The Journey of Embroidering a Hard-to-Hoop Bag

by Ramona on January 19, 2017


When people find out you own an embroidery machine you will get all kinds of requests to embroider things. Folks love to give gifts that are personalized—and they know you can do it!

Before accepting anything from a customer or friend for personalizing, be sure you are comfortable with the task. If you are a new embroiderer, don’t over estimate your skill level or equipment’s capability. It is better to forego a job rather than have to replace an item because something goes wrong–don’t worry, they will come back to you for other things and will appreciate your honesty. When you become an experienced embroiderer, you’ll be able to embroider all kinds of things with confidence.


This past weekend my husband’s co-worker requested names be put on four look-alike small travel bags for her children; the bags are to be used for traveling back and forth to Grandma’s house. In my mind, I’m thinking perhaps duffle bags or backpacks. Before accepting the responsibility, I requested to look at one of the bags to see if it even had a spot that was suitable for embroidery. As it turned out, the “travel bags” turned out to be a small suitcase. At first I wasn’t sure it was going to be doable because my main thought was how to fit an area for embroidery under the needle and in the hoop.





The bag was inspected carefully to see what area might be able to be used for embroidery—there were lots of zippered areas but only one area was suitable at the top of the bag. A little time was also spent at the machine, with the empty hoop on the machine, to figure out how to get the area under the needle of the machine. Once that was figured that out, I was able to accept the job. Normally it is good to do testing prior to stitching on the final project. In this case, there was no extra bag to test, so all that could be done was test stitch the names and have confidence in my skills and equipment that everything would come out as expected.



In doing custom orders, a mock-up of the embroidery should be done for customer approval. In this case it was just a name, but the name had to fit within the area determined would be able to be embroider at the top of the bag near the handle. There were also specific thread colors the children had requested for their name. Names were printed in two sizes at actual size. I requested the customer approve the spelling of each name, choose the size,


and approve the thread colors chosen from my stash  that came closest to their request of blue, neon green, hot pink, and turquoise. Now, turquoise can be interesting because some think turquoise has a blue undertone and others think of it as more green. I had two choices for hot pink—one more neon and the other more raspberry. All the thread, along with the printed names, was put in a large zippered plastic bag and my husband took it to work to get the approvals.

The name spellings were correct, the blue and neon green colors were approved, as was the neon pink. Good thing there were two choices for the turquoise because she chose color that looked more like a jade green to me, instead of the blueish turquoise I thought she would like. When you work with customers long enough, you learn how people see colors differently.

All bags in hand my husband came home and Sunday afternoon it was time to embroider the bags. Because the name setups had already been done, all I had to do was make each name the same size and save the file in the format needed for stitching. The Mom had put a little tag on each bag for each child with instruction to each child to completely clean out the bag—well, we know how kids are! All their toiletries and clothing had been removed, but a couple of the kids had left snap-in accessory pouches in the bags. I didn’t want to mix them up, so each bag was disassembled and embroidered  individually, and then re-assembled it immediately after the stitching was done.



Luckily on these bags, the entire front zipped open allowing easy access to the top of the bag for embroidery. To prepare the bag,





the top of the bag was folded  in half and a mark made at the center with tailor’s chalk which will steam out after stitching.





A ruler was used to determined how far down the center alignment point should be. Now it was time to stitch; the first name was loaded on the machine, so the next thing was to prepare the hoop.






It was pre-determined a large machine hoop was needed so the top of the bag would lay flat in the hoop. A layer of tearaway stabilizer was hooped and then to aid in alignment at the machine, the hoop was aligned to the grid on the cutting mat. Three dotted lines were made following the grid to help aid in aligning the bag top in the hoop. When putting the bag under the needle I didn’t know which line would be the final alignment line. To prevent shifting, the stabilizer was sprayed with temporary embroidery spray adhesive. Now that everything was ready the stitching could begin.



The hoop was placed on the machine and the top of the bag was aligned to one of the dotted lines on the stabilizer.





After double checking, the top of the bag was pressed firmly to the stabilizer. Next was to align the machine needle to the alignment point marked on the bag top.



The bag was heavy for the machine, so it was extremely important to keep the weight of the bag off the machine by holding it up at an angle to the machine. It was also extremely important to be sure the arm of the embroidery module was able to move freely without any obstruction from the bag. I also had to make sure the handle of the bag stayed out of the stitching field. Once I was confident everything was ok, I double checked everything, slowed the machine way down, and hit the start button.



After the stitching was underway and I was confident everything was working ok, I was able to speed up the machine.






After the first bag was stitched, it was very carefully removed from the machine and reassembled. The next bag was prepared and stitched, and then the final two.





When working on customer items whether garments or bags like these, extra care is taken and concentration in each and every step is a must. I block off time in my day to make sure there won’t be any interruptions—many times items are irreplaceable.



I’m happy this was another successful order where Mom and children are pleased. Because this is a simple request for a co-worker, I don’t charge. I hope these instructions will help you if you need to embroider a hard-to-hoop item.

Sew ‘til next time…enjoy the journey of sewing!


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