Hat Embroidery - Threading Tutorial



Hat Embroidery - Making your Embroidery File


This page provides a tutorial for using the Janome MB-4S embroidery machine. Embroidery is a powerful tool for visually impressive designs on fabric, and is best used on hats, polos, or other thick material.

File Creation

Open Adobe Illustrator on the computer near the embroidery machine, and load an existing vector file. If you aren’t sure if your file is vector, or if you need to convert a bitmap image (.PNG, .JPG, .GIF, etc.) to vector, see the Vector and Bitmap Image Guide.

Once you have your vector design in Illustrator, begin to prepare it for the embroidery software. Check for common issues such as:

  • Other objects and designs in the same file. These will be included in the design, so remove them now (you can use File->Save As to save a separate copy to keep the other objects).
  • Overlapping objects. Check to make sure that none of the parts of your file overlap each other. While it looks fine on the screen, the embroidery machine will overlap stitches, leading to uneven embroidery and possible failure. If your design has overlap, see the fixing overlap in Illustrator tutorial.
  • Gradients or many-color images. Our embroidery machine only supports four thread colors per design and one color at a time. Make sure that all your objects are solid-color, and that you don’t have more than four colors overall in your design.

Once your design is finalized go to File->Export and select the .EMF file format. Save this file and close Illustrator.

Design Preparation

In this section, we will turn the .EMF design from the previous section into files the embroidery machine itself will understand. Open Embird (64 Bit) on the desktop and click the Launch Studio Plugin button. Once the plugin has launched, go to Design->Import Vector File in the top bar and locate your .EMF file.

Changing Colors

Once the design is loaded, it is time to select colors. On the right hand side is a tool bar showing all elements of your design:

If any objects you don’t want to embroider made it into the .EMF, they can also be deleted at this stage. To do so, first left-click to select the element, then right-click on the element and select Delete.

To change the color of an element, simply select it by left clicking then right click and go to Color->Define Color then choose one of the basic colors. (Remember that the embroidery machine doesn’t actually know the color of the thread you load. Therefore, the color you choose now is only there to help you choose spools later, and won’t affect the color of thread actually used.) Sometimes, you’ll notice at this point that objects which look like the same color are actually slightly different tones. Make sure you assign them all the same color at this point, which will save you time later on.

Now that your design is colored properly, it is time to save the design in a way Embird understands. This will come in handy if your Illustrator file is fine, but you need to tweak the colors or other design features later. Go to File->Save As and select the .EOF format and save. This file can then be opened and edited later to make any changes.

Generating Stitches

Now you are ready to generate stitches. This is the step where Embird turns the shapes in your designs into the actual stitch patterns for the embroidery. Simply click the send to Generate Stitches button in the top left corner of Embird Studio.

Embird will ask what format the file should be saved in. For this embroidery machine, select the .JEF format, then click Okay. Save this file on the embroidery machine flash drive in the EMB->Embf directory.

Select the proper hoop using the Hoop Size button on the top bar.

Each of the embroidery hoops has its dimensions labeled on the sides, and many have the name of their standard size category, such as M2. Find and select the hoop on the list, often found in the Standard - 2 tab. Then press Okay.

Setting Up the Janome MB-4S

There are several steps to setting up the embroidery machine, but not all of them may be necessary every time you run a job. However, if you might not have been the last to use the machine, it's important that you check to make sure it is threaded correctly.

Threading the Machine

The most complicated and delicate step of the embroidery process is threading the machine. First, select your thread, and use the orange thread scissors to cut any frayed portion off the end. IMPORTANT: the thread scissors are expensive, and should NEVER be used for anything but cutting thread.

Next, push the tension lever back to allow for threading.

Remove any thread currently on the needle you plan to use, and place your spool on the appropriate peg.

Push the thread through the hole and under the clip on the top rack.

Push the thread through the eyelet near the white knob, then between the discs and around the peg, as shown on the plastic of the machine.

Pull the thread through the groove, along the tension dial.

Pull the thread through the hole in the metal bar. Thread the loop of the spring, then take the thread up through the nearest other hole in the metal bar. Make sure the thread is outside both metal pegs.

Thread the hole in the lever arm.

Bring the thread back down through the remaining hole on the metal bar.

Pull the thread through the circular hole on the bar near the needles.

Slide the thread inside the hook around the top of the needle, being careful not to wrap around the needle itself.

Thread the needle. If you're having trouble getting the thread through, you may need to trim with thread scissors. You might also try wetting the tip of the thread to help it hold together.

Finally, pull the thread up and clip it into the spring.

Pull the tension lever forward again, and the machine is threaded!

Threading the Bobbin

Sewing machines use two strands of thread at a time: the thread you see, which we loaded above, and the bobbin thread, which is fed from the bottom of the sewing area. An incorrectly-loaded bobbin causes the worst failures during embroidery, so it's worth double-checking the bobbin. 

Start by opening the bobbin compartment below the needles.

To remove the bobbin, pull up the chrome lever and pull out.

If the bobbin is already loaded, remove the spool of thread inside. Place the spool on the peg of the bobbin, and be sure that the thread turns clockwise, as shown.

Slide the thread into the angled slot in the bobbin.

Pull the thread under the metal tab.

Slip the thread into the eye of the bobbin assembly, coming outward.

Place the bobbin back in the bobbin compartment by pulling back on the chrome lever again and pushing in.

The bobbin is threaded! Close up the compartment when you finish.

Preparing the Hoop

Find the hoop of the same size you set earlier for the file. The hoop has two components, the inner hoop and outer hoop. The inner hoop usually has text telling you its dimensions, and metal "wings" to connect to the rest of the embroiderer. The outer hoop is just a ring of plastic with a screw to make it looser or tighter.

Find the roll of fabric backing material.

Cut a piece of backing large enough to cover the hoop with 2-3 inches of excess material on all sides.

Place the inner hoop on top of your garment and orient it where your design will be.

Use the inner and outer hoop to clamp the garment and the backing together. Both the garment and the backing should be pinched between the two parts of the hoop, and the backing should stick out on all four sides. Be sure to only clamp a single layer of fabric from the garment itself.

Next, use the screw on the outer hoop to tighten the hoops, but not all the way. Tug on the outside of the garment to pull the fabric tighter inside the hoop. Keep doing this until the fabric feels tight like a drum head. When you're done, tighten the screw on the outer hoop as much as possible. To add stability, add straight pins along the edges of hoop, pinning the garment and the backing more firmly together.

Slide the hoop into the embroidery machine until both sides snap in.

Finally, check under the hoop. There should be no other fabric between the backing and the metal plate, or you will sew the garment together where you don't want to. Bunch any excess material underneath the bobbin compartment.

Loading the File

Eject the embroidery flash drive from the PC and plug it into the side of the display screen.

Press the Open button on the left side of the screen.

Select the USB drive by toucing the circle by the flash drive icon.

Select the file by touching the screen.

The Trace Outline button (four arrows in a square shape, near the bottom of the panel) will show you exactly where the design will be placed, and the screen shows the orientation.

If either of these needs adjustment, press the Menu button on the left screen, then touch the circle button next to the grid icon on the right.

In the layout screen, the arrows along the right of the panel wil move the design, while touching the circle by the rotate icon can adjust the orientation of the design. Press the OK button to finish your editing.

The software automatically assigns each color in your design to one of the machine's four needles. Check to make sure that the assignments match the color of thread actually on the needle. If they don't match up, select the color using the Thread +/- buttons on the right.

Then click the right arrow at the bottom of the screen to see the remaining menu options, and choose the Thread Color button.

Press the corresponding needle number to assign that needle to the color.

When you're done editing, press the Start button.

Stay with the machine as it runs, since the machine should not run unsupervised and problems sometimes occur.