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Sewing, Embroidery, Etc.

Photo from FLICKR

A lot of y’all have asked questions regarding sewing and embroidery etc. Some questions I can answer… some I unfortunately cannot. But nonetheless, I’ll do my best. I will start with sewing and move to embroidery…

I started sewing just weeks before Morgan entered the world 3.5 years ago. I was using Justin’s grandmother’s 1960 Singer Touch ‘n Sew. When it bit the dust and wasn’t worth repairing we decided we’d bite the bullet and go for a Viking Platinum 950E {which is no longer made– so I won’t link to it}. It is a sewing machine that also embroiders. I bought it on ebay {risky business & wouldn’t recommend anyone else do, nor would I do it again!!} for $1100 in 2004. It came from Canada, took weeks to get to me and once it arrived it had no serial # plate on it {not good!}.

If you are interested in learning to sew but don’t know where to start… this is my suggestion: First, see if you can borrow a sewing machine {perhaps from your mother or grandmother, MIL, etc}. I don’t think anyone should run out and buy a machine to learn on. Once you try a few patterns {which I recommend you try anything that says “Easy to Sew”} and know that you like it and think you will continue to do it then I’d buy a machine. And from the “Queen of Cheap” please don’t go too cheap. I’d recommend you buy from a local dealer who can offer you assistance with your machine and service it for you. Both sewing & embroidery machines should be serviced once a year. Now, with that said, I will contradict myself by saying that Kenmore (Sears) has fabulous sewing machines (and I’m not just saying that because my dad works for them). A friend of mine has one of their “computerized models” and I have borrowed it on several occasions and I absolutely LOVE to sew on it. It is a quiet machine, sews very smoothly, has a great bobbin winding system, and the buttonhole foot is simply a breeze to use {and practically does it all for you– you drop the button in the buttonhole foot and it makes the buttonhole for you!}. FYI: Kenmore sewing machines are made by Janome. In fact, Erika just mentioned what a great gift giver Daddy Boy is, and I’d have to agree because for my birthday he got me this one which should be in on Wednesday and I can tell you more about it after I spend some time sewing on it.

If you are interested in a “Quick & Easy” pattern for boys and girls, I’d try “Holly & Hunter” (A-line jumper and boys romper) by Bonnie Blue. It comes in a wide variety of sizes and would be a great place to start!

I order most of my machine applique designs from: SewManyDesigns or Designs by JuJu.

My monograms are done with a program called Monogram Wizard Plus and this “alpha pak” is my favorite (& is the font/monogram you see on most of the girls clothes). Monogram Wizard would be one of the software packages you purchase for your embroidery machine (in addition to the software you buy from the manufacturer of your embroidery machine— can you see the $$$ signs adding up!?)

Another fabulous site for embroidery fonts (which is where you can find the polka dot fonts I use) is Heirloom Letters.

I buy a lot of the girls “blanks” (100% cotton dresses, shirts, etc) to embroider on at Dharma Trading. They have super cute dresses and great prices!

Embroidery machines are a lot like computers {& technology in general} and are constantly being made with more bells and whistles, more options, and since I haven’t upgraded mine in nearly 4 years… I know there are bigger & better out there. So, if you are in the market for one here’s my advice:

-buy from a local dealer who can offer you classes to teach you how to use your machine {they’re NOT EASY to use or figure out on your own}

– buy from a local dealer that you can call and ask any question and have the answer in minutes

– do lots of research and be sure you understand what is included with a machine {& what is not included}

– when calculating the cost of a machine be aware the most machines do not include the software that is required on your computer to create and customize designs {such software can cost as much as the machine}

– if you buy a machine be sure to take a class to learn the in’s and out’s of embroidery {ie, stabilizing different weights and types of fabric, the type of thread to use (which I can say: DON’T USE RAYON), and there’s so much more!}

– there are a lot of hidden costs to embroidery (this is why you pay so much to have items embroidered at stores): software, stabilizers, embroidery thread, bobbin thread, and TIME. These costs are why I have opted not to use my machine for business purposes and when I do “occasionally” embroider for others I stress out that something may go wrong and I fear ruining their items!

Ok, that’s all I can think of for now. If you have questions ask them in the comments and I will respond to them in the comments. So, if this is a subject you’re interested in I recommend you check the box in the comments section to receive emails when other comments are posted.

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  • Household6
    June 16, 2008 at 6:40 am

    I can’t wait to read this!! Gotta take the kids to sign up for summer reading at the library but I am looking forward to reading this later. What a great post.


  • Lindsey
    June 16, 2008 at 7:38 am

    Jeremy is not so sure I could do all this, so he said he’s putting my mom on scholarship for lessons, etc. when we have kids!
    I would love to learn how, but I honestly don’t think I would be very good at it.

  • Jen
    June 16, 2008 at 7:42 am

    So are you saying that you like your Viking machine even through you suggest not getting it through ebay? I’m looking at getting a Viking embroidery machine but would love to hear what others think of them.

  • Leah
    June 16, 2008 at 8:03 am

    GREAT tips! I have a sewing machine but have been for sometime contemplating buying a new one that does embroidery also! Thanks for sharing!

    BTW, I just found out we have a common link…apparently, your twin, whom I’m told is Erika, and my friend, Teale, whom I also gave an “award”, went to college at AU together…small world!

  • HES
    June 16, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Thank you thank you for the monogramming info! I am sure everyone reading appreciates the time you took to write this post. Now I am off to do some fun research on “monogram wizard plus”! Hope you and yours have a great rest of the week. Hallie

  • Haydee
    June 16, 2008 at 10:11 am

    This is why you’re one of my favorite bloggers…thanks for sharing. I don’t however think I will be taking up embroidery anytime soon..it’s just too intimidating.

  • Darby
    June 16, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    I can recommend Viking embroidery machines because that is what I have… however, not the model I have because they’ve come so far since “then”. Mine uses what they call a “d-card” (design card) that you save your embroidery to and then put in your sewing machine. It is tempermental and kind of antiquated and I’ve had to replace the card to the tune of nearly $150! Ouch! Overall, I’ve been very pleased with my machine and usually any issues I’ve had are related to user error (not stabilizing properly, cheap thread, or just simply not knowing what I’m doing) or tension issues which can easily be adjusted. I’d be sure to buy a machine that is equipped with either a USB port where you can link directly from your computer or has an outlet to put a USB jump drive in and avoid any kind of “design cards” or “floppy disks”. My machine has been great and I do recommend a Viking… just buy it from a dealer who knows about them! I’ve also seen the Babylock machines in action and from what I’ve heard… they are great too! I just don’t know much about them!

  • Jennie-Marie
    June 16, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    Oh I love your knowledge. great motivation to finish a few little projects i have going! Thanks for the info.

  • andi
    June 16, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    You said you wish you had 1/2 of my energy. I am truly blown away!!!!!!!! This is amazing. I wish I could do what you do. I can’t, I won’t even try because it just aint happenin’. I am so proud of you and what you are able to do!!!!! If I ever use my sewing machine, will you autograph it? LOL šŸ™‚ I crown you the sewing queen!!!!! If I knew about giving you a blog award, I would because that post was so well written and full of good tidbits!
    Did you have a Happy B-day?

  • kdurec
    June 16, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Okay, another lurker is coming out of the woodwork. I went to CAL with you, but I’m a couple of years younger so you probably don’t have any clue who I am.

    Anyway, my sister and I LOVE your’s and your sister’s blogs, respectively. šŸ™‚ She reads Erika’s and I read yours (a lot… and have for a while).

    I am always so impressed with your sewing and also always so intimidated to try it! Thanks for posting this blog, maybe now I can borrow my Moms’ machine and try something for my baby girl!
    -Katy “Bailey” Durec

  • Sassy Sewist
    June 17, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Wonderful article, Darby. I was glad to see you alerted bloggers to not be tempted by the low prices on eBay. Its important to have dealer support when something goes wrong with the machine. A local dealer provides lessons, clubs and support that you can’t get when purchasing through eBay.
    Did you get to see the new top-of-the-line machine on the unveiling video?
    By the way, I also have the Monogram Wizard Plus, use it all the time, and love all their alpha paks.

  • Ashleigh Thompson
    June 18, 2008 at 5:38 am



    You answered so many of my questions in this post. I tried making the simplicity dress you mentioned earlier & it turned out so cute- I made another and another. Check out the pics in the links above. I don’t have an embroidery machine šŸ™ I would LOVE one and even looked on Ebay. I know I need the in store teaching/assistance. At our smock shop here in town- many of the older models are on clearance because Viking has come out with a newer model this month. So.. they’re probably “on sale” (@$1700 from $2400)other places too.

    Keep the sewing tips coming!! šŸ™‚

  • LeslieW.
    June 18, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Awesome advice, I think! I am so glad I found your blog so that I have someone to “talk” sewing with! I inspires me to head for that BIG pile of fabric across the room! It haunts me…

  • Anonymous
    June 19, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    Darby – I found your blog through a friends and was definately inspired! Just wanted to blog about the machines… I have a Brother Innovis 2500 emb/sewing machine and LOVE it! It is extreamly user friendly and monograms a great satin stitch. I opperate off MWizard as well. The machine also sews but I can’t part with my $50 Kenmore from Sears. I even use it for French hand sewing/heirloom sewing. I LOVE it as well! Just wanted to pass along the word to fellow sewers…
    PS – I love Dharma – I buy the baby sleepers/sacks by the dozen and monogram them for presents…everyone says they are larger than most and hold up well

  • Crystal Whitaker
    August 25, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    Hi, I am a friend of Ashley Turnbull and someone told me about your blog. I sew a lot and am just starting to sell my garments in a children’s clothing store in guntersville. I do mainly custom work but am venturing out into size runs in popular styles. I have been looking for some knits to applique on and I saw how you buy blanks online. do you die the garments as well. If so, I would love to talk to you about it and get more information on how you do it.

  • The Honea Bees
    September 5, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    I found your blog through Becky Tucker’s blog. I can say that I am glad that I did!! You have really inspired me…I have been wanting to learn how to do applique for a while and can’t wait to use your step by step guide!
    I too have a sew/embroidery machine and find it very frustrating. If hindsight were foresight I think I would not have purchased my Pfaff machine (which is more for embroidery on quilts or ‘flat’ fabric) and bought something different. There are lots of pre-made things I cannot embroider and I do not like to do it for other folks either for the same reasons as you. My biggest issue is getting shirts, etc on my machine without having the cut open one side and sew it back together…which is an extra step in my already small window of sewing time (I have a 2 year old and a 7 month old) any hints?
    I have been titled as ‘Queen of Cheap’ just like you and have kept myself from buying the Wizard, but may be asking for it for Christmas. I have had many a mess up by trying to use the yucky monograms that came with my machine.
    Maybe in your spare time (ha) you can give your tips on stabilizers. I think that may be my issue a lot of times too.
    Sorry this is so random…but I wanted to let you know that I love your tutorials and am excited to get started using them as soon as I get the chance!

  • Hello Rovers - Fly Through Our Window
    December 9, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    […] like it? My sewing machine isĀ a Kenmore, I love it. I talk more about it and my embroidery machine IN THIS POST. And every time the little orange vacuum shows up I get emails about it too… it’s also […]

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