This tutorial is dedicated to learning techniques to machine embroider a tote bag. Since I need a gift for my aunt’s birthday in March I decided to monogram a tote bag for her and share the process with you. I used the Vine Monogram font from Rivermill for the monogram lettering (http://www.rivermillembroidery.com/4-Inch-Size-ONLY-Vine-Monogram-Machine-Embroidery-Font-_p_443.html). I purchased the tote bag from a local merchant that sells tote bags on the side to make a little extra money. I’m not sure where this bag can be purchased online. On with the tutorial…
I begin every tote bag project by printing out my embroidery design. Cut out your printed design close to the design, but make sure you don’t cut off the vertical and horizontal centering lines when trimming your printed design.
First I need to find the center of the bag – I typically just find the center measurement between the tote bag handles as centering design between the handles will help the monogram look visually centered. I use a FriXion Erasable Gel Pen (available at Amazon or Joann.com) to mark the center point of the handles at the top of the bag.
Here I’ve sprayed the back of my printed design with a temporary spray adhesive (I use Sulky KK2000) and unfold the printed design and press it to the tote bag. Next I line up a ruler with the horizontal centering lines on my printed design, then I use my FriXion pen to draw a horizontal centering line across the entire printed design and about 6″ past the paper on either side.
Now it’s time to prepare your hoop and stabilizer. I use two layers of medium weight cutaway stabilizer for tote bags. I use two layers because it provides a good base to pin the tote bag (one layer often isn’t strong enough and the pins rip right through it). Hoop the two layers of stabilizer then draw vertical and horizontal centering lines on the stabilizer with a FriXion pen and finally spray well with a temporary spray adhesive.
This is probably the most difficult step in this tutorial. Line up the folded tote bag (I usually pin the folded tote bag together to keep my fold line straight – the pin you see here doesn’t go through to the stabilizer) along the centering line on your stabilizer (the direction of how you line up your tote bag depends on the orientation of the design you intend to sew-out). Center the opposite direction by feeling through your tote bag for the center notches on the side of your hoop (there are raised notches on the vertical and horizontal centers of your hoop). Once you find the center fold down the top of the tote bag and line it up by once again feeling for the raised center notch though the tote bag.
Some people turn tote bags completely inside out when they attach the hoop to the machine. I do that if I have to, but if I can get away with it, I just pull the opposite side of the tote bag out from the under side and let it bunch up around the top side of the hoop.
This is the control panel on my Brother PE-770 embroidery machine. I have already saved the design I want to sew-out from my computer to my flash drive. I’ve plugged my flash drive into the side of my machine. By touching this icon, I’m telling the machine I want to sew a design that is located on my flash drive. If you have a different machine, your control panel will likely look different, but there will be options to do the same steps – they may just look different.
The hoop will do some shifting around, and will likely land in a place that isn’t at the center of your design. HERE is reason the printed design with the cross-hairs in the center of the printed design becomes so important. You need to tell the machine where the center of your design is. You can see that my design falls left and a little lower than center in this photo.
See how the cross-hair center point falls exactly in the center of my needle hole (I’m sure it’s really called something other than a “hole,” but you know what I mean)… THIS is what you want the centering to look like before you begin sewing.
I’ve removed the paper copy of my design now that I’ve centered my needle with the cross-hairs (I don’t move the hoop to remove the paper design – just take any pins holding your design out carefully (don’t remove the pins holding the tote bag to the stabilizer). Be sure not to move the tote bag or the hoop while you are unpinning the paper. Now it’s time to push “GO!!”
Finally, take the eraser end of your FriXion pen and erase the remaining centering lines. Don’t worry if a small amount of ink remains, you can press the tote bag with a warm iron (no steam) and the rest of the gel pen ink will disappear.
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Disclaimer – I am NOT a professional – I’m a hobbiest – I’ve only been embroidering since December of 2013 – I found there is so little out there to help us learn how to complete an embroidery project from beginning to end, I thought I’d try to take some photos of the steps that I do in hopes that it might help someone else in the learning process. This may not be the “right” way, but it works for me.
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