How to Create Your Own Embroidery Designs without Digitizing

Did you ever want to make your own embroidery designs but you don’t want to digitize?

Well you can when using and combining simpler, small elements into your own compositions. Building Block designs were digitized specifically for this purpose. They are simpler, smaller elements with fewer color changes designed for combining into your own masterpieces.

Originally digitized in Generations as “building blocks” these designs are also available in other formats for manipulating in any customizing or editing program such as those from Embrilliance.

There are 11 Building Block collections with 20 to 40 designs per collection. Elegant Scrolls was used on the sample shown above (more on that to come)…


Of course, if you have Generations, you’ll have far more control and editing opportunities. such as changing stitch types. You’ll also have a greater range of scalability. In the full collection, you’ll have the opportunity to download the native GEN format and the MNG format.

MNGs are building blocks that once installed will appear on the Building Blocks toolbar to allow easy viewing and access. Simply drag any combination of BBs into the work area and play until you get what you want. There are several tutorials on installing and using building blocks in Generations on my YouTube channel.

Note: If you have Generations, be sure to download the GEN, MNG, and any format your machine needs. The machine format is ready to go as is to your machine while the GEN and MNG will give you more creative opportunities. If you don’t have Generations, you will not be able to open either GEN or MNG so just download your machine format. It is recommended that you always download DST. GEN and MNG are only available with the full collection, not as individual downloads.

If you have Generations and you don’t really know how to use it, it’s quite powerful. Check out my Learn to Digitize course and make use of your software investment! You can go for the full bundle or take your time one unit at a time.

Learn to Digitize will teach you how to digitize like a pro using Generations. This is not a rehash of the manual, this is a professional digitizer (me with 20 years experience!) teaching you proper theory and how it is applied in Generations. You can learn more about each module by downloading the free table of contents for each module.

In addition to the Building Blocks line of collections, a few other collections have also been digitized in Generations just to show what can be done when there’s a knowledgeable digitizer controlling the mouse (and autodigitizing is avoided!).


In a customizing program like Embrilliance Essentials, just add the files to the program and play. Move, rotate, resize, and recolor the same as you would in Generations with the native files.

You can also delete objects by color and if you have Embrilliance Enthusiast, you can delete groups of stitches. When coloring, if you have Embrilliance Enthusiast, you can even break up a color block into two or more colors via the stitch edting tools.

The advantage of getting a file in the native format your software creates is that you have far more control. Don’t like the shape of a particular petal or leaf? Then modify it by moving the nodes.

Want a different fill pattern on an area? Pick or create a new one! Want an outline where there isn’t one? That’s a snap. Want to really enlarge the design and change some areas to appliqué? You can do that. Of course, you’ll need more knowledge of the program and some programs are easier than others.

Note: A word of caution here to Bernina people. Unless the design was actually created in the Bernina software as opposed to just converted, an ART file won’t perform as you might expect. None of the ART files on this web site were created in the Bernina software and are only offered here as converted versions as a convenience for those who are under the illusion they can ONLY use ART files. ART files are only available with collections and not as individual designs; choose the EXP format instead.

In the sample below, I’ve created a simple left chest sized logo using elements from Summer Fun and some simple editing on two letters in Generations. Creating the stripes on letters is easy in this program and if you’d like a quick tutorial, check out the Luck o the Irish project.

A simpler logo is this one. Although it too was done in Generations, it could be duplicated in Embrilliance Enthusiast or other stitch editor by removing the stitches on the cross bar on the “f.” Pick a font and add a “G” and an “f,” delete the cross bar and replace it with the golf tee design.

Then insert the golf ball for the “o” and the club for the “l”. Resize the designs to get the right proportions.

Look through your stash and see what small designs you have that could replace a letter. While I’m not a golfer, this logo would look great on accessories for a special golfer I know. I am a diver and this is a shirt I wear.


When you combine multiple designs in any program, the design will likely not sew in a very efficient manner. There will be more jumps and more color changes.

You’ll need to pay attention to those jumps if your machine doesn’t trim because they can get sewn over and be hard to remove if you wait until the design is completed before trimming.You may also have design elements stacked on top of each other which can cause lumps or increase thread breaks.

Both Embrilliance and Generations offer a way to optimize the design for sewing. In the case of Generations, since it’s working with the native format, it can optimize color sequences and the “in/out” points of where a design starts and stops thus optimizing the entire sewing order and potentially reducing jumps. Embrilliance offers color sorting, which will intelligently reduce the number of colors in a design to eliminate what it considers to be redundant repeats.

I’m personally not a big fan of color sorting, especially on larger designs or combined designs that have fills outlined in running stitches. The reason is that you are likely to have compromised registration and end up with gaps in your design. To learn more about this, see my ebook, Anatomy of a Design.

In the design shown below, which uses all the elements on Delicate Roses, I’ve spent quite a bit of time considering color. The designs on the package were all sewn in just a few colors. I wanted much more color on this project, which I’ve stitched in the middle of a purchased cutwork pillowsham‚ in other words, instant heirloom.

I did the editing in Generations and manually resquenced the design. Rather than running the optimize option (which I find often corrupts the design), I manually sorted by an area and sequenced that entire area to sew before moving to another one.

Yes, it took a bit of time and if you’re only going to sew a design once, then it may not be worth it. It can easily take more time to optimize a design manually than to just sew it and change the colors and trim the threads as needed. Of course if you have a multi-needle machine, this process is much easier!

Want this design without the work? It’s available in the shop, just check the resources at the endn of this post.

Embrllliance has the added advantage that when you compose a design in it, it will eliminate overlaps when you save the file. You’ll still see them in the working or BE file and that’s a good thing—you might want to move something again. In the stitch file, though, the stitches in the underneath designs will be removed. This won’t remove the underlay in an element just other designs underneath when created in Embrilliance.

In the simple composition below using the baseball, glove, and two bats from Sports 1, Essentials will remove the sections of the background designs under the ball and top bat. I stitched in center front on small child’s tee but it would also work well as a left chest design for an adult.

Generations can’t do that automatically, you have to do it through a more manual and potentially tedious process. So even if you have Generations, it’s still helpful to have a program like Embrilliance Density Repair Kit, which can be purchased as an add on to Essentials, to even out excessively thick areas of a design.

On the sweater shown at the beginning of this post I used designs from Elegant Scrolls. After I was happy with one side of the design, I mirrored it to create the other one. This too was done in Generations where I could manually move the in/out points of the elements and even add some travel stitches to make a more efficient design.

Since it’s one color, no color resequencing was required. I stitched my composition on a black sweater using Softlight Metallic Strawberry Red.

Likewise, the black mesh zip bag needs no color sorting either. This one was composed in Embrilliance Essentials with designs from Leaves 1, Red might seem like an odd color for leaves but I liked the contrast with the black mesh and I was more interested in the decorative element rather than a natural, life-like look.

I did not take the time to do much optimizing here other than to move the designs into an order that shortened jumps. Because Embrilliance is working with a stitch file, changing the entry and exit points of each element is not possible.

Since it’s summer right now, you might want to make yourself a beach tote. This one combines some arced letter with simple design placement. These designs are from Summer Fun and are a little more detailed than other building blocks. Most of these elements are designed to create a scene. (Click the image for a larger view.)


So what can you make with Building Blocks? I’ve shown you samples throughout this post and here are a few more ideas to inspire you. Personally, I love working with these little elements.

It’s “playtime” for me to sit and manipulate them and see what I can create. While often not very inspiring on their own, you can easily combine them into compositions that flow in graceful curves, fill a corner, or embellish the point of a collar. The small flowers and leaves are perfect for creating an heirloom look—or a bold modern statement.

You might think that because they are small, they are only suited for smaller items but that’s not true either. While we all seem to want bigger and bigger hoops—and the designs to go with them—often smaller is better. Smaller designs distort the fabric less and can be combined to fit the scale of the project.

On the vest below, which was previously gathering dust in my closet, I gave it a simple facelift with one design from Elegant Scrolls. I rotated the design then mirrored it and enlarged one.

I’ve paired them up along either side of the buttons on this vest. They’re stitched in copper Softlight Metallic and the camera flash does make them look much brighter than they really are. Embroidery doesn’t have to be elaborate or intricate to add interest to a garment!

Also, with their generally fewer color changes, it is easier to choose other colors—even colors that you might not consider otherwise. Imagine arranging some of the flowers and leaves into a border up the side of some white capri pants and stitching them in black. Add some rhinestones and you’ve made an upscale fashion statement!

The best thing is you can make anything from small simple projects like the child’s dress (below) I made from a t-shirt to more elaborate ones like the floral heart on the purchased cutwork pillow sham above.

Both projects use designs from the same collection and notice how different they look! These are also great designs to use in programs that offer tools for scattering design elements or repeating them along a path.

I’ve used the designs from Monogram Frames quite a bit as well. Here’s one example where I’ve customized a monogram with interlocking letters. You can watch a YouTube video of how to do this in Embrilliance Enthusiast.


I hope that by now you’re beginning to see how small, simple designs can be used to make your own creations. A pile of bricks is just a pile of bricks—but think what can be built: a wall, a garden path, a house, or a cathedral. Building Block designs are your pile of bricks. What will you create?


Right now, at the time of this post, all 11 building block collections are on sale through Memorial Day Weekend 2014, that is until Monday, May 26, 2014. Regularly $39.95, now only $14.95 each. Each collection contains 20-40 designs.

If you’re reading this post after those dates, you can still get the designs, just not at this special price. Individual designs are also available and most are only $2 each. Of course when you buy the collection at this amazing price you’ll be paying far less per design.


Check A Bumper Crop of Baby Bonnets, listed in the related articles at the end, for more tips on working with building blocks as well as editing them to create your own designs. You can also find the link for the free baby bonnet pattern.


  • Embrilliance software is often available in our shop as a physical product that will be shipped (U.S. only) or as digital download from Embrilliance
    • Not sure? Download a demo version to try out any ot the apps or get the free version, previously known as Alpha Tricks Express, now known as Embrilliance Express to open access to the thousands of keyboard fonts available as BX installer files
  • Anatomy of Design is an e-book designed for embroiderers who want to understand what’s going with designs and therefore make better choices when selecting designs, fabric, stabilizers, and threads
  • Other general supplies can be found on the Resources page


This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. By browsing this website, you agree to our use of cookies.