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  • Writer's pictureMegan Best

Long Arm Embroidery, part 1, the Pretty

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

The back story:

I really like the idea of machine embroidery. It is fun, it's pretty. And the THREAD, wow, all the colors.

I have had an embroidery machine for over 20 years. I have actually had a couple different ones. Right now I use a Janome 500E, single needle embroidery only machine. It will do embroidery that is about the size of a sheet of paper. Cool!

I have been professionally quilting for over 20 years. I have had a computerized quilting machine for a good chunk of that time. I have played the "what if" game with longarm embroidery for a long time. Occasionally I would try something with embroidery as quilting and was more than displeased with the result. I have had the capability of converting embroidery designs for about 10ish years. Every few years I would try and see if something better would happen. Yes, redwork designs can be quilting designs. But I wanted more than that. There is another brand of machine that can do longarm and embroidery, but I had not seen anything there that was working any better and more successfully than I had seen before. Just making it bigger does not make it better. I am NOT stitching the embroidery through all the quilt layers. This is not quilting. That is a KEY change to how I thought embroidery on the longarm should be. I kept trying to have it be a quilting design and it is NOT.

A few others have done some embroidery on their longarms, but I REALLY went all in.

With some KEY improvements to HandiQuilter's ProStitcher, it really all came together last year. It allows you to separate out the colors in order to stitch them easily. I have a GREAT tutorial that you can purchase here. You must have a conversion software: I really like Pro Stitcher Designer, but Art and Stitch will also work. Pick the tutorial for the software you have. Other brands of longarms may work, but you will have to stop carefully for the color changes.

One color designs are the easiest.

Here are a pair of designs that I put on a really cool background fabric. These are about 30" tall.

I use Magnifico threads from Superior Threads for the embroidery. It stitches well, and does not break when stitching very heavy designs. I use a size 18 needle on my longarm.

Multi color designs.

These are a bit more difficult and they take some time. The outline takes about an hour to stitch out, plus all the colors and the color jumps. I have the small embroidery that I purchased and stitched out in the size I bought. I enlarge it a lot, which the embroidery company that I purchase the design from discourages. I understand it changes the design but with the style of designs I like, it really works.

Blowing up the designs really gives them a watercolor look. I LOVE it!

I did a few 3 color designs, then I started to get brave.

This is a 16" pillow: I have a coordinating design to do as well.

The purple tree has even more colors.

Sunflowers, very watercolor effect. This is an 8" design enlarged to about 17"

I use the same color of threads with the small version as with the large version.

I kept doing more involved designs. They did not get better. The hummingbirds are an example of what not to do.

It has more colors and with each color the thread had 20 or more different sections. I got lazy and it got very bad.

You can't tell, but I can tell where it is not good.

A big part of what makes Long Arm Embroidery successful is in the design style of the embroidery. I like a watercolor sketchy style which is perfect for blowing up existing designs. I purchase most of my designs from Embroidery Library.

I try to stick to designs that are not super dense, don't have satin stitching (not a fan of anyway!), and have less colors. 3 to 6 is good, more is challenging, and I won't even try a 30 color design.

This is a table runner that I found fabric to PERFECTLY match the design.

This particular design could be a quilting design.

Most of the embroidery is NOT quilting.

I quilt the pieces AFTER I complete the embroidery.

The next post, in the next few days, will show that process.

The polar bears is an example of enlarging too much. Most designs would look pretty choppy enlarged this way. The design is so stinking cute that it is okay. I bring this to events to show the super sketchy look and where it might be appropriate.

The poinsettias have a nice colorwash look in the larger size. This would be great as a pillow cover.

And the colors used:

Christmas tree and the threads I used:

Here are the first cows: I LOVE them, and they took a really long time to embroidery!

And their colors:

I tend to quilt the embroideries with designs that are modern, linear and appropriate to the actual design.

I quilt over the embroidery with Bottom Line thread.

Cows with scarves are pretty cool too!

There are quite a few threads used for the cows with scarves. I love that the Magnifico thread is really strong and has such a great look for the embroidery.

Some pretty florals. I just love these.

I have always loved botanical style prints so these are my go-to designs when I want something pretty.

The threads for the Iris:

This one is pretty big, about 30" long.

I really like the style, sort of tattoo-ish florals.

Here is the Farm series:

I made a small of some of them and then the longarm version.

I did the barn first. I love the layering of colors.

I ALWAYS use the colors in the order that the embroidery company suggests. I never ever change that. I do not edit the designs (except in the case where Art and Stitch adds in some weird jump points and the occasional straight line).

I only enlarge them for use on the LongArm.

I did not make large ones of these two designs. I could. I just have not, yet.

I made this one last week:

I didn't make a large one of the boot with flowers because there were way too many colors with way too many jumps to bring me joy. The small one did bring me joy! The design is about 8" by 10" and the total wallhanging is about 13" by 14".

Another small one last week for my kitchen. I LOVE watermelon, so this is ME!

I hope you enjoyed the Embroidery show!

Come back soon for a post on embroidery and the challenges that come up.


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