Tag Archives: Embroidery

Dazzling the Embroidery with Lights

This week,  I was able to finish my embroidery at the FabLab. It was recommended that I select an image with not many colors.  I went with a  classic rose and I also included a customized design with my initials on the lower right hand corner.

The final product came out better than I could have expected! The design did come out smaller then anticipated and at times, the machine would pucker. In order to prevent puckering, click on the link to watch a shot video for what to do! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EA-90RzIGhs

Putting it all together

Now that the laser-cut wooden box and embroidery were completed, it was time to add some lights to it! This was the portion that I imagined would be the most difficult, but with great instructors and my skillsets growing, it wasn’t too bad! We were given a battery, an LED light, and a controller switch.

With these three objects and some conductive thread, you make light! But, it is very important that crossing wires are not different charges (+/-). This can become a issue with additional lights being added, I just had one so I didn’t have to worry about that. I placed my light behind the flower to create a glow and have a Beauty and the Beast effect.

The part that I enjoyed the most out of this project was the stitching. I have never stitched before, so it took some time getting used to. I was a little worried about poking myself, but I came out without a scratch! This is a skillset that will  come in handy someday.

Thank you for reading!

Let there be Light!

This week was our third and final session at the FabLab in which we added conductive thread and LEDs to our embroidery project. I was excited to use conductive thread and review circuits because I have taken an ECE class before and was fascinated by circuits. It’s neat to have my previous knowledge apply in areas I would never expect (ECE knowledge with a creative/ arts project). We started out the class by drawing out designs and figuring out where the conductive negative and positive thread would go into the design. This was important because you could not cross the negative and positive threads and it’s a lot easier to visualize by drawing it out than guessing where the path should go while sewing.

We then sewed the individual sides of the circuit. I did the negative side first and then the positive side. My design halfway through changed as I decided I only wanted to incorporate 1 light in the plane instead of 2 LEDs. One big lesson I learned was that you absolutely cannot have either the positive or negative side touching the other thread. After finishing hand-sewing, I tried to turn on the light and it wasn’t working at all. This was because the negative thread was touching the metal that the negative current goes through at all so the circuit was being shorted. I then hand sewed the negative thread down so that it would not interfere and it worked well!

I had an extra embroidery hoop at my house, so I decided to have this separate from the box we made in previous classes and use it as a small wall hanging. I’m happy with how it turned out and excited about the new skills I gained through this project. Unfortunately, it looks as if the storage on our site is full so I didn’t get to upload a photo but you can imagine it from my previous post!

What’s next?
We are starting to put in more time on our final projects at this point in the class. I went into the FabLab for consulting open hours on Thursday in order to gain more knowledge about the sensors the FabLab has and their experience with hydroponic farming. I talked to Brandon, a sensors expert at the lab who has also made a hydroponics window installation so he helped to clarify many details of the project and I am sure he is going to be a huge resource for us.


Adventures with Digital Embroidery

This week was the second FabLab workshop in which we got to try our hand at embroidery! During the workshop we learned several different functions within the software program in order to take an image from online and transform it into an image we were then able to embroider. I enjoy traveling, therefore I decided to embroider an image of a map for the top of my box. It did not go as smoothly as I expected going in so the rest of this post goes into the 3 main things I will look out for next time.

Lessons Learned

  1. Size Matters: One thing I did not carefully consider during this process was the size of the image. When making the map, I added an airplane and line coming from the US to signify travel while also making the image unique to me. However, when I went to load it into the embroidery machine, it turned out that it was too small to actually look like a plane but rather looks like a grey blob in the ocean. I know what it is though, so that’s what counts!

2. Double check thread before starting: My first attempt at this embroidery did not end up working. The white thread on the underside was not pulled taught when the machine started therefore about halfway through, the canvas ended up getting caught in the machine and I had to cut it out and start over with a new machine. The lesson learned here was to make sure both bobbins of thread are correctly inserted into the machine before starting.

3. Group colors within the image before exporting to machine: If you do not have all of the parts of an image that are the same color grouped within the software they may not sew consecutively, therefore you will need to change the thread color way too many times. I did not realize you can change the sewing order by moving around the items. For example, originally the machine sewed North America in pink, then South America in purple, and then went back up to sew Greenland so I had to change the thread color twice to the original pink color. In order to avoid this on my second run through, I made sure to group all of the colors and reorganize the object sewing order so that I would only have to insert each thread color once.

Overall, this experience was filled with lessons and definitely an exercise in patience but it was worth it! I have previous sewing experience however I have never made such a detailed embroidery before. I can definitely see myself creating various embroidery pieces to hang around my apartment in the future so I am glad I got the opportunity and experience with these machines and software.  I am happy with how it turned out and look forward to using conductive thread this upcoming week to add a couple lights!

Box Update: 

Another exciting part about this week was that I got to pick up my finished box from last week. We ran out of time in class to make all of the boxes so it made this class even more exciting since I got to pick up the pieces and assemble it. I’m really happy with how it turned out and look forward to displaying it in my room!

Embroidery Design Software @ The FabLab (Week 8)

This week, I was able to go to the FabLab (unlike last week when I was sick!) and I worked on the embroidery machines.

My neighbor has a pretty fancy embroidery machine that has all sorts of different patterns and designs you can download onto it and make the machine sew. I never thought of designing my own embroidery pattern before this class because the machine always had ones pre-made for me!

The software we used worked much like Illustrator. You could select areas of an image, change text, and simulate what it would look like before it was embroidered. We used Brother branded machines and accompanying software. My machine got its thread caught part-way through my design, so I had a bit of a mishap the has resulted in my design not looking like it was originally intended to. I wanted to make a mountain range – the points were relatively easy to draw and layer by hand in the software. Images are below:

This first image is of the completed design. It is three layered mountains with a moon in the corner. 

This is me pointing to the areas where you can see that the machine got caught and offset my design. I had to use a thread ripper to fix it.

This is the back of my design. I used a white thread on the bobbin, so that’s why the outlines on the front of my design and the back is all white. 

Next week, we will add LEDs behind our fabric and attach it to our boxes. Since I wasn’t in the lab the first week, I think the lab techs are going to make me a plain box to use.

My group decided on our final project idea – we will be creating a “counter”, likely using infrared technology, that will count the number of people entering and leaving an establishment. Currently, only mass retail stores use them, and they can be quite expensive. If we can create a low-cost version, it can be deployed to businesses across town and tracked in an app all consumers can use to monitor when the best time to go to a restaurant, store, or other business is. Additionally, our counter can be used in a more social entrepreneurial manner – we could use it at homeless shelters or emergency waiting rooms to track capacity levels.

Here are some links that we’ll use to make our own counter:


How to make a digital object counter using, infrared sensor, CD4026 and seven segment display

Because I will be working in the aerospace industry after graduation, I wanted to know if laser cutting was common in commercial plane production. It seems that, in the past, it has been used to cut the aluminum side-plates that make up the fuselage of the plane. However, I haven’t found any articles on how the increased use of carbon fiber (take the Boeing 787, for example) affects old cutting techniques. I expect laser-cutting is still used as it can reduce the jagged edges you get when you cut carbon fiber.

Week 8 Reflection

Week two at the UIUC FabLab was constructive and entertaining. When I arrived, I retrieved my laser cut box. The box says “The Force will be with you, always” a quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. On the bottom of the box, there’s a large Rebel logo. I was able to fasten my box together without any glue, meaning the cuts were precise enough to allow for a friction-fit. I was impressed with my craftsmanship, despite the skinny balsa-like wood.

After retrieving our boxes, we worked with Duncan to create an embroidery pattern. We used a program called PE Design that resembled Adobe Illustrator. Duncan taught us how to use the basic functions of PE Design before we got a chance to delve into our own project. Duncan helped me find a proper silhouette of an X-Wing fighter, also from the Star Wars universe. Duncan counseled me with adding an area to insert my LEDs next week. I ended up removing the front of the X-Wing’s rocket boosters, which I will replace with white or red lights on Wednesday. Duncan encouraged me to add more to my design, but I was quite content with just a simplistic X-Wing design. I explored adding an Imperial logo, but I decided it did not fit with my vision of the finished project. As much as I like my embroidery, I do not think I will end up using a box with a cloth on it for anything. I prefer ergonomics over aesthetics and I do not need the art project for anything. I’d rather use the box for storage of coins, keys, and other knick-knacks. When I return home for Spring Break, I plan on giving my box and embroidery to my little cousin, the biggest Star Wars fan I know.

Not only has laser cutting been used in industrial manufacturing, it has found a second wind in art projects. Laser cutting allows the artist to make very precise impressions that a human could not perform. I checked etsy.com to see what designs are being sold on the internet. Many of the exquisite designs can cost over a hundred dollars, but many small projects can be purchased for well under a hundred. Many artists made laser cut skylines, maps, and geometric designs. If given another opportunity to make a laser cut art project, I would likely have the skylines and maps of Chicago and Washington, D.C., my two favorite cities.

Bringing our Creations Together


Hi again! This week we switched stations at the Fab Lab and got to create an additional piece to our boxes. Since I created the wooden structure of my box last week, I was able to create the cloth top this week. This is not just any regular cloth top, but one in which we were able to design the embroidery/sewing on our own (and we are even going to add LED’s to it next class!). Let’s jump into it.


Recap From Last Week

As promised, below is picture of the box that I created last week. I wanted to etch some things that I feel like describe me on the sides of the box: My name, my school, my hometown city, and my employers. I also etched the date that I made the box on the inside for nostalgic purposes.


PE Design

We began our embroidery/sewing work by working with the program called PE Design. Our instructor walked us through some of the basics on the program, and ultimately allowed us to take free reign with our designs. There were not enough working computers for each of the students, so Michael Rindler was kind enough to let me join him on his computer. We worked to create a design that we both found meaningful: a sailboat scene with a lighthouse. We figured that the lighthouse would be a really cool feature on our embroidery since we needed to incorporate out LED’s into the design. Having the lighthouse emit light would simply tie the entire scene together. We also decided that we wanted to add one additional element to our design that would fill some of the extra awkward space: a moon.

After we positioned each of our design elements, we learned how to command the program to convert the silhouette images into stitch designs. As seen in the image below, each of the items are created up of lines. These lines represented how the sewing machines were going to stitch the design on the cloth.

I also found this video for anyone who may have missed class and wants to learn some basics of PE Design: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLaa1TZWdY0. I hope you find it helpful!


Sewing Machines

With our design files completed and saved, we then moved to the sewing machines and learned how to thread the machine. This process took a few tries to get it right, but once the needle was properly threaded, we were good to go! Below is a picture of the sewing machine we utilized, and the cloth that we loaded onto the machine.

All we had to do was send the file from our computer to the machine and then prompt it to begin the stitching!


Final Result and Looking Forward

I was very satisfied with how my design turned out. Check out the picture below!

I decided to use the navy blue threading in order to compliment the nautical theme of my design. I was blown away by how accurate and precise these machines were in creating such a clean stitch print. As evident, there is a lot of excess cloth around the outside of the wooden box area. We were told that we would be removing the excess cloth next week while we also add our LED lights into our design. We are getting closer and closer to the final product, and I can’t wait to share it with you next week! Thank you for taking the time to read my post.


-Scott Provenzano