Ed note: This article was provided by Jeff Chanesman, a Nova Labs key member and steward in the woodshop, laser lab, and instructor for our CNC embroidery machine. Look for sessions on our Meetup page.
The embroidery machine isn’t just for embroidery. Suzanne and I made these fun pillows using appliqué. Appliqué is the sewing of fabric onto larger piece of fabric to create pictures. The only thread used in this example is black. All the colors you see are pieces of fleece cut on the laser cutter and then sewn into place. It’s like painting with cloth!!!
This was very easy to do with the embroidery software we have at Nova Labs; Hatch from Wilcom. Shapes are imported or created and the converted to appliqué. This not only automatically creates the stitches to hold it in place but also creates stitch outlines for placing your pieces of fabric. You can then print out a template for cutting out your fabric “parts” or print them to PDF so you can convert them to DXF for laser cutting. I was able to cut out the eye, iris, and mouth for twenty of these pillow guys in less than 15 minutes including setup.
You could easily make all sorts of projects using this technique. From potholders to stuffed animal friends.
I will give you an overview of instructions for doing this below, but remember you need to be signed off on the embroidery machine (and laser cutter if you plan on using it to cut your fabric) in order to sew these at Nova Labs. Hatch software is installed on all the machine in the CAD lab and you are more than welcome to use it but I would strongly encourage you to take the class. It is easy to use but can be daunting at first, especially if you are a first timer, as there are many specialized tools and settings.
Suzanne created the initial design in Adobe Illustrator but you can use anything including Inkscape or CorelDraw (in fact if you happen to have CorelDraw X6 it integrates directly into Hatch). I had her size it to the exact dimensions she wanted and then saved it as a PNG. You then import the PNG into Hatch for digitizing. Using the Appliqué toolbox from Hatch’s left side menu. Digitize your shapes and then use the Object Properties toolbox from the right side menu to select fabric type as well as the kind of stitches to be used. This is also where you can select whether or not you will be using pre-cut fabric, or if you intend to trim in place.
For my project I chose pre-cut. Once you are done with each piece, save and export to the desired embroidery file type. You can then print out the templates to PDF. The machines in the CAD lab have the “Microsoft Print to PDF” as one of the printer selections. Choose this and save the file to a known location.
Import this into Inkscape or similar and save/convert it as a DXF in millimeters for importing into the laser software. If you are using Fleece, 400 speed 70 power works pretty well.
Hoop your fabric and stabilizer on the embroidery machine.
Load and run your embroidery file. The first stitch will be your placement. It will outline the location of where to place your pre-cut fabric pieces and then stop. Spray the piece with temporary fabric adhesive and place onto your fabric. Start the next part of the file which will tack and stitch your cover. Move on to each piece until complete.
Let me know if you have questions or if you would like a class specific to this sort of project.