What is Digital Stitch?

I’ve been talking a lot lately about digital stitch; I’ve been using it in my work, and I’m working on a new course to share my favourite tips and techniques for using digital stitch in an artful and creative way. Having spoken to a few readers of our newsletter as part of my research for the course, I began to realise that not everyone is familiar with the term ‘digital stitch’ and what it refers to. Let me explain what it means in terms of the work I do…

Here on the left is my sewing machine, it’s a Husqvarna Viking Designer Epic*. As you see it in the photo, it’s set up for regular sewing, so I’d use it like this for piecing or dressmaking, that kind of thing. It also has automatic decorative stitches and buttonholes etc.

But this machine is an embroidery machine which means it also comes with this – an embroidery unit (shown in the photo on the right). In the photos below you can see how I slide off the regular machine bed (this has the compartments for holding spare feet and bobbins), and then slide on the embroidery unit.

With the embroidery unit slotted in place the machine can now stitch digital embroidery.

Do you see how the embroidery unit has a long rectangular arm which is at 90 degrees to the machine? This holds the embroidery hoop and moves left and right, back and forth. In the photo on the left you can see I’ve attached one of my embroidery hoops. This one is a metallic hoop and the fabric would be held in place with those round magnets.

So the machine is now set up to stitch digitally but how does it know what to sew? Well, there are designs built into the machine, you can download free and paid for designs from the internet, or you can make your own using software. You generate your design by whatever means, load it onto the sewing machine and then the machine will move the hoop to stitch out that design.

Here you can see Amelie stitching out a little patch motif. This smiley face design is an emoji motif that’s included in the MySewnet embroidery software that I use. In the photo you can see that she’s hooped up some felt and stabiliser (she’s using a different hoop, not the magnetic one), and her design is loaded onto the machine screen.

Here’s a close up of the machine screen with the design loaded. It’s a really simple motif, but it gives you the idea. Some designs can be much more intricate and include many different colours.

As it stitches, the machine knows when the thread colour change is required so it stops sewing, allowing you to change the thread. If you do lots of digital embroidery you do tend to get super quick at threading your machine!

On the screen there’s also information about how many stitches are in the design, and how long it’s going to take to stitch out. With this machine you can do some simple design editing on the machine screen itself including resizing the design a bit, repeating the motifs and arranging them how you want them within the hoop. You can also place the design so that it stitches exactly where you want it on the fabric.

Here’s Amelie’s patch motif stitching out. The machine knows the most sensible way to stitch the design and colour sequence that will look best.

We’ve not modified this motif in any way, but by using software, such as MySewnet, you can edit the designs as much as you want. You can also create designs from scratch that are completely original to you. I have often digitised my drawings for example. The creative potential for using software to make your own digital stitch designs is huge! You can make designs that are very neatly worked with beautiful pattern fills and satin stitch areas, or you can make designs that look hand drawn and are very painterly. You can make quilting designs that look like you’ve done them freehand. In fact I often forget when I look at work I’ve done which ones are freehand and which I have done digitally ‘in the hoop’!

Here’s Amelie patch motif all stitched out. We worked onto felt so we could cut it out with a tiny margin all around. Then we fused it to Bondaweb and ironed it in place on her denim jacket. She loves that her jacket is unique and is planning on stitching lots more patches to add to it!

This is just a super simple example of digital stitch, just to show you the basic principle, but really the sky is the limit and the software is now getting easier and easier to use. You can literally create a stitchable design in a few minutes.

If you’ve been put off digital embroidery in the past because the designs that you’ve seen are a bit twee, I would urge you to look again. The commercial designs available now are often quite stylish and besides with the software you can design whatever you like!

Thanks for reading today. I’ve linked to some of our other digital stitch articles below so please do check those out if this is a topic that interests you.

Bye for now,


*Husqvarna Viking UK have kindly sponsored our work for many years now and provide machines and software to support our work for which we are very grateful. We are not paid to advertise or endorse and all opinions are our own. You can rely on our honest thoughts!

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