot about it. Thanks for sharing a great segment with us.

  • SarahJ

    I wish My PBS station aired these shows. I am still a newbie and have only learned what I know from reading. Seeing would be so much better. Someday I will figure out how to hoop with no puckers!! 😉

  • Virginia

    I find that printing a template helps me tremendously with the hooping process. It shows exactly how the design is going to look on the project.

  • Ruby

    I never know if my embroidery turn out to be good or bad. I need a mentor to stand over my shoulder and point the way to do things correctly. Thanks for the 6 steps. I am fortunate that from time to time I get Sewing with Nancy on PBS…hope I can get the show with you.


  • judy revell

    bringing embroidery back to the basics helps me rememner how to look at a design and know if it will turn out the way i see it in my mind. some things i take for granted or overlook. bringing it back to the basics once in a while really makes a difference.

  • Jennifer P

    The basics are so important for any successful project. Thanks for setting it to paper for us. I always have to go through the steps in my head each and every time I embroider.

  • Clem

    I have never thought of using a stitch-out as a placement guide. I “most” always test stitch a design to see how it turns out. I find even the “high end” designs that you can buy are not quite right. By using the stitch-out I can eliminate printing the design and still keep it in a folder and write what I need to in the margins. It will never tear.
    I have seen your placement guide for t’s but I see it only goes to large. I need x-large and 2x large. I like the idea of 2 fingers and about 7 inches. Good guide. Thanks for all your lessons and tips and various instructors you have on your show.
    I love Eileen and have taken a class from her also. (stitching sisters) Will you be going into how you can tell if monograms have two layers of undterstitching?
    Again, thank you!!!

  • Barbara (Tiny) Giamportone

    I guess I’ll just have to buy that book as our PBS doesn’t carry Nancy’s show. boo hoo. It will have to be my Christmas present to myself. tee hee. Thanks for all you do, Eileen.

    Bobbieann in N.E. Ga.

  • Judy Wentz

    I was only able to see three steps on the link provided to Sewing with Nancy. I am fairly new to ME and I really liked the idea of using stitched or printed template for placement. I would love to learn how to do continuous embroidery.

  • Janice Cartwright

    Thanks for these lessons I would like to see more of these I bought the Super Galaxies 3000 ( Ult 2001) but I am self taught so I do struggle a lot so I find these lessons really good Keep up the good work

  • Annelise Crown

    The best advice….. know your machine. Test stitch!!!!!! Placement is the worst for me. Mark your fabric!!!!! Proper stabilization is so important. I don’t think anyone can stress that enough. Lastly, every hoop has it’s own center. Know where your center is. It may not match up with the marks. I have multiple hoops and every one is a bit different. There is never an end to learning. Thanks for the tips!

    • Pat

      I have the Bernina 200E .When I am centering I just put the hoop in the machine and push the button that tells you where the center is ,the needle goes to that spot and then I just hoop my item accordingly.

      • Pat

        Another Pat with a Bernina…. I center the same way. I have always wondered why people don’t use this method…
        These are great refresher lessons,but I like to have the book so I can keep checking things up of I get lost.

        • Pat

          forgot to check the squares at the bottom of my reply…. See why I need the book,,, I cannot remember what I am doing from one minute to the next…. gg

  • Bonnie

    Now that is just what I need to perfect my embroidery skills on my new PE660. What a great resource…thanks!

  • Judy Danz

    Fantastic review of basics! Even as a seasoned embroiderer, I learned something new. The tools you show are a stable in my sewing room. Nothing is more discouraging for a new embrodier than to struggle with hooping and placement. Thank you for the tutorial.

  • Aurora

    thanks so much! as a new Ellisimo owner I need all the help I can get.

    • carolyn dillinger

      I got a new Elna 9500 and taught myself using the book’Embroidery Machine Essentials
      How to Stabilize, Hoop and Stitch Decorative Designs by Jeanine Twigg. The book has a CD and 20 Easy Step-byStep Projects. Comprehensive Resource

  • Ann

    I have been machine embroidering for seven years and am constantly reminding myself to use the basics and slow down. I find I make the most mistakes when I go too fast!! I’m looking forward to checking out the 6 Badic Steps to help keep me on track!

  • Susan J

    I have had several embroidery machines starting with the Deco 500 many years ago. I have a wonderful library of designs, but I still hesitate with a new project and even find myself putting off starting from fear of failure. I think this new book will be a great review of the things I do know, but also a tool to fill in the gaps of things I really never learned. Hopefully, it will increase my confidence. Thanks for putting it all together. Will watch the videos with you and Nancy and get the book.

  • carolyn dillinger

    This on embroidery is great. What about some info on embossing.


  • Katrina Stonecipher

    I’m a beginner, just bought my first machine today, so this will be helpful when I get started.

    • eileenroche

      Congratulations on your new machine Katrina! Here’s to many great projects in your future!

  • Barb Miller

    I think everyone can use a refresher course now and again. Thanks

  • Beth R

    The six steps served as a reminder for me to take the time and pay attention to the details!

  • Kim

    I always have a problem with placment. I always wreck atleast 2 before I get the design centered. Sometimes I have puckers when stitching on knit shirts. How do I avoid that?

    • Pat

      This sounds like a stabilizer problem..

  • Lilia Orozco

    I am a newbie to the wonderful world of embroidery, and I know that this book will be a tremendous help and wonderful tool in itself. Awesome idea to come out with this book.

  • betsy

    I love to work the basics into my embroidery classes over and over. Because really – that’s where every project begins!

  • Connie D

    I recently got Floriani digitizing software and my aunt gave me her old Brother embroidery machine. I have been using PE Design 5(which doesn’t work with WIN7) and an old Deco 550. I’m looking forward to being able to design and embroider designs that are bigger than 4″. Mostly all I have done is patrol patches for my sons’ Boy Scout Troop. Now I can expand to doing clothing for me! The video gives good basic information on how to get started with that. I can’t find the second video however. I’m excited about the book and hoping I can learn more about embroidering clothing and gifts. Thanks for your awesome blog.

    • eileenroche

      You’re welcome, Connie. Thanks for reading! You’ll find the second part of the series will be posted this week.

  • Edie Evans

    My tip is a face palm tip… If you’ve tried rethreading the top 5 times, changed the needle, tried a pre wound and a self wound bobbin, tried a different stabilizer or 3 and you’re STILL getting loopies on the back, it’s Probably Not You. Take the machine in for a well baby check. Life will be better that way!

    Whose baby is at the doctor right now for said issue, thank you very much

  • Mitzi

    great idea! we can all use a refresher course, and update on new materials and tools. I think the piece that is missing is how to achieve that perfect harmony of design, fabric, stabilizer by making informed choices of materials.

  • Gail Beam

    Thanks for the reminders important basic steps in embroidering designs. It is nice to review these steps every once in a while.

  • Sharon

    Positioning! Positioning! Positioning! One of my 2013 sewing goals is to master embroidery positioning. Another is to improve my ability to decide what should be hooped and what shouldn’t. Thanks for getting back to the basics.

  • Barbara

    Wow! Every time I see a “Basics” list, I learn something new — no matter how long we’ve been doing something, returning to the fundamentals of the craft keeps us fresh. I love checklists; they can make the difference between spectacular success and dismal failure! Having yours and Nancy’s will be a welcome addition to my embroidery practice. Thank you for helping all of us become better at our favorite hobby.

  • Berenice

    I was so excited to see the 6 lessons. Santame finally broke down and got wi-fi so I can watch Nancy. Our PBS doesn’t carry her and my old internet was limited to 5G’s a month. Wow, a whole new world has been opened. I watched the first installment tonight and even though I’ve been doing this for a few years, I learned a thing or two. Thank you for doing this, maybe I can get my girls to play with me without being so scared of the big machine!

  • Karen

    The refresher on the basics was great. I like the cross shape centering tool I often try using 2 rulers to do that what a pain that often is.

  • anne

    I’ve been embroidering for ong, and I always learn something new. going back to the basics is a great idea.

  • Karan Jinks

    I can always learn something new. It is very helpful to review the basics. I cant wait to get a copy.

  • Cathy

    I learned how to use some of the tools I have, such as the target stickers, Angle Finder and the left side placement tool, as well as the Perfect Placement templates. I have had these a short while but don’t learn easily from written instructions so the videos are a real boon. Who knew that towel designs needed two layers of underlayment? Not me! The tip to use two stabilizers to protect the towel nap was also new to me. I love the idea of hooping tshirts, etc, on the end of the ironing board. I especially liked your comments about the level of difficulty this hooping technique entails. Watching you struggle made me more confident that I can struggle and get the hang of it, too. 2014 will be my year to practice and develop confidence.

  • Lulie Felder

    Love to read and review steps for embroidery. I use a Brother 8500 machine and PE-Design 7.0 software. Does anyone know if or how I
    can add understitching to a design that I already have?

  • Evelyn Gonzalez

    My Brother Duetta 4500D Embroidery/Quilting machine and Baby Lock (the high-end one that threads itself) have sat on the dining room table for 2+ years. I am scared of them – yes, it’s true!! The Baby Lock is still in the box, unopened. You see, the store I bought the Brother from went out of business, and the nearest dealer (for embroidery lessons) is over 200 miles away. I’ve read the User Manual on embroidery at least 4 times and still didn’t get it — until I read “6 Easy Steps…” and guess what!! I embroidered a baby’s name on a prairie style baby bonnet, which is the first thing I’ve ever sewn. I did it all this past weekend, and I sure wouldn’t even have had the courage to try without first reading the “6 Easy Steps.” Thank you, thank you, thank you! for getting me out of my rut and back to sewing and embroidery! I am so amazed at how beautiful that little 3-month old baby girl looks in her cute little embroidered prairie sunbonnet!

  • Angie

    Hi! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with us so I came to give it
    a look. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m bookmarking and will
    be tweeting this to my followers! Wonderful blog and wonderful
    design and style.

  • Heather

    Quick question from a novice….I received my Brother PE-770 for Christmas and have done a few projects with a 5X7 hoop. I just bought a 4X4 hoop to do a small project for my daughter’s dress and for some reason I can’t get the applique centered. I’m using the guide that came with the hoop and I’ve been marking the center of the dress and exactly where I want the applique. The machine isn’t doing the work in the center of the hoop. Can you help me with this?

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