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   How to Use Paper Templates for Accurate Machine Embroidery Placements

I like to make embroidery projects such as bags & totes, pieced quilt tops, pillows, and other decorative accessories. I developed the process described here for the projects that I have available on this site. I am including some of my embroidery tips here for you!

I like to use rectangular paper templates. I print them at home using my HP LaserJet printer. Detailed How to Print Templates instructions are located here. I pin them to my project when designing the layout. If I am doing a large layout with multiple placements that touch each other (a vine for example), I trim a tiny bit of paper back at the point where the embroidery designs touch so I can make the placements perfect. I prefer plain printing paper for templates rather than velum because I pin templates to the fabric and velum tears too easily.

To minimize damage and distortion to the embroidery project, I like to hoop the stabilizer ONLY and attach the project to the stabilizer with a digitized basting rectangle.  I do not use spray adhesives for attaching the project to the stabilizer because it makes accurate alignment with the hoop harder. 

I like to attach the project to the hooped stabilizer after the hoop is attached to the machine. This way I can be sure that the embroidery will be perfectly positioned. I have worked out a way to attach the project correctly without needing to see the hoop so I can easily attach a large project correctly. Xray vision is not required.

My digitized embroidery designs are set up for the process described here. Each one includes a digitized basting rectangle that matches the rectangle on the paper template (print it from the pdf file included with each download). I also have digitized a single stitch at the beginning corner of the basting rectangle that is a different color for emphasis (not really for a thread change - begin by using the second color on the included thread chart).  This stitch marks the spot where you will attach the project to the hooped stabilizer with the machine's needle. 

If you like this process, you can easily use it with the designs you already own. Just add a basting rectangle to any digitized design in your embroidery library. Click here to get the free download of three sizes of machine embroidery basting rectangles (
100mmX100mm = 3.94X3.94, 127mmX178mm = 5X7, 140mmX225mm = 5.5X8.85). The download includes these file formats:  DST, EMD, EXP, HUS, JEF, PEC, PES, VIP, and XXX. Follow the instructions at the bottom of this page after you download the file. Delete the file formats that you do not want.


Easy Step by Step Instructions
1. Cut the embroidery template out along the rectangle's border line. 

2. Pin and tape the embroidery template exactly where you want to put the embroidery design. I like to use blue painter's tape because it comes off cleanly.  Rectangular templates are easier to position than free form shapes because they have straight sides and corners to use as reference points when measuring. Notice that you don't need to draw marks on your fabric so you don't have to worry about getting the marks off later.
 
3. Hoop your stabilizer only. I like a medium weight tear away for most projects. Worried about things slipping because just the stabilizer is hooped? Here are some suggestions:
  • Make sure your thread tension is not too tight. Overly tight tension will cause more pulling on the hooped stabilizer.
  • Sometimes I use 3M brand double stick tape on the back side of the inner hoop before hooping the stabilizer. The tape will stay sticky and adhere to your stabilizer for several hoopings. Replace it when it loses its stickiness. 
 
4. You may want to slow the stitching speed down on your machine while learning this process. Attach the hoop to the machine. Load the digitized design into the machine. Verify that the image exactly matches the orientation of the template image (right side up and NOT mirrored).  After you have learned this process, practice it with the design's orientation changed. I include mirrored templates for you to print to maximize the use of the designs.


5. Start the stitching. The needle will jump to the back left corner of the design, take one stitch and stop. (Or just step the stitching forward a single stitch to get the needle to go to the starting corner).  The starting corner of the basting rectangle is marked on each template.  Raise the pressure foot and lay your project into position.
 
6. Position the project so that the corresponding corner of the embroidery template is at the needle. Manually lower the needle into the project so that it is holding the project securely. The needle acts as a pivot point and the project can still be squared up so that the basting rectangle will stitch along the edges of the embroidery template. 
7. Visually square the project with the hoop (guess - perfection is not required). Stitch 3 to 5 stitches next to the edge of the template. Stop.

NOTE! Some embroidery machines do not like to start stitching when the needle is in the down position. If your machine has trouble with this, place a single pin through the template, project AND stabilizer after you visually square the project with the hoop while the needle is in the down position at the corner of the template. Manually raise the needle before you start stitching and then stitch these stitches. Remove the pin after you stitch these stitches.
 
8.Step the stitching forward until the needle is about one inch above the lower left corner of the embroidery template. Rotate the project so that the needle is exactly at the edge of the embroidery template. Manually lower the needle into the project again and stitch about five stitches. Stop. NOTE! Some embroidery machines do not like to start stitching when the needle is in the down position. If your machine has trouble with this, place a single pin through the template, project AND stabilizer while the needle is in the down positon. Manually raise the needle before you start stitching and then stitch these stitches.  
9. Step the stitching back to the top left corner of the embroidery template. Stitch the first side of the basting rectangle. Stop. Remove the paper template, tape and pins.  
10. Finish stitching the basting rectangle. Smooth the project flat with your hands as the basting rectangle stitches. WARNING: KEEP YOUR HANDS AWAY FROM THE MOVING NEEDLE!
 
11. Machine embroider the design. Remove the hoop, remove the basting rectangle (pick out with a seam ripper from the back side), and remove the stabilizer. Mist the back side lightly with water and press the back side with a warm iron to make flat.  

When you are comfortable using Embroidery Design Templates, you will be able to take the process to the next level. Here are instructions for how to work with Embroidery Layout Templates.