Lazy Embroidery

Embroidery for the rest of us ;)

Fixing Digital Embroidery Gaps with Pull Compensation

Last time I posted, I had just learned how to digitize a cartoon image into something my machine can stitch.

Alas, the design did not stitch out perfectly. There are gaps between the color fill and the outline of my stitched out design. I had a hard time finding help with these gaps because I didn’t know this problem is referred to as “pull” and can be fixed by tweaking a setting in the design called “pull compensation”. My design puts a good deal of “pull” stress on the fabric, which results in a large gap between the color fill and the border around my design.


Pull is a normal part of embroidery and must be compensated for either by altering the design’s pull compensation or changing the stitch length, stitch type, density of stitches, the design itself, the fabric the design is being stitched onto, and/or the stabilizing underlayment. I opted for the easiest fixes (this being “lazy embroidery”, after all), which meant choosing a less stretchy fabric and increasing the pull compensation on the digital design itself.

Here is the result:


Well, that’s better, but it’s not perfect yet. Also notice how narrow the “heart” design stitched out.  That heart was much wider in the design file! So even with this sturdier fabric, the designs are still “bunching up”.

Stubborn thing that I am, I increased pull compensation even further and stitched the same design one more time (with a different stitch design, too – he’s wavy now!).


That’s much better. The color fill now matches up with the embroidered outline.

The outline is set to 20 length and 2 separation, and the body’s pull compensation is set to 5. These settings worked well for the stabilizer and flannel fabric I am embroidering on, but they may not work for other fabrics or designs.

Alas, the only way to really test an embroidery design is to stitch it out, which creates quite a few “failed experiments” along the way.

I turned mine into Christmas ornaments:


For more help with pull compensation, check out this article by Flying Needle, which explains pull compensation in great detail.

Where to get digital embroidery designs

The best part of owning an embroidery machine is stitching anything you want onto your project! Show off your personality and good taste.

See no diet, Hear no diet, speak no diet. Embroidery design by Urban Threads.

Adorable “No Diet” cupcake embroidery design is available at UrbanThreads

Your embroidery machine probably came with some built-in designs, but those are only fun for beginners. Sooner or later you’re going to get a hankering for something cooler.

Where to buy embroidery designs

Here are 10+ great shops & sites to download new embroidery designs for your machine.

  • DesignsBySiCK –  Tons to choose from, low prices. Free designs get posted regularly to their Facebook fan page.
  • elizabethk314 – Want more fonts for your embroidery designs? ElizabethK’s Etsy shop has got you covered.
  • eBay – Stock changes regularly, eBay can be a good source of inexpensive embroidery designs
  • Embroidery Library – Specializes in huge, detailed designs. Lots of quilt designs, too. I like this site because it shows you what the design looks like finished at each size it’s available in.
  • Embroidery My Heart – Tons of licensed embroidery designs, including Disney, Muppets, Spider-Man and Pokemon designs
  • FunStitch – Cutesy, childlike embroidery and applique designs
  • iBroidery – Great source of embroidery designs of licensed characters (Disney, Pixar, Nickelodeon, etc).
  • InitialHereApplique – So many appliques in one Etsy store! Borders, designs, cute & modern.
  • Grand Slam Designs – Huge online store for embroidery designs
  • Monogram Font Store – Excellent Etsy shop offering great-looking embroidery monogram designs for download.
  • Rusty Needle Design – Etsy shop selling offbeat designs for embroidery machines. Not a bird or Easter basket in sight!
  • UrbanThreads – Awesome, unique designs catering to a more alternative crowd

Where to get free embroidery designs

Many embroidery design shops offer free designs if you sign up for their mailing list or become a fan of their Facebook page. Sweet!

  • Brother If you own a Brother embroidery machine, sign up for their mailing list to receive free designs.
  • Craftsy – Sign up via Facebook to get free embroidery designs
  • FunStitch – 3 pages of free embroidery designs
  • Grand Slam Designs – Link goes directly to their free designs section. No strings attached, but you do need to make a customer account (it’s free).
  • UrbanThreads – Rolling selection of free offbeat alternative embroidery designs. Check back often, the featured free design changes frequently.

Turn a graphic into an embroidery pattern with free SewArt Image Wizard

There are two ways to get an embroidery pattern from an image:

Lazy way: You can pay someone over $100 to turn your logo or graphic into an embroidery pattern,

Smart way:  Use SewArt to automatically transform an image into an embroidery design!

How to Turn a Graphic into an Embroidery Pattern (free!)

1. Download SewArt for Windows 32 bit / Windows 64 bit

2. Drag your source image (.jpg, .png, etc) into SewArt

3. Click the Image Wizard tool


4. Image Wizard screen 1: Reduce the number of colors (choose the number of colors you can without distorting your image)


5. Image Wizard screen 2: Reduce the number of colors again, this time with merge colors (again, choose the smallest number of colors you can get away with)

6. Image Wizard screen 3: Reduce the speckles, going down the list until you reach the lowest % option that still looks good

7. Image Wizard screen 4: Merge remaining “small percentage” colors. Start at the largest values and work your way down.

8. I do freehand cleanup with the paintbrush / eyedropper tool here. 


9. We’re almost done. Click “Stitch Image” button (sewing machine icon).


Leave “Auto-sew Color” checked. Click “Auto-sew Image” and choose “Sew all colors” from the dropdown menu that appears.



10. Remove white background from your design: left-click the white color square(s) in the Stitch Mode list on the right and choose “Delete” for each one.

Your design now looks like this.


11. Go to File > Save and save your design as a .bmp (first Save As dialog) and .pes or whichever filetype is appropriate for your embroidery machine (second Save As dialog)


12. You can adjust the actual size your design will stitch out at in the save-as dialog.


The steps for digitizing an embroidery design are demonstrated here by MrJayBush in his excellent video tutorial:


What is machine embroidery?

Machine embroidery ~ An Introduction

Machine embroidery is a sewing process whereby a machine stitches patterns and designs onto fabric. Embroidery is great for customizing clothing and household textiles. Be careful not to confuse embroidery with cross-stitch – there’s some overlap, especially in the historical context, but if you’re looking to put tightly stitched designs onto fabric via a machine then you are looking for digitized embroidery patterns for your embroidery machine.

Embroidery: The possibilities are endless!

Machines can embroider almost any design you can think of!

You can use embroidery to make patches and appliques:


Rainbow Dash embroidery design by ethepony



Add lettering to toys, garments, and accessories:


Create facial features, such as eyes and mouths, for plush toys and characters:



Put your company or organization’s logo onto caps and other swag:


Or just embellish the heck out of anything:


Embroidery used to be a fancy, expensive thing – think rich dudes smoking cigars in monogrammed bathrobes or newlyweds receiving a set of monogrammed towels (ooh, ahh!), but now you can buy a quality embroidery machine for a few hundred bucks and load it up with cool designs from the web.

Downloading Embroidery Designs

These are just a few of my favorite places to get embroidery machine designs:

  • ethepony makes awesome My Little Pony embroidery designs and gives them away for free!
  • embroideryonline sells fun, albeit pricey, designs
  • etsy is a marketplace offering tens of thousands of embroidery patterns from crafters like you. Search for “embroidery machine pattern” or similar.