I don’t know about you, but I love fancy stitching with my machine. I enjoy having so many beautiful decorative stitches available on my machine. I used to just pick a stitch and went with wherever the machine started it and stopped when I got to the end of where I wanted it without worrying too much about whether it was at a good stopping place in the stitch pattern, thinking I couldn’t do anything much about it. I just hoped the decorative stitch would finish at a nice spot when I got to the end. It usually looks pretty that way, but it can be better.
Recently it dawned on me that my machine, a Bernina 880 plus, provided me with some interesting tools to get the pattern precisely placed and spaced perfectly. With a little research I found that most Berninas have many (not all) of the same tools I have to work with on this and provide “total stitch control”. Even my machine doesn’t have all the tools for all the stitches probably because they don’t work well for a particular design. But they are still adjustable.
Amazingly, I have had Berninas for many years and only just started paying attention to using the metric measurements as a feature because of a little YouTube on Bernina International by Silvain Bergeron about making napkin rings from Cork fabric that highlights this feature. So I thought I would tell you what I learned after playing with this because maybe you haven’t thought much about it either. Even if you don’t have a Bernina, maybe your machine has something similar, I don’t know what’s available on other brands, so check it out. Now don’t misunderstand, I am not a Bernina rep or ambassador or have any connection to Bernina other than I am simply a lover of the machines and want to share when I find something fun and this is fun. I have had Bernina machines for more than 35 years.
So to illustrate this, I made a few screen captures of the steps using the simulator for my machine.
Step One: Measure the length you want your decorative stitches to be on your fabric piece using mms rather than inches. I know…I’m an inch person too, but the metrics are easier for this process. I use this really inexpensive ruler that is clear and flexible (can be bent around a curve on its edge, for instance). It’s helpful to know that in general, one inch is 25 mm. I am pretending that I need the length to be 60 mm long. Here’s a link to the ruler:
Or if you are figuring for stitching around a circle, here’s a link to a PiDay circumference app you can just fill in the mm of the radius or diameter and it will tell you the circumference. Circumference of a Circle Calculator If you are doing decorative stitching around a circle that you know the circumference, you may wish to do the adjusting of the size of the stitch set on the sewing side and then save it (only one repeat). Then move to the embroidery side and pick the shape function. Maybe I will do that on another blog. It took me a while to figure that one out.
Step Two: Pick your decorative stitch. I’m going to use #406 on my 880 plus, and I think it is a common stitch that most machines will have. Then check the information on the screen as to the length of the stitch. It is 13 mm long. I need it to be 15 mm long so I can do 4 repeats and come out with my 60 mm length.
Step One: If I just stitched it as is, my decorative design would stop somewhere in the middle of one of the triangles. Click on that mm length.
You will now see this dialogue box that allow you to adjust the length. Note that the plus and minus will move it longer or shorter and you need to look at the number on the left of the stitch picture because to get the size, not the number on the button which is in inches. Here it says “15.2” mm.
Now touch the “i” button to bring up this dialogue box. And pick the button with the triangle and the two arrowheads at the top and bottom.
Now you have this dialogue box where you can adjust the size by percentage and also balance the stitch density. This is particularly useful for working with specialty threadweights. First adjust the percentage until you get 15.0 in the design length (or whatever you want for your project). Then adjust the density. If you are using a 12 weight thread, for instance, you want to lower the thread density…and if you are using an 80 weight you want to raise the density. For most threads at 50 weight, leave it at the default until you do a trial stitchout.
Now you have the right length for four designs for every 60 mm length.
You should do a test stitchout on scrap fabric with a good stabilizer to see how this works before stitching on your project.
Sew this all takes more time and effort to describe than it is to do it, but understanding what is available can help you get that decorative stitch just wonderful on your blouse front, placemat, around a wall hanging, a teenager’s snuggle quilt, on a new bag, and on and on. It makes things much nicer than just stitching out the default size of the decorative stitch and stopping wherever it stops. People may not figure out why it looks so beautiful, but they will know it does.
Sew happy everyone! Try a little adjustments using the metrics and the calculator on your phone and have fun in your studio.