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Pushing the envelope: machine embroidery to QUILT a project

by Elaine Theriault

Yesterday, we learned about the anatomy of a machine embroidery hoop. Correctly hooping your project or fabric is extremely important to a professional-looking project. With your new knowledge, hooping will be a breeze.

Today, I’ll be using the Husqvarna Viking Designer EPIC 2 and the Mega Quilters Hoop to play with several of the free designs available for download on the Mega Quilters Hoop page.

I’m not just looking at machine embroidery in the traditional sense; I’ll be using those designs to QUILT a project!

Husqvarna Viking Designer EPIC 2 sewing and embroidery machine with embroidery unit attached

Husqvarna Viking Designer EPIC 2 sewing and embroidery machine with embroidery unit attached

The packaging for the Husqvarna Viking Mega Quilters Hoop; HV Designer EPIC 2

The packaging for the Husqvarna Viking Mega Quilters Hoop; HV Designer EPIC 2

Supplies for Successful Machine Embroidery

In addition to an embroidery machine and the embroidery hoop, there are other items needed for successful machine embroidery.

For machine embroidery, it’s essential to use a bobbin weight thread in the bobbin. A bobbin weight thread is thinner (usually a 60-weight) compared to the 40wt thread used for the embroidery. The thin thread in the bobbin reduces the thickness of the embroidery stitch-out. If the design is dense, a thick thread in the bobbin is just asking for trouble. You can buy cones of 60wt bobbin thread and wind bobbins, or you purchase pre-wound bobbins in black and white.

When purchasing pre-wound bobbins, make sure you buy the size and brand that fits your sewing machine. The bobbin for the Designer EPIC and Designer EPIC 2 sewing machines is 30% larger than the bobbins used in the other Husqvarna Viking branded sewing machines. Larger bobbins mean fewer bobbin changes! I need LOTS of those.

A package of pre-wound bobbins for the Designer EPIC and Designer EPIC 2

Black pre-wound bobbins for the Designer EPIC and Designer EPIC 2

Using the appropriate needle is also critical to the success of your machine embroidery. Husqvarna Viking has a complete line of needles for any job. There are two different needles for machine embroidery – the Embroidery needle and the Embroidery Titanium needle.

When choosing a needle type and size for your project, consider the fabric, the thread, and the embroidery technique. If you experience difficulties, double-check your needle/thread combination.  You may want to do some experimenting and take notes of your successes and failures. Shredding or thread breakage usually means that you do not have the right combination.

Embroidery needles are designed to handle the high speeds associated with machine embroidery. Another way to prevent thread breakage and shredding is to slow down! If the embroidery takes a bit longer to stitch out with no thread breaks, that’s better than getting it done in the same amount of time but with frustrating thread breaks.

A variety of Husqvarna Viking branded sewing and embroidery machine needles; HV Designer EPIC 2

A variety of Husqvarna Viking branded sewing and embroidery machine needles; HV Designer EPIC 2

Stabilizers are also critical, but I don’t have time to dig into that topic today.

Getting Started

If you’ve never done machine embroidery and need some help, there are built-in tutorials in the JoyOS Advisor on the Designer EPIC 2. Did you know that there are 31 different machine embroidery techniques? And there’s a tutorial for each of them in the JoyOS Advisor.

You’ll get a list of the supplies needed and then a step by step guide to get you started. That’s amazing and just like having a teacher in your house!

Instructions for machine embroidery on the screen of the embroidery machine; HV Designer EPIC 2

Instructions for machine embroidery on the screen of the embroidery machine; HV Designer EPIC 2

The Designs

I downloaded the five free designs that you’ll find on the information page for the Mega Quilters Hoop. This hoop is 260 x 260 or 10” x 10,” and those designs are large. I’ll have some fun with this.

The designs available for download to use with the Mega Quilters Hoop; HV Designer EPIC 2

The designs available for download to use with the Mega Quilters Hoop; HV Designer EPIC 2

I started by stitching the mandala design with all the colored threads. I hooped a Tear-A-Way stabilizer and a piece of black cotton. I more or less followed the coloring of the design on the package.

An embroidered mandala using multiple thread colors; HV Designer EPIC 2

An embroidered mandala using multiple thread colors; HV Designer EPIC 2

Then I decided to try using the design as a quilting motif. That’s the beauty of machine embroidery – I can use it to embroider something, but I can also use the embroidery machine for quilting a project. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. I would NOT want to choose the dense satin stitch for my quilting motif. The mandala I previously stitched out has relatively dense stitching, which may not always look pretty on the back if used as a quilting motif.   

Fortunately, there’s a much simpler version of the mandala, and that’ll work brilliantly as a quilting motif.

This time, I used three layers in the embroidery hoop. I used Inspira Fusible Fleece, which comes in black and white for the inner layer, and I used white cotton for the top and cotton for the backing.

Inspira Fusible Fleece in black and white; HV Designer EPIC 2

Inspira Fusible Fleece in black and white; HV Designer EPIC 2

One of the reasons I love to use fusible fleece when I quilt with the embroidery machine is that it’s thin and it’s fusible. I don’t bother basting the project since the fusible fleece is fused to the wrong side of the top layer. I carefully position the backing fabric onto the fusible fleece and give all three layers a press with steam. Carefully hoop the three layers and check the back of the hooped project to check for tucks or puckers.

Using Inspira Fusible Fleece with cotton for the top and backing is a perfect combination for small projects like placemats, table runners, or wall hangings.

The back of the hooped project; HV Designer EPIC 2

The back of the hooped project; HV Designer EPIC 2

Assembling the project top, the fusible fleece, and the backing; HV Designer EPIC 2

Assembling the project top, the fusible fleece, and the backing; HV Designer EPIC 2

It’s time to load the mandala outline embroidery design.

The mandala outline embroidery design loaded into the embroidery edit screen; HV Designer EPIC 2

The mandala outline embroidery design loaded into the embroidery edit screen of the Husqvarna Viking Designer EPIC 2

My quilt sandwich is in the 260 x 260 machine embroidery hoop, and the design is loaded. It’s time to move into embroidery stitch out mode. There are a few critical steps that I need to take to ensure the best quality of stitch.

It’s best to use the straight stitch plate for embroidery and the Sensor Q foot. In the screenshot below, you can see the selected hoop size. The Designer EPIC 2 senses if the hoop that gets attached doesn’t match the size and will not start to stitch out unless it senses the correct hoop.

Since I’m quilting through all three layers and I want the back to look as pretty as the front, I’m deselecting the jump stitch function. The jump stitch will bring all the ends of the cut thread to the back of the project, which works for traditional embroidery where the back won’t show. In this case, I want the back to look as good as the front so those threads will remain on the top where they’ll be easy to trim once the embroidery is done.

The Embroidery Stitch Out screen on the Husqvarna Viking Designer EPIC 2

The Embroidery Stitch Out screen on the Husqvarna Viking Designer EPIC 2

This design has registration marks to assist with placement if you want to stitch multiple designs to create a larger project. The registration marks are to be removed once the project is complete.

One of the corner registrations marks; HV Designer EPIC 2

One of the corner registrations marks; HV Designer EPIC 2

If you’re only making a single design or you don’t want the registration mark to stitch out, then you can bypass the first color on the Color Block List.

And since I’ve removed the jump stitch function, it’s necessary to trim the threads between color changes.

A pop-up message to trim the thread tails between color changes; HV Designer EPIC 2

A pop-up message to trim the thread tails between color changes; HV Designer EPIC 2

The first color is almost complete. There are two thread colors in this design, the outline stitching for the mandala and the background stitching, which I’ll do in a thread color that matches the fabric.

The first color of the embroidery design is almost complete with black thread on white fabric

The first color of the embroidery design is almost complete with black thread on white fabric

And here’s the completed project.

The finished outline of the machine embroidered mandala using black and white thread on white fabric; HV Designer EPIC 2

The finished outline of the machine embroidered mandala using black and white thread on white fabric; HV Designer EPIC 2

I wasn’t 100% happy with the back of this piece. There were many embroidery stitches in the outline version of the design, and the back of the project didn’t look as professional as I would have liked. As you know, I LOVE to experiment with things, so I decided to try another sample.

I went back to the full embroidery design, and I hooped black fabric and Inspira Tear-A-Way stabilizer. Next time, I’ll use a water-soluble stabilizer so it can be rinsed away after the embroidery is finished.

I stitched out the design using three shades in the pink/coral family.

When the main part of the mandala was complete, I decided to use some unconventional methods to add the backing and the batting.

The Inspira Fusible Fleece was fused to the wrong side of the design, which I left in the embroidery hoop.

Using a wool pressing mat to assist with fusing Fusible Fleece to the back of my project, which is still in the embroidery hoop; HV Designer EPIC 2

Using a wool pressing mat to assist with fusing Fusible Fleece to the back of my project, which is still in the embroidery hoop; HV Designer EPIC 2

Then I taped the backing to the back of the embroidery hoop. Be very careful when you do this. You want to make sure that the tape is secure. If that tape starts to lift or roll, it’ll catch on the embroidery unit, and your hoop will NOT move properly. Use this technique with caution!!

Carefully tape the backing fabric to the back of the machine embroidery hoop; HV Designer EPIC 2

Carefully tape the backing fabric to the back of the machine embroidery hoop; HV Designer EPIC 2

There’s one color left to stitch, and that one color will become the quilting to secure the three layers of my project together. I changed the bobbin and top thread to black to match my top and backing fabrics.  When I moved into the Embroidery Stitch Out mode, I deselected the deluxe Stitch System to use the conventional tension system. The default tension setting was 2.8, and I increased it to 5.0.

How do you learn this? Experimenting, reading blogs, taking classes from your dealer, and asking questions are great ways to learn. The default settings in the Husqvarna Viking Designer EPIC 2 are just that – default settings. When you start to do crazy things, you have to compensate by changing the settings. And fortunately, there’s much flexibility to allow for that!

The thread tension was increased to 5.0; HV Designer EPIC 2

The thread tension was increased to 5.0; HV Designer EPIC 2

You can’t feel the back of my quilted project, but it’s as smooth as if I had machine quilted it with conventional methods. The bobbin weight thread on the back barely shows. That’s the beauty of using a busy print on the back and the thinner threads. Not only is the look important, but the touch as well, and this feels beautiful.

Remember that only the last color in the embroidery design was used to “quilt” the project.

Sometimes, you don’t know that until you stitch out a design. It’s not a bad idea to play with an embroidery design before committing to the final project. Stitch out a sample and see if you can change the way it’s going to stitch. Anything is possible.

The back of a project quilted with machine embroidery; HV Designer EPIC 2

The back of a project quilted with machine embroidery; HV Designer EPIC 2

Here’s the front of the project. It’s gorgeous!!

The finished machine embroidered and quilted mandala using the Husqvarna Viking Mega Quilters Hoop; HV Designer EPIC 2

The finished machine embroidered and quilted mandala using the Husqvarna Viking Mega Quilters Hoop; HV Designer EPIC 2

And I have one last thing to share with you today. Remember the outline of the mandala that I stitched in black thread on the white fabric? Does it remind you of anything? How about an adult coloring book? Oh yes!

So, I got out my markers and started to color! I need a wee bit of quiet time to finish it off. It’ll look gorgeous!

Using markers to color in an embroidered outline of a mandala; HV Designer EPIC 2

Using markers to color in an embroidered outline of a mandala; HV Designer EPIC 2

I only used two of the five free designs that come with the Mega Quilters Hoop, but I was able to get creative and use them in a variety of different ways. I wonder what I can make with the other three.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the fun that I had with the new Mega Quilters Hoop and the Husqvarna Viking Designer EPIC 2. I can’t wait to try out something else, and I want to play with creating a more extensive project!

Be sure to come back tomorrow as I play around with another hoop and some different embroidery techniques.

Have a great day!

Ciao!

This is part 2 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 1: The anatomy of a machine embroidery hoop

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