I recently was commissioned to do machine embroidery on several masks. When I begin any project, but especially embroidery on multiple items, there is a mental checklist that helps me work through any issues before I start. Of course the first thing I think about is the embroidery design and if it will be possible to place it on the item. If I need to do any digitizing to alter the stitch count or size that is usually what I do immediately and then stitch samples. The size matters and on this project I chose to use a 2 inch x 2 inch format which is a great size for adult masks. The next thing I think about is what fabric type I will be stitching on and stabilizer choices. Once I have these things determined, I start looking at logistics and how much time it will take to complete the individual items.
I am very fond of using templates to help assist with embroidery placement. I have written other articles and there is a very detailed one along with a video you might like to see here. For this particular mask, I created a template that could be used over and over. Templates help shorten the preparation time and assist with accurate design placement. I make these templates from chopping mats seen below.
When I am in my local Dollar Tree I tend to pick up several because I know eventually I will use them. They are easy to draw on with permanent markers and plain scissors can be used to cut them out.
I specifically wanted to reduce the number of times I would need to hoop a piece of stabilizer for these masks. Normally I use the smallest hoop possible for embroidery but in the case of masks the hoop can be just about any size as long as it is bigger than your design.. Since the masks are not an easy shape to place inside a hoop I knew they would require floating on top of the stabilizer with spray adhesive and masking tape. You could also use sticky back stabilizer but I had plans to use my magnetic hoop. I like to use the Dollar Tree brand of tape because it has a low adhesive quality and I have had good luck removing it without damaging fabric or stabilizer between sewing designs.
I used my 10x10 inch Mighty Hoop and with a Frixion pen, I drew a grid that would help me place each mask in a specific area. Any time you embroider something in a hoop, you will have an area around the perimeter that is a "No Sew" zone. Your machine can either read this with built in sensors or you may need to choose or program hoops in your machine and then tell it which one you are using. The machine can read the programmed Hoop Map which includes the measurements that are safe and leave room away from the edge of the hoop for your sewing foot. By creating a grid before I began stitching, I could see how many designs I could safely sew in each hooping. I used my cutting mat grid to help measure everything. Since I knew the design size, I could determine the number of times my machine could be re positioned safely. This might seem like a lot of work but a little planning in the beginning actually made my process go very smoothly.
I like to use a six inch Omnigrid ruler to draw my lines. First I make a square around the hoop. Then I make center marks vertically and horizontally. Small X's tell me exactly where to place the middle of each mask.
I use my template and mark the design placement with a chalk marker on the mask. The grid on the stabilizer helps line everything up so you know it will be straight. Small items like this are hard to judge especially with the curves and shapes of the masks. The temporary adhesive spray and masking tape are used to hold the mask in place. I also used a couple of straight pins on the left side so there would be even tension all around.
By starting in the top right side of the hoop, you can complete that design and then use tape to hold the mask out of the way for your next design. Move to the bottom right and complete that one. Then move to the left top and then left bottom. Each time, you can position the extra fabric out of the way with masking tape. Having the small X's marked on the stabilizer helps with placement each time and knowing that you will have room to sew the design. Remember to check that the mask is right side up or being sewn in the correct area. Your X's marked on the stabilizer will help keep that part simple as the longer you sew similar items, you might tend to get tired. It is easy to lose track or feel a monotonous relaxing of your senses while you watch each design so always double check your placement on the mask. These had a small tag on the right side so that helped me know each mask was correctly oriented before sewing.
Positioning your foot on the center where the design will start sewing will also ensure you are on the right spot. Here you see my foot ready to go and I am pointing to the straight pins holding the outer edge of the mask. I also stay close to my machine when I float items in a hoop. No walking away. I keep my mind on the machine and if I need to do trimming on other masks or preparation, I station myself near it.
Here are all four mask designs completed. The back shows that placement on the center and the front shows each mask held in place with masking tape.
Once done, you just need to trim away the stabilizer. These masks were 100% cotton but they had stretch and a lining. I used cutaway stabilizer to make sure they had good structure for the designs. They will be washed and dried a lot and the cutaway stabilizer will help keep the design for the life of each mask. It is also firm enough to withstand the pressure of multiple designs. I would not try this with tearaway stabilizer as the needle perforations might loosen the tension and registration would suffer.
I always like to use a lint roller after trimming away loose thread tails. These masks were provided by my client so I took extra care with his packaging and reused all of it.
Here they are boxed up and ready to go. I filmed a video that you can watch below. It shows my entire process and goes into a little more detail. I hope you have enjoyed this post, share what you learn and are generous with what you create. Someone will appreciate your hard work.
Lagniappe Peddler believes that the process of working with our hands can be one of the best forms of healing the hurts in our lives and welcomes all who visit this safe little corner of the world.
What is a Lagniappe Peddler?
ˌlanˈyap,ˈlanˌyap - something given as a bonus or extra gift
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