Digitising Monograms

Monograms are incredibly popular motifs with machine embroidery. With the speed of digital embroidery, it’s a quick way to transform a boring generic item into something a bit more special and personal. I absolutely love illuminated letters and fancy lettering too and really think they can easily be a work of art in themselves.

For the last monogrammed card I made, I simply took some of the built-in embroidery designs on the Bernina and combined them with some hand-dyed fabric to make something that looked a bit fancier. It was a good chance to see what combination of needle type, size and thread worked well with the ice-dyed fabrics and get a bit more practice with the machine.

I really can’t complain at the number of built in designs and fancy alphabets on the Bernina, nor the wealth of material that is out there on the internet, but sometimes you just can’t quite find what you’re looking for. A lot of digitisers seem to create designs that are absolutely massive – I guess because this way you can have a lot of detail and the photographs look a lot better – but it can be hard to find nice things that are suitable for a card aperture.

You’ll hear a lot about not resizing embroidery designs by more than 10-20 % and there is a reason that advice is repeated for often. Machine stitches have a strict lower limit on length because if they are too short, the machine will essentially end up punching the same spot twice and start building up a nice thread pile to break your needle in a few more stitches. If you don’t know how the design was digitised and don’t make any adjustments to compensate for the shrinkage then ending up with needle-shredding stitches is a real possibility.

The obvious solution then was to put my digitising skills to practice and make something perfectly to size. I did this using the Bernina Embroidery software though I’ve since switched to using Hatch – which I much prefer! The design is completely my own, I just scribbled it on some paper with black Biro so I could scan it. I find Biro generally gives good sharp lines on the scanned document and is dark enough that it’ll even work when using a phone camera as a scanner. I’m very high tech and professional as you can see.

I deliberately made a design with simple elements with plenty of open space so the stitch density wouldn’t get too crazy anywhere. The design does have many elements in common with my goldwork monogram! An experienced digitiser might grumble a little at the diamonds lost in empty space with nowhere to hide some running stitches as that will mean jumps and trims between all the elements but it was a small piece and I was happy to live with it over finding an artistic workaround.

There’s a couple of options with trying to digitise your own pieces, one is to do it manually, tracing out the shapes and setting whatever stitch settings you need for fills and outlines. Another choice is to leave it to the colour recognition capabilities of the computer, for it to tell what area of the design is supposed to be what… Even though I had converted the scanned file into an .svg, I wasn’t particularly convinced by the autodigitising results so redid everything manually.

I opted for triple runs to give a heavier outline all the way around the shape and ended up enlarging and changing the angle of some of the diamonds once I’d turned them into embroidery objects because they just looked like shapeless thread piles. All the fills are either raised satin or, at the top of the T, is a fancy fill just to add a little interest. I manually tweaked a few points just to keep things looking smooth, then it was onto the calico for a test piece.

As I had no stabiliser to hand, I just backed calico with calico, set the machine off and was pleasantly surprised to see it just went completely smoothly without any problems. Getting the trims on the diamonds was a little tricky but I was really pleased for the rest!

Then it was putting together the right colour pallet and onto the real thing. For this, it is ice-dyed fabric backed with calico and I made a little ‘video of shame’ to show you all why you shouldn’t have jumps if possible and why hooping properly and stabiliser is important. You can see the fabric pucker horribly after stitching the third diamond and I only got away with it here because these are small elements and it was one of the final parts of the design, so a little distortion wasn’t the end of the world.

The fancy fill at the top is lovely, but perhaps too subtle but overall I was really pleased with how this came out. There was no gapping anywhere and most of the stitch densities looked good. I should perhaps have thought a bit harder about a machine-friendly way of doing the diamonds but they trimmed up well and are nice and subtle against the background fabric. All in all, I was rather shocked by how smoothly this one went! A very pleasant surprise.

8 thoughts on “Digitising Monograms

  1. Yes, I think the interesting element of working with this sort of computer control is learning enough about how the machine and the software interact to ensure that you get the result you want and not something that’s just a little bit “off”..!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s quite hard having something that looks ‘ugly’ on screen (with overlaps, funny edges etc.) because you know with the compensation when it’s stitched for real that will give you the best finish. Feels very counter intuitive.

      Liked by 1 person

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