Designs in Machine Embroidery – Article "Headrest Covers"

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The September/October issue of Designs in Machine Embroidery has a spectacular cover featuring Katherine Artines’ “Shapely Sunflower.” The theme of the magazine is techniques and technology in the machine embroidery world, and she exhibited the many aspects of machine embroidery.

Magazines routinely work many months in advance of the publication date and some magazines publish an editorial calendar that reflects the different themes for each issue. They release it to prospective freelance writers, which is terrific if you are on that list. However, when you are new to freelance writing, you do not have this privilege and have to submit a proposal blindly and hope that the editorial staff finds it attractive enough to include it or put you on their list to submit proposals for the future.

Blind proposal submissions are difficult as not only do you not know the theme but also you do not know their timetables. You do not know if you are close to a proposal deadline or if you just missed one. It is just a shot in the dark. The hardest part is waiting many months to hear a response, let alone receiving that rejection, which in the worst case scenario never comes.

Designs in Machine Embroidery has an amazing editorial staff and submitting a first-time proposal to them was way beyond my expectations. Personally, I do not believe they would ever ignore a proposal or let one sit for months before responding. To my astonishment, they accepted my first proposal, which happened to be for this issue.  It did not include any new technique or technology, but it was unique in that it had a broad base of interest. It appeals to all ages and genders. 

Circle Monogram Set 1 by Embroidery Arts

Circle Monogram Set 1 by Embroidery Arts

Many of us drive or ride in cars, so “Headrest Covers” is something that appeals to most and, as it turns out, they are a status symbol in some areas. When my then twenty-something Army Drone pilot came home on leave and asked me to make him a set for his new car that reflected his favorite sport’s team, of course, I dropped what I was doing and started them immediately. I measured his headrests and googled what they look like when you buy them from the professionals and finally came up with an idea and a pattern. He loved his first set so much that he asked me to send him a set that would be for each season’s team. I loved doing it, especially since he was the one that had said so adhamantly, “Sorry Mom, machine embroidery is just not for me!” Huh! We showed him that we machine embroiderers could come in handy.  We just needed to think of the right project. Well, in this instance, he thought of it and I am so glad he did because now I get to share it with all the machine embroiderers that read Designs in Machine Embroidery.

   
  
    
  
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  Longhorn Skull Single L4939 by Embroidery Library, Inc., 

Longhorn Skull Single L4939 by Embroidery Library, Inc., 

Machine embroidered headrests can appeal to everyone and with the holidays coming up, I think they would make great gifts. They are super simple to embroider and sew. The trick is finding the right fabric in your local shop.  I used fabric that is typically used for swimwear.  This gives it the stretch to go over any headrest and adjust smoothly. The embroidery possibilities are endless. You can find the article starting on page 58, and the pattern is at this link.

For a behind the scenes of the photo shoot for this project, click on this link to see just a little of what it takes to get a great picture for a magazine article. Personally, when I was making these, I kept thinking that they would bring a car seat into the studio for the shooting. I never dreamed that they could possible do a photo shoot actually in the car. Wait till you see them all scrunched up in that car. 

Mermaid Magic Design M5165 by Embroidery Library, Inc.

Mermaid Magic Design M5165 by Embroidery Library, Inc.

I would love to see your version of machine embroidered headrests. Please use the hashtag #TheEmbroiderist so that I can see them. Happy embroidering and thank you Designs in Machine Embroidery for publishing my first article.

These DIME goodies arrived with a copy of the magazine and my headrest.  I felt like I was officially inducted. 

These DIME goodies arrived with a copy of the magazine and my headrest.  I felt like I was officially inducted. 

 

 

How to Hoop Plush Towels

Machine embroidering plush towels can be a challenge, as they are very difficult and sometimes impossible to hoop in a traditional manner.  No matter how hard you try, when you put that thick terrycloth between those two rings, it pops out when you fasten it down. If your terrycloth is a thinner grade or has been washed many times as my test sample was, then it is not a problem and can be hooped like other fabrics.

Font by Sonia Showalter

Font by Sonia Showalter

There are many ways to conquer this problem, but here are the three easiest. All three options use a sandwich approach, which consists of a bottom layer of water soluble stabilizer (this differs depending upon the method chosen), the towel itself, and then the important water soluble topping stabilizer which serves to keep the pile of towel down so it does not get caught up in the needle or the foot as it travels across the design, but it also keeps the pile down while actually embroidering so the design is very uniform. It really makes a difference by using this topper. It takes the embroidered finished product from amateur to professional. 

The first option for hooping the towel sandwich is to purchase the Snap Hoop Monster from Designs in Machine in Embroidery, if you have the time and the funds for the purchase. This magnetic wonder solves all your problems and is the easiest solution.  You lift the top magnetic hoop, line up your towel sandwich of water soluble tear-away stabilizer, towel and topper, then put the hoop back on top. Presto, no further issue.  It is an amazing invention, by a very creative lady, Eileen Roche. I have the 5 x 7 model and it is fantastic.  It is worth every penny, but I chose not to purchase the largest hoop, which I am now regretting.  It is on my wish list for sure. The design I chose for these towels is larger than the 5 x 7 hoop. I could have opted to split the design in half and then hoop it twice, but I decided against this method as I thought it would take me longer in the long run. 

The next two methods are similar in that you hoop a tacky or pressure sensitive stabilizer instead of the water soluble tear-away used with the Snap Hoop Monster,  in between the two rings and then stick the towel to the stabilizer. This is another amazing product that I do not know how we lived without.

Wet N Gone Tacky Stabilizer by Floriani

Wet N Gone Tacky Stabilizer by Floriani

It is easiest to hoop the stabilizer before removing the protective paper as it is very difficult to hoop it tightly since it will stick to the top hoop and not allow you to readily tighten it. Also, it will leave a residue on the the hoop. This process solves both of those issues. Once the stabilizer is hooped, you lightly score the paper with scissors being careful not to push too hard as it will cut through the actual stabilizer and you will need to start all over again.

Thicker scissors seem to score better than thinner ones. Maybe I just apply less pressure.

Thicker scissors seem to score better than thinner ones. Maybe I just apply less pressure.

Once it has been scored, remove the protective paper being careful not to touch the stabilizer.

Finger prints and score marks on the tacky stabilizer.

Finger prints and score marks on the tacky stabilizer.

Then align the towel onto the stabilizer with both rings of the hoop under the towel.  It seems counterintuitive, because it looks like the towel is just floating on top of the hoop, but with these next two steps it works really well and this is were the methods differ.

This towel has a border that can easily be used to line it up with the edge of the hoop.  You can see the hoop placement in the right corner.

This towel has a border that can easily be used to line it up with the edge of the hoop.  You can see the hoop placement in the right corner.

This topper must be secured to the sandwich. It can be done in many ways such as basting it by hand or machine to the towel before it is attached to the sticky stabilizer or it can be done after it is attached.  Most machine embroiders opt to baste after and use the built-in basting feature on the newer machines. With the click of a button it adds the basting lines and knows to sew it before the design begins. 

On the Baby Lock machine, basting is simply added automatically at the beginning of the process by the press of a button.

On the Baby Lock machine, basting is simply added automatically at the beginning of the process by the press of a button.

The hard part is keeping it secured while it is basting.  I have seen some embroiderists hold it in place with their hands, but I strongly do not recommend this method.and yes, I have tried it.  You know those times when you are in a hurry and you want to skip a few step.  It never pays.

The second method is to pin it in place, but it is difficult to get it taunt and to especially get the pins to go down and back up without loosening the stabilizer. 

Topping pinned to the towel and underlying stabilizer.

Topping pinned to the towel and underlying stabilizer.

The third method is the method that I chose.  Use a tacky water soluble stabilizer on the bottom, with the towel in the middle and then spray the towel with a temporary adhesive (I used Sulky KK 2000). 

KK 2000 Temporary Spray Adhesive by Sulky and Water Soluble Topping by Floriani

KK 2000 Temporary Spray Adhesive by Sulky and Water Soluble Topping by Floriani

Once the towel is sprayed, I affix the topper directly to the towel and smooth it out by pressing in the middle first then working out and down firmly, so all the air bubbles are removed and it creates a nice tight suction with the towel. If you misplace it, the nice part is that is lifts right up and you can reposition it, starting all over again.  

The basting keeps the topping in place and taunt while the design stitches.

The basting keeps the topping in place and taunt while the design stitches.

Now you are ready to baste and begin your beautiful design on your towels.  This Sunday our church is having a baptism that will now have six embroidered towels for the occasion.

Fleur de Lis Capital and Lower Case Alphabet with the Baptism Cross Designs by Sonia Showalter

Fleur de Lis Capital and Lower Case Alphabet with the Baptism Cross Designs by Sonia Showalter

What method do you use to machine embroider plush towels?

How to Replicate a Monogram Placement

Two of my college daughters adore monogramming everything.  Can you tell that these northern women are attending a southern college? Those southern girls have influenced them and for the good. Well, they do get teased about that southern drawl that creeps in when they first come home, but that accent does not last long.

Thankfully, one of them loves machine embroidery too and usually monograms her own, as well as her sister’s garments. As to be expected, mother and daughter have different techniques when it comes to embroidering, but we do compliment each other.  Things she does not like to do, I love, and vice versa.  She usually does my trimming, especially on applique (love those young eyes) and I usually do any precision placement.

This time the girls wanted to replicate an appliqued monogram and its placement on a t-shirt, but in different colors. Normally, I would have kept notes as to where I placed it on the t-shirt, but my daughter had done it and documenting is not in her vocabulary. Sure we could have just put the t-shirt on and re-measured it, but there was so much discussion as to whether it would be exactly in the same spot, so mom to the rescue.

The trusty light box came in handy in lining up the two t-shirts.  The monogrammed shirt was placed on the bottom and the other shirt on top, and then I found the center of the design by using the centering ruler by Designs in Machine Embroidery.  It comes in an Embroidery Tool Kit several other great measuring devices (no this is no paid endorsement). Once the center was found, it was all down hill from there. I put on my trusty snowman-centering sticker and then my daughter was able to center the design on the embroidery machine.  The t-shirt crisis was saved with a light box. 

The original t-shirt and another larger version on the back of the t-shirt

The original t-shirt and another larger version on the back of the t-shirt

How have you replicated a machine embroidery design for which you had not kept notes?