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Sew Simple: Find embroidery designs in coloring books

Dear Vicki: I have an embroidery machine, and I love it! I just bought software to help me create my own embroidery designs and took classes to learn to use it. So why am I writing to you? Because now that I have the software, I am unsure about what designs to spend the time to try to digitize. What should I use? – Kathy D.

Dear Kathy: One suggestion I have is to use coloring books – they are so popular now and filled with fanciful designs. “Doodle Stitching” is a book of designs for hand embroidery that is filled with well-drawn designs you could use. It comes in two formats: one with a CD of 400 designs, the other with 300 iron-on transfers. There are baby designs, floral, kitchen, foods, animals and more. A great little primer for hand-embroidery techniques is included, in case you are not into machine embroidery. Try to find it at a local shop, but if you can’t, send me a check for $17 and I will send it to you. Be sure to tell me if you want the CD or the iron-on transfer book.


Dear Vicki: I have decided to start sewing again, and I’m loving it. I wonder about hemming knits. I seem to have trouble with stretching and just generally crummy looking hems. Can you shed some light for me? – Jo H.

Dear Jo: I like to fuse lightweight tricot interfacing about 1 inch wide along the bottom edge. Now when you serge or zig-zag the edge, you will have a more stable edge. If your hem is less than 1 inch wide, the interfacing will cushion the fold and make it softer and give a hem that has a bit more weight to it. It will look nicer and also be much less likely to stretch. As always, test this technique on a sample of your fabric to see just how effective it is. Some extremely unstable knits need more help, like a little gathering, to keep it flat.


This week’s reader’s tip is from B. Quershi, Chesterfield, Mo. She writes:

“My tip is more an experience. I was in a fabric store the other day, and two little girls were playing with the spools of thread. Their father came over and he asked the girls to compare the colors of their spools and tell him which were darker, brighter and what the numbers were on the spools. And when they told him, he helped them find which slots the spools belonged to. He was amazing; what a great parent!”

Send tips and questions to Vicki Farmer Ellis, P.O. Box 220463, St. Louis, MO 63122, or email