Saturday, March 3, 2012

Machine Embroidered Quilt Signature: Using V6 Bernina Software with the Artista 200/730 Machine

Machine Embroidered Quilt Label
Today is a busy Saturday for us, but I wanted to get this down quickly while the details are still fresh in my mind.  If you've missed my previous posts about Lars's "Drunken Dragons" drunkard's path quilt, you can catch up here

As you can see, I've machine embroidered the name of the quilt, my name, and the year on the front of my completed quilt top.  I suppose I could have put this information on the back, where I appliqued the Mommy Loves Lars Scrabble label, but I decided to put it on the edge of the quilt top, a few inches away from where the binding will be.  I'm planning to quilt this project with invisible monofilament nylon thread, so the quilting stitches can go right over both labels without detracting from them. 

This is the first time I've used my Bernina Artista Embroidery Software since upgrading from Version 4 to Version 6 a few months ago, and when I first sat down to do this label I ran into annoying technical difficulties.  Here's what happened.

Printed Template of my Quilt Signature Design
First, I created this simple embroidered text design in my software program on my PC.  The template printout shown above is useful in positioning the embroidery design on the quilt.

USB Stick Plugged into Artista 200/730 Machine
Next, I saved the embroidery design to a Sandisk USB stick that I have successfully used many times (before upgrading my embroidery software) to transfer design files between my PC and my sewing machine.  (Note: My embroidery software lives on my PC, in my first floor office, and my sewing machine lives in my second floor sewing studio, by the way -- if I had a PC or laptop sitting right next to my sewing machine, I could connect the two with a cable and send the designs directly from the computer to the sewing machine). 

New Design, #17, Won't Preview on Sewing Machine
However, when I scrolled through my USB stick designs on my sewing machine screen, I could see all of my older designs, but the new design I'd just created was just a blank square without a preview.

When I selected Design #17, I got this error:

-- Which is ridiculous, because the machine hasn't opened any designs yet, and the one I'm trying to open is an itty bitty design with less than 4500 stitches.  My sewing machine can handle much larger, extremely complex designs -- it doesn't make sense that my little text design would max out the machine's memory.  I tried shutting down and restarting the machine, but I got the same error every time I attempted to open my new design.  When I touched the red circle with an X, I got the following additional information about the error:

Hmmm...  "Design not loadable?"  My Version 6 embroidery software is the latest and greatest version available from Bernina, but my sewing machine (an Artista 200E that was upgraded to the equivalent of the newer 730E) is about 10 years old now.  I know, I know -- our mothers and grandmothers sewed on the same machines for 30 years or longer, but today's computerized machines are more like our laptop computers, cell phones and televisions.  I began to suspect a compatibility issue between the sewing machine and the new design software.

I went back downstairs to my PC and saved the design again, this time paying attention to the file format that the software was defaulting to. 

v6 Software defaults to save every design in the newest .ART60 format

Aha!  Instead of saving my design as an .ART file, it was saving as an .ART60 file, the newest format.  I'm sure the newest machines can read this format, but my older sewbaby was choking on it! 

Selecting .ART type for Bernina A730/A200 designs

Sure enough, there's an option to save designs as BERNINA A730/A200 designs (*.ART).  Once I saved the file in the correct format for my machine, it popped up on the sewing machine screen with no problems and it was smooth sailing after that.

New Design Previewed in square #15; #16 is a file in the wrong format for my machine

Here we go!  Now that I finally had my design loaded on my sewing machine, I threaded the machine with Isacord 1301 and black embroidery bobbin thread.  I used an organ embroidery needle, the straight stitch throat plate, and attached my embroidery module to the sewing machine (it's a separate unit that locks in place and plugs into the sewing machine with a cable, allowing the sewing machine's internal computer to move the embroidery hoop in all directions beneath the needle according to the programming in the embroidery design file to create the desired embroidery design). 

Quilt Top Basted to Stabilizer in Oval Hoop
Most of the time, you hoop your actual project fabric between the two rings of your embroidery hoop to hold your fabric taut and secure for stitching, but I was leery of the possibility of getting a hoop "ring" creased into my quilt top that I might not be able to iron out.  My little text design was not incredibly dense, so I decided to hoop a single layer of tearaway embroidery stabilizer, which I then sprayed lightly with 505 Spray and Fix temporary Spray Adhesive.  I carefully positioned the quilt top over the sticky surface of the hooped stabilizer, using the gridded hoop template to ensure my quilt top was straight, and then I used a preprogrammed automatic basting "design" to stitch the quilt top to the stabilizer just inside the hoop.  These automatic basting designs are available for every hoop size and can be downloaded free of charge from the Bernina web site.

On-Screen Editing Tools Used to Precisely Position Embroidery Design
Next, I used the on-screen editing features of my sewing machine to reposition the embroidery design at the edge of the hoop, instead of centered in the middle of the hoop.  I could have done this in my embroidery software before saving the design, but by doing it on the sewing machine screen I can position the text more precisely on my project.  I wanted it near the edge of the quilt top, but far enough away that it wouldn't get covered by the quilt binding. 

Now, I should mention that at this point my husband poked his head in and said, "You are going to test that on another piece of fabric before you do it on the quilt top, aren't you?"  Duh...  Everyone knows you should always test your embroidery design with your planned fabric, stabilizer, thread, and needle combination before you stitch it out on your project in case you need to make any adjustments.  So, that's what I should have done, and that's what you should do.  I scowled at my husband and ignored his advice.  Full speed ahead! 

Ta Da! 
So here's the finished design, after trimming the jump stitches between letters and tearing away the stabilizer from the back of the quilt top, and carefully removing the basting stitches.  The basting stitches left holes in the fabrics, especially the batik fabric on the left, but I was able to easily scratch them out with my fingernail.  My husband is right; I should have tested the design on a scrap first.  There are many different fonts built into the embroidery software and you can also automatically convert any True Type font that you have loaded on your computer to stitches, but some fonts work well in small sizes and others work better larger.  After stitching this out, I realized that the font I chose this time has little jump stitches within the letters that are simply too tiny to snip safely without risking cutting actual embroidery stitches, so it looks a little sloppier than I'd like if you put your nose right up close to it.  I suppose I could use my stitch eraser (like an electric shaver) to cut out all of the embroidery stitches and start over, but I think it's better to leave it the way it is than to risk accidentally cutting a hole in the quilt top and really screwing things up. 

Now that I've got the quilt signature embroidered, I can give the quilt top a final pressing with plenty of starch, and then either mark some background grid lines (if I decide the grid quilting should be diagonal) or else skip marking and move on to layering and basting the backing, batting, and quilt top (if I do the background quilting grid straight instead of diagonal, I can use the piecing seams to guide the quilting so marking won't be necessary).

Children's Signatures Embroidered on Craft Aprons as Teacher Gifts

Idea for a future quilt label: I could scan in my handwritten signature and use my embroidery software to digitize an actual embroidered version that I could stitch out on a project.  I did something like that several years ago using children's signatures.  I had each child sign his or her name in magic marker on a white sheet of paper, scanned the signatures and then embroidered them on readymade craft aprons as end-of-year gifts for Anders' preschool teachers, who had worked on name writing with the class throughout the school year.  I just used the "magic wand" tool in the embroidery software to instantly assign stitches once the artwork had been imported, and the only downside was that the software can't tell it's working with lettering when you import a scanned signature, so the satin stitches don't automatically slant along the letters the way that they do when you are working with a computer font.  I ended up using different fill stitches for some of the kids' signatures and was able to make it work for the apron project, but if I was going to embroider my own signature on a quilt I would spend the extra time to manually angle the satin stitches for a more professional end result.  Perhaps this is easier to accomplish with the Version 6 software instead of the Version 4 software I was using when I did these aprons four years ago.  I'm looking forward to finding out when I take my software mastery classes in April!

Meanwhile, I have a quilt top that needs to be pressed.  Have a great weekend!

1 comment:

Julie Khuu | Haute Khuuture said...

Oh wow, how cool is that! So much opportunity to custom design looks, this is such an awesome idea!

Peace. Love. LOL!