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15. Wildcard week

  • Design and produce something with a digital fabrication process (incorporating computer-aided design and manufacturing) not covered in another assignment, documenting the requirements that your assignment meets, and including everything necessary to reproduce it

Getting started

For this week’s assignment, I chose to use the embroidery machine our lab has. It is a PR650E by Brother. I have a bit of past experience with the embroidery machine. Last year for my sister’s birthday, she did a mock episode of “Chopped”, the popular cooking show, and all my mom wanted to have personalized aprons for each of her friends to provide a lasting memory of the event. When she looked at sites to buy personalized aprons, she deemed the prices too excessive. Then I told her that we had an embroidery machine at school that we could use. My mom bought about a dozen plain, red aprons and we were able to embroider each participant’s name onto their apron. The software on the machine allowed us to type simple letters, so I did not have to use any sort of 3D-party software to make the design, which is what I did this week. The software I used was the demo version of SewArt. The download for this was very straight forward and is no different than downloading any other application.

Designing in SewArt

Nothing in my final project involves embroidering something or stitching a design into a piece of cloth, so I designed something that was important to me. I am from belgium, so I was debating whether I should do the outline of Belgium or the Belgian flag, but then I thought “How about both?”. With a quick image search for the outline of the country with the flag inside the outline, I found an image I was content with. Next, I had to save the image to my computer

To add this image to SewArt workspace, I had to click “open document” in the top right corner and then find the image where I saved it.

Now that the image is in the workspace, I have absolutely no idea how big it is. It could be 10 inches x 10 inches (which is obviously WAY too big) or it could be 1 inch x 1 inch (which would have no detail). To check this and then change it, go to the “tools” menu and click “resize”. Since “lock ratio” is activated, I only need to insert one of the dimensions and the other will adjust accordingly. I set the width to 3 inches.

To convert this image to commands that the embroidery machine can understand, click “stitch image” in on the top menu.

This should give you something that looks like this:

To choose which features to embroider, I had to click each of the 3 major color regions, rendering something that looks like this:

The settings I set for this design are shown below:

When you are content with your embroidery design, click “ok”. When saving the file to your computer, make sure it is in the correct format for your machine. Since our machine is manufactured by Brother, the file format has to be .pes. This is similar to how ShopBot machines only can read commands in the .sbp format. It might be more helpful to directly save this file to the flash drive you are planning on using to upload the design to the embroidery machine itself.


Preparing the cloth and backing

The first step in actually embroidering something is to prepare the fabric you want and the “backing paper”. Backing paper is an extra layer that helps with obtaining clean stitches and acts as a stabilizer. For more information about backing, go to this link

First, lay the hoop you want to use with the tall side facing up and then lay the fabric on the hoop frame:

Then, lay the backing paper on top of the cloth:

Once this is done, place the hoop above all these layers and press down. It should look like this in the 2 different views:

The only thing there is left to do is to flatten out and stretch the cloth. You can easily do this by just pulling on the sides until the backing paper and cloth sort of feel like a drum. After that is done, just tighten the hoop to minimize movement by tightening the screw on the side with a phillips head.

Uploading the file

Once the cloth and backing paper have been set up, we want to set up the design on the embroidery machine. Since we uploaded the .pes file to the flash drive earlier, we need to open the flash drive and view the files stored inside.

Since there is more than 1 file on the flash drive, I have to select my design and click “set” in the bottom right corner.

Once that has been completed, click “sewing” in the bottom right corner. This is where we can adjust things like the speed of the stitches.

Then, you should have a screen that looks like this. This is where we can adjust things like the speed of the stitches and each color that is used. I increased the speed of the stitches from 600 per minute to 1000 per minute.

When you are content with all your settings, click “lock” in the bottom left corner. After that is completed, the physical button should start blinking green and then you click that button to start stitching.

Final result

The final result is shown below. There are slight gaps between each color section. This has nothing to do with my file, but rather that fabric I used. The cloth was a very cheap rag-like material, so the individual threads were not close together. The fabric simply got stretched out and these gaps are a product of that stretching.

This is a video of my starting the stitch and snippets of each individual color section:


.pes embroidery file

Belgian flag + outline template image