This week’s focus is on ITH designs!  Although some ITH designs can be very complicated, they can also be simple, too!  I am not talking about in the hoop zipper bags or anything like that, I am talking about making headband sliders, stuffies and pencil toppers and things like that – super easy and super fun!  Did you know you can design and make an in-the-hoop project from just about any design?  Yes.  Yes you can!

Each ITH design follows these rules and steps:

1.  stitch a placement stitch for your material – usually either felt or vinyl.

2.  Do a quick tack down stitch – depending on the complexity of your design you can skip this step.

3. Embroider the design on the felt or vinyl.

4.  Do a color change so that your machine stops.  Add the felt or vinyl to the back of the hoop (without un-hooping)

5.  Do a final outline design to sew the back onto the design and make your ITH design complete.

6.  Carefully cut out the design, making small and careful cuts to form the shape of your project.

Once you get these 6 steps down, you can create an ITH design from just about any embroidery design that you have, or create your own!

Let’s go through each step in more detail.

Start with hooping some nice tearaway stabilizer for your project – make sure it is hooped properly and is a good quality stabilizer.  It may be helpful to try and match your stabilizer to your project – for example, if you are using black vinyl or felt, it would be better if you could use a black tear away stabilizer.  Once you have that hooped, then you can take it to the machine.  When you are digitizing for an ITH project,  you usually do the offset at the end of your digitizing – an offset gives it a one of a kind shape that will make the design work as an ITH project.   Once you have the offset digitized, then you have to make a copy and move it to the beginning of your resequence tab – you need this to stitch out first!  Don’t forget to add a color change so that your machine stops after stitching out the placement line.  Some people skip this part, and you can – but if you are unsure if your fabric will cover the design shape completely, it is better to have a guideline.


To place the vinyl or felt down,  you can either use a small amount of sticky spray or a small amount of painter’s tape to hold the felt down nice and smooth.   Once you have the felt completely covering the guidelines, then you can put the hoop back into your machine and continue stitching.


The next step is to stitch the design – any design!  You may have a cute design that you want to make into a stuffy, a lettering only design for a headband slider, or a design for a cute pencil topper.  Stitch it through, and wait for the last color change, this is when the magic of ITH comes alive!

When you have finished stitching your design, take the hoop off of your machine – but don’t un-hoop anything!  Carefully turn your hoop over so you see the back of your design on the back of the hoop.  You now have to add felt or vinyl to the back of your hoop.  Remember to always put the right side of the fabric/felt/vinyl facing up so that you can see it.  Carefully turn the hoop back and insert it back on to your machine.  I always to a quick (and careful) check of the fabric on the back to make sure that the fabric stayed flat – sometimes when you are putting the hoop back onto the machine, it can get folded under, and that will ruin your ITH design.  It is worth taking a minute to check it out.

creating ITH designs

Once that is all in place, you will be stitching out your final outline, which will bring the design and two pieces of fabric together into a cool shape – any shape will do!  When you are digitizing, make sure that you insert a color change so your machine will stop so you can add your back fabric.  When you are digitizing the final shape, this is when you can get creative, depending on what you are doing.    For pencil toppers, for example, you need to leave an open space at the bottom of the design so that you can insert a pencil or pen.  I measured the width of a pen (it was a big sharpie pen, so it was quite a bit bigger than the average pencil) and wrote down the number – I wanted to make sure that everything would fit properly.  Now for this last outline, I don’t think a regular run stitch will do – time to make a few changes.  The first outline stitch is fine in a running stitch because you won’t be seeing it anywhere on your design.  This last one will frame the whole thing and look good.  If you are doing a pencil topper, then I would select all of the objects in the design and use the offset tool, which will give you the nice shape that you are looking for.  The only issue with the offset is that it has no open spaces  – for your pencil for example!  So grab the triple (bean) stitch and use an open path and start creating your shape – and remember to leave an opening where you want it.  Now that you have a shape to work with, this should be quick and easy for you to do!  You can change the stitch length, you can change the variable length of the stitches too – you can also even add a motif stitch for this final part of the design.  Don’t forget to delete your original offset line – you don’t want this to stitch out and ruin your ITH design – the offset lines are for a guideline only – the offset tool can make some awesome shapes around your lettering or design.

Once you have done your final shape, you can now take everything off the hoop and grab a nice sharp pair of scissors.  All you have to do now is cut out the shape, leaving a bit of space between your final outline and your cut line.  Take your time with this part of the work – it makes a big difference.  Try and keep the same distance between the cut line and the final design line – nice and even and smooth curves.  This may take a bit of practice, but with time, you can make it look perfect!

In the hoop designs

Quick tip:  if you are making a stuffie and you don’t want to have raw edges showing, simply change how you add the back fabric.  To make the seams on the inside, you place the fabric face down on the top of your design (not the back of the hoop) and stitch your final line.  When digitizing, I would use a backstitch to keep these seams strong and make sure that you leave enough of an opening to turn the design inside out!  Once the final line has stitched, then you can take the design off the hoop, cut out your shape, and then turn it inside out!  Yay!   All of the seams are on the inside now, and the back fabric is the right side up!  All you have to do now is stuff it and do a tiny bit of hand sewing to close up the opening!  You can make a stuffie out of any embroidery design!

So think outside of the embroidery box, and start creating ITH designs from just about anything!  You can make headband sliders, small or large stuffed toys, dog toys, pencil toppers and just about anything from any design.  Why not take your favorite dog design and make it into a toy?

We are going to be doing a Hatch Live! (free) instructions on creating an ITH design using a cool ESA font and offsets, and learn how to place our lines to make it work as a headband slider.  We will be also doing a class with more detail work, optimization, and some short-cuts to make these designs work better and faster to create.

Until next time

Happy Digitizing




One Response to “ITH (In-the-Hoop) Designs! Quick, easy and FUN!”

  1. Dorothy Grout-Smith says:

    Thank you for your lessons, Sue, they are very helpful. They make me want to head straight for my machine and get to work.

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