Machine Embroidery Appliqué: Creating Cut Files for Modern Tools

Posted by on Nov 11, 2013 in Embroidery | Comments


We’ve already talked about using electronic craft cutters to cut the fabric shapes used in machine embroidery appliqué. In that post, I discussed the need for a vector file to be used by the electronic craft cutter. With the cutter software and a JPEG image file of the machine embroidery placement line, you can create a vector file to be used for cutting.

Machine Embroidered Design of Little Girl

Here’s how to create cut files for modern tools:

Note: These instructions refer specifically to using the Silhouette Cameo Studio Designer Software and the Sizzix eCal software. Vector files may also be made using Inkscape, which is an open source vector graphics software program. We will leave discussion of the Inkscape software for another time.

There are many brands of embroidery machines and each use different file formats and have software unique to the machine and file format. There are also some software packages for editing that will work with all machines. You need to have a good knowledge of your embroidery machine and the editing software that you have chosen to use before you begin. What software do you use? Are you comfortable using it?

Step 1:

Start with the machine embroidery file. Create an image file from the appliqué shape that’s outlined by the placement line (first thread color) in the machine embroidery file. Using your editing software, create a separate file and delete all color layers except the layers that stitch placement lines for the appliqué shapes (see image below).

Step 2:

Create a JPEG image of the placement lines for the appliqué shapes.

Note: You may have to be creative to do this, but there are several options and how you proceed will depend upon the capabilities of your individual software. You may be able to take the new placement line embroidery file that you have created and export a JPEG image of the shape. If that isn’t possible, you may be able to use the Windows Snipping tool in the Windows Accessories Program group and save the placement line shape as a JPEG image file. Another option is to do a screen print and save the placement line shape as a JPEG image in a graphics program, such as Paint in the Windows Accessories Program group.

No matter how you do it, the appliqué shape outlined by the placement stitching line must be converted to a JPEG image file. You will also need to know the exact width and height measurements of the shape as it appears in the JPEG image.

Outline of Embroidery Design

Shape outlines created from placement lines

Step 3:

Now you can create a vector graphics file from the JPEG image file of the applique shapé, which can be used to cut the fabric shape.

In the cutter software, open the JPEG file and select a Trace tool. In the Silhouette software, use the butterfly icon Trace Tool, and in the eCal software, open the Trace Image dialog box from the File menu.

Then adjust the filter and Trace Tool settings until the lines you want to cut are highlighted and clear.

Step 4:

Delete the JPEG so that you only have the vector graphic on the software screen. Scale the shape to the exact width and height measurements that you recorded from the machine embroidery file. Save your new file.

Embroidery Design, on Craftsy

Shapes scaled and separated

Step 5:

Clean up your vector file. Once the scaling has been done, you can ungroup and break apart the shapes. Depending upon the quality of the JPEG file that was traced to create the vector file, you may have extra lines or some shapes may be joined. Using the Node tool, make any corrections needed. You can also delete any extra lines or shapes that were created because of the “noise” in the JPEG file and are not needed.

You now have a file that can be used to cut shapes from fabric.

For more detailed guidance on how to turn your original embroidery designs into reality, check out the Craftsy class Digitizing Machine Embroidery Designs with Cookie Gaynor.

Have you used an electronic craft cutter to cut fabric for machine appliqué shapes? Do you have tips to share with others for creating these files?