Wednesday, June 3, 2009
How I got to Stitch Era Liberty
For my own Christmas present this past year, I purchased a used Brother PE 700 embroidery-only machine from eBay. This is a fairly inexpensive machine that will embroider designs up to 5"x7". Brother makes and has made a fair number of embroidery-only machines for a 4"x4" maximum embroidery area and I've always been impressed with their affordability. What a great way to see if you even like doing these sorts of things without spending a lot of money up front.
Well, my husband was possibly more excited about this whole embroidery thing than I was initially! He wanted his name and various automotive themed images embroidered on his shirts. Well the machine does not come with automotive designs built in! (It does have quite a large selection of other, more feminine designs built in.) You have to either purchase designs or digitize them yourself.
I am a software engineer by trade and thus jump at any chance to learn how to do something new on the computer. So here was my opportunity to learn how to digitize embroidery designs myself.
A good place to start is by reading John Deer's book "Digitizing Made Easy". This is the only book I'm aware of that addresses machine embroidery digitizing. If you read this book, you'll learn about things like underlay and pull compensation. You'll also learn about the history of machine embroidery and you may become quite thankful for computers and computerized sewing / embroidery machines! Technology really can be our friend!
John Deer is careful not to endorse any particular embroidery digitizing product so he leaves it up to the reader to figure it out on their own.
Having a Brother machine naturally lends itself to looking at the Brother digitizing product called PE Design. From their website here you can download a free trial of PE Design v8. You can also download their documentation as a PDF. Without giving you the long story, I ended up purchasing PE Design v7 and can say unequivocally that this software, for manual digitizing, is extremely easy to learn and easy to use.
However, I would also say that there are things about PE Design that drive me absolutely crazy and came to the conclusion that I needed something in addition to PE Design. I test drove (or was given a demo of) several other brands of digitizing software. By far the best for me was Designer's Gallery MasterWorks II. You can learn about it here. It was just as easy to learn and use as PE Design but had a much nicer interface for entering and editing shape outlines. You could control the zoom level. It has on-screen rulers and a nice grid in the background. But it also has quite a hefty price tag!
My wise husband suggested I wait until my trial version of MasterWorks II expired before making a purchase. And while I was waiting I stumbled upon a product from Argentina called "Stitch Era". You can see it here. Now if you want to get yourself all excited, watch all of the demo videos on their website. Some of the features I saw in their demos I have never seen in any other consumer product - things like "elastic fills".
Now being a software engineer, I understand how challenging it is to design software interfaces that are easy to use and make sense and how challenging it is to develop software that is robust, especially for the Windows market! I also know how exciting the process can be and how much pride there is in creating a well-made product. So after I read the Note from the authors, I decided to take my chances with these seemingly passionate software engineers in Argentina and purchase the software without ever having seen the software in action for myself. And here begins my adventures with Stitch Era.