Are You Using the Wrong Embroidery Format?

I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten from people who say their hoop is large enough to sew a particular design but the designs are missing from the set they downloaded. In most cases, they have a Designer Diamond and have downloaded HUS format.

It really doesn’t matter how large your machine’s sewing field is if you download an older format that doesn’t support large designs.

Often when new machines are released, a new format is created.

Sometimes the format just allows for a greater sewing field but there may be other enhancements as well. The maximum allowable stitches or colors may have increased or the new format may enable certain new machine functions like automatic trimming.

A new format may allow “real thread colors” so that designs can be colored with the threads the designer actually used. Examples of this are the latest PES and VP3 formats. If you aren’t getting the newest format offered for your machine, you are cheating yourself of these benefits.


While I was writing the Learn Generations Training Series (which took about 18 months), I also produced designs with that program. The only way to really learn a program and write a really useful course on it is to use the software.

For those designs (all of the Building Block series), I also included the .GEN format. If you have Generations, you really should be downloading that format in addition to any machine format you need. When you can get the format that design was created in (and you have the software!) you always have more choices!


Why would you do that? “But it’s ugly!” you say.

It’s only “ugly” because DST’s don’t accept actual colors, it only has color stops. But it has some other benefits: it has trim codes, appliqué stops when used, and it is the actual file I test sewed. This format also contains all the files in the collection.

Always download this version in addition to any formats your machine(s) require. You never know when you will get a new machine that has a bigger sewing field or offers features like automatic trims.

For your convenience, DST is the default setting for collections. Be sure to check it when downloading individual designs.


The two primary reasons a file may be missing are:

  1. It is too large for the target format
  2. It has too many stitches for the target format

Remember, format does not equal hoop size! Just because you have a large hoop, if you are downloading a collection in format that only supports 4×4 sewing fields, you’ll only get the designs that fit that format.


Some older more restricted file formats will have an “a” and a “b” file which the conversion software has split to allow sewing. This splitting is not for a multi-position hoop. It is to allow you to sew the first part of the design (“a”) and then load and sew the second part of the design (“b”) to complete the design.

Another reason for extra files is when I have purposely split a design intended for really large sewing fields into smaller pieces that are then either sewn individually or are sewn with repeated rehoopings. The Heirloom Angels fall into this scenario. When I use this technique, there are instructions included on how to use the various designs.


Due to the large number of formats required to support all machines ever made, only more current and popular formats are available. Also, more formats are included with collection files than individual files because I do not have unlimited server space to support all the individuals in every possible format. Most embroidery software—and many current machine models—now read and write a wide variety of formats.

The exception of course is the Bernina ART format. When you see an ART format on this site, it was not created with the Bernina software, only converted. If you alter the design in ANY way in your Bernina software, it can destroy custom stitch effects and alter the character of the design.

The ART format sold on this site is version 4. When ART is not available (as on singles), your machine reads an EXP file (not an ART ). I’m not a Bernina user, I only provide the ART files out of a courtesy and I have to have the Bernina software to be able to do that.

Update: Because the ART format is a converted one and not native and Bernina machines read an EXP format, this format has been discontinued effective 04/2017.

For the most part, the PES file format is available for all designs and is an older version as well. This is because there are many Brother and Baby Lock owners with older machines or software who cannot read the newer format.

Of course this means a PES will not have “true color” threads used. Please note that if you have a smaller sewing field, there are many PES designs that will be too large for your machine to sew.

VP3 is the only format that will support true thread colors. Machines that read VP3 also read VIP so VIP is not included. If you have a machine that reads the latest PES format and want true colors, download the VP3 and convert to your version of PES.

If you want trim commands, use DST. Converting VP3 to other formats that don’t support true colors won’t get you any better colors than are already included.

DST and EXP are always available. If you have a Bernina and are downloading the EXP, make sure the design does not exceed your max sewing field.


Every embroiderer should own a conversion utility. Yes, it does mean that you have to learn a program on your computer but if you are reading this article, you are using a computer. Conversion utilities are easy to use. Most will read pretty much every machine format (and many even read ART) and will write most machine formats (only Bernina software can write an ART file).

My two favorite conversion tools are Buzz Tools (Windows only) and  (Mac only). These programs have benefits beyond just converting. They can color designs, create images of your designs, and help you catalog and find designs on your computer.

Once I got Convert It Mac, I found tons of designs I had totally forgotten about because I had no program on my Mac to view them. (Real Mac users only do Windows when they absolutely have no other choice…)

While you may have gotten a program with your machine that will convert, many of those programs only convert one design at a time.

Buzz Tools and Convert It Mac will batch convert entire libraries of designs in seconds. Well, maybe a little longer depending on how many you have.


You cannot resize, mirror, rotate or any of the other things considered to be “customizing.” Nor can you move, remove, or add stitches, which are considered to be “editing.”

In general. customizing and editing programs cannot do batch conversions although you can most often save the file to various machine formats.


Hi everyone. Just to let you know that some of the links on this site are affiliate links. What that means is that if you click one of them and buy something… I get a commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and I only recommend things that I’ve tried and tested, so please, please, please… use my links.

Fine Print: Lindee G Embroidery is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Lindee G Embroidery is also an affiliate for Embroidery.comNancy’s NotionsEmbrilliance, and Craftsy. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, which helps to offset the cost of running this site. 🙂


Many people think that if they have digitizing software, they don’t need to own any other program.

However, some digitizing programs will totally corrupt a non-native design (that would be any file extension other than the one made by your digitizing program) because it is trying to convert the stitches into “blocks” which it can manipulate. Sometimes all you have to do is open the file and save it out and the stitches are changed.

Therefore if you want to do anything to a stitch file design, you should use a customizer.

A good one can resize, mirror, rotate, skew, stretch or shrink in any direction plus more. Of course, you can mirror and rotate at your machine but how many of you have forgotten to mirror and sewed a design in the wrong orientation? Yep, me too.

If you’ve never used a customizer, one that I use and like is called Embrilliance Essentials. You can even download a free trial to test it out. Since I’ve written about it previously, I won’t go into all the reasons I love it and have found it useful. It works on both Mac and Windows.


If you aren’t sure what format you need for a particular machine, check your manual or ask your dealer. Or, google it. There have been plenty of charts over the years that list all the models and what formats they can use or prefer. That list grows longer every year as new models are released.

Be sure to ask what format is BEST for your machine and not just which ones it can use. Otherwise you may be using a file format that is for a machine produced 20 years ago when yours is a hot new model.



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