A Bumper Crop of Baby Bonnets

These two darling baby bonnets are quick and easy to construct. You can easily whip one out in less than an hour (minus embellishing time) and more than likely with supplies you already have in your stash!

Each of these bonnets uses designs from the Building Block series of design that were then customized to create a new original design. You can download the free bonnet pattern at the end of this post.


Building Blocks are to embroiderers as dingbat fonts are to desktop publishers; they are small elements that can be combined to create other more complex designs, or combined with each other, or just used stand-alone to fill in or embellish a small area.


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Customizing is a term used for embroidery utility programs that provide a canvas for combining multiple designs and/or performing basic functions such as mirror (flip), rotate, distort, and resize. Additionally, these programs may provide a lettering component for adding text or monograms to your designs and features like eliminating bulk of overlapping stitches and color-sorting.

Think of it this way: If you use a desktop publishing program to produce newsletter or article, the elements—text, graphics, charts—are usually created in other programs and simply combined in the publishing program. Elements may be resized, rotated, fonts changed, etc. Customizing programs work similarly; they are not meant to create new elements from scratch or edit individual stitches.

Although I usually only work with my own designs (ones I digitized), my digitizing software is not designed for customizing and it is quite difficult to manipulate complete designs because they cannot be grouped into one object. Because of this, I prefer to use a program designed for customizing for this purpose and my choice is Embrilliance Essentials.


One very big reason is that it works on Mac (without Parallels!), which is my platform of choice. And, for you Windows people, it works there as well.

Of course there are other key reasons:

  • Ease of use
  • Features
  • Price


Sometimes when I’m creating a design layout, it is way too large to be sewn on any machine. These bonnet designs are too long for my home machines. For the pink and white bonnet, I split the designs into two segments to sew on my Baby Lock in two hoping. The green and white bonnet was embroidered on my commercial machine as one piece. Each method has it’s pros and cons.

Some programs will only let you save designs that will fit the machine’s sewing field or the selected hoop, which can be a real hindrance to creativity. I would really like to create the entire design in one file and then when I’m satisfied, split it into multiple hoopings. I think you can easily see why it would be easier to work that way.


Customizing time is play time to me. Sometimes when I just want to have some fun, I just sit and play with various design combinations. Other times I may see a design on a garment in a photo and see how I can build something similar from designs in my stash.

Often though, I don’t have the entire finished design visualized. I usually know the area I want to fill and I know the type of look I’m going for. Therefore, I usually trial many elements, adding and deleting and saving multiple versions.

I’m not worried about sewing order at this time. Once I get a composition I like, then I manually resequence it by moving the elements, which is in the Objects Pane, in Embrilliance.

If your software won’t let you do that or it isn’t easy to do, you can cut and repaste each element in the order you want. This works especially well in a program that will paste into the same spot you just cut from. (Placement is the same position on the screen but the object order has just changed.) I use this technique more in Generations.


The green and white bonnet uses several designs that are different colors. Since I knew I wanted to sew this in one color, I worked with the DST versions of the files. Each element was a single color design but the design colors varied.

DST won’t hold color information so each element came in as the same color, in this case, black. Remember, you can sew the design in any color you like!


I personally have major issues with color sorting, especially when combining multiple multi-colored designs that share a color palette AND any of those designs have outlines.

If you don’t know what color sorting is, it reduces the number of colors in a design by intelligently (according to software, not to digitizer!) combining color repeats. In other words, it will keep any colors properly layered but it doesn’t consider pathing or registration issues.

While this sounds like a good thing, it can totally destroy the integrity of your design. I cover the issues with color sorting in my ebook, The Anatomy of a Design: How to Think Like a Digitizer & Become a Better Embroiderer.

The good news with Essentials is that color sorting is saved to another file, not your working file. Always test your color sorted (or any design for that matter!). If it doesn’t sew optimally, go back to your original.


The entire Building Block series was digitized in Generations auto-digitizing software and are available in the MNG format. This means you have full control over each design to change stitch types and pathing. Because you have control over stitch types, you have more resizing ability and more design opportunities.


You can download the free pattern for the bonnets from the shopping cart.

If you’ve never downloaded from the cart before, you will need to set up an account first. You will still go through the check out process but the pattern is free.

You won’t find a lot of instructions for the bonnet and that’s because it is so simple! There are no step-by-step instructions (hey, it’s free!) but if you’ve done even basic sewing and garment construction, you’ll be fine.

I did not interface the bonnet. Just two small pieces of fabric (fat quarters are sufficient), a yard or two of ribbon, and a short bit of elastic.

The pink and white bonnet has elastic stitched into the casing, the green bonnet used ribbon laced through the casing. The bonnet ties are just hand stitched in place.

The pattern will show the design area. Keep in mind that the embroidery is actually on the lining piece, which is then folded back for the “brim,” as you can see on the green bonnet.

Tip: If you know how to do it, use the design placement guides to create a work area in your software. I imported this part into my digitizing software, duplicated and mirrored it to make a whole image then used it to create a basting outline. Most machines will not have a large enough sewing field for this. Even if yours doesn’t you’ll still be able to plan your design and then split it up as required.


Below you can see screen captures of the designs I composed for the two bonnets shown here using designs from Leaves 1Delicate Roses, and Elegant Scrolls.

Tip: Build one side, then copy, paste and mirror. The center motif runs last.

Once you’ve got your design ready, embroider it. For this infant sized bonnet, you can sew an edge to edge design in 3 hoopings: two 5×7″ hoopings plus one small center medallion or two with a larger sewing field. I heavily starched and pressed the fabric (cotton in both samples) before embroidering. Embroider the bonnet before assembling.

This basic bonnet can be embellished in so many ways—truly only your imagination will limit you!


I’m sure you can easily envision using these same combinations beyond baby bonnets and in colors other than the ones shown. Adding a few strategically placed hot fix crystals can really glam them up!


You won’t find the completed designs used for these items (at least not at this writing). The reason is that because I combined several already finished designs, the pathing in these designs is not optimal for production.

That’s one of the trade-offs with working with ready-made designs. It’s vastly easier to create a new composition than drawing and digitizing the finished combination from scratch but since during the digitizing process there’s no way to predict how they will be combined, they will tend to have a few more jumps and trims.

I encourage you to play around with these kinds of designs. You’ll have a lot more fun with your design stash and you’ll have projects no one else has.


Learn more about Generations & Building blocks in the LearnGenerations series.


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