Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

Less Talented Than I Thought: Digital Embroidery

This semester in our Makerspace class, I had the exciting opportunity to choose my own design and watch a sewing machine embroider it for me.  Pretty cool and seemingly simple, right?!  It really isn’t too difficult, but I looked past some key steps in the process that pointed me to failure.  Read on to hear my story and learn from my mistakes:

Once I had my design prepared, I was so excited to get started.  I hit the send button and waited for it to magically create my intricate design, but it did quite the opposite.  My canvas immediately popped out from its frame, the thread got tangled, and the design wasn’t looking right.  I figured they were quick fixes, and took care of the problems and kept it running.  The increasingly loud hum of the machine told me that something was going very wrong, so I finally took a look on the backside and not only found that the design was out of sync, but that the machine was actually threading the top thread into the bobbin and had broken the needle without me noticing.  It was a wreck!  

To avoid embarrassment or something, I chose to just destroy all evidence that I created that disaster of a piece and started over.  Once I took apart the machine and gave it a look, I had just missed some of the most basic steps involved in using a sewing machine.  Instead of using an embroidery foot, I used a normal sewing foot.  That caused my piece of canvas to drag along rather than smoothly glide in the ways that it was supposed to.  I also realized that I hadn’t threaded the bobbin correctly, which caused a lot of my design to have white speckles on the top.  It explained so much!  So I tried again and here is what I got: 

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It looks better, right?! Still not perfect, but it’s getting there.  You can still see that there were some issues with the white speckles, and the light green color was threaded incorrectly so the thread wasn’t pulled tight (and was a mess underneath!).  My expectations had dropped astronomically, and although it was imperfect decided to settle on this design. 

I learned from this project that each and every step is vital to complete a project successfully when you are using any machine, from a electronic cutter to a 3D printer and everything in between.  I spent a lot of time perfecting the design and finding the perfect colors, but the design still failed because I didn’t pay attention to the small details that go into into setting up the machine correctly.  This class has taught me how to combine the creativity of a child and the intricacy and detail-orientation of a genuis (well, I would like to think so)! 

Even though I never got to see that perfect final product of my design, I can still appreciate it for what it is.  I learned tons more from my failure in Digital Embroidery than in any area where I succeeded on my first try.  I’m grateful that the Fab Lab provides a space where failure is acknowledged and even encouraged for the sake of truly learning.  

Make on!