Sunday, September 9, 2012

Embroidering Plushies

Excellent, you want to make your own plushie. There are lots of ways to put eyes and a cutie mark on your ponies; everything from buttons to paint to hand embroidery. I have always found that machine embroidery gives your plushie a professionally made look. on top of that, it is much more durable than other methods.

Embroidery is fun, but it can also be a pain if you don't plan ahead. So let's do some planning. First, some basics about setting up a machine and some of the mechanics and costs of embroidery. Read these first.

Making a new design (digitizing)

Stabilizer and Patches
Basic costs and materials
Recommended Cutie Mark sizes

First up, you need an embroidery machine. I use a SE400 and a PE770 from Brother for most of my embroidery. The fabric is put into a hoop (the grey square clamp that you can see later) and some stabilizer is put on the front and back of the fabric. This keeps the fabric from moving when being embroidered. You also need some thread. I recommend Marathon, though everyone has their own favorites. Sometimes, machines can be temperamental too and not like specific brands of thread. For example, my machine doesn't like Threadart or CTS thread (I think they have the same manufacturer). Both brands break a ton in my machines while Marathon hardly breaks at all. Isacord also works well for me.

Now, on to the setup! First, lay out your material and DO NOT CUT OUT THE PATTERN. I am using Minky for Rainbow Dash, and the grain is running from left to right. Just like a real animal, you want the 'fur' pointed in the right direction (from head to tail). So in the pictures I have taken, the pony's head will be on the left and the tail on the right.

This is the hoop; in this case it is made for a 100mm by 100mm maximum size design. The attachment point to the machine is on the left, and the part at the bottom is the clamp screw. The side with the clamp screw is also the bottom of the design for my machines. Check yours to make sure they match.

This is the hoop set on a piece of 200mm by 200mm 1.5oz tear away stabilizer. I use 2 sheets of this on the back and 1 sheet of water soluble Solvy on the top when I embroider on Minky. AS a note, the 200mm by 200mm also happens to be the minimum piece of fabric you can embroider in a 100mm hoop until you have to resort to not-so-good workarounds that I don't like employing.

Now lay out the pattern, DO NOT CUT IT OUT YET. Center the hoop on where the cutie mark will go. Once you figure out where to put it, measure to the center of where you want the cutie mark and put down some masking tape where the approximate center of the cutie mark needs to go. Then measure, and mark the spot like this. One arrow to the front, one arrow to the top with the bottom right point being the exact center. These are your alignment marks for putting the fabric in the hoop. If I am embroidering your fabric for you (or any other embroiderer for that matter) this is where you stop, fold up the fabric, and send it to get embroidered.

Next up, put the bottom of the hoop and 2 sheets of stabilizer under the fabric, Solvy on top, and use the top piece of the hoop, resting lightly on the fabric, to tell where the center of the design is. The green hatch mark thing is the alignment grid. The goal is to line up the center of the masking tape mark to the center of the hoop grid. In this case, I am a few degrees off. It is pretty much impossible to get this exactly lined up which is why you do not cut out the pattern until after the embroidery is done.

Once lined up, remove the tape and clamp the fabric together. Here you can see the top and bottom of the hoop with the layers in this order form top to bottom: Solvy, Minky, 2 sheets of 1.5oz stabilizer. Now you can put it in the machine.