Digital Embroidery + Glow in the Dark Bean Bags




Introduction: Digital Embroidery + Glow in the Dark Bean Bags

About: I teach digital art and technologies to adults and K-12 student teachers and consult with college faculty on projects that incorporate digital arts and media within classroom settings. I love tinkering, maki...

This tutorial will take you step-by-step through the process of using a digital embroidery machine to make a fluorescent logo. The embroidery you create can then be used to fancify the glow-in-the-dark bean bags you are about to create. What the world needs more of, truly.

There are so many amazing applications for this incredible machine. Read on, and prepare yourself for digital embroidery awesome!

This project was inspired by our new Maker Space at Cal State University East Bay, developed by the Multimedia Program. Since my art project teammate and I were new to digital embroidery and there were no directions available to us in the Maker Space, we were confident that we must be qualified to help other fellow digital embroidery makers, especially those who share the MakerSpace with us.

We also noticed that amid all the fabulous maker machines available for use in our very sweet, new Maker Space, the only machine NOT facing wait times longer than a Bolshevik bread line was the not so dearly beloved digital embroidery machine. We aim to change this sad fact. Digital Embroidery is awesome. We love it and we know you will too once you have a chance to get in there and experience the fabulous.

Hopefully, anyone out there who finds themselves interested in following this tutorial will be empowered to embroider something else even more fabulous!

Sew ..... go forth and digitize!

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Step 1: Collect Materials

Here are the list of materials used for this project

1. 2 spools of Neon thread
2. Neon fabric (canvas) (I used about 1 yard for this project)
3. One pack of embroidery machine needles... just in case
4. Iron on interfacing to stabilize the fabric as it is being embroidered
5. A digital embroidery machine (We used the PE 770 digital embroidery machine by Brother which can create an embroidery design up to 5" x 7".

6. Adobe Illustrator or other vector based software for creating your personalized logo/design

7. A .DST file converted from your Illustrator design, or any file format recognized by the machine you are using. 8. An iron and ironing board

Steps covered in this tutorial:

Preparing your fabric

Setting up and using the digital embroidery machine

Sewing the bean bag

Adding beans or Flaxseed

Having a bean bag fight with your classmate (This step is only for the professionals!)

* Please Note *

If you do not have access to software that can convert your illustrator file to the format required by your machine, you can send your file via email to a company or Maker space organization that will convert it for you. One non-profit maker space that I love is: "The Digital Fabrication Residency" located in Maryland.

Step 2: Choose Your Fabric and Thread Then Iron

We chose neon fabric and thread for our project since the end result would be part of an interactive art installation. We wanted the bean bags to represent futuristic looking pebbles and also be bright enough to be recognized by a Processing Sketch utilizing computer vision to distinguish color.

Also consider using a more durable fabric since the digital embroidery machine will not work with thin fabrics like silk or taffeta.

Step 3: Iron Your Fabric and Add Interfacing

I suggest pre-washing and ironing your fabric before cutting to fit the digital embroidery machine. While ironing you can also add interfacing to stabilize the fabric as you create your digital embroidery design.

Step 4: Cut and Add Material to the Embroidery Frame

Once your fabric is ready to be embroidered you will need to add it to the embroidery frame. First check the embroidery frame screw and make sure it is open before you add your fabric. Place the frame with the screw adjustment on a flat surface. Check that the attachment edge faces the correct direction to connect properly to your machine. Make sure the finished side of the material is facing up, and the side with interfacing is faced down. Place the material so it entirely covers the frame.

Once the material is positioned correctly, add the top embroidery frame part. The top part of the frame should be placed on the top of the material and fit nicely into the lower part of the frame.

Adjust the material so that it lays as flat as possible. Once the material looks right to you, twist the embroidery frame screw tight in order to secure the material in place.

Step 5: Attach Embroidery Frame to the Machine

Slip the embroidery frame under the foot of the machine while raising the presser foot lever. You will notice that only the side of the frame will fit and you will have to turn the frame to locate the connectors on the frame to the machine. Hold the connection lever to the left as you connect the frame to the machine. Listen for the click to know you have the frame correctly set.

Step 6: Upload Your Embroidery File to the Machine, Adjust Location, and Tension

Use a thumb drive with a .DST file to upload your embroidery design to the machine. Choose the USB icon on the screen to select upload file then follow the directions on the screen to locate your file. Once your file is located select the file and wait a moment for the machine to register it's presence. Finally, use the upload button on the touchscreen to choose your file.

The image of your embroidery design will appear in the touch screen window and the green button on the sewing machine will appear.

Before starting the embroidery, consider adjusting the start location of your digital embroidery design. You can move the adjustment to suit your needs using the touchscreen.

If necessary you can also use the touchscreen to adjust the tension of the thread. If you see puckering or loose thread, adjusting the tension may solve the problem.

Step 7: Begin Embroidering

Use the green button next to the embroidery foot to begin the embroidery. The machine will start slowly and then go full speed. If you need to stop the embroidery machine, don't worry. You can interrupt the embroidery and disconnect the frame to refill the bobbin or rethread the needle if necessary. Try not to adjust anything on the computer until your frame is reconnected. Once you reconnect, you can restart your embroidery design where you left off as soon as the green light appears.

Step 8: Cut the Fabric to Circular Shapes.

Release the completed embroidered material from the frame, then cut the fabric to the desired shape. Cut a second shape for the back of the bean bag.

If necessary, you can pin the two cut pieces of fabric. Be sure to place the finished sides facing one another.

Begin sewing the bean bag and continue until there is only a small two inch opening left. Use the back of a pen or pencil to push the inside of the bean bag material to the outside. (In other words, turn the inside out).

Now that the finished side of the bean bag is facing outward, you can add the filling. Beans will work, but you can also use flax seed, lentils or couscous.

Once the filling has been added, use a needle and thread to sew the remaining opening of the bean bag.


You are now ready to test your creation. If you chose neon fabric and thread, get out the UV lights and enjoy the magic!

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    2 Discussions

    DIY Hacks and How Tos

    Cool idea. Glow in the dark bean bags would be great for things like a late night game of cornhole.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Great idea!