Starting an embroidery project:  Get organized.

Do you ever stop learning about embroidery?  I am often amazed at how much I don’t know!  I love to learn new things, and I am hopping on a new embroidery adventure that is going to require some research.

I am learning about quilting for wall hangings that I am working on.  I know that quilting on the embroidery machine is a great technique and not all that difficult.  The end result looks more difficult than it really is.  Here is how I tackle a bigger embroidery project from start to finish and keep organized.

READ INSTRUCTIONS, UNDERSTAND THE PROJECT. The first thing I do when I am starting out a project is to read all of the instructions and make sure that I understand everything that I will be doing.   It will really help the project go smoothly if you are comfortable working with each block.  You can even do a test block with scrap fabric to figure everything out, that way when you are ready, you will feel comfortable and confident with what you are doing.

GATHER ALL OF YOUR SUPPLIES:  At the same time, I also make sure I have enough of everything:  the proper batting, the material and of course thread – usually within the instructions they will tell you how much fabric you need, and how many stitches each block will be.  There is nothing worse than going through a project and running out of something!  I have done that before – a certain color of thread that I was using that I couldn’t match with my thread stash.  I had to wait more than one week to get the same color thread in.  It sucked.  So make sure that you have enough of everything that you need to complete the project.  That may mean some fabric shopping – so much fun – to make sure you get the fabric that you want.  I have not purchased too much pretty fabric in the past – a fat square here and there – so I found fabric shopping a bit overwhelming with choices, yet so much darn fun.

Complete instructions will include how much fabric you need to complete the project.

Complete instructions will include how much fabric you need to complete the project.

ALLOW FOR CHANGES:  Often, as I am working on a project,  I make changes as I am going along – I pick different blocks now that I see some of them stitched out, or decide to move the blocks around, or even add some sashing.  Make sure you have extra of everything before you start so you can have the ability to add some of your own artistic flair to your work – if you are running out of fabric or thread for one style block, you will have no choice to pick something else.  I like to add variety to what I am doing and add some of my own personality to whatever I do in embroidery.  That is what makes the project special!

DO SOME PREP WORK TO MAKE EACH BLOCK GO FASTER:  Gather everything up, make sure you have enough of everything and make sure that you are all set to go.  On my last big project, I decided to do some prep work before I actually started my machine – and I discovered that doing some prep work for an hour or so made a huge difference when I was doing the blocks.  I was going to do 9 squares (I started out with only 6 squares, so I am glad that I bought extra of everything!!)  so I did all the prep work for those 9 squares.  I cut out the backing for each hoop – I have a quilt hoop which is 8×8  so I knew the size of the stabilizer for that hoop – you have to have an inch or two around the hoop, so don’t cut it too small.  Once you get the right size, multiply that by nine, and you will have enough backing to grab and go – it’s like having pre-cut stabilizer right at hand.  Put that into a pile.  I had a ton of batting that was rolled up and cumbersome, and difficult to work with – it took up so much room on my workbench.  Each square was the full 8×8 size so I cut out some (rough) cut squares that were 8.5 x 8.5 so they would fit into the tack down with not too much waste, but enough to trim in the hoop.  Now I have the first 2 steps for my blocks all prepped and ready.

PRE-CUT EVERYTHING YOU CAN: Now for the material.  Each block has 3 strips of fabric that you applique onto the block.  I had some awesome colors picked out for that!  I wasn’t sure exactly how large to make these strips, so I decided to do a test block to figure it out.  The first strip that I did was a little too small because I forgot to account for the seam allowance.  Why do I always forget that?  So I added 2 inches to the size and cut out the middle color at that size and yep, it worked perfectly!

TAKE NOTES:  ORGANIZE YOUR PROJECT FOR NEXT TIME:  I have a whiteboard in my office, and it is the perfect way to keep track of everything I am doing.  Sometimes I don’t remember the exact size of each piece.    This is very helpful.  If I don’t feel like using the whiteboard, then I will print out a page or two from the instructions (usually the list of the color changes works fine), and I make a note of the project as well as the measurements for every piece and put it into a Projects Binder.  If I ever want to do the project again, it is going to make it easier the next time – all of the prep work is already done so all I have to do is cut everything and get going.

Reading the instructions, doing the prep work makes a big difference when working on a big project.  I felt very organized, and there was no guesswork in what I was doing – I knew I had enough fabric because it was all cut up and ready to go!

When I started each block I had the stabilizer ready to be hooped, and the batting ready to go.  Going through each of the applique steps seemed faster and easier – it kind of took the “boring” out of doing the same thing again and again – it was so easy to do, and it was fun to get past the trimming and onto the embroidery and see the whole thing come alive, block by block.

PACE YOURSELF, PLAN YOUR TIME: I also made sure to pace myself.  Doing 9 blocks plus sashing plus the sewing at the sewing machine was going to take some time to do.  I had a plan in mind so I could pace myself, but still get a full day’s work in too – after all, we do have to work!  As I said in my last blog, take some time to smell the embroidery roses and make some embroidery time for yourself.  As I still get very tired in the afternoon (and that is the only me-time I can get) I made a very reasonable schedule:  1 complete block a day.  That worked really well for me!  Yes, it took 9 days to do the blocks, but I did get some me-embroidery done every day!  I did the same thing for the sewing time – as my machine was stitching something out, I went to the sewing machine and finished one row each day.   Because I worked on the project each day, I knew that my project would get eventually finished.

Now, I have to learn about how to finish and bind a wall hanging, and my project will be done.  I’m off to do some research and learn how to do it properly.  I am great at embroidery, but I have a long way to go with a sewing machine!

Until next time,



P.S.  If you join the Ladybug Club, you can get full step by step instructions (and more) on how to make various projects including the cute quilted coaster pictured above.  Lots of embroidery designs, lots of inspiration and step by step instructions are included in the Ladybug Club.

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