Newbie Adventures in Embroidery

I mentioned a while back that I finally indulged in a sewing machine with embroidery capabilities. This was mostly for Lulu and her insane lace trim, but I thought it’d be fun to learn how to do other things like making patches and such. Almost six months later, I finally got around to turning on my machine for the first time!

To break in my machine, I did a couple test runs of a Superman logo for a 1970s hotpants Supergirl commission. I purchased the logo off of Etsy, and it was pretty simple to transfer to my machine. Once I unzipped the file, I dragged it to the desktop on my Mac. After plugging my laptop to my machine, it was pretty simple to drag it to the machine’s drive and transfer the file. The machine came pre-installed with a bobbin of white embroidery thread, so all I had to do was put my embroidery thread in for the needle and let it go to work!


I did 2 initial test runs of this project on scrap fabric before moving on to the real thing. With my initial run, I mixed up the order of the thread, but it wound up working out anyway since I didn’t like the 2″ size.

For my second run, I went with a 3.5″ logo. This time, I got the colors in the correct order and was overall pretty pleased with how it turned out. No problems whatsoever!


It was only when I got started with my commission that things started going awry. As soon as it started, the white bobbin thread was the only thing showing. Okay, no big deal. I threaded the bobbin incorrectly. Easy fix.

Then the bobbin not only ran out of thread, but it created a huge knot on the wrong side of the project. Okay, deep breaths. Snip away all the extra threads, re-thread the bobbin, and install everything correctly this time.

At this point, my stabilizer was perforated and wonky, but I was also concerned about re-hooping my fabric and hitting the wrong place. So I snapped the hoop back in place and hoped for the best. While the final product turned out fine, it’s not quite as awesome as my second test run.


So here are my main take-aways from this first dive into machine embroidery:

  • While I wouldn’t call the embroidery interface intuitive, it’s pretty easy to use once you figure out where all the buttons are and what all the symbols mean. I had to stop in the middle of my final project, but once I figured out how to jump to different steps in the embroidery process, I was able to finish pretty quickly. Thanks, user manual!
  • Stabilizers are your friend! This fabric is a medium weight twill with a touch of stretch to it. I used a cut-away Sulky stabilizer that I had on hand for this project. I do need to pick up a can of basting spray ASAP though. I think that would have helped with my final logo.
  • When in trouble, double check threading. Most of my final issues were due to user error.

And here are a couple of resources I found super helpful:

  • BurleySew: Lots of video tutorials on working specifically with the Brother SE400.
  • Embroidery Library: Some great tips and tricks on embroidery, including information on which stabilizers to use with different types of fabric! They’ve also recently released several video tutorials.

Have you done any machine embroidery before? How did you like it?


Costume Notes: Supergirl


Somewhere, the fanfiction universe exploded a little.

Completed: May 2014

Hours Spent: 12-15~

Debuted: Dallas Comic Con 2014

Why This Costume: This is the first full costume I’ve made for another person. My mom is a pretty rad lady, and she really loves Supergirl. She expressed interest in attending a con with me a while back and wanted to dress up. As a thank you for helping me with some stuff/generally being awesome, I decided to help turn her into one of her favorite characters. We ultimately decided on a a “classic” Supergirl that’s loosely based on the 1984 Helen Slater film. Being an 80’s teen, my mom really appreciated the throwback.

chibi batman
The kids’ reactions to Supergirl are the greatest. This little boy could not stop staring at the “real” Supergirl!

How I made it: Basic construction of this costume is pretty simple. I used the Green Pepper Crystal Lake pattern (a.k.a., the Sailor Senshi pattern) with the long sleeves and the attached circle skirt. I snagged the blue and red spandex from my local shop, Spandex Wherehouse. I absolutely love this place. Low prices for high quality fabrics. I had the gold fabric on hand, so I swapped out the yellow for a more eye-grabbing pop.

I raised the neckline and the back a bit to make it more accurate. The pattern is designed so that the wearer slides in through the top, so I had to modify the crotch so that it closes with hooks and eyes, letting my mom slide everything on overhead. Anything for easier bathroom breaks in costume!

I realized as I was sewing on the sleeves that I didn’t have quite enough fabric for the sleeve length. Derp. I had to size up a tiny amount, so I should have grabbed an extra bit of fabric. Live and learn. Anyway, I had some scraps left over, so I used the cuffs from my Renfrew and used Tasia’s method to finish the sleeves.

The most time consuming part of this costume is the emblem. For this, I followed the tutorial from the Dangerous Ladies. Mine isn’t perfect by any means, but I am so grateful for this tutorial. It’s a lifesaver. The emblem took me about 4 hours start to finish. I nixed the emblem on the cape due to lack of time, but I’ll probably work on it before my mom wears this again.

Prior to attaching the emblem to the leotard.

The belt was a pretty fun accessory to make. I made it out of craft foam and glued spandex using contact cement (tutorial on the process here). The belt attaches to the leo with velcro.

For the cape, I measured out the neck from the leotard and basically drafted a partial circle skirt for a more “in-flight” look. The cape and skirt were finished with a rolled hem on my serger. The Dangerous Ladies recommend making capes easily detachable for safety and storage, so I used sticky back velcro on the inside of the collar.

Attacking the Bat!


The wig is the same wig as my Ms. Marvel costume (which I’ll post later this week). It’s an Arda Buttercup that I picked up from Nicole Marie Jean a few months ago. I just lightly curled the ends for more body. I also made spandex boot covers, but we were having trouble making them stay, so the boots she’s wearing are from Amazon. I’ll have to play my boot cover pattern a bit more before she wears this again.

Thoughts on this costume: I’m very pleased with this costume. Aside from the detail work, it was a very quick and simple project to put together, but it still gave me the chance to try out some new skills. Plus, I really enjoyed making something for my mom! She absolutely rocks that costume. I’m tempted to make a Power Girl to match!

mom and small supergirl
Chibi supergirl was super kawaii.
supergirl and me
Mom as Supergirl and me as Bombshell Wonder Woman. So much fun!

You can see more pictures of this costume and my other costumes from the weekend on my Facebook page!

Tutorial Share: Nerdy Bow Clutches

I stumbled across the DIY Bow Clutch Sewing Tutorial a few weeks back. At the time, I knew I wanted to make one for my blue satin Cambie dress, but I wanted to try it out just in case I screwed up. I had just enough fabric after my pillow sewing marathon to test the tutorial twice. Drumroll, please…

Double the clutch, double the fun.
Double the clutch, double the fun.

Whitney’s tutorial is pretty easy to follow. I’m very much a visual learner, and she’s provided several pictures to help with the process. The only part I wasn’t particularly fond of was not finishing the edges of the bow center. I didn’t do that for these (laziness), but my satin fabric is a shred-happy monster, so I’ll finish the edges of it off with a zig-zag stitch.

Since this was just a trial run for me, I played with different thread selections. On my first go, I went with black. That was mostly because I was lazy (recurring theme here) and black was the last thread/bobbin I had in my machine. It looks okay, but required reeeeeaaaaaallly precise stitching, particularly on the zipper.


In my second go, I went with red instead and paid closer attention to my stitching on the zipper. I think it turned out a lot better.

Photo Dec 11, 5 57 09 AM

Speaking of zippers, the tutorial says not to pin the zipper when sewing it to the front. I totally agree with that, but if you’re like me and a little worried about messing up, try WonderTape. This stuff is awesome. It’s basically double-sided washable tape. I use it for all my zippers, often in lieu of basting (because I am a lazy, lazy seamstress). Here’s where I learned about Wondertape.

I made one other deviation from the tutorial. A few months ago, I got hooked on these amazing Nerd Herders from Rockitbot (They had a Wonder Woman one that I bought shortly before DragonCon. Love. It). I had an extra Supergirl strap, so I swapped making a strap for adding a clasp attached with some scrap bias tape.

Not a perfect match, but close enough!
Not a perfect match, but close enough!

So who are these clutches going to? Well, the funky black-thread one is going in my “Keep” pile. I made a reversible tote with the same fabric a few months back, so I’m dubbing these my Con accessories.

All the nerdy bags will be mine!!!
All the nerdy bags will be mine!!!

My red-thread clutch with the Supergirl strap will be going to my mom (with a matching pillow). My mom is as obsessed with Supergirl as I am with Wonder Woman, so methinks she’ll like it.

If you’re looking for a fairly quick DIY gift for someone (or yourself) this year, the bow clutch is a great way to go. One of these took me about an hour, start to finish. That includes cutting. Since I only pulled from my fabric stash, I only spent $8 on the clasps (set of 4 for $4) and zippers.

Are you making any DIY gifts this year?