Search here...

Machine embroidery is for everyone!

One recent Saturday, I invited my friend, Tore Bellis, to my studio to learn how to machine embroider.  Tore is a software engineer and he’s always interested in learning new things.  It made sense to me that he should learn.

I considered what he might like to stitch and decided for his first experience, he should do more than embroider a piece of fabric. He needs to make and complete a project in one day.

That sounds like an ambitious task but it’s not with the Snazzy Snap Covers. The collection is fun for all skill levels. And given Tore’s analytical mind, I knew he’d enjoy seeing how the project comes together. The pockets would really captivate him!

The collection features 6 different styles of notebooks in two sizes. He chose to stitch the shark design for the small notebook cover.

I offered all my fabrics for Tore to choose from including a new pack of Carnival Batiks I received from the Baby Lock Common Threads event. Tore was a little hesitant to use my special new batiks but there is no better time than the present. I was pretty surprised how much he deliberated over the fabric selections. (This is a sign he’s an embroiderer at heart and perhaps even a quilter!).

He cut the vinyl fabric for the notebook cover, the batiks for the inside pockets and the blue ‘denim’ for the inside cover.

He also made a preliminary selection of thread colors. I assured him he could change his mind as the project came together.

He hooped the stabilizer and attached the hoop to the machine.

I showed him how to thread the Baby Lock Spirit by following all the numbers and arrows on the machine. He also learned how to use the automatic needle threader. The automatic needle threader was his favorite part.

I took photos throughout the process and we decided to capture his very first stitches on video. He practiced the steps before I shot the video. I explained if something goes wrong we can always stage it again and re-shoot. I quickly learned however, he really wanted the video to catch his first stitches— no exceptions. So we practiced the motions a few times until he was ready.

As he stitched, I explained the concept of placement stitches and tackdown stitches.

He stitched his first appliqué and learned about appliqué scissors.

I demonstrated how to use the scissors and suggested he compare them to using regular scissors. But without trying them he could already see the advantage of appliqué scissors. He carefully trimmed the excess appliqué fabric and carefully returned the hoop to the machine.

Tore stitched the next applique fabric – the top portion of the shark.
Then he carefully trimmed away the excess fabric.

The design quickly takes shape!

He continued stitching and we reached a point when difficult decisions would have to be made. What thread color for the fish designs? Tore auditioned several options.

He contemplated the shades of blue.

Tore decided to experiment with a tan color that would pop off the blue vinyl. He’s becoming a professional at threading the machine at this stage of the process.

At this point Tore was ready for the particularly clever part of the construction process: the inside of the notebook cover.

Tore aligned the “denim” fabric with the notches on the back of the design. We used a spray adhesive to hold the fabric in place. Then he stitched the fabric down.

Next, the fancy batik pockets (my favorite part of the design). Tore aligned the pockets with the notches on the design.

He secured the pockets with Painter’s Tape.

He was ready for the final thread color that would secure the pockets and define the shape of his notebook cover. This was the last critical thread color decision to make and he was not hasty. I suggested red since it’s a shark notebook to hint at the idea of blood. I pulled out all my threads (not just red) so he could browse options.

Then I found him at the machine, contemplating which shade of red.
He said, “This one is more ‘blood’ while this is more vivid. Do I want blood or do I want vivid?”

These were important questions only he could answer, of course. He made his decision and finished stitching the design.

He heard the celebratory chime on the Baby Lock that proclaims the design is finished. I pointed out the smiley face on the touch screen of the machine that also indicates the design is complete. (Even though I’ve been embroidering for a few years, I never tire of those features!).

Tore unhooped his masterpiece.

Then he trimmed the notebook to its final shape.

The last step: installing snaps! Among Tore’s many hobbies and talents, he’s installed snaps with his leatherwork projects. But we still practiced our snap skills on a piece of fabric.
And just like that, my friend who has never machine embroidered made his first in-the-hoop project!

Tore went home that night and ordered a six-pack of mini notebooks from Amazon. Now he’s planning his next set of notebooks.
The take-away from this piece:

  • Machine embroidery is for everyone! Share your hobbies with friends and family members. Don’t forget to consider kids or grand-kids. Depending on the child’s age, you can do some of the more involved parts of the task. It’s not only a time to bond but there’s a delightful element of discovery you can enjoy through a novice’s eyes.

Special Limited Time Offer (1 week only!)
Take $10.00 off your order of Snazzy Snap Covers! Use coupon code: snazzysaturday. Visit the Designs in Machine Embroidery website by clicking here.




  • Dawn

    That looks more like an Orca whale than a shark.

  • Kathleen Cotton

    Looks like you encouraged another person to enjoy machine embroidery!

    • Denise Holguin

      Yes, I think so too! He was already talking about ideas for a wallet!

  • Joanne Banko

    Hi Denise!Loved reading this true life tale of “man meets embroidery machine!” Looks like Tore is a natural:-)

    • Denise Holguin

      Thank you! We had so much fun that day. It also gave me a new appreciation for the hobby.

  • Teresa Williamson

    I feel like I got a lesson, also!! Engineers make great embroiderers (sp?)….my daughter is an engineer and she seems to be a natural. Love the pics and videos! Good luck, Tore! I want to see your next project!

  • Tore

    Thank you! I have much to learn about what these machines can do. I would like to do something practical without straying too far into sewing. I could use something to hold test leads for my multi-meters, for example.

  • Ginger

    So easy even a man can do it! Lol

    Couldn’t resist. Nice job an what a cute pattern!

    • Denise Holguin

      Haha! I was waiting for such a comment.

      The back story: last year Tore taught me how to solder electronics. I figure now we are even! 😉

  • priya

    Thanks for the discussion about it.. Very well Written. Top Coupon site

  • Karen Poole

    Great blog today! I love teaching new talents to people!! I work with my grandsons all the time, they are great sewer and crafters and are my inspiration for starting a youth guild in our area! The kids are so excited to learn everything about sewing and I get excited all over again by watching them learn!!

    • Denise Holguin

      Wow! Thank you for your efforts in spreading the love for creating! We need more people like you teaching our youth.

      I was stitching in-the-ditch this afternoon, imagining what it might have been like to have taken home economics in school. What a difference it would have made to have been introduced to stitching in-the-ditch, seam allowances, etc at an earlier stage in my life. (for that matter, cooking too!) 🙂 But it just goes to show, we are never too old or young to learn something new!