Ideas and Inspiration


Read 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 permission.

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 done!

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 lovely.

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 charity.

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 applique 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 applique projects.  Could a little furry fleece or even a velour print add 3D life to your project?  Keep a stash of 1/8 to 1/4 yard pieces of that spendy, but oh so soft, furry fleece on hand for projects that call for sheep or even for fuzzy little applique 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 embroidered design.

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 treasures.

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 applique 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 applique 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.)

Applique 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 1/8 to 1/4 yard pieces for applique, then it becomes quite affordable to play with.  Take a friend, or group of friends, shopping to split and share those 1/8 to 1/4 yard pieces into workable applique 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 stitches.

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 of embroidery.

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.

The 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 1/8 to 1/4 yard pieces of your favorites to add to your applique stash.  Also, be sure to think of applique when sewing friends are de-cluttering their sewing rooms.  It only takes a couple of inches to cover an applique area.  Great applique 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 world.

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 applique.  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 finished quilt.

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 in between.
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 completely!