Embroidery Software and Getting Started

Lately, I’ve had a need for a creative outlet. Recently I was inspired to look into how embroidery sewing machines work. More specifically, what would be needed to turn a vector drawing from Adobe Illustrator into an embroidery design compatible with my machine. I recently got a Bernina Artista 200, and it has been upgraded to be flash drive compatible. The upgrade turned my machine into a Bernina Artista 730. The internet alludes to the fact that these machines are more particular on what size of drive it wants to work with. In fact, the .exp files are quite small and do not need much space. So I was left with the question, what can you do to convert a large flash drive (from a trusted brand/ aka not a cheap one from China) into a small flash drive that is compatible with the sewing machine?

IMPORTANT note: most small flash drives–especially the ones that come from China or a similar areas–are NOT safe, and could contain computer viruses. I have many flash drives from trusted brands that I use all the time. A workaround this problem, is to format your flash drive and “partition” the available space to the size you need. I took an 8GB flash drive and told the drive it only has 256MB to write to. This way the flash drive acts like a small drive that will be compatible with machines that only want a smaller flash drive, like the Bernina Artista 730. I found a WordPress blog called Time Science that walks through how one might accomplish this, How to Downsize a Flash Drive..

I learned that the Official Bernina USB Stick is not necessary from Hoop Lah Carolyn Keber’s Blog, in her article Bernina USB Data Pens. Carolyn uses an Embroidery Program called Embird and she saves her designs as .exp files. I learned about Embroidery File Formats on youtube from Ultimate Stash Embroidery. He taught me that the embroidery master files types are .dst or .exp and they will work using any embroidery machine as well as the file type that is specific for your machine, in my case that would be .art, .pec, or .pes.

I also learned on Carolyn’s Blog about the free software available on the Bernina website for design transfer. It’s called ARTlink 8, I downloaded it and have yet to play with it. Seems like a promising way to write the file to the drive vs. drag and drop. My attempt to download .art files from the Bernina website and drag them to the flash drive I formatted was unsuccessful. I’m thinking the “write to machine” function is necessary for the files to be visible to the machine. I also don’t think I plugged in the drive before tuning my machine on, which was recommended.

My quest started by wondering if I could take a design I created with Adobe Illustrator and use an embroidery plugin to automate the design and not need an expensive hard to use embroidery software. I’ve learned that an embroidery software is needed and I can use my Illustrator skill set to trace a design with the Embird Studio and using the digitize tools. I’ve learned that this program is capable of auto trace, and if the density map shows green and yellow vs. red it will work OK. Just like in Illustrator the trace option is not as good as re-drawing your points with the pen tool. Embird has a tool like the pen tool that will help you define the outline of your design, and then add stitching to fit the design. It also has shape tools and layers similar to the Adobe Illustrator workspace. Once you are finished you can save the .exp file. Then use a program that can transfer the .exp file to your memory stick, like ARTlink 8. Turn off the machine and plug in the drive (Use flash drive as a transfer device, do NOT store your designs on it.. This tip is based on–the amount of time the drive takes to transfer depends on how many designs are on your stick. Keep it Simple Silly!). Turn on machine an click the USB button, on the Bernina this will be on the touch screen. Now use you machine to print the design to the hoop size it was created for.

I’ve learned on the internet Embird is the embroidery software I have been looking for. Instead of investing in the $2,500 Bernina Software (Version 8). Embird also seems more intuitive for someone who already is experienced with Adobe Illustrator, such as myself. All the programs I’ve found have a trial version, so you can always try it out and see if it’s worth a couple hundred dollars. If you only need it sporadically you can keep using the trial version on a virtual computer, or format your computer when you want the trial program again. Embird also has packages you can buy on top of the base program. However, if you don’t need it you don’t have to buy it. Where as, the Bernina Software comes in a big intimidating package; they expect you to get lessons from your local dealer, on top of all the fees you’ve already been hit by…   If I bought all the features Embird offers it might add up to $1,000. Again, I don’t need all the tools Embird has because I have design tools that I am already competent at using. Who knows, maybe later down the line I will feel the need to try the other perks Embird offers.

I found several tutorials on youtube helpful to decide on Embird Embroidery Software. So far, I really like the tutorials by, OML Embroidery. Here’s one of many tutorials I found helpful, Embird Quick Tip: how to digitize like a pro!

Happy Sewing!

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