What Makes a Good Embroidery Design?

If you’re into machine embroidery, you know that there are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of designs out there. Some are sold in collections; some may be purchased individually, and others are actually free! No matter what type or style you’re looking for, it’s out there: elegant, whimsical, masculine, rustic, floral, you name it and you can stitch it. But how do you know if you’re getting a “good” design? Here are five ways to ensure that the designs you select are high-quality designs that you will stitch over and over again. The design shown below is Modern Petals Tiling collection #12548. All of the design that are identified in this post are available from OESD at embroideryonline.com.

Modern Petals

Buy from Reputable Design Houses

Find online communities of embroiderers and ask their opinions of specific design companies and the designs they produce.  You may get a variety of answers that contradict each other but if the answers are positive overall, you’ve probably found some good design sources. The same is true for the opposite. If the responses are overwhelmingly negative, move on and keep looking.

Follow the Path of the Needle

When you buy a design from a new source, pay close attention as you stitch it the first time. Is the path of the needle efficient with a well-planned stitching path? Are the colors sequenced so that the design parts of same colors are stitched at the same time? This is not always possible because of the placement of the colors but, to minimize thread changes, it should be done as much as possible. In general, you want the design to be easy to stitch without a lot of unnecessary thread changes. The design shown below is from the Fresh Blooms collection #88019 and it stitched beautifully on my B 790 PLUS with a minimum of fuss.

Fresh Blooms design

Count the Jump Stitches

Jump stitches are long lengths of thread where the needle “jumps” from one part of the design to another. An experienced digitizer works to reduce these stitches as they cause more work for the stitcher who has to trim them after the design is stitched. Some BERNINA machines have a Thread Away function that pulls the jump stitches to the back of the fabric, so the design is clean on the front, eliminating the tedious job of clipping all those threads. If you don’t have this function, you don’t want a design with a lot of jump stitches. The image below shows a design stitched with uncut jump stitches (upper) and one stitched using the Thread Away function (lower).

Thread Away function

Take a Good Look at the Finished Design

The look of the design is usually what attracts makers to want to stitch it. Every design starts with artwork and the digitizer determines the stitched look. Has the digitizer used shading and highlights to give it dimension and make it interesting rather than flat? Are the fill stitches attractive without being too dense, which causes the stitched design to be stiff? Are the outlines precise and continuous? The answers to all of these questions should be yes as these are the characteristics of a beautifully digitized design as shown below in a design from Magnolias from Jackie Robinson collection #80322.

Magnolia design

Download Free Designs

In the end, the best way to judge the quality of a design is to stitch it and evaluate it. A way to do this without expense is to download free designs and stitch them while watching carefully. If it stitches efficiently and beautifully, it is probably an indication that the source produces high-quality designs that you’ll love. The free design may be a sample of a collection so you can decide if you want to purchase a group of designs such as the Zen Bookmarks #12823.

Zen BookmarksFor a Guide to BERNINA Machine Embroidery, see The Big Book of Machine Embroidery at your local BERNINA store. Click here to find a BERNINA store near you.

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