Before and After

Happy Monday! It’s a beautiful day in Alabama ~ sunny and 66 ~ and the kids are out of school and are outside playing. Perfect day to be inside sewing and doing a blog post, huh? This weekend Jeff took Sissy to a Father Daughter Dance. This is one of 100,000,000 reasons I thank God for giving us a little girl. Such a fun night and I think I had more fun shopping for this dance than anything. You won’t find much fancy and shiny in Mallory’s closet, but on this night I had to find the perfect dress. After searching high and low for a dress with a decent price tag that she would probably only wear once, I found this one at Belk. Can’t beat the sale dress with an add’l 40% off. Believe me, there are some tacky dresses out there. It’s hard to find decent, cute girl clothes once you bypass the toddler sizes. Anyway, they had a ball and here are a couple of pics!

photo (63)

My two girls!! Love love love them!!

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Now on to what I have really been up to lately. We have roughly 750 designs on our website. For the past several months, I have been going through some of the old designs and either editing the web photos to remove the background, or re-sewing the design altogether. It’s amazing what fresh fabrics will do! I use Photoshop Elements to remove the background of my photos. I test stitch all of our samples usually on a double layer of medium cutaway stabilizer (5×7, PES designs). Sometimes if I have a shirt then I sew it on a shirt. I try to take my web photos outside in good sunlight (I have a Canon Rebel xsi), then I crop & edit them in a program called Photoscape, which is free. I then use Photoshop Elements to remove the background from the image. This is tedious work and the whole web photo process is why it sometimes takes us 3 days to get a new design listed.  I use both programs because I am not savvy enough to just use PE. I also use Photoscape to add the watermark ( to my photos. All you do is add text!

Here are a few examples of some BEFORE & AFTER shots of some of our older designs. This is our Bird on Vine design which has been around for a long long time. I re-sewed it on a Sassy Kid Blanks Candy Pink A-Line dress and it looks soooooo much better! If you missed it, see my RECENT POST about Sassy Kid Blanks and all they have to offer. There’s nothing really wrong with the old picture and this has been a popular design, but the background is a little dark and as you can see below, the design looks great on the pink dress.

bird on a branch 600-horz

Love love love this design on this dress! This is the 5×7 design on a size 6 dress.


This is our Birthday Cake design before & after. The background on the left is super dark, and it just needed a makeover. Again, this is an older design (#109 out of like 750). Doesn’t the new web photo look SOOO much better? When I say “remove the background”, I mean I remove the stabilizer or shirt or whatever the design is stitched on. It really makes the design itself stick out.

birthday cake plain 500-horz

Here is our Birthday Hat (girl) design and this was one of the very first designs we did (#4). My old web photo (left) was way too dark. I probably took it inside and it definitely looks better with some new fabric and a better, brighter photo.

birthday hat girl 500-horz

I think this is one of my favorites. This is our Mittens design. The left photo is dark and the fabrics are kind of blahhhh. It looks 200X better with brighter fabrics and an edited photo.

mittens 600-horz

I’m slowly getting all of the designs edited with no backgrounds and a few more re-sewn that need makeovers. I hope it makes a difference! I’m stitching our Lion design now, and our Rudolph is next even though Christmas is a long way away.

Photos make all the difference in selling your product! Try to get outside on a sunny day and take your photos. Props are good too if you are selling a dress or a shirt (like my dress form above). Hang your shirt from a tree, or the vinyl photo backdrops are popular now too. Search for them on!

Check out ALL DESIGNS on our website to see how our photos look! Have a great week!

“I’m looking to buy an embroidery machine….”

Wow… 2 posts in the past week! I’m on a roll!! It’s Tuesday and I have a little time between homework checking and getting the eldest child off to soccer practice. I get asked on a weekly basis “I am looking to buy an embroidery machine. Which would you recommend?” While I would have thought I had posted this helpful info before, I couldn’t find much when I searched in my blog. When asked this question, my answer is usually “look at the Brother PE770”. Let me say this… there are LOTS and LOTS of different beginner embroidery machines out there. You can find single needle machines from Brother, Bernina, Singer, etc. I only recommend the PE770 because that is what I (and so many others) started with. Mine was actually a PE700 model but that’s just an older model number. Of course it has been several years since I have had it, so I can’t tell you how to adjust the tension or even thread the thing. However, if you google it, you can find plenty of info out there. I got my first one via E-bay from Ken’s Sewing Center in Muscle Shoals, AL. They shipped it to me and I taught myself how to use it. I got my second one (PE780D I think ~ Disney version) from Ken’s also and again, they shipped it right to me. Here is a link to this machine on their website and there is a video demo you can watch if you are interested.

I couldn’t find a photo of my old machine (although I KNOW I have some somewhere) so here is a stock photo! Again, I taught myself how to use it with very little sewing experience.


Here are a few features:

  • 136 built in embroidery designs (I never used any of these)
  • 6 embroidery alphanumeric fonts (you MAY want additional font software)
  • Patterns can be rotated in 1, 10 or 90 degree increments
  • 10 built in frame shapes and 12 border styles
  • Maximum embroidery field of 5″ x 7″ (I believe the machines comes with a 5×7 hoop only)
  • Expand to 12″ x 5″ with optional multi-position embroidery frame
  • Embroidery speeds up to 650 spm (my 6 needle stitches 1,000 SPM)
  • Easily import designs from your USB memory stick (you will use a thumb drive ~ save files to it from your computer, then put the memory stick in to the machine to sew)

Here are the different hoop sizes. The machine comes with a 5″ x 7″ hoop which is plenty big for most projects. You can also purchase the 4″ x 4″ and the 2″ x 3″ hoops. You will use the 4×4 hoop for smaller projects (think onesies, baby gowns, etc.). I don’t recall using the 2×3 much. On this note, there are also Brother SE model machines out there and the max hoop you can use is 4×4. Most people learn quickly that 4×4 is not big enough for a long term machine and quickly want to upgrade to at least 5×7. If you can spend the extra money, get a machine with at least a 5×7 hoop. There is also a 5 x 12 multi positional hoop you can purchase, but I never got this hoop nor do I understand how to use it. You would need to talk to a sewing center about how to use it and if it would work for you.

I used my PE machines for about 3 years and did everything I wanted to do on them. There is a huge jump in price from most single needle machines (w/ 5×7 hoops) to larger hoop machines. To fit an applique design and a name, for example, you can always hoop twice! {Stitch the design, then rehoop and add the name}

pe700 hoops

What else will you need? Embroidery thread is a must. I use Isacord and Exquisite brands 98% of the time. Both are 100% polyester. You can get Exquisite from Ken’s Sewing Center and Isacord from Both should sell actual thread charts (with real thread samples) which makes ordering online easier.


You will also need stabilizers. You can find more posts on stabilizer under Helpful Posts. Stabilizer supports your garment or item when stitching designs (embroidery {all thread} or applique {fabric}).


Bobbins are needed too. There is a certain type bobbin that fits each embroidery machine, so you will need to find out from your sewing center (or wherever you buy your machine or supplies) which bobbins to get. I like PREWOUND bobbins. Below are magnetic bobbins I use in my PR650 6-needle machine. Most single needle machines use regular prewound bobbins (not magnetic). You can also wind your own, but prewound are easier and the tension is more consistent!


Of course there are other things you will need like scissors, fabric for applique, etc. Hopefully if you are in the market for a machine, this will get you started! Here are RECOMMENDATIONS on my blog for the software I use and where I got it. Again, there is lots of software out there but these are the ones I use and like!


Lastly, you may have noticed a new ad button on my sidebar! Some good friends of mine own an awesome home & garden center here in Montgomery (AL) and they are working on expanding their website. If you are in the SOUTH then you may have heard of Southern Homes & Gardens (or you may have been to their store). They also advertise in Southern Living quite often. We are working on a giveaway on Facebook for SH&G, but in the meantime check out their online store!


Have a great week! We are working on new designs for Applique Cafe such as this one…

birthday hat 2-5x72

Applique Cafe 101

Happy 5th of July! We are going on day 2 of rainy, wet, dreary weather my friends. Yesterday, July 4th, it rained most of the day. We were lazy. Today it hasn’t really rained all day, but it’s been dreary and overcast and is now sprinkling = cabin fever and fussy cooped up kids (and irritable parents). Fireworks were cancelled last night but we did enjoy dinner with some friends! I spent the afternoon cooking potato salad, cole slaw and a corn salad recipe I found on Pinterest. It was pretty yummy!

corn salad

Today I haven’t done much. I’m still in the shirt I slept in + shorts. I did some monogramming this morning and watched a great movie this afternoon ~ Safe Haven. Not sure what the reviews were on this movie but I liked it and was crying at the end! I’m a Josh Duhamel fan too!

Now to this post…. I get asked a.l.o.t. “I’m new to embroidery and I like your designs! How do I order?”, or, “I have X machine and love your designs! How do I get them on my machine?” You get the point. I decided to type up a post about it and then when I get these emails I can quickly drop them the link! So….

Of course our website is I’m SURE it’s in your favorites or pinned to your toolbar! A few basics are:

Featured designs on the right are typically our NEW designs. When I load them on to our website, I click a button to “feature” them and that’s where they show up. Also, if you click on ALL DESIGNS, you will find every single design on our website in order from newest to oldest. So, the first designs you see are our newest! They are not in alphabetical order, but rather in order from newest to oldest. The best way to keep up with new designs and sales is to click the SUBSCRIBE TO NEWSLETTER button! I promise we are not like Old Navy or Target and we WILL NOT send you an email every single day. Our newsletter service is paid and we only get so many newsletters a month, so we only send them out when we have new designs to tell you about or a sale going on!


Under INFO you will see Contact Us, Guest Book (feel free to “sign” it), FAQ, etc. If you are new to our site, read the FAQ! It will only take a minute and I have tried to include all frequently asked questions and answers there. I get countless emails asking “Do you offer PES format?”, etc. and guess what? the answer is in FAQ!


Here are the FA-Questions and if you click on each (on our actual website) you will find the answers. If these answers STILL don’t answer your question, then feel free to use the Contact Us tab. Again, if you take a minute to look over the FAQ you will most likely find your answer!


On the left is our SHOP tab with all of our categories of designs below. I try to group designs together so that you aren’t having to look through 50 different categories of designs. Designs are also cross referenced so you are sure not to miss anything! You can also use our SEARCH feature if you are looking for something specific. We also use keywords in our listings to help in searching. Check out our DESIGN ON A DIME category. These are great designs to try if you are just starting out!


The Your Downloads tab… this is confusing! In November of 2011 (the 8th to be exact), we installed a program on to our website that stores your purchases under your email address. Applique Cafe was launched in August of 2009 and unfortunately we didn’t store purchases when we first started. That means there are a couple of years (August 2009 – November 8, 2011) where you cannot access your purchases using the Your Downloads feature. Don’t worry! I can still manually look up purchases under your name and access those if need be. As of November 8, 2011, your purchases are stored automatically without you having to create an account or log in before you purchase. So long as you enter your email address correctly, you are good!


Our designs come in 9 popular formats and when you purchase a design, you will get a ZIP file which contains all 9 formats and a thread chart. Formats included are: PES, ART, DST, VIP, EXP, JEF, XXX, SEW, & HUS. These formats are also listed in FAQ. If you need a format not listed, just contact me!

When you purchase a design or designs, you will go through the checkout process and COMPLETE it. You then have 3 ways to receive your design(s):

1) You will be redirected to a page following checkout (when you click COMPLETE) and it will contain download links. You click on them and the zip files can be saved right then to your computer.

2) You entered your email address when you went through the checkout process. Download links are also emailed to that email address! It’s important to spell your email address correctly, and that’s why you are asked to enter it twice. If you don’t see them in your Inbox, check your spam folder.

3) If you miss the download page following checkout, and you also didn’t receive the email or you accidentally deleted it, you can also log in to Your Downloads and access your purchases there.

Here is what a zip file looks like when you open it. You can save the entire zip file when you purchase and you can also open it and save out the format you need. I use a Brother machine, so I can use either PES or DST files. As you can see the designs are in a list grouped together by size (4×4, 5×7, etc). Most designs come in 3 sizes: 4×4, 5×7 and 6×10.

zip files

If you click on TYPE above the format column, your computer should rearrange the file list and now each format is grouped together as shown below.

zip files2

Inside each design zip file you will also find a JPG thread chart. This chart will show you an image of each step in the design. For example, this is a simple 1 fabric Airplane design (found in our Design on a Dime category). This would be a great design to start with if you are new and wanting to try out applique. Always remember, for each fabric you usually have 3 steps:

1. Marking – sews an outline to show you where to place your fabric

2. Tackdown – after the marking stitch, you place your fabric down and this step will sew the fabric down. After this you trim around the design as closely as possible.

3. Satin – this is the finishing stitch around the design. Not all designs are satin stitch. We also sell designs that are zig zag and raggy.

If you want more info on the above, check out this blog post ~ Better Appliques. There are also other posts about stabilizers, etc. on my blog under Helpful Posts.

thread chart

Here we get a tad more detail. Same 1 fabric design, so you have at least 3 steps. This one also has an eye, mouth & “toenails”, so add another step for that. Sometimes these features can be different colors so they would be added steps. For this design they are all the same color so it’s all done in 1 step. This Dinosaur design has 4 steps total.

dinosaur thread chart

Now an even more complicated design, our Duck! This design has 3 fabrics + a beak + an eye + a “ring” around its’ neck, so a total of 12 steps. Don’t freak out! Again, the thread chart will show you each step. Your machine will probably show you an image of each step on the screen as well.

duck thread chart

Need more help? There is a link on our website to my blog! Check out Helpful Posts, and you can also use the SEARCH feature or scroll down to Categories on the right hand column. There are also blog post TAGS (popular topics) on the same right hand column.


Now, you’ve bought the design and saved it to your computer. What next? Most machines have USB cords or cables that connect from your computer to your machine. Other machines have a USB port and you simply save your designs to a thumb drive, then put the thumb drive in to the USB port on the machine. Other machines use card writers and other software is needed to save designs and then put them on your machine. ALL MACHINES ARE DIFFERENT! My machine has a USB cable AND USB thumb drive saving capability. On my computer I save to my E:/ drive for each of those options. Consult your manual or embroidery machine dealer or store for more info!

What software do you need?? I use Monogram Wizard Plus for names & initials, and I use Sew What Pro for merging those names & initials in with applique designs. There are tons of other programs out there! These are just the 2 I use.

I hope this helps! I would love to add to this post if you can think of anything not covered! Just comment below. Thanks!