Using digital embroidery software can seem intimidating and frustrating at first, but with some practice and patience and this SUPER handy guide, you’ll be a master in no time. This guide will focus on using the software, SewArt Embroidery Digitizer, because it's cost-effective, robust, and works with several different sewing machines. This software is designed to take rasterized image files (.jpg and .png) and create stitch profiles (.pes for Brother sewing machines) that can be sent to any sewing machine. This software is available in most makerspaces and can be purchased for $75 from their website. Overall, digital embroidery is an incredibly fun and interesting process and a great way to learn more about embroidery, sewing, and designing with a computer program. Happy Stitching!
Step 1: Designing for Sewart
The first step is Design.
- Although there are some shape and line tools in SewArt, it is highly recommended to NOT actually design here. I recommend using a design program like Inkscape (free) or Adobe Illustrator (probably free in your local makerspace/library) to create your design.
- If you’re interested in learning more about points of good design in a patch, please see the patch guide. Or if you’re not yet comfortable designing on your own, I highly recommend looking for a simple shape to try out from Nounproject.com or including the words ‘simple illustration’ in your online search.
- Additionally, you must save your design as a .jpg or .png as Sewart can only import rasterized image file types. The software may be able to open some .svg (vector files), however, it often imports them at the wrong canvas size.
- Lastly, while importing your design into Sewart, be sure to check the size. For my brother sewing machine, if I try to send a file with an artboard larger than the hoop, the design won't send. Save yourself the headache, and make sure your design is the right size NOW. I have access to two machines a Brother PE-770 and a Brother SE-400. If using the PE-770, make sure the canvas is no larger than 5x7. If using the PE-400, make sure the design is no larger than 4x6. If you're like me, and like to be extra safe, scale down from there!
- When exporting your design be sure to set the resolution or quality as high as possible. In the included image mine is set to (300 ppi)
Step 2: Processing Your Design in Sewart
Next, you’ll open SewArt and open your .jpg/.png design file. Once your file opens, you’ll need to process it.
- Processing involves reducing the number of colors found in the design. I've made a breakout of all the tools available in Sewart and what their uses are (see attached image).
- There are 4 tools that you can use to reduce the number of colors; Image Wizard, Merge Colors, Color Reduction, and Posterize.
- Image Wizard: allows you to gradually reduce the number of colors in the image. This tool can only be used once! It has 4 steps that it guides you through. The best feature of this tool is that it shows a preview before you continue to the next step. This will help you preserve your design from being too degraded.
- Merge Colors: shows you a breakdown of ALL the colors it sees in the design. Allows you the merge similar colors together or despeckle individual color groups (despeckling can help remove some blurriness from your design).
- Color Reduction: reduces the number of distinct colors.
- Posterize: eliminates subtle color gradients
Hint: If you’re working with text or a line drawing, you may want to use a tool called ‘Convert to Redworking’ this will trace your design and create a simple line version for you to stitch. This tool won't work with multi-color designs.
Step 3: Stitching in Sewart
Once you’re satisfied with your processing of the image, you’re ready to stitch.
- The stitching tool looks like a small sewing machine. There are really two options for sewing a patch.
- Either using ‘Auto-Sew’ which will stitch each color separately with Fill. Or using the stitch picker and clicking on each color to pick what stitch you want to use for it.
- If you are a first time user, I highly recommend using the ‘Auto-Stitch.’ The program does a really good job of creating a stitch profile that is simplified and efficient. As it stitches, you will begin to see the bar on the righthand side populate with each stitch group. This is why you needed to process the image and reduce the number of colors. If you hadn’t the program will lock itself down while trying to create a stitch group for 255 colors.
- Once it finishes stitching, click ‘Ok’ in the top right corner. This will pull up a window that will prompt you to first save a copy of the design as a ‘TIFF’ file and then as a digital embroidery file. Be sure to select .PES for Brother.
- Lastly, while saving re-check the design size. If you’re using the large hoop attachment, the canvas size of your design can be no larger than 5x7, and if you’re using the smaller hoop, I recommend a design no larger than 4x6. If your canvas size is too large the file WILL NOT send.
- Please see the included stitch guide when using other stitches. The guide first lists the settings that the program will default to and then to the settings that work best.
Step 4: Sending to Your Sewing Machine
The last step of designing a digital embroidery file is actually sending it to the machine.
- Some machines have USB ports on them. In this case, copy your (.PES) design onto a blank flash drive and insert it into the machine.
- Some machines have a USB I/F Cable. In this case, the sewing machine will show up as a ‘Connected Drive’ on the computer the same way a flash drive does. Again, you’ll create a copy of your design (.PES) and copy it over to the drive. Once it’s copied, the design will appear under the USB button.