Learning Machine Monogramming
Another skill that makes personalizing gifts fun is machine monogramming. Add a single initial to handkerchiefs or two or three to shirts or bathrobes. Write entire names on the hems of pillowcases. How about using the same technique to add some witticism to an apron?
Machine monograms: Move the cloth to keep your markings under the needle.
You will need an embroidery hoop to hold the fabric flat against the needle plate. Embroidery hoops intended for machine embroidery are not as deep as regular hand-embroidery hoops, making them easier to slide under the needle. The presser foot is removed, so you have more freedom to move your fabric to keep the design under the needle. If you are working with heavy fabric, such as canvas for a tote bag, you will have trouble getting it on the hoop. You might be able to embroider without the hoop. You will have to press down on the fabric as you move it to keep it against the needle plate.
An embroidery or free-motion needle plate will keep the fabric feeds from moving against the fabric. If you don't have one, don't worry. Without the presser foot pressing the cloth against them, the feed can't really move the cloth anyway. You'll get used to moving against what little pull they create.
Draw your desired monogram or other design on your cloth. You might want to include the width you'd like the stitching to be rather than just a center line to follow. Cursive or calligraphy-like letters will be easier to stitch than block letters, and your imperfections will be less noticeable. Practice on a scrap first to get the hang of it.
Put the cloth on top of the outside hoop, with the right side of the cloth facing you. Press the inside hoop on top, and pull the fabric tight. This is the opposite of the way you would use a regular embroidery hoop. The idea is to keep the fabric stretched tight and flat against the needle plate.
Set your machine for zigzag stitching and to the width you'll want at your beginning point. You can adjust the width as you go or move your fabric at an angle to create narrower stitching in some places.
Move the needle to the highest position and slide the hoop under it. Use the hand wheel to lower the needle into the cloth where you want to begin. Lower the presser-foot lifter, even though the presser foot isn't there. Lowering it engages the tension discs. Otherwise, the thread won't stay taut enough to pull up the bobbin thread.
Make the first couple of stitches, then backstitch over them before moving on. Stitch slowly, moving the hoop as you go. If you need to skip from one place to another, raise the presser-foot lever, slide the hoop to the next place, and lower the needle again. Remember to backstitch so the embroidery won't pull out. You can clip away the thread between the different stitching areas when you are finished.
If you're having trouble, set your machine on a basting stitch, if it has one. The pause between stitches will give you more time to position the hoop.
When you get the hang of monograms, try your luck at some simple embroidery, using the machine stitching in place of the hand-embroidery satin stitch.
If your machine is new to you, check the owner's manual. You may have attachments or settings that make machine embroidery even easier. Don't be afraid to try out all your machine's features.