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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Learn to Trust your “Sewing Instincts”

by Ramona on January 12, 2017

How often do you check your patterns? By that I mean do you check all the pieces, one against the other as if they were being sewn together?

Recently I downloaded a PDF digital pattern. Maybe it is experience, maybe it was intuition, but something in my gut told me to “check this pattern!”

Downloading PDF files of patterns give us great convenience. With that convenience, though, comes potential for errors. I’m extremely confident the pattern was drafted properly because it is from a very reputable company, but more likely than not it is on my end where errors occurred.





When downloading patterns, the patterns are printed at “actual size” or 100%.











The pieces of the pattern are then “tiled” together matching letters and numbers to each other as indicated in the pattern instructions.









The number of pieces, of course, will depend upon the pattern; this pattern only had a front, back, facings for each and a pocket. It was the facings that caught my eye.










—they didn’t look right at the neckline just glancing at them—compared to the shape of the neckline. So, I checked.






I cut out the facing on the actual sewing line, aligned the center front sewing line (on this pattern seam allowances are added after printing) as if it was sewn, and just as my intuition indicated, the facing was way off the front neckline. So, why did this occur? I have no idea. Could it have been in the download? I doubt it because it was a PDF file. Could it have been in the printing? Perhaps, but all pages were printed on the same printer at 100%, at the same time with the same paper. Could it have been in the drafting? Maybe, but I highly doubt it. Could it have been when the company saved it as a PDF file? Again, it is doubtful. It is one of those doggone mysteries of sewing that sometimes never gets figured out.






I could have re-printed everything and checked it again but there were an awful lot of pages to print and I was under a deadline, so I just chose to redraft the facings myself from what I already had printed.

The red lines indicate the new seam lines and the black slash marks indicate the lines no longer used (a little technique used in pattern drafting). Then all I had to do was lay a piece of tissue over the pattern and trace the new facing. I checked the back facing and as it so happens, it was fine—go figure!

Moral of the story? Trust your sewing instincts and act upon them. Even if you are not sure why, prior experience is probably subconsciously telling you something and you should probably listen to save a headache and real dilemma down the line.

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


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I Have A Confession.

by Ramona on January 6, 2017

I have a confession.

I’m sure I’m not the only one with this problem. Lean in closer to your screen and I’ll let you know what it is.

Are you ready? Ok, I’ll confess. It’s fabric. I have a fabric problem. I have an insatiable thirst for FABRIC. And almost anything to do with FABRIC!!!

We had a three-day weekend because of the New Year holiday so I actually took two hours to myself and I just started researching something which led to something else and on and on until I landed upon something that I actually stopped and watched. That doesn’t happen to me often. I’ve been sewing for such a long time that I always marvel and am fascinated when someone is able to teach me something new to do with fabric.

While researching I stumbled across the word “book cloth”—it was a new term to me, so I continued the hunt about the term. In Googling the word “book cloth” many things came up. Of course Amazon has online stores for purchasing book cloth and I’m sure that many retail arts and crafts stores would have it, too. The Google list also returned YouTube video suggestions. I was intrigued; could I actually use some of my own fabric scraps and make book cloth? What would I use it for? Well, what a great idea! I learned I could make books with actual hard covers that could be gifted to anyone. I could make journals, keep a personal sewing book, make a book to sketch quilting ideas, and even a book to write down embroidery project ideas. Because I could use the fabric I want, the sky is the limit in creativity. Why, I could even print or embroider my own fabric to use as a book cover.

I viewed a few of the Google suggested videos but quickly knew they didn’t capture my interest. But then I stumbled upon “Sea Lemon” showing how to simply apply tissue paper to the back of fabric to create book cloth. Novel! She calls it “Book Cloth for Book Binding”. Sea Lemon is Jennifer from Scottsdale, AZ (my former backyard.) I like her videos because the instructions are broken down into several short videos and they are concise and clear. This first video is only 2.5 minutes long—and gives just the right amount of information that even I could do it. Book cloth:


Of course, after being inspired about making my own book cloth, she gives links to some of the other videos on her channel. Book cloth needs to be placed on something so the next video I watched was “Case Binding”.


Case Binding:


And a book needs pages, so Jennifer shows how to make a “Text Block” with “signatures”–I love learning new terms!


Text Block:


There are simple tools used in sewing that are also used in making these books, but another tool needed  is a “Book Press” which she easily makes from cutting boards.

Book Press:


Be sure to check out Sea Lemon’s other videos related to creating your own books and even subscribe to the Sea Lemon channel. I’m sure you’ll learn some new things to try.

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







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Note: click on each picture to be taken to a larger view in a new tab.

This is the final installment of the 4-part reconstruction of a yoked shirt for our daughter’s friend. In this section you’ll learn the steps to finish topstitching the shirt front and re-assembling the shirt to look about as good as new. You will also learn the reaction her friend had to his “new” shirt.













As you can see, our daughter’s friend loved his “new” shirt! It is quite satisfying to get that kind of a reaction. Many times as sewers we can see in our head how something will look when finished but those that don’t sew can’t envision things like that so our “customer” has to go on faith in what we tell them and our skills in completing the task. If you are just beginning an alteration business it is things like these simple alterations that will spread your skills by word-of-mouth; the best advertising there is. Be sure to hand your customers a few business cards and ask them to hand them out for you when they are very pleased with your work–soon you’ll have a lot of business coming your way.

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


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The stitching on the band could have been done with a zipper foot for the machine, but this machine does not have a zipper foot that could work around the snaps while stitching–this machine also has a stationary needle with no other options for the needle position. Your machine may have a zipper foot (with needle positions) that would work–it takes a bit of experimenting to determine the best method to use.

Next week is the final installment to complete putting the shirt together.

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


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How to Approach a Yoked Shirt Reconstruction–4 part series

July 20, 2016

Click on a photo if you would like a larger image to open up in a new window making the words easier to read.

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