Piecing in the Hoop

10 02 2008

There are days when one should not sew.  Today was one of those.  I should have planted myself in front of the computer and played rather than trying to prepare for Wednesday’s embroidery club.  It has been years since I have sewn through a finger or cut myself with a rotary cutter.  I did both today, as well as burning myself and cutting the frame piece for my block incorrectly when I didn’t have any extra fabric.  Through all this I persevered and have the information  partially ready for club.  Since I did all this at great personal cost, I thought I’d go ahead and put a tutorial here.

 We will be piecing arcs for a New York Beauty block in the embroidery hoop.  I drafted and digitized this design in the Bernina software. The design is available as a free download in several formats over in the free download box on the right side bar of this blog.  It is called New York Beauty.zip.  So without further ado, here is how to piece a New York Beauty block using your embroidery hoop.

img_8572.jpgHoop a stabilizer.  It can be a tear away, wash away or light weight cut away.  I used Sulky Totally Stable.  This stabilizer was recommended by Rene Haddadin for drafting quilts.  It is similar to freezer paper since it has a dull side for marking and a shiny side which can be ironed onto fabric.  I hooped it with the shiny side up, so I could press pieces to it.  If you chose to use another type of stabilizer, you could use drops of glue to hold pieces in place.

img_8573.jpgThis is a picture of the screen on my embroidery machine.  If you look very closely, you may be able to just make out the box in the lower left of the screen.  It shows there are 14 color changes in this design.  I certainly did not change colors while piecing this design, but the color changes are necessary so the machine will stop each time a new piece needs to be added.  I’m noting this here, because the temptation might be to select a single color stitchout option if it is available on your machine.  You DON’T want to do that.

img_8575.jpgRather than the usual loose tension for embroidery, change the tension on your machine so it is balanced.  On my machine that is a setting of 4 rather than the default of 2.  Also use the thread you would typically use to piece in both the bobbin and the top.  I happened to use Superior Masterpiece thread on this project.  If you can use a foot pedal with your embroidery module it is helpful.  It works with the Bernina 730, 200, 185 and 180 at least.  I don’t believe it works on the 640 or 440.  I have no idea whether the foot pedal works with other brands.  If you choose not to use the foot pedal or can’t use it you can slow down the stitch speed as needed.

img_8578.jpgThe first color change on the design is actually the stitching lines for the whole piece.  I find it helpful to know exactly where the next piece goes rather than trying to guess.  If you prefer not to deal with the extra thread, you could stitch this color change without thread in the needle, you can see the holes in the stabilizer.  I left the thread in so you could see it and also because my machine stops every few stitches if there isn’t thread in the needle.  Another option would be to stitch this color change with water soluble thread.  If you do this be absolutely certain you CHANGE the thread after this color change.  If you don’t the whole thing will fall apart when it gets wet.

img_8579.jpgI cut strips of my background fabric 4-1/2″ wide.  I prefer doing this to having lots of little pieces.

img_8580.jpgFor this block, I chose 12 fabrics in addition to the background fabric.  There are 24 spikes in the block so I needed enough fabric for 2 spikes of each color.  I cut 4-1/2″ x 3″ pieces for these.

img_8581.jpgThese are my cut pieces for the block.  You will probably need a couple of strips of the background fabric.


img_8582.jpgThis design begins stitching from the top of the hoop.  Place a background piece of fabric right side up covering the whole first section and overlapping into the next section by about 1/4″.

img_8585.jpgSince I used the Totally Stable as my stabilizer I used a Clover Mini Iron to press the background fabric to the stabilizer.

img_8587.jpgPlace a colored piece of fabric for the first spike right side down aligning the edges of the two pieces of fabric.  I didn’t have any trouble with it slipping, but if you are worried, you can use a couple of drops of glue in the seam allowance.  I have used Roxanne Glue Baste It in the past.  You could also use Elmer’s School glue with a fine tip as I discussed in a post last week.  Put the hoop on your machine and stitch the seam.

img_8589.jpgRemove the hoop from the machine, press the seam to set it using the clover mini iron.  Then flip the colored piece so the right side is up and press.

img_8591.jpgFold the fabric back on itself so it is covering the next stitching line by about 1/4″.  Trim the excess fabric.

img_8592.jpgIt will look like this after trimming.

img_8594.jpg You will need to fold back and trim the background fabric as well.  Be sure to leave at least 1/4″ for a seam allowance.

img_8597.jpgPlace the background fabric right side down against the spike fabric with the raw edges aligned.  Put it back on the machine and stitch the seam.  If there is extra colored fabric sticking out beyond the background fabric in the seam allowance you can trim it away to avoid shadow through.  You may also end up with seam allowances wider than you like.  If so you may trim them down before pressing the last piece stitched.

img_8599.jpgPress the same as for the last piece.

img_8600.jpgAgain trim away the excess leaving about 1/4″ for a seam allowance.

img_8610.jpgContinue to add fabric pieces alternating between background and spike fabric until all sections are covered.  The very last color change in the design is a tack down stitch that goes all the way around the arc inside the seam allowance.  This keeps pieces from flipping up when you are working with them later.

img_8612.jpgRemove the piece from the hoop. Flip the piece over and use the first color change as a guide line (it is the stitching line inside the tackdown stitch.  I trim the piece 1/4″ from that line all the way around.  As you can see I use a small ruler and a 28mm rotary cutter for this job.

img_8614.jpgThe arc should look like this after trimming.

img_8615b.jpgDo exactly the same thing three more times so you have four arcs.

img_8616.jpg Put the arcs together in pairs.  Align the corners of the stitching line and pin.  Stitch in a 1/4″ seam.  The stitching should be directly on top of the stitching line placed during the embroidery process.  Press the seams open.

img_8618.jpgPut the two half circles together exactly the same way.  Stitch and press the seams open.

img_8619.jpgYou should now have a full circle.

img_8620.jpgNow we need to set a circle in the center and the ring in a background circle.  We are going to use the Cut A Round designed by Cheryl Phillips.

img_8621.jpgMeasure the width of the ring from raw edge to raw edge.  In this case the ring measured 13-3/8″.

img_8622.jpgMeasure the inside of the ring from raw edge to raw edge.  In this case the measurement was 5-7/8″.

img_8623.jpgDecide how big you want your finished block.  I cut the piece 18″ square. Fold the square in half, raw edges together and press lightly.

img_8624.jpgFold in half again so the square is quartered and press lightly.

img_8625.jpg To frame our ring we need to cut a hole in the background fabric that is 1″ LESS than the measurement of the ring.  Remember my ring measured 13-3/8″ so we need to cut the hole 12-3/8″.  (This is where I messed up even though I checked the measurements a couple of times.  I tried to save the background fabric by putting seams at each fold line.)  If we were cutting a measurement that was an even inch measurement we would line the fabric up with the solid 90 degree lines and cut on that inch measurement.  There are marks on the rulers for 1/4″ increments.  Since I needed 1/8″ increments I had to line up the 90 degree angle between lines at the corner.  Once the ruler is lined up correctly, place the rotary cutter in the appropriate groove and cut.

img_8629.jpg If you want to cut the center circle from the background fabric you can cut it from the piece left from the last cut.  We need this circle to be 1″ LARGER than the measurement of the center of the ring.  The measurement on the inside of my ring was 5-7/8″ so the circle  needs to be cut 6-7/8″.  If you wanted a four color center, make a four patch larger than the circle you plan to cut and fold it into quarters, then cut in the same manner.

img_8631.jpgMark the ring at each 1/8 point.

img_8632.jpgMark the background in 1/8 sections also.

img_8633.jpgMatch the 1/8 marks all the way around and pin.  Stitch with the ring against the bed of the sewing machine and the background on the top.  You will only need the eight pins.  As long as you cut the circles the correct size it will go together very easily.  This circle is large enough that you shouldn’t need to make in clips in the concave part of the circle (the background).

img_8634.jpgPress the seam toward the background.  It will naturally want to fall that direction.

img_8635.jpgDivide the center seam allowance into 1/8 increments and mark with pins.

img_8636.jpgDivide the center section into eighths and mark with pins.  Match the pin marks together.  This circle is smaller and and not quite as easy.  You will need to make clips on the concave portion (the ring) this time.  Make clips close to the stitching line without cutting through it.  Stitch with the center circle against the bed of the machine. 

img_8637.jpgPress seam toward the ring.  (If you used tear away stabilizer, tear it away now.)  If I had cut the background circle the correct size this block would lie flat like

img_8638.jpg this block.  This block was the first one I made to test my digitizing.  Notice the center was cut from a four patch.  I had intended to embroider in the center of today’s block.  I may end up ripping off the outside of the background and finding a new piece of fabric.  Then the block should lie flat.

Just so you know none of the injuries today were serious.  Just a little blood.









8 responses

12 02 2008

I love this design! Unfortunately, I use PES in my machines. I note that you wanted to post the design to your website. Check out WidgetBox. It lets you upload designs and allows people to download from your site.

Pam H.

12 02 2008

I can convert designs to PES in my software, but I need to input a hoop size. If you can provide a hoop size I’d be happy to try it.

Also I haven’t found any way to use 3rd party widgets on WordPress. I’m still playing with some other options.

13 02 2008

Thanks so much for doing this! I can use 4×4 all the way to 7×12. I have the widgetbox on my website (http://islebstitching.wordpress.com/) with designs to download. I think your template has to be widget-ready. Please let me know if you find a different way.

24 02 2008
Erna M.

Your instructions are great! and so is the project. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Could you please send me the design in ART. I will still try to develop my own –

15 04 2008
Irene M.

What a great project; and you make it sound simple. Could you send me the design? I have Embird so I can convert it to the format I need. Thanks very much!

17 03 2009
Pat Casassa

I would love a copy of the New York Beauty machine embroidery design as I have been looking for something like this for a long time. I tried digitizing my own, but I am still a beginner. Thank you for your consideration.

19 03 2009
Jeanette Selleck

Your site is just great! I would love the New York Beauty machine embroidery design also. I was so excited to see you using the Cutaround tool. I have that in my stash of tools. I’m in a Bernina group where we each do a demo at sometime during the year. I would love to show this!

20 07 2009

What a wonderful tutorial! I would also love to try your block, I use the Bernina software so either .art or .exp works for me. It’s just beautiful!

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