Brother SE625 Embroidery Machine
Our machine is a Brother Model SE625. It features a single needle and has a maximum stitch area of 4in by 4in.
If you have advanced questions about the machine consult the official manual.
There are two main parts to machine embroidery: digitizing designs and sewing fabric. This guide is intended for the latter. It is recommended to start embroidery with a design that is already digitized, so that you can learn about threads, fabrics, and stitch types.
How to set up the machine:
The bobbin is the bottom thread of the stitch. The goal of good embroidery is for this thread color to not be visible in the design. When fine-tuning tension on a trial piece, you might want different top and bottom thread colors in order to assess whether you are meeting the goal of appropriate tension (top thread visible only on top, bottom thread visible only on bottom). When making a final version it would be better for the color of the bottom bobbin to match either the fabric or top thread color.
- Make sure the bobbin is at least one-quarter full before beginning.
- Remove the clear plastic lid below the needle that houses the bobbin. Insert the bobbin while holding the thread. IMPORTANT: the thread direction must be facing counterclockwise or this will not work. Push the thread around the gray plastic corner, up towards the next corner, and towards the small blade. Pull the thread against the blade to cut it, and it will be loaded.
- If you absolutely need a certain color that is not available, the machine can wind bobbins from a thread of your choosing. Follow this tutorial for winding an empty bobbin. Some empty bobbins should be in the bobbin case.
The top thread is the visible part of the embroidery design. Pick a thread with color and luster that you like that is labeled as suitable for machine embroidery. If you pick a machine thread that isn’t embroidery specific you may have to adjust the tension in order for the embroidery tension to be correct – to avoid snags or pieces where the wrong thread pokes through the fabric.
The machine is labeled with numbers for pulling your thread through to the needle. If you follow the numbers carefully, the machine will pull it through the eye of the needle automatically. If you need help watch this video. Follow these tips for successfully threading the machine.
- Make sure the thread isn’t getting stuck in any part of the process. It should pull through with very little resistance/tension. If the thread is a heavy weight, then you may need to increase the dial on the top of the machine. Higher number = less tension. If this number is too high, your thread will form knots and the embroidery will fail. Generally keep this number between 2-5.
- On step 6 and 7, make sure the thread is pushed into the notches. This part is key for the auto-needle threading.
- After cutting the excess thread away on step 8, make sure the foot is lowered before threading the needle
- Slowly pull down the tab on the left side of the machine (step 9), and watch as the thread goes through the eye of the needle. Pull the end of the thread all the way through the eye.
- The thread used should be labeled “machine embroidery” and should be fairly thin compared to other threads. We also have some very thick threads that may be labeled “embroidery” – these are for hand stitching, do NOT use them on the machine.
Fabric & Stabilizer
You need two pieces of material for successful embroidery. The top sheet should be the piece of fabric you want visible. The bottom sheet will be a stabilizer, of which there are many kinds (water soluble, tearaway, heavyweight, etc.).
Steps to a successful fabric experience:
- Pick a fabric, needle, and tension combination that work together.
- Fabric parameters to notice: fiber composition (e.g. wool, linen, cotton, synthetic), weave (jersey is stretchy on the grain, think of what a T-shirt is made of, twill only stretches on the bias, think of a flannel), thickness (jeans will need heavier duty/thicker needles than gauze).
- Needle: Use the embroidery machine specific needles provided with the machine. If you want to work with an unusual fabric, you may need a different set of needles. (e.g. stretch fabrics need a needle with a ball point that will go around the fibers rather than through them) Not all needles are equivalent for fabric or interchangeable between machines, this is an advanced topic, ask for help if you need it!
- Tension: Test the tension on a set of fabric scraps of every layer you are sewing together, including stabilizer or interfacing. The tension needed varies with fabrics. If the top thread pokes through the fabric and is visible on the bottom, increase top thread tension on the wheel on the machine. If the bottom thread is visible on top, decrease tension.
- Foot: The machine is already set up with an embroidery foot. Other feet for the machine for non-embroidery sewing are in a bag in the cabinet. Do not use them without talking to a trainer.
- Always pre-wash and dry fabric before cutting or sewing it, as fabric will shrink by an unpredictable and fabric-specific amount the first time it’s washed. Wash and dry in the way that you intend to wash/dry when the final product is in use, or on a slightly hotter machine setting (e.g. if you intend to wash on normal, you may want to preshrink the fabric on hot once at the start, don’t overdo it if you think a hotter temp will destroy the fabric). When working with weaves that are likely to fray, it’s better to serge or zigzag stitch the edges that might fray before the pre-wash step – this prevents you losing an inch to fraying during the prewash step.
- Iron the fabric before proceeding. It is the best practice to smooth wrinkles from the fabric with an iron before measuring/cutting, and additionally later on before doing any finishing/top stitching. The iron should be set to the correct temperature for the fabric – synthetics may melt if they are ironed on too hot a temperature. Most modern irons, including the one at denhac, have heat settings that are labeled by fabric composition. When in doubt, if you’re using a blended fabric or aren’t sure, pick a lower temperature.
- Center the embroidery hoop on the part of the fabric that you wish to embroider on. Avoid wrinkling at this step, as wrinkles in the final design will be there forever. Cut a length of a stabilizer underneath the fabric – we have a roll of stabilizer in the cabinet beneath the machine, on the top shelf. It’s white and is approximately the width of the hoop area. The stabilizer shouldn’t need ironing.
The hoop detaches from the embroidery machine via a small metal tab on the left side. Make sure the foot (small metal part near the needle) is lifted via a lever in the middle and under the top part of the machine. Gently pull on this tab and lift the hoop. Unscrew the outer hoop from the inner hoop. Lay your fabric and stabilizer on top of the outer hoop. Lay the fabric and stabilizer, with the fabric facing up, inside this hoop. Push the inner hoop into the fabric, while also ensuring that the fabric stays taut. If needed, gently pull the edges of the fabric while holding the hoops in place. Tighten the screw on the hoop to secure it in place.
- If you are doing a complex design with multiple colors, consider using a flat headed screwdriver to make the hoops extra secure. You don’t want to accidentally move the fabric!
- Hooping is about striking a balance between too tight (stretching the fabric) and too loose (causing puckering).
Finally, prepare the machine with a programmed design. Make sure the machine is plugged in and turned on. Using a denhac computer, place a file in the Embroidery Machine networked drive (usually the Z: drive). This uploads it to a Raspberry Pi located on the side of the machine, which mimics a USB drive.
Press the touch screen and let the embroidery arm move to a zero position, it will move on its own to do this, don’t be startled. Click the USB trident logo and select your design, using the arrow buttons if necessary. You can make small edits to the size and orientation of the design. Once you are ready click “end edit” and “embroider”
- The machine has a few pre-programmed designs and fonts. You can use the touch screen to plan a simple embroidery pattern featuring letters of your choosing.
- Search “Free embroidery designs” and find something you like! Make sure you download it as a .PES file format for the Brother machines and make sure it fits within 4×4.
- Inkscape is a free and open source vector editing software. There is a plugin for it called Ink/Stitch that can be used to plan the stitches for the designs and output the correct .PES format. Tutorial videos are here.
- Advanced topics that won’t be covered in user training: Processing, Python
Secure the hoop in the embroidery arm and lower the foot. If everything is good to go, the arrow button will be lit green. If it is red the design either isn’t ready or the foot is raised. Press it and watch the magic! Please be a good citizen and remove both threads from the machine when you are done using it.
Here are some tips for troubleshooting:
- Keep a close eye on the process. A lot can go wrong in a short amount of time.
- Thread can get bunched up below the fabric and eventually snap. If this happens the machine will stop and ask you to re-thread it. It can be evidence of even bigger issues, such as a giant clump of thread that will keep snapping.
- If something went wrong, you can re-thread the machine and live edit the stitch number of the design with the touch screen. This allows you to go back a few (or a lot of) steps to make sure the design looks right.
- You can pause a job by pressing the green arrow again.
- There is a special screwdriver (small metal ring) for removing the needle plate (metal below the needle). You may need to do this if the thread clumps near the bobbin.
- The needle can break. Replace it by using a flatheaded screwdriver on the small black knob to the right of the needle holder. The replacement needle needs to be embroidery specific (75/11), and it can only be inserted in a single orientation. Make sure to tighten it after replacing it.
- The machine will auto-cut the thread after it is done (assuming the setting is enabled, which it is by default).
- There is a circular dial on the top of the machine that sets the top thread tension. This generally should stay between 2 and 5 (the gray area). If your bobbin thread is appearing on top, this needs to be adjusted. This has to do with the weight of the threads and the design itself. Similarly, the bobbin holder has a small screw that changes the bobbin tension, but you should avoid changing it. More info.
Threads, needles (must be 75/11), fabrics, stabilizers, adhesives.
On loan from Justin
- Identify the embroidery machine vs other sewing machines in the room
- Machine setup
- Identify parts of the machine setup: screen, needle, foot, hoop, bobbin case, USB stick
- Identify top threads suitable for machine use from the rack of all threads
- Can add thread to empty bobbin
- Can thread lower half of machine with full bobbin
- Can thread upper half of machine, including needle, from an appropriate spool
- Identify when machine foot is up and when it is down
- Can attach and detach hoop from machine
- Fabric setup
- Choose an appropriate test fabric from fabrics in the room
- Iron fabric to smooth without melting anything
- Put ironed fabric and stabilizer in hoop at appropriate tension
- Attach hoop to machine
- Using preset designs
- Select a design from the machine presets and adjust location on the fabric within the hoop, on the machine touch screen
- Understand when/how to rethread top thread to switch colors
- Skip forward and backwards by number of stitches/pattern color pieces
- Understand when preset layers need to happen in a specific order (e.g. satin above fill)
- Trainee successfully completes all layers of a machine preset design on test fabric (i.e. put foot down, press button, watch machine to completion of design)
- Creating a custom design
- Understand if a file from online is of the appropriate format
- Understand if a shape will fit in the hoop
- Advanced info not tested, out of scope for this training
- Know where the screwdriver for the machine is stored
- Can use screwdriver to take off and put on bottom metal plate (should only be necessary if there is a snag in the threads)
- Can use screwdriver to take off and put on needle (should only be necessary if needle breaks)
- Hackerspace citizenship
- Cleans up and removes threads from machine after training completed
- Understand who to ask for help in Slack, and when to ask for help (e.g. if there is a snag you can’t untangle, if you’re not sure what to do)
- Understand where information is listed on the wiki
- Acknowledge that this equipment is on loan and that it’s better to raise issues early than to accidentally break it