Sunday, May 16, 2010

Worth every boring minute

In a carefree moment when I first bought my Bernina 640E, I decided to stitch out all the decorative stitches so that I would be able to see an actual stitchout before choosing a stitch.  Sounds like a great idea, right?  It is a great idea.  The only problem is that my implementation was less than satisfactory.  I just grabbed whatever fabric was available, added a bit of spare batting in irregular pieces, and went to town.  I stitched out all the stitches in random lengths paying absolutely no attention to the defaults.  Not a pretty sight.  Although I did refer to them from time to time, they proved less useful than I expected.

One of our LQG members suggested a better approach a couple of months ago.  Here's a picture of one of my sample pages:

This approach is so much more useful and well worth the time and effort (and thread!) that it took.  Here's a mini-tutorial on how to do this:
  • Using a neutral-colored duckcloth, cut rectangles 8 1/2 x 11 inches.
  • If you are lucky enough to own a serger, serge the edges.  Otherwise, finish edges with an overlock stitch.
  • Using an indelible marker, draw a line down the vertical center of the duckcloth.  Draw parallel lines about 1/2 inch on either side of this line.
  • Draw horizontal lines approximately 1/2 inch apart from the top to the bottom of the piece.  (I ended up with 19 rows on my samples, although you might be able to squeeze in 20 rows.)
  • Thread your machine with machine embroidery thread (I used 40wt. rayon) in the top and bobbin weight thread in the bottom.  (I used Superior Thread's The Bottom Line by LIbby Lehman which I absolutely love.)  Tip:  Use a color that you really, really, really like because you will be looking at it for hours!
  • Starting from the very first numbered stitch on your machine, stitch sample stitches from the top row on the left down to the bottom row on the left then from the top row on the righthand column down to the bottom.
  • Number the stitches in the little boxes in the middle after you have stitched each row not before!  I learned this the hard way.  My manual said I had a certain stitch.  However, when I went to stitch it out, it was not on my machine.  I assume that, for some reason, Bernina deleted it from later editions of the 640 and did not reprint the manual.
  • You will not need to stabilize this project since the duckcloth is pretty solid.  If you choose to use a lighter weight fabric, use stabilizer!
  • I chose to stitch out each group of stitches separately.  In other words, I started a new piece of duckcloth for the 400s, another for the 600s, the quilting stitches are on a separate piece, the practical stitches on another, etc.  You'll use up more sheets this way, but it seemed to make better sense to me.
  • Place each individual sheet of duckcloth into a plastic page protector and put in 3-ring binder.  Voila!  You have instant access to the way your decorative stitches really look when stitched out.
If you are like me, you will be amazed at how some of these stitches look when actually stitched out.  They bear no resemblance to the black and white photos in your manual!  They also bear no resemblance to the graphics on your sewing machine screen.  Also, size does matter.  Some stitches that looked small in my manual actually stitched out much larger than I would have guessed.  Stitches that I thought I would never use caught my eye and are destined for future projects.

So, get something good on the tv in your sewing room, listen to a book on tape, or put a couple of CDs in and stitch away!


  1. I can't believe no one has commented on this yet. Excellent tutorial, Marsha! It really does make a difference once you see the stitches in person, doesn't it?

  2. Thanks for the compliment! I think it's a great idea as a reference. Thanks, also, for stopping by and reading my blog.

  3. What a great idea! Thanks so much for this. I will run my 730 through it's paces with this. And use up some scraps in the process!