Feeding the Bernina…

Half the fun of blogging is sharing with people not when things go right, but when things go horribly wrong. I feel it’s a public service when I can make mistakes so you don’t have to. This week’s incident involved giving the Bernina a good, fabric meal to chew on…

I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with different fabric types for machine embroidery, from organza to satin and lots of hefty mixed fabric sandwiches. I’ve been really pleased how smoothly most of this has gone, even using the machine to cut out felt applique shapes, so I felt it was about time for a project that didn’t quite go according to plan.

Inspired by all the beautiful designs out there and the idea of creating some cool custom clothes, I wanted to have a go at doing some machine embroidery on a t-shirt. I had a few reservations about this. I was going to have to worry about design placement, which would make hooping fussy, and sacrificing a t-shirt for an embroidery test feels like much more of an extravagance than using a roll of fabric. I don’t know why, but it feels like a much more serious thing to be using a finished garment for testing.

Why I decided a rather large area (and what would turn out to be a surprisingly dense design) as a test idea I don’t know – what can I say, I like a challenge! However, I’m not sure my poor t-shirt victim agreed with me.


For the design placement, I was happy to be a little approximate and the design was fairly symmetric so I placed it mostly by eye and a bit of hopeful thinking. I promise, despite appearances, I did try and iron the t-shirt before but this was such a miserable and useless process that I have finally ended up with a lovely ironing board as a result of this project…

Stabiliser-wise, I used Maderia Cotton Stable Tear Away which proved to be… not the right stabiliser for the job. I didn’t use a fresh needle for this project as it was a test, which was a mistake, but there were still regions where the needle managed to go straight through and tear the stabiliser as the stitching was so dense… Cut away would have been a much better choice but I was concerned about it being too stiff. From reading Maderia’s description of Cotton Stable it should have been fine but perhaps our definition of stitch densities are a little different. Most machine embroideries do recommend cut-away for anything but the lightest of designs. The general recommendation for clothing seems to be fusible no-show mesh, which seems to be what Maderia call ‘E-zee Weblon No Show’ so I will need to be off shopping soon. They also something called E-Zee Comfort to cover the back of embroidery and make it less itchy with seems like another good idea!

Not the happiest design…

Just a note for those of you who are fans of Maderia… apparently their stabilisers are called ‘Avalon’ in Europe and ‘E-Zee’ in the US… Just… why Maderia? To make things even more confusing, their own UK website has products listed under both names. What a delight. I wish more companies would make tables of the differences between their products so they were faster to compare! If you’re inspired by this level of fabric nerdery, you may also enjoy this read on how stabilisers are made and why two tearaways might not be equivalent (just ignore the slightly creepy comments about ladies’ skin!)

Bad feed dogs!

The other source of problems though wasn’t just the physical issues with the stabiliser that lead to puckering problems and eventually the machine deciding to drag a huge chunk of fabric into the feed dogs tearing a rather unsightly hole… but I had a few issues with the design. I’m not sure whether it was an issue with the small amount of resizing I’d done (about 5 %) but there seemed to be parts where the same stitch would be repeated 10-20 times which the Bernina and the fabric did not particularly enjoy… It ended up throwing quite a few errors and I had to manually skip these parts of the design.

Thankfully the t-shirt victim in this case was some horribly flimsy, thin shirt that I think I’d ended up with in an emergency ‘we’re sorry you arrived but your luggage didn’t’ flight situation but I can’t help but feel that something more substantial would have made parts of this job easier. It’s a shame as I think I made a few nice recoveries from a thread breakage and a few issues and the Bernina did a heroic job of not being bothered by the t-shirt bulk as it tracked its way around the design. Ah well, I think the back of this one will live to test stitch another day while I grumble about adding to my rapidly expanding stabiliser stash in the meantime!

8 thoughts on “Feeding the Bernina…

  1. I love that you show the less than perfect results too and with such wit and grace. A lovely read and I hope you manage to sort the stabiliser out soon. Now the shops are open in the UK, is it worth popping into a charity shop and getting a reasonable quality t-shirt to practise on at a less scary price than new?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooh, that is a great idea! I never really think of charity shops but I’ve been wanting some more unusual and mixed fabrics to work with too, so I think that’s a great idea. Thanks!


      • You’re welcome. Check out any bedding etc section as well as clothes. I’ve bought a couple of hand made patchwork quilts for a song in charity shops. 😁


    • It’s a great looking design and I would love to – but I think unfortunately there’s something up with the digitising as well – whether it just means I’ll need to manually skip through parts or it’s a bit more terminal I’m not sure at this stage. I would definitely like to!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Goodness, yes, sometimes a post that says “Howwwwl!” is very useful for the reader, and besides, it helps to get rid of the frustrations. I’m not the first to suggest this, but maybe a less flimsy t-shirt would behave better?

    Liked by 1 person

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