Ideas and Inspiration
Please: These tips are original and exclusive to OPW Mall.
Feel free to use them for your personal embroidering and quilting
needs, however, it is strictly prohibited to publish them without
Watch for new tips
as they are added to the top of this list.
- If you like to make special gifts for friends with names or
monograms, to save time, embroider the design ahead of time and
keep the stabilizer on. When you need the gift, rehoop and
add the name or monogram.
- Keep a set of DOW towels ready for a quick gift that can be
used for almost anyone.
- Are you feeling like you just can not decide what to make?
Cut some square and embroider your favorite designs in the middle.
Before you know it you will have enough blocks to make a quilt and
your creative thoughts will have kicked in!
- Write down on a piece of paper all the things you like to
embroider or hope to embroider fold them up and put them in a jar.
Someday when you have a little time and you are not sure what you
want to do, pull a slip out of your jar and make it.
- Decoupage with your extra stitchouts! cut around the
stitchout, leaving as much extra fabric as you would like, paint
them up with decoupage, let them dry and place them on a wicker
basket or other item with hot glue. Add some ribbon or lace
and look what a beautiful gift you have!
- Stitch those extra test stitchouts into change purses and
makeup bags. Everyone will love them! Grab some
complementary fabric, a zipper and voila ... a few seams and your
- Test blocks make wonderful sachets. Select complementary
fabric, stuffing and some lace. Place test block face down
on fabric. Sew all sides leaving a small opening for
stuffing. Turn right side out and stuff. Sew close
opening and decorate with a bow. Add a few drops of essence
and place in a drawer. This will keep your cloths smelling
- Think outside of the box with your embroideries!
Embroider your design on tuille, trim close to the design and glue
it on something you can't sew! Try something new! Use
colors, fabrics, designs and patterns you wouldn't normally try...
your creative juices are sure to flow!
- Do you have lots of test blocks stitched and don't know what
to do with them? Donate them to a quilt guild to be used for
- When embroidering on a blanket, change the bobbin thread to
match the top thread You will have a two-sided design.
- Some of us never throw out anything :) If you save your
scrap threads like I do, you can reuse this in a fun project.
Layer of solvy, thread scraps, and another layer of solvy.
The thread scraps will be sandwiched between the solvy. You can
also layer between organza. Spread your thread scraps in a
shape you will like - bookmark, ornament etc. Now thread
your machine with a complementing color. I like to use gold
metallic. Using plain and decorative stitches randomly sew
over the threads. Make sure you crisscross your stitching.
Select a satin stitch and stitch your edging. In the shape you
decided upon. Rinse the solvy or cut the organza. You
now have a colorful project.
Thanks to the
great variety of confetti-type cutouts now being offered in
stores, using clear vinyl for appliqué is more fun than ever.
Simply sprinkle the "confetti" between two sheets of clear vinyl
before running the tack-down stitch and you'll have a wonderful 3D
effect. For something a bit more feminine, try using lavender or
potpourri between organza, netting or tulle instead of vinyl.
- Tired of using the same designs in
the same old way? The next time you're heading for the store,
take along a notepad and take notes on how they are using
embroidery. Catalogs are another great source for ideas of new
ways to combine colors and outlines to create a whole new feel
with the same design. Keep an eye out for designs at the hem that
relate to the designs closer to the neckline. New ways to use the
same designs make the designs in your stash more valuable.
- Don't forget textured fabrics when
considering your appliqué projects. Could a little furry fleece
or even a velour print add 3D life to your project? Keep a stash
of ⅛- to ¼-yard pieces of that spendy, but oh so soft, furry
fleece on hand for projects that call for sheep or even for fuzzy
little appliqué aliens!
- It's important, when shopping for
designs, to take the time to consider the multitude of ways the
designs could be used when deciding its true value. Can the
colors be changed to alter the mood? Bright, primary colors
changed to pastels can make a design meant for an older child just
adorable for an infant. The black and orange Halloween design can
become Americana red and blue for the 4th of July. Practice
seeing what isn't there each time that you shop.
- Being limited to a 4" x 4" hoop
doesn't mean you can't embellish an entire jacket back or make a
dress length really sizzle. Any size hoop is still going to
require that you plan out the positioning for the overall look.
Don't be afraid to "piece together" something bigger because you
might have to re-hoop once or even twice. Practice pin-basting
the project to the stabilizer on smaller items so that, when it
comes to doing something bid, you'll have the confidence to put it
together without having to leave hoop marks on and already
- Make great use of embroidery
designs and blank tees this summer by putting together T-shirt
dresses for your girls. Trim the tee to just half an inch below
where you want the waist to sit. Coordinate a favorite design
with a cute skirt print, and trim the fabric to skirt length (plus
extra for hem and half-inch seam allowance). Stitch the side
seams for the skirt, gather, and attach to the tee. Then, just
hem the bottom of the skirt and you've got an easy play dress!
(Editor's Note: I've done this for dresses for myself, too!)
- What do you do with that extra button(s) from your sewing
project? You stitch them in the seam of course! Now
when you break or loose a button, just cut the button on the seam
and attach it to the missing spot!
- With today's beautiful fabrics and most of it washable, make
your pillow covers with invisible zippers. Most machines now
have a foot that makes putting in an invisible zipper a breeze.
When the season changes or you would like to change your pillows,
unzip and replace the covers! These covers are much easier
to store than full pillows.
- Did you know that the more you
work with a wide palette of colors the more colors your eye will
learn to distinguish as different shades? I think the same can be
said for seeing designs in different colors. If you're new to
embroidery, practice seeing designs in a completely different
color scheme than what is offered. Could you do it in red, white
and blue? Would the same font in pastels work for a baby
blanket? You'll have more fun and get more value from the money
you spend on designs.
- Don't forget to experiment! There
are new products and threads entering the market all the time.
It's easy to get locked into using traditional methods unless you
really get out there and play with what's new. Try a solar thread
or start planning something fun with glow-in-the-dark threads. If
you haven't tried solar threads yet, they start out white indoors
and turn their designated color when under direct sunlight. Think
of a flower blossom that changes colors depending on where you
are. Have fun!
- A design doesn't have to show
crystals on it to be compatible with working them into your own
project. Even sand, flip-flops or beach pails could use a little
bling with the help of your hot fix wand. Mark out a simple
outline behind your stitch-out (in dots) and use the crystals to
make a great, sparkling frame. Bling!
- Don't wait for an ad to land in
your lap to find just the inspiration you're looking for to get
you moving again. Make a separate folder in your internet
bookmarks (favorites) for digitizers you love, and a folder for
designs you want to go back for when you have the money. A couple
of seconds taken to add to your favorites can save hours of
searching for designs you "saw somewhere" later. When you get
several extra minutes at one time, browse your digitizers list for
what's new or find a "search for designs" game to lead you to new
When shopping for designs, or when choosing them from your designs
files, don't just see them as presented by the designer! You can
change season or style of the design by simply dreaming up your
own color scheme. To save money on designs, choose those that
will suit more than one project, theme or age group.
- A healthy stock of fabric scraps
is a great resource for appliqué on your embroidery machine. Keep
an eye out at thrift stores and yard sales for packaged scraps.
You only need a couple of inches to make all the difference in
getting just the look you want to fill in that appliqué space.
Organize your scraps by color groupings as you get them to help
make a quick choice - mine even get arranged within the color
groups into prints and solids. (Editor's Note: small, clear
boxes and Ziploc bags are perfect for sorting scrap fabrics.)
Appliqué doesn't always mean you have to use cotton quilting
fabrics. There are plenty of fun fabrics available that can add
texture and dimension to your design. Take a stroll through the
fake furs and plush fabrics at your local fabric store and start
to imagine sheep and monster designs that touch you back. The
price of these fabrics can be high, but if you only need ⅛- to
¼-yard pieces for appliqué, then it becomes quite affordable to
play with. Take a friend, or group of friends, shopping to split
and share those ⅛- to ¼-yard pieces into workable appliqué
squares. You'll end up with a nice stash assortment for everyone
for very little money.
- A simple project becomes more
personal if you add a message. Put those design fonts you've been
collecting to work on your next project, and don't feel limited by
your 4" x 4" hoop. You don't have to hoop it all at one time to
spell out your thoughts. Experiment with putting down the words
and then adding the design in a second step. If you can pin- or
fuse-baste your project to the hooped stabilizer, then you don't
even have to worry about leaving hoop marks in previous embroidery
- Save those extra pieces of
heavy-duty water-soluble stabilizer (WSS) - like BadgeMaster or
Aquafilm - for use in making buttonholes where you don't want
stabilizer to show. Long strips of WSS scraps can also work well
to stabilize long lines of decorative machine stitching or chains
- Quilters can make use of
lightweight water-soluble stabilizer (WSS) for free-motion
quilting that won't mark up your precious quilt top. Lay the
transparent WSS over the pattern to be quilted and trace it with a
permanent marker. Place this over the desired area of your quilt
that has been LIGHTLY spritzed with water - to make it sticky -
and quilt through the stabilizer and the quilt sandwich. The
stabilizer will disappear when you wash your finished quilt.
next time you’re dreaming about what to do with all those quilt
fabrics and you just can't choose from a whole wall, try
purchasing several ⅛- to ¼-yard pieces of your favorites to add to
your appliqué stash. Also, be sure to think of appliqué when
sewing friends are de-cluttering their sewing rooms. It only
takes a couple of inches to cover an appliqué area. Great
appliqué projects start with a variety of fabrics to choose from
so that you are sure to get just the color and texture you desire.
- No matter what time of year it is,
doesn't it seem like Christmas - or any holiday - is just around
the corner? As you are sifting through your holiday designs,
print your favorite designs on a transparency sheet at their full
size. Display these transparencies in your favorite creative
space. Besides adding a fresh, decorative touch to your space,
you can also use these as templates when deciding where to place
the designs on your projects.
- Some of the best inspiration for
embroidery or shopping can come from a simple trip to your closest
clothing store. Keep a little notebook handy and take great notes
on how they are using trims in combination with embroidery for a
professional finish. You can even use less gas if you let your
fingers do the shopping all around the internet, giving "window
shopping" a whole new meaning as you check out children's
boutiques, womens' couture, and high end home decor around the
- Have you forgotten that your
embroidery machine can be used to quilt? It's easy to get in the
habit of thinking of the machine in terms of full stitch-outs and
appliqué. When you're considering the finishing touches for your
quilt, you can save yourself time by letting the machine do the
quilting stitches, too. Use a water-soluble stabilizer (WSS) in
the hoop, and it will simply wash away when you launder your
- You've put names and dates on baby
blankets, so now try them on a teddy bear. There are several
patterns available for stuffed animals that use only one or two
pattern pieces, making the entire construction process simple.
These sew up in about an hour from start to finish, and the great
part is that you can stitch your message or design on the belly
before sewing the bear.
- If you're new to embroidery on
fleece or other fuzzy fabrics, and a bit frustrated with the fuzz
peeking through your design, adding the right stabilizer layer
will give you great results. In addition to the stabilizer under
your fleece, add a layer of water-soluble stabilizer on top and
stitch as usual. This should cure those icky pokies. (Editor's
Note: add a layer of tulle or organza on top as well for even
more control. Just gently tear or cut away the excess around the
edges when you're done stitching.)
Catalogs can be the greatest place for inspiration on new ways to
use your embroidery. They show coordinated designs and placement
ideas for clothing, gifts and decorative items. Look at your
catalogs as an invaluable source of inspiration.
Are you really
seeing all the embellishment possibilities your machine offers?
Did you buy it to make cute stuff for the kids and totally miss
out on the possibilities for your socks, pant legs, dress hems and
lapels? Some of the cutest designs I've seen in catalogs have
taken kids' characters and used only the outline stitched out on
the lower hem to make a jacket more mature. Look at your designs
by the color stop and then take another look in your own closet to
imagine the possibilities. For a really coordinated look, use the
same design theme from the headband to the socks, and everything
Have you ever wanted
to cry because you thought your machine "ate" your project? See
the problem in a new light and think of fixing it with applique.
Re-hoop the damaged garment with fresh stabilizer and run your
outline color stop once. Very carefully trim away the fabric with
the damaged design without cutting into the new stabilizer.
Stitch the outline color stop again, add fabric, and proceed with
the final applique step. Then, stitch a full design within the
applique space. It's better than tossing out the project
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