Chatting with Lindee Goodall about Machine Embroidery SCHTUFF!

Every so often I find myself thinking “how on earth did I get here?” I’m not talking about physical location – although I’m sure I would still be wandering around download Houston if it wasn’t for GPS.  No, I’m talking about how I went from studying mathematics in college to teaching machine embroidery software.  During one of my “pondering moments” I thought that it might be fun to “interview” others in this wonderful world of machine embroidery and see if our journeys were similar.  Not having done something like this before, I thought it would be fun to start with someone that I have admired for a long time with whom I kind of knew that we came from similar backgrounds.

So I sent my dear friend Lindee Goodall a message on Facebook – it was one of those spur of the moment thoughts that was more of a “do you you think this is a good idea?” and because Facebook is so instant, all of a sudden the concept went from idea to “I’ll send you the questions by email” within minutes!  Facebook is super fast like that – if you thought email was instant, holy smokes we can jump between 6 different topics and projects in a matter of sentence fragments 🙂

Those of you who do not know of Lindee can find her official biography on her website http://lindeegembroidery.com/about/ But I wanted to expand beyond that to give you a glimpse into our friendship and relationship with machine embroidery.

Lindee: You know Lisa, you and I have similar backgrounds. We were both programmers and I really think creating embroidery is very similar. You want a design that sews efficiently and doesn’t jump around all over the place, in programmer speak, no “GOTOs.”

Lisa: Spot on with that analogy!  Last thing we want to do is watch the machine dance all over the place weaving a web of jump stitches!  So, what was your first thought when you saw your first home embroidery machine?

Lindee: My first embroidery machine was very small and we had to drive from Cincinnati to Dayton to get it. I read the manual in the car on the way home (no, I wasn’t driving!). Actually, I read it twice it was so small. I ran into the house, unpacked the machine hooked it up to my computer and loaded the software. I sewed out half of one of the two designs that came with it and thought, “Oh yeah, I can do this” and started looking for some clip art to digitize. Fortunately I picked something fairly easy, a cat. Then I spent a lot of time digitizing. My software was very crude and my initial thought was “this takes a LONG time!” Never-the-less, I was hooked and fascinated. I had to figure it out.

My machine came with 3 primary thread colors. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and there wasn’t any information available back then. I spent a lot of time trouble-shooting, a skill all good programmers have. I amassed numerous huge notebooks of samples with notes. You’ll see something similar in my Craftsy class and I’ve included my tracking form with the course materials. I had created that form in a databases (my second love after digitizing!) and then I just printed the form for my binder.

Lisa: We have seen your gorgeous digitizing created by your original artwork starting with your first company, Cactus Punch.  Do you have other artistic outlets?

Lindee: It’s funny, but if you walked through my house without seeing my studio, you might never know I did embroidery because it seems everything I do is a “sample” for an event. Well, ok, I do have some embroidered garments but most are still from Cactus Punch designs. I do miss my artists!

I do have several paintings in watercolor and oils hanging about. One of my watercolors won a blue ribbon in the county fair many years ago. I used to do a lot of a hand embroidery and there are several projects out on display as well. I also used to do a lot of ceramics. Had the kiln and everything. I graduated with a BA in Art so my hobbies have always been creative even though I didn’t have many “art” jobs

We all know you as a Mac person which intrigued me from the first time we met – Mac & embroidery made perfect sense to me given all the advertising & graphic arts I had worked on in my past life was done on a Mac and then I was like “huh?” when every program that came out was for the PC. I know you reluctantly ran windows for some tasks.  How did you start in digitizing – was your first program the Pfaff Mac software or did you start with a windows based program?

Yes, I’m afraid I am somewhat of a Mac snob. My first program was Pfaff Mac software that I bought with my 1475 the year before I bought my first embroidery machine. That software only created decorative stitches. The POEM or Huskygram I bought in 1994 also had Mac software. I remember remarking to one of the tech people for that machine that the software felt like a beta version and that someone said, “Let’s ship it anyway.” His jaw dropped open and he said that’s exactly what happened. This software was extremely basic, no compound fills or satins. I didn’t use it for very long, maybe a month or so.

I ended up buying the DOS version called CS2, which was a subset of a DOS version of Wilcom. It was very manual. It did satins and fills but running stitches had to be punched one stitch at time. Very tedious!

I began researching professional software when I realized I was really hooked. At the time, there were two options: the pro version of the “beta” software I was using and Punto. Punto would connect to my POEM and also had a trial that you could test that did everything but save, sew, and print. I found Punto to work very naturally for me because it has tools like Adobe Illustrator. At that time I was working for an ad agency as a multimedia developer and I did a lot of my own graphics. I still use Punto to this day. I have found it doesn’t work like any other digitizing program and although there are now more powerful programs, I’m just more efficient in Punto. Also, it works on my Mac.

Wow, it sounds like you were “hooked” pretty quickly…

My pace into machine embroidery was pretty rapid. Bought my first embroidery machine in September, professional software the following June, and my first multi-needle machine arrived in October.

If you are thinking about digitizing there are a lot more choices now. If you’ve outgrown what came with your machine then by all means look for something else. Also, if your software is too hard and you’ve given it a fair shot, don’t let it stop you from moving on to something you will use.

I know you have always had forward thinking when it comes to what’s possible in machine embroidery…What is the most unique material you have embroidered on – and why did you do this?  We all know these are expensive machines, so there must have been some rationale in thinking “how can I embroider XYZ without breaking the machine?” or did you just go for it and see what happened?

I’ve embroidered on wood, metal, paper, leather, artificial flowers, and fish net. I once saw embroidery on a condom but haven’t tried that myself.  I’ve also embroidered on fabrics I would have never considered sewing with because they were too difficult.

I would guess the fishnet required the most thought. It was a very open net and it was for a shower organizer. I layered it between two pieces of Solvy taking care to arrange the mesh evenly. Then I misted it down thoroughly with a water bottle and let it dry. I used organza as the stabilizer so essentially I was stitching on the organza. It worked best when the embroidery was an appliqué but I also tried full-stitch designs and those worked too.

I think the biggest issue is how do I get it in the hoop rather than worrying about breaking the machine. I figure if the machine can sew through my finger most anything else I stick in should be fine.

Being an independent business woman in this industry is a double edged sword – we get to do what we love every single day (outside of the yucky bookkeeping and paperwork and such) but what we love to do has become “a job” which can sometimes take the fun out of it.  We see many new embroider-ers opening Etsy stores to sell their creations – do you have any advice on how to keep the fun in the job?  

 Well, Lisa, to tell you the truth it is discouraging to see all these embroiderers giving away their work. It really degrades all embroidery in my opinion. And you’re right, some aspects are definitely more fun than others. Ultimately I think the fun comes from whether this is something you are truly passionate about or whether it’s just a lark. This is my twentieth year digitizing and when I start getting down about the business, I go digitize something. For me, it’s like meditation, especially with lace or complicated redwork. It takes focus and I find it relaxing. I’d be in bliss if I could just digitize and let someone else do the embroidery!

I do have to say my husband, Bill, does help with the paper work but I still do all the techy & design stuff like maintaining the shopping cart, creating packaging, writing blog posts and everything else that goes on.  I’m sure you’ve seen those graphics of “what people think I do and what I really do.” One day a drew up a flow chart of how that relates to me. The “what I really do” was so long it was almost overwhelming! It still may end up as a blog post one of these days.

 Are you a perfectionist when it comes to embroidery?  

 I would say I’m a perfectionist but I guess really I strive for excellence. Absolute total perfection in embroidery with every stitch properly tensioned and in the exact place is unreasonable. There are some things we have to compromise on and there are also things I classify as “embroidery facts of life”—those uncontrollable things that just happen.

So what’s your main thought when it comes to digitizing? Do you do a test sew?  I know there are different types of test sews, especially when you are creating the design yourself vs creating a project using “tested” embroidery designs.  Some digitizers stitch the design out using the colors on their machine just to see what the design will look like (push pull angles etc).  

 I don’t digitize at top speed; I digitize with care. I’m reasonably fast but not as fast as I think I should be; quality is more important to me. I don’t use auto digitizing. And absolutely every design is test sewn! I’d never send a design out without test sewing. My husband Bill does a lot of the sewouts but I do test all the appliqués and I test them with fabric. I also sew the embroidery on my projects.

When testing, I look for efficiency. Does it sew in an orderly manner? Are colors duplicated that could be combined? I also watch for registration. I test on a multi-needle so I watch for missed trims. I program trim commands into the design and if I missed a trim function and there is a travel stitch, then I probably missed adding the tie stitches. I watch to see that underlay is consistent where possible.  When the design’s done, I visually inspect it carefully. I lay it down on a flat surface and run my fingers over it to see if there are lumps. Sometimes these can’t be avoided like very small eyes stitched on top of another layer. Larger eyes can have the under layer cut away but tiny dots can’t and isolated tiny dots on the surface must have tie ins and tie outs that make them even thicker.

I do watch a virtual sew out before ever sending the design to my machine to check for any potential problems. Virtual sew outs are no substitute for the real thing. A digital file is not embroidery! Embrilliance Essentials is a great tool for anyone to use to watch a design sew on screen.

I use “real” colors because we scan all our embroideries and then crop away the fabric for the images on the website and packaging I might not do that with a redwork design and just leave it rendered. I sometimes wonder about the sites that only post images of their designs from their software. Did they actually ever stitch them?

Sometimes I edit because of an actual problem and sometimes I edit because when I see it sew, I think of a way I’d rather do it. It’s a very basic design indeed that only has one way of being digitized!

Do you have any suggestions for those who are learning to digitize when doing their test sews?  How about a tip for someone stitching a design for the first time on a new fabric?

 I think all digitizers should sew their own designs out until they have a good mastery of digitizing. Watch every stitch sew. Notice if there are any ways to improve efficiency. Do you need to adjust colors? Sometimes I’ll sew a design out several times just to get the right colors. I always the list the colors and brands I used in the sewn sample. Color makes a huge difference in a design.

I think you should always test a design before sewing it. Maybe I’m paranoid but I know how many things can go wrong! Do test on the same or similar fabric (including color) with the stabilizer, needle, bobbin thread, and thread colors you plan to use. Also, be sure to hoop on grain; don’t just throw the fabric into the hoop willy nilly. Watch the design sew and notice if there are any problems. After sewing, check the design for any gaps or other registration issues and for tension problems. I’d rather spend the extra time on test sew than mess up something bigger.

People used to tell me all the time they never tested Cactus Punch designs because they knew it would sew right. Even I tested them before sewing on a project!

Do things ever slip by? Sure! Sometimes it happens during conversion. I do try to color the designs in the actual thread colors so you’re most likely to see the “right colors” in PES and VP3. Sometimes if the shades are too close and I’m converting to a format with a more restricted color palette, those colors get converted to the same color and the machine won’t stop. That’s why I recommend always downloading the DST. For one thing, that’s the design I actually sewed. It’s also the format I sew on my BabyLock and Viking. Many machines can read a DST and if yours can’t you should have some conversion software.

 When you digitize a design, do you have a particular execution plan in mind?  For example – do you create the design for a particular weight thread, fabric etc?  I see in your blog posts/newsletters that you do try out different things and give feedback (like snowflakes with the metallic thread newsletter post).  Are you always thinking “what if I…?”

I don’t always have a particular execution in mind but when I digitize designs for my collections, I do pick things I like. Right now I have a set of bobbin work that I need to make the final sample for so it does need a particular thread weight. Actually, the designs have been done since January and the project is the final hold up!

Mostly I digitize for 40 wt thread because that weight is the most popular and works well in most home machines. Using heavier or thinner threads may require some adjustments and if embroiderers aren’t aware, they won’t get good results and will likely blame it on the design. I want people to have successful results with the least amount of effort. Another reason I don’t often use different sized threads is that it requires too many adjustments on my multi-needle and I’m not willing to do that. That machine is very finicky.

Digitizing for 40 wt means the design will work well for popular brands of poly and rayon in those weights. Cottons tends to be either a little heavier or thinner. Some metallic threads may not run well in a standard embroidery design, which is why I really like the Softlight Metallic threads. They are smoother and softer and run like rayon. Also, I’m not a big on a lot of glitz for myself and these threads are more refined, not so garish.

I’ve been really amazed how well the Softlight works. For years I taught (and was taught!) that you can’t stitch short stitches in metallic thread but you really can with Softlight. There’s a free collection you get when you sign up for my newsletter that has composed of motifs with very short stitches and I stitched all those samples in Softlight.

Softlight Thread:  http://lindeegembroidery.com/shop/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=46_47

 Speaking of thread – you have a new Craftsy class out – CONGRATULATIONS!  You must have quite a bit of experience with different threads.  Who is this class geared towards?  the experienced embroiderer who wants to try new thread types or the beginner who doesn’t understand all the choices?

 Thanks Lisa! As you know from personal experience, doing a Craftsy class is a lot of work but the Craftsy people are amazing! My class is called Thread Savvy: Stitch Flawlessly With Any Thread. It is in the embroidery category and the class applies to hooped embroidery, free motion embroidery, and decorative sewing machine stitches. Beginners need to know which threads to use to start out. Poly? Rayon? Why? What kind of bobbin thread and why? I know there are some people who use sewing thread for embroidery but the only place I think it might be appropriate is for sewing seams for in-the-hoop projects. More adventurous embroiderers might like to know what other choices are available and how they can use them, such as whether tension adjustments need to be made or whether a different needle should be used. There are a lot of fun threads out there and you may not find them at your local dealer. You definitely won’t find them at the chain fabric stores!

I really cover a lot of territory on threads, needles, tensions, and the 10 tips for getting great results with metallics work well with any thread. I demo how to modify density on any design either at your machine or in software using Embrilliance products. I love that Embrilliance programs work on my Mac!

If you’d like to learn more about specialty threads then use this link for special pricing!   Craftsy class, Thread Savvy: Stitch Flawlessly With Any Thread:  http://tinyurl.com/ThreadSavvy

 When it comes to thread at the machine, do you clip at the spool and pull thru the machine?  

Good question. It’s better to clip the thread at the spool and pull it through so you don’t end up with “thread snot” caught inside the machine where you can’t get it out. On my multi-needle, I clip at the spool and tie on the next thread and pull it through like you would on a serger.

The machines I use most have automatic thread trimmers. They pull the threads to the back and trim them leaving a short tail. I’ve had people who are neat freaks trim the tails flush with the fabric and then complain the stitches are falling out. The tail is security! Here’s another tip: if you are embroidering letters and trim between each one, only do it on the front. Apply a dot of seam sealant to keep the stitches secure.

If your machine doesn’t have automatic thread trimmers, then for best results you should leave a short tail on the front and pull it to the back. Truthfully, I never did that. I trimmed close on the front and left a tail on the back. Also, trim any jumps at each color change so you don’t sew them into your design.

 What are some important features you like on embroidery machines? Do you have any suggestions for those who are looking at getting an embroidery machine?

  I definitely want a machine that will read the common formats from a USB stick without some proprietary formatting. And I want to be able to organize my files into folders on the stick.

I want hoops that are very secure. Some of the newer machines with really large hoops jiggle. If you’re looking for a new machine, attach the largest hoop and put your finger opposite the attachment, wiggle it and see if it is stable.

 So what “new feature” would you like to see incorporated in a future model – oh wouldn’t it be nice if…..!

 I’d really like a machine that could magically manage tensions for perfect stitches every time with an anti-birdnesting feature. I think it would be cool to have one of those jet-threader things like on the Baby Lock sergers on my my multi-needle machine.

I really have a longer list of items I’d like to see in my digitizing software since that is where I focus most of my time!

 I’m right there with you on those tension and anti-birdnesting features!  Sign me up!  Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to chat with me about machine embroidery!  I know that I enjoyed finding out a bit more about you and think others will find your expertise not only useful but interesting!

For those interested in getting more information and the special pricing on Lindee’s class at Craftsy here is the link!  http://tinyurl.com/ThreadSavvy

Lindee’s “online residence” is at www.LindeeGEmbroidery.com

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4 Comments on “Chatting with Lindee Goodall about Machine Embroidery SCHTUFF!”

  1. Lee Maltenfort says:

    Great article.
    A suggestion from my writing/editing past: The first time you use a “shortcut” such as DST in an article, spell it out in parenthesis. You’ll find that recommendation in almost any style guide used in publishing. Keeps newsbies such as I feeling more comfortable with an article.

  2. Thanks for the tip but DST is not a “shortcut” it is the three letter extension of a commercial embroidery file format so there is nothing to spell out. I understand trying to provide as much information as possible, but this blog post was not intended to be a primer on all things machine embroidery. I am glad that you found the article interesting and thank you for asking the question! If you go to wikipedia, you can type in “DST embroidery format” to get lots of information on this and its use in the commercial embroidery industry! Have a great day!

  3. Pat Snyder says:

    This is one article that is going directly into my Evernote. I keep my reading material (like blogs) there and can reread when I have a minute at the doctor’s office. One thing I know about embroidery is that ideas and tricks that cross my desk can be lost forever without my Evernote. (No, I don’t get paid from them) It is FREE and I recommend it highly. Place all those tidbits that you enjoy in (synchronized) any of my weapons (er – make that devices. )

    Pat, The Avid Embroiderer


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