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6 essential steps for successful machine embroidery using the creative icon


Have you sorted your fabric to make the 3 cushion ideas I mentioned yesterday?

With more than 800 embroidery designs on the PFAFF creative icon at your fingertips, there are great projects to be made. Yet I have learned that there are 6 essential steps you need to take for great results.


Great embroidery results using the PFAFF creative icon
Great embroidery results using the PFAFF creative icon


You know I love a challenge! And this week’s blog post was a great one. I used my summer vacation to learn how to use the embroidery arm on the creative icon to quilt my projects, but started wondering “how else” could I use this wonderful feature. That’s when I realized that I could make cushions as holiday gifts.

So I ventured in the unknown and started to embroider solid fabrics just for fun. That’s when I realized that there are 6 essential steps to ensure great results. Here they are:

1 Make room around you machine

I know it sounds obvious, but I did run into some problems when making embroideries so it would be my first step. The first time I decided to embroider, I brought the machine in my dining room and set it on my big table. That made lots of sense since I was using the embroidery to quilt projects and the large table would ensure that the quilts could move freely. But when I decided to simply embroider on 18” squares to make cushions, I didn’t think the room was an issue. But as my sewing table is right against a wall, my large hoop didn’t have enough room to move. Lesson learned!


Make room around your machine
Make room around your machine


No, I didn’t break the machine, but I had to recalibrate the hoop which meant that I had to take the hoop off, calibrate and place the hoop back into place to resume the embroidery. Rest assured the creative icon is user-friendly and I had no problem getting back on track in my projects, but I would have preferred not going through it.

2 Use stabilizer

When embroidering a quilt, meaning, quilt top with batting and backing, you don’t need to add stabilizer as the batting and backing helps stabilize your quilt top. However, if you’re simply embroidering fabric, then you need to add a stabilizer to keep the fabric smooth during stitching.

I purchased a roll of tear away stabilizer for my studio. The stabilizer holds the fabric as flat as possible, preventing it from stretching out. I chose a medium weight tear-away, it pulls away easily from heavily stitched areas. I was more cautious in lightly stitched areas and used my seam ripper to help along with my tweezers. I was also lucky to have a few kids ready to help mom out!


I purchased a roll of tear away stabilizer for my studio
I purchased a roll of tear away stabilizer for my studio


I hesitated as to the best way to position the stabilizer with the fabric in the hoop. I tested simply sandwiching it with fabric onto the hoop, but the fabric could still move a bit so I added the option to baste around hoop before starting the embroidery. That eliminated the problem in light to medium embroideries but I still had some stretched areas in heavily embroidered designs.

To eliminate all, I had to use adhesive spray. Remember that you can also apply two layers of stabilizer if you have heavy embroidery, or if you work with more stretchable fabrics.

3 Starch your fabric

With all the tests I have made, I have to say that I now always use starch on my fabrics before adding them onto the hoop with the stabilizer. Combining starch and basting layers around hoop have really improved my embroidery results.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t stretch out the fabric in the hoop. That’s why the starch helps me here. It ensures that the fabric lays firmly in the hoop – not pulled excessively tightly or too loose – as this again can affect the performance of your design.

4 Single hole plate

I have to insist on this! Ensure that you have the single hole plate on your machine as it will help reduce significantly the amount of stretches on the fabric. I must admit that this is the first time I actually use a machine that has a single hole plate, I had heard about it but never experienced it before the creative icon. Now I couldn’t live without one. I use it when sewing quilt tops as well and it has drastically reduced my time with the seam ripper.

5 Use correct pairing of needle and thread

Ensure that you have a new needle before you begin! Remember that needles can dull up pretty fast, especially when embroidering. Be sure to have lots on hand.


I opted for Sulky 40wt thread with my Inspira 90 needles
I opted for Sulky 40wt thread with my Inspira 90 needles


Now the size and type of needle will depend on your project’s fabric, thread and embroidery design.

If you’re embroidering a delicate design, than you need to have fine thread and a fine needle.

If you’re making a medium to heavy embroidery than you can go with stronger threads and needles. In my August posts, I was embroidering quilts with Sulky 40wt rayon threads so I opted for Inspira 90 quilting needles.

While testing designs on just fabrics, I started with a 70 embroidery needle and 50wt threads. But I soon realized that I preferred the look of the Sulky 40wt rayon threads so I went back to my Inspira 90 quilting needles. You really have to ensure that the thread runs comfortably through the eye so that it doesn’t break.

Also remember that when embroidering, COLOR is everything. Ensure that you use the right one.

Making samples helped me realize that! And I recommend you play along and make samples of various colors before setting yourself up with one. I came to realize on one of my projects that the last color that I thought would look good was actually the best. So don’t be fooled and take the time to test threads. You’ll thank me!

6 Have fun playing with all the possibilities on the creative icon

Now go ahead and have fun to choose designs, hoop sizes, thread and needle and make some samples. It will be scary at first but you become more confident and enjoy the process really quickly.

These can all become great cushions to gift to friends during the holiday season.


Now go ahead and have fun choosing designs!
Now go ahead and have fun choosing designs!


And remember that you can do many changes to the set embroidery designs on the machine. For example:

  • Mirror and Rotate This comes in really handy when you are duplicating a design but want it to look different. You can move designs side to side and/or end to end while also rotating by 1º increments for precise adjustments.
  • Resize and Scale Those are also really useful. Start by scaling the design. If you see that it doesn’t allow you to go smaller or bigger, it means that you need to adjust the stitch count before proceeding. The good news is that you don’t have to do all the math. Simply pick the Resize button to enlarge or reduce designs, the stitch count is automatically recalculated.
  • Multi-Select and Grouping You can select one or many designs for editing. Which makes the process a whole lot faster.
  • Color Edit Change thread colors of the design directly on the screen. But if you don’t want any color changes, you can simply hit the Monochrome button and it will stitch your design in a single color without color stops. I have only used monochrome so far for my quilting designs, but it’s nice to know that I would also have the following options:
  • Color Block Sort Group like color blocks together for easy thread handling in embroidery stitch-out.
  • Color Block Merge Select to eliminate stops between identical thread colors for quicker embroidery.
  • Change Stitch-Out Order Set your preferred order to embroider.

With my very first embroidered design, I simply cut out my favorite 11″ square in the Chloe panel from Northcott and sewed it to my embroidery. I then used  FAIRFIELD Poly-Fil® Premium Fiber Fill to fill out the cushion and finished sewing the cushion by hand.


The finishing touch to a great embroidery design: Chloe panel from Northcott
The finishing touch to a great embroidery design: Chloe panel from Northcott



I used FAIRFIELD Poly-Fil® Premium Fiber Fill to fill out the cushion
I used FAIRFIELD Poly-Fil® Premium Fiber Fill to fill out the cushion



My first finished cushion project!
My first finished cushion project!


Hope these 6 steps will help you create beautiful embroidery designs using the PFAFF creative icon. Join me tomorrow as I share 3 reasons why you’ll love embroidering text.


This is part 2 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 1: PFAFF creative icon and Chloe fabrics make excellent cushion ideas a cinch

Go to part 3: 3 reasons why embroidering text has become an obsession for me

Married with three young boys, Claire Haillot shares her passion for quilting among her neighbors in the United States and Canada as well as her cousins in France. Claire has been active in the quilting industry since 2004. At first, she opened a quilt shop and started to teach, write how-to guides and translate patterns and product information into French for American companies. In 2006, she started her own line of patterns and later began publishing patterns and articles in Canadian, European and American magazines. You might have seen some of her work in Quilter’s World, Pratique du Patchwork or Canadian Quilter. She decided to close her brick & mortar quilt shop in 2016 to be able to concentrate more on teaching, writing and creating. She collaborated with PlumEasy patterns to launch the Dancing Diamonds and Gem bag patterns. Claire has also won a few awards for her work: • Juror’s choice at the Salon 2012 for her quilt Thomas goes fishing • Second Place in Vermont Quilt Festival of 2014 for her quilt Bienvenue • Second Place in Salon 2016 for her Lone Star quilt, and • Second Place in Vermont Quilt Festival 2016 for her quilt Remembering Sotchi. Her quilt Remembering Sotchi will be part of the Special Exhibit "A Celebration of Color" at the Quilt Festival in Chicago and Houston in 2018.


  1. Lucinda

    Hello, I love all of your finished items. Since it looks like you are pretty proficient with your machine maybe you can answer a question for me. I previously had a Pfaff 2144 but upgraded to the Icon in January. I am trying to use my 360 x 260 hoop to embroider something. I am setting it to baste around the hoop. When it gets about 3/4 of the way down on the right side it kind of stops and wont go then says the thread is broke which it isn’t. I say OK then it start sewing along the bottom but about 3.4 of the way up. I have used the smallest hoop and haven’t had any issues. Do you have any ideas?
    Thanks in advance

  2. Sue Cooper

    Great info. Thanks for sharing these tips

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