What to do when the bobbin thread is showing on top of the hoop

So you’re stitching along and your embroidery is looking great in the hoop.  All of a sudden you notice that the bobbin thread is starting to show up on top of the hoop!  Don’t be touching the top tension knob!  90% of the time, the problem of bobbin thread on top of the hoop is caused by a problem under the hoop in the bobbin area.

photo 1-1Here are the first things I run through to troubleshoot the problem:

1. Did you just change the bobbin?  If so maybe you didn’t thread it through correctly OR maybe you put the bobbin in backwards.  Take the bobbin out, make sure you are putting it in following the diagram and make sure that you are threading the bobbin through the path with a little bit of “secure tension” on the thread – kind of like if you were flossing teeth.  Not tight and rough to cause bleeding gums! But you want to “thread with purpose” so that you are sure that the bobbin thread is going into the tension disks securely.

2. Take out the bobbin and the shuttle (the case the bobbin drops into shown to the left).  Use a soft brush and clean in the machine, under and around where the case was seated.  Your machine manual will have great diagrams on how to take out the bobbin, shuttle and most I’ve seen have pictures showing where to clean or where to pay attention to where the fuzz collects!  NOTE: I do not use q-tips to clean this area.  I use a small nylon brush or a mini sheepskin duster (looks like a pencil or chopstick with a sheepskin fur ball glued to the end).  Qtips tend to shed and can snag on sharp edges adding fibers to what you are trying to remove.

3. Next, you need to clean out the tension disks of the bobbin case using a fine pin or business card.  Here is a PDF file that you can download showing you a close up of what I’m talking about:

PDF on Bobbin Case Cleaning

A bright light and a fine pin or business card are the best tools for the job.  The fuzz that you will find may not be seen unless you shine the bright light in there and you see reflections or shadows.

I clean out my bobbin area every time I change bobbins ESPECIALLY if I am stitching with tearaway stabilizer or on fabric that sheds like Minkee or burlap or glitter vinyl appliques!  Felt is another fabric that will fill your bobbin case with schmutz – not the technical term but dust and fuzz do not really describe what you will find in the bobbin area. And yes, I said tearaway stabilizer will create more schmutz in the bobbin case than other types of stabilizer – its the nature of the product.  It tears away so the needle can shred it and down the hole in the throat plate go all the particles.  And yes, some brands will create more or less particles than others.

In other words – for consistently successful embroidery, there are a couple of things you need to work out between you and your machine.  Sounds like I’m giving relationship advice – how many of you are nodding and thinking this doesn’t sound far fetched?  So here’s how to keep the honeymoon going (or getting it started!)  First, you  need to determine what “fiber ingredients” work best for you with the types of designs and projects you are stitching.  What stabilizer, hooping technique, needle, thread in top and bobbin, topping, fabric stitching on, etc – all these make up the ingredients to the embroidery project at hand. How do you figure all this out?  Pay attention to what your machine is doing.  Listen to your machine as it stitches. Look at the stitching results on top of the hoop and underneath.  If you make ONE adjustment, note it and see what changed – on top and on the backside of the hoop.

Part of the “paying attention to see what works” is also to note what is going on in the bobbin case.  If you just finished appliqueing a bunch of burlap garden flags with glitter vinyl floated on a very papery tear away stabilizer – take a few moments to take out your bobbin and bobbin case.  Notice anything different that when you were stitching cotton totes with simple monograms? Make a note.  I bet you see schmutz.

I am definitely NOT saying that the only time you get schmutz in the bobbin case is when you stitch non-cotton fabrics!  Holy smokes! The only time your bobbin case will remain pristine clean is if you don’t use your sewing/embroidery machine!  It can’t be avoided, but if you want to continue successful embroidery, taking the time to make a few adjustments before the next project can save lots of headaches dealing with a problem.  Clean the case.  Change the needle.  Inspect the thread cutter area under the throat plate.  Just do a quick 1-2-3 check of everything and a quick clean and you’ll be more likely to continue successful embroidery.

Until next time – wishing you zero thread nests!



How to Digitize in StitchArtist Lesson 1 of many – opening the graphic, setting the plan and GO!

monkey in boxBetween Christmas and New Year’s, I thought I would try to make a couple posts on some of the digitizing functions of StitchArtist.  I know many people got the program for Christmas or are thinking about getting the program.  I’ve been using it for over a year and really enjoy creating my own designs.  I thought that creating a series of posts that follow me through a design from start to finish might help give some insight as to how a “non-professional but always learning” digitizer works with the software.

First, let me say that this project will be using StitchArtist Level 1 just to demonstrate that there is quite a bit you can do with this entry level digitizing program!  Yes, it runs on both a Mac or Windows computer and pretty much looks the same on either operating system – so just because the picture/video is done in the Mac version, pretend you are looking at a windows computer and tell yourself “Its ok that my program is not identical, if I click on the same button on my computer that looks a little different, the same thing happens so it’s all good!”  YES you can start with Level 1 and upgrade to Level 2 at any time.  YES the program is stand alone, HOWEVER, I have other Embrilliance titles installed so when you watch the video, you may see other buttons that you will not have if you only have StitchArtist authorized.  I WILL NOT be using any of these buttons, so please do not say “I have StitchArtist Level 1 and mine doesn’t look like yours, why?”  Yours will have every function and feature that I actually click on and use in this blog post – I will not be discussing the other programs.  If you are paying attention to the other stuff I’m not talking about…stop that 🙂

In case I forget, you can find out about the software from the Embrilliance website and here is the direct link to the StitchArtist page: http://www.tinyurl.com/StitchArtist.

There are many ways to do any single task – including how to digitize a design.  In fact, I would say ESPECIALLY when it comes to design creation because this is a personal and artistic form of expression.  That being said, I’m going to walk you thru ONE way that I chose to create this embroidery design – not the right way or only way – but rather, my way. Use this information any way you want!

Before I start any embroidery project, I decide what hoop I am going to use.  I’m choosing to create the design for the 5×7 or 130mm x 180mm PES hoop.  Deciding this now will tell me how much detail to include – for example I have zero desire to stitch large areas with fill stitches or cut applique shapes the size of pennies – not my idea of fun.  I also work in metric because it just makes more sense.  I know the difference between a 2mm and 3mm stitch but .078 inches or .118 inches means nothing to me visually – I can’t “see” the difference between those in my head.  But I know that a 2mm running stitch is going to be wicked tiny and a 3mm stitch will do decent curves for a running stitch.  So the first thing I will do is open my software, set my measurement and hoop.

The most common way to begin creating a design is with using a graphic or picture as a guide.  StitchArtist is NOT an automatic digitizing program.  Computer software programs have zero creativity and emotion.  Creating an embroidery design is an artform and StitchArtist provides you with tools so that you can creatively interpret the graphic into a stitch file.  So the first thing I will show you is how to do is setup your workspace and open a graphic into the program.  I drew this monkey in a gift box and scanned it into my computer as a JPG file.  The important part of this step is that what you open as a background is a graphic file such as a JPG, BMP etc.  Formats are listed on the website.  The software doesn’t care that you can’t draw – it cares that you choose a graphic on the computer to open.  How the graphic got there is up to you!

Once I open my graphic as a background, I size it to fit my hoop and save the file.  Saving often it a good plan in my book.  When someone asks how often you should save, my answer is that I save as soon as I finish something I never want to do again.  I strongly dislike duplicating work.  Therefore, I save often.

I have zero intention to replicate the information that is well documented in the manual. Again – I’m not into creating more work for me 🙂  If the manual did not exist or was poorly written, I would have a different opinion on the matter.  However, I read the manual.  Its a great read – one might even venture to say that it is entertaining and fun!  I have a copy in my kindle app so that I can search and refer to it often.  The Embrilliance manual makes sense and gives you background information on digitizing practices as well as how to use the various tools in the program.  I highly suggest that if you have not done so, that you download the manual from the Embrilliance website and check it out.  Not sure where to find it? There is a link on the StitchArtist page to both the FAQ and the manual.

So once the graphic is open in the background – that is the inspiration upon which the embroidery design is going to be created. My “vision” is that this 5×7 design will be part applique with various stitched accents.  The monkey is coming out of the gift box, so the first thing that needs to be created is the box and its lid.  My favorite drawing tool is the point input – click your mouse and that’s a node.  You do not need to have the last click be on top of the first click in order to close a shape – that’s done for you automatically using the close button on the menu bar.  And for those that want to get the most our of their software and have read the StitchArtist chapter as suggested, you already know that you can use the Command+right click (CTRL+right click in windows) to end and close the shape in one step.

The Applique stitch properties for Level 1 has two sections – the stitch properties and the tie off properties. (note: Other levels may have more pages to their properties pane.)  Hopefully you have stitched a few well digitized designs so you know that locking stitches or ties are important at the start of a color/section as well as at the end.  These are called Ties in StitchArtist and you can turn them on or off for each object you create.  Yes, I will show you some examples later on in this project of when you would not want the ties to be turned on.  You have various options for the applique properties – the style of finishing stitch and its density and width for example.

The Applique object type can have up to 3 parts and you have complete control to turn any of these – on or off.  An applique normally has a single run that stitches showing you where the fabric needs to be placed.  This is referred to as the Applique Position stitch.  The machine would stitch this and stop because it is its own colorbreak.  You would place a piece of fabric in the hoop covering this outline.  The next colorbreak is another single run (material position) – it holds down the fabric you just placed in the hoop and stops.  If the fabric you placed in the hoop was not cut to fit this shape ahead of time (either by hand or die or fabric cutter), you would remove the hoop and trim the fabric.  Return the hoop to the machine and stitch the final colorbreak – the finishing stitch.

As you can see in the applique properties, these three “stitching objects” are all part of a single object – so if you reshape the applique shape you automatically reshape each of the components. Kind of cool and saves you a lot of time.  You can also turn off any one or more of these depending on what it is you are trying to do.  For this example, our applique will have the 3 components – we’ll start off simple!


Check out the video clip here to see how we got to this point!

If you thought I was going to work through this entire design in one blog post – SORRY!  If you have the software, I encourage you to play.  By playing with the software, you will slowly develop YOUR WAY to do something which may be different than mine – and that’s a wonderful thing to happen!

We have quite a few more lessons coming up so be sure that you subscribe to my blog.  And please remember that if you have questions on the software, you will ALWAYS get an answer by clicking on the Contact Us link on the website!  This is the best and fastest way to get information on any of the Embrilliance programs.

Until next time – see you online!

Craftsy classes on sale!

If you are not familiar with Craftsy or think its just about sewing and machine embroidery, you may want to check it out!  The classes available span all sorts of artistic endeavors from cake decorating to gardening to water color painting or photography.  Of course, my favorites are those with Sewing & Embroidery, but what fun to take a class on a new topic- just to try it out!

Pick your price! Choose from this tiered selection of popular online classes today and get better at what you love to do without breaking the bank! Enroll today to enjoy learning anytime, anywhere, forever.


Use the following link to get the special savings    http://www.craftsy.com/ext/LisaShaw_holiday


Adding a Basting Box to a Design – why & how

I’ve recently joined a few new embroidery groups on Facebook that are machine specific. I’ve found the conversations quite interesting, the projects are just as adorable as ever, and most of the people are looking to their online community for answers, tips and tricks – just like I was back in the 90s!  So this blog post is dedicated to all those starting out.  Thanks for turning back the clock!

So – the “Basting Box”

What is she talking about – we’re embroidering not sewing!  Some machines have a function built into them that will baste a design.  What this is, is a long running stitch that can go in a box shape at the border of a design OR around the entire hoop. This will stitch first, before the design stitches. Software programs like Embrilliance Essentials allow you to add a basting box to an existing design.  This is handy if your machine doesn’t have this function. If you don’t have software yet – I’ve provided a link here for a 100×100 basting box in the PES format so that you can actually try using one and see if it works for you.

Link to zipped file Zipped_BastingBox_4x4.zip

I’ve found the basting box so useful, that it is part of every single design I stitch and can’t imagine not going to Utility > Basting Box before I send a design to my machine.  Here are the reasons why:

  1. It is a long running stitch that attaches the stabilizer to the fabric.  When using adhesive stabilizer it is an extra safeguard against fabric shift.
  2. If you are using a topping, and I use a topping on every single embroidery design as well, it holds that in place.
  3. You don’t need to use pins as your extra set of hands in the hoop
  4. Doesn’t matter what color thread you use – I normally use the first color in the design because I’m lazy. If you want use a thread color that blends into the background fabric, if you are multiple hooping a design and the basting box is covered by stitches or you miss clipping some, it will be less noticeable.
  5. It takes less time to stitch a basting box than to drag out Peggy’s Stitch Eraser to fix an oops.  This goes right along with “measure twice, check it one more time, then make the cut”

In the software….

It would be easier for me to show you how to add the basting box using Embrilliance Essentials, so I created this short video and posted it to my youtube channel.  Please feel free to subscribe to LisaSewBubbles on youtube if you would like to have a notice sent to you when other videos have been posted!

Link to youtube video

If you don’t have software….

If you don’t yet have software I included a link to a 4×4 basting box earlier.  What you would do is simply load this to your machine as a design and stitch it first.  Then while the hoop is still at the machine, stitch the actual design. It would be just like the following, except you have two designs, not the basting box in the design.  Consider the basting box to be color 0 – – – just saved in its own file.

At the machine…

So this is what happens at the machine.  I have loaded my design that has been saved with the basting box added (watch the video above if you missed this part).  You will see that the first color is the box – I normally stitch this in the same color as color #2, the first actual part of the design.


I hoop my stabilizer – adhesive stabilizer or in this case a simple tearaway with Mettler Web Bond sprayed on – and place my fabric in the hoop.  If I was “hooping” a child’s t-shirt for example, I would hoop polymesh stabilizer (my favorite for knits), spray, turn the shirt inside out for easier placement in the hoop and tape it, clamp it, pin it out of the way.  I normally do not pin to the stabilizer in the hoop simply because I find that with smaller hoops I have to “man handle” the stabilizer too much and that can stretch it or cause shifting…resulting in not so stable foundation.


I’m ready to go to the machine – so I attach the hoop and float my water soluable stabilizer on top and stitch color #1 – the box – which attaches all three layers in one step.  Nice and stable.


Now I stitch the rest of the design…


I decided to come upstairs and finish the blog post so the design is not yet finished!  I will be updating this post with the zip file link in a few minutes.

Once the design is done, I will snip the basting bobbin threads from the back side to remove the basting stitch using my Kai 5100C scissors.  Remove the top basting stitch and pull the WSS away from the design.  I then take the design out of the hoop and if I had used polymesh or cutaway stabilizer I would use my Kai 5135C curved scissors with the slightly blunted tip to trim the cutaway really close.  I normally trim my jump stitches at the machine (using my Kai 5130DC double curved scissors that are super sharp and go over the hoop.  If I hadn’t I would trim the jumps BEFORE I removed the washaway on top – simply because if its easier to trim jumps with the WSS there and then it’s cleaner to remove it without the jumps possibly catching on the WSS.

Hope this now makes some sense.

If you are interested in getting more information on Essentials or any of the Embrilliance programs, please click on this link to be taken to their website!

Click Here for information on AlphaTricks and all of the affordable easy to use Embrilliance products!

Click Here for information on Essentials and all of the affordable easy to use Embrilliance products!

         Happy Stitching!

Stabilizers – starting a conversation

All sorts of stabilizers – photo from pinterest

Let’s talk a little bit about stabilizers and what their job is when it comes to machine embroidery. There is NO WAY that one blog post can cover everything about stabilizers – I actually started out being very general in my post and then thought it would be best if I focused on one thing at a time.

Now just to clarify what I’m talking about when it comes to stabilizers – this is something that is used to create a stable foundation in the hoop at the embroidery machine.  There are many different brands and types, each has its own job, there really is no ONE stabilizer that works for every single application.

I took a class many years ago from a commercial digitizer, when the home market of machine embroidery was in its infancy and something he said has stuck with me ever since. For results that will last washings, wear and time, the stabilizer you use is most important, the item you are stitching on is completely irrelevant.  Choose your stabilizer type and weight to fulfill the needs of the design (stitch count, density, etc).  I like to keep this thought in mind when I’m choosing which stabilizer to use for a project.

It makes sense if you think about it – if the stabilizer is what is holding all the stitches, your embroidered item is just “hanging out” enjoying the embellishment.  So with that frame of mind, if you used a cutaway stabilizer, you could probably stitch any design on any fabric!  But we use other types of stabilizer for our projects because we don’t want to add the bulk of a cutaway for fabrics that do not need this type of stability.

AH – so you choose a tearaway to match the cotton fabric, you stitch the design and something is not right – maybe you’ve got a bit of puckering or the outline doesn’t match. Maybe the design feels really thick when you take it out of the hoop and remove the stabilizer.  These are “signals” that the design you are stitching may be too dense for the fabric you have chosen to stitch on — the last part of that sentence is what you need to contemplate.  “the fabric you have chosen to stitch on”.

ProjectAdvisorYes different fabrics will react to having a design embroidered onto it differently than others.  There is no 100% correct all the time end all be all solution match up embroidery design, fabric & stabilizer – sorry!  Unless you like the look of cutaway showing through on your batiste curtains.  There is however some good charts and resources available to you so that you have a starting place for your choice.  Some software programs like Embrilliance Essentials will offer you suggestions right in the program.  Other programs like Embrilliance Density Repair kit will not only offer you these suggestions, but will try to adapt the design to match the fabric you are choosing to stitch on.

I also like the PDF file provided by Embroidery Library that has quite a robust chart of types of fabrics with the type of stabilizer used AND the styles of embroidery designs that works best!  This is very handy and a great place to start when planning your embroidery projects.  Here is the link to that PDF file from Embroidery Library.  Not only is Embroidery Library one of my goto resources for finding particular embroidery designs but they also have a great resource in their project section.

So here is a teenie tiny slicing start for a conversation on stabilizers 🙂  I have to laugh that on one of the embroidery groups I belong to, someone commented about all the photos of beautiful projects I post.  If they could only see all the whoops of bad choices I’ve made over the years!  I may not be an expert in stabilizers, but I’ve surely made my fair share of poor choices with interesting results — I just choose not to photograph and share all of those!  Learning by experience has the S.O.P. for my journey into machine embroidery.  Just hope that I can share a little of that experience with you and maybe it will help!

Until next time – happy stitching!

Sewing Summit 2013

So I’m here in Salt Lake City at the Sewing Summit! So very excited to be around such a diverse group of energetic women! I have to mention energetic because we had an open sewing session until 1am and here we are again in class sharing our enthusiasm for sewing.

So last night I was in the open sew to make another folder over zipper clutch using the embroidered fabric I brought with me. In Alessandra Gutierrez’s class earlier in the day, I created my “prototype” clutch….with fabric I knew would sew easily and the correct size zipper. Not that I don’t follow directions LOL, but I thought it was best that I try the project as it was intended :-). It went together so easily in class, I knew I could make another with the challenging to me fabric I had brought.

A little about the fabric I chose to base the clutch on….it was a 12 year old polyester slippery brocade from my stash that I bought 100% because of the color. It was well aged in my stash and when I saw Alessandra’s sample…I had to literally dig for it in the closet! Oh yeah…it was one of those fabrics that was always passed over for projects because it would be a bit “daunting” to sew…I knew it would come with “colorful metaphors” during the sewing process. But it was so pretty so it was in my stash and now it was going to have a purpose!

So I now needed coordinating fabric….I had black satin….black goes with everything….and it was JUST as lovely to sew so I knew it would be a challenge :-). To create a coordinating fabric from the basic black, I used Essentials to create the montage of outline style designs that I got from Embroidery Library to fit the 11″ x 8″ design area of the fold over portion. Too much fun playing with designs on the screen! I interfaced the satin with DecorBond so no stabilizer was necessary. I did use a water soluable topping. Stitched both pieces with bright colors to match the brocade, found an awesome zipper in my stash from Ghees.com, packed my suitcase and headed to the airport!



So here are photos of the finished clutch last night! Took less than 2 hours to sew up….including an awesome demo of the Bernina 780 machine I was sewing on and chatting with some of the others who were working on all sorts of projects in the room! So much eye candy!

Can’t wait to see what is in store for us today! Until next time ~ happy stitching and may you have zero thread nests!

A new library for Embrilliance – Alignments


In a previous post about lining up two or more designs in Embrilliance Essentials, I provided a zipped file with the alignment lines in it.  This did get me thinking….”wouldn’t it be nice if there was a library available of various types of alignment stitches right in the program?”  I happened to mention this to Brian Bailie and I would say within 5 minutes he sent me this file and said “will this work?”  So we did some tweaking and and testing to make sure there were no serious issues on my computers and we are now ready to let you guys test it if you want! 

So how do you get this library of alignments?  Download the Alignments.BX file from this link.  YES, if you have AlphaTricks or have seen the video, you know exactly what a BX file is!  Its like a design file with an installer included in it.  This is why when some of you asked “how do I convert my designs to the BX format” – – it really isn’t a format per se.  A BX file can contain a pre-mapped alphabet collection OR a set of embroidery designs OR…oh wait I can’t say anymore 🙂  You’ll just have to wait and see what Embrilliance has in store for you!

Here is the download link:   Alignments.bx file

So, you download the BX file.  Open Embrilliance Essentials and drag and drop the BX file onto the design page.  You’ll get a nifty little window saying that the alignments have been added to your library, just like this:


So now you go up to the little gear button – where you would normally get your built in library designs – and from the pulldown menu at the top choose Embrilliance Alignments and you will see the new files available in the library:


You can add these to your designs just like you would any of the library files!  If you want a center crosshair to stitch in the center of you hoop first (to put a cross on the stabilizer at the center of your hoop) insert the cross and make sure it stitches first!  You know I love to use alignment lines to line up designs because they are the most accurate from a mathematical point of view.  If you have a 36″ ruler on a table – it is really obvious when it is not straight because it is so long.  If you have a toothpick on the same table – it could be off and you wouldn’t know it because its too small.  The “points of reference” of the yardstick are 36″ apart – a toothpick is maybe 2″ apart?  BUT ANYWAY – I digress 🙂

Because there are many different types of alignment objects that people are familiar with, we put a whole bunch of them together in this library – you choose which you like to use to get the best results!  And yes you can resize these in the software.

Now, please know that we are providing them as a BX file today so you can try them out and give us feedback at http://www.Embrilliance.com and click on Contact Us.  Please do not post a question on Facebook or this blog if you want it answered quickly by someone in support!  I have no idea if wordpress will tell me if there is a message here in a timely manner and I would hate for you to think I was ignoring you!!  The Embrilliance team wants to hear from you if you are having issues so that they can be addressed before the next update comes out!  Because YES the plan is to include this file in a future update — unless everyone hates it :-O

So – here’s to lining stuff up!  Look for some future posts that talk about using my favorites!

Until next time, happy stitching!