Embroidery the Hard Way

With tens of thousands of dollars of equipment on hand, one would think that the seemingly simple would be possible.  Oh dear.  Not even close.

For years I’ve been putting binding on blankets and embroidering them with, generally, just a couple words- a name or something.  I wanted to do a bigger project- a quote that ran the whole length of the blanket.  I can’t even count the number of ways this went wrong.

I have access to a Babylock Ellisimo, a Babylock Ellyse, and a Bernina Artista 170.  The Ellisimo, being the biggest and baddest of these, seemed like the logical place to start. So….

  • Babylock doesn’t label their frames.  At all.
    • No size indication.
    • No useful indication of zero.
    • No model name or number you can search.
    • Not even an easy way to ask the sewing machine what size frames it knows about.
    • To add insult to injury, you can measure the frame–but the result is NOT the frame size.
    • Finally, I found out that the sizing is on the clear plastic insert pieces, which are also useful for rough alignment of your workpiece.  However, if you have the machine trace out the pattern perimeter, it doesn’t align with these patterns.  None of the pieces are actually labeled with the part numbers or sizes, but at least you can count the square centimeters on the clear inserts.
  • Poor discoverability all around on the Babylock.
    • Insert the frame, remove the frame, try not to be upset when the moving thing breaks a needle….
    • As noted above, no way to know what size frame is loaded or what frames the machine knows about.
    • If the embroidery file on your flash drive is too large for any frame the machine knows about, it simply DOESN’T DISPLAY ANY INDICATION that the file exists!
      • Please, if there’s something wrong with the file, show some sign of life!
      • If the file is corrupt or a format you don’t understand, say so.
      • If it’s too big, say so.
      • Too many stitches?  You get the idea.
  • No way to index multiple designs together across frame positions, or at least not as far as I could tell.
    • Apparently some machines have some kind of machine vision.  I don’t need anywhere near that level of precision- just let me index off a known point.
  • Stitchcode
  • SewWhat-Pro
    • Some cool features.  Not worth $65.
  • The funny thing is that some of the hard stuff was remarkably easy.
    • The “Letterworks Pro III” software from 20+ years ago worked flawlessly to take an arbitrary TrueType font and turn it into a stitch path.
    • The pattern it generated was pretty clearly a raster, but it does work.
    • Some of the embroidery fonts have rather annoying bugs- like the “LaurenScript” font, which will have big gaps if you blow it up too much.  These don’t show up in Letterworks but are apparent on the Ellisimo display and in SewWhat.

I would much rather publish a HOWTO- but I’m in the quagmire for the time being.  There are days I wonder if a needle and thimble would be the easier thing to do….but then, this project is on the order of 50,000 stitches…..per side…..

PS It seems to me that machining, printing (2D and 3D), pick and place, and PCB manufacture all involve fundamentally the same operations, but they run on totally different stacks.  I wish we could’ve all agreed on HPGL, G-code, PostScript, or SOMETHING back in the day.