Maximizing Your Embroidery Stash: Turning a Simple Design into A Border

Creating borders from the Love to Sew Redwork designs is quick and easy—if you have software that allows you to edit designs. Here I’m using EmbroideryWorks Advanced from Designer’s Gallery.

Although the screen shots shown here are from my Mac, EmbroideryWorks also runs on Windows. If you have other editing software, you should be able to perform similar steps and get the same result.


Simply put, EmbroideryWorks is the big sister of Embrilliance Essentials. Essentials is exactly what it says—the essential tools every embroiderer needs. Yes, it duplicates some features your machine may have, especially the top of the line ones, but I’m much more comfortable working on my computer where I have all my designs stored.

My computer screen is much bigger than any of my sewing machines (I have a 30″ monitor on my desktop!) and I simply have more control. Plus I can easily save and find variations and/or iterations of a design as I play.

Update Note: Since this post was written, Embrilliance has greatly expanded their platform with additional modules that contain the same functionality as those listed here for EmbroideryWorks. If you have Enthusiast, you should be able to follow along with the steps listed below.

EmbroideryWorks comes in two versions: Everyday and Advanced. You can start with Everyday and then move up to Advanced with no penalty or just start at the top; the investment is the same either way.

If you’re familiar with Essentials, you’ll find that EmbroideryWorks is a seamless addition as it has the same easy-to-use interface with just more features. To see the features of each version of EmbroideryWorks, visit Designer’s Gallery.

EmbroideryWorks Advanced offers just about every feature I can think of short of digitizing for creatively manipulating designs.

In addition to all the functions of Essentials, you can automatically split designs for multiple hoops, manage densities, do fun things like Instant Repeat, Scatter, and Carousel. The feature I use most is the the ability to edit designs.

In Essentials, designs can be taken apart only by color change—you can eliminate or extract parts of a design by selecting a specific color in the Objects Pane.

But what if the element you want is part of the same color change, as is the case here? For that you need a stitch editor and that’s where EmbroideryWorks comes in.


To show you just how easy this can be, I’m going to take the October 2013 free design from Love to Sew Redworkand turn it into a border. Obviously it is possible to get MUCH more creative than this but lets start easy!

I’ve selected this design because it is already digitized as two pieces and, hey, it’s free this month!. You can easily see a right and a left half that are fully separated from each other.

This means there are (or should be!) tie stitches on each side so that we don’t have to worry about adding any afterwards. In other words, this is minor surgery.

Another good reason for choosing this design is that it’s a single color. If you are stitching a border—especially a long one—think how many times you’re going to need to change threads on a multi-color design!

While both Essentials and EmbroideryWorks offer color sorting, that won’t help you much over repeated hoopings. (I don’t recommend color sorting at all, learn why in Anatomy of a Design.)


1. Open the design in EmbroideryWorks. Notice in the Objects Pane that the design is one object. Even if I ungroup the design it is still one piece. To remove half of the design, I need to be able to select stitches.

2. Click on the Stitch Edit icon on the tool bar. The area below the tool bar changes to reflect edit mode and the stitch points in the design are now visible and accessible.

3. Click on the Rectangular Selection tool on the far left. You can also use the lasso tool, which is very useful in selecting irregular shapes. Here though, the rectangular selection tool works effortlessly.

4. Drag a selection around one half of the design to delete.

5. Press the delete button. Voila! You have a border section!

6. Click on the Select Objects icon (the “regular” arrow) on the toolbar to exit stitch edit mode. Save this as a new design.

7. Copy this design, create a new page and paste twice.

Note: If you have a design you want to build into a border, the rest of the steps can be done in Essentials. Simply open the design and copy and paste once then continue as follows.

In the work area it will look like only one design, however, in the Objects Pane you’ll see two objects.

Notice the last one in the Object Pane (the top most and last pasted design) is selected. It’s easy to think you only have one design when you may have a whole stack of them. The Objects Pane will keep you straight.

Note: You may want to adjust your hoop size if you have a smaller one selected. Hoops are for reference only and don’t restrict any design size, however, the program’s settings will prevent you from saving a design that is larger than the format permits.

8. With the last pasted objected still selected, mirror this design by clicking the Flip Horizontally icon on the toolbar

and then drag the design into position. You can add as many repeats as will fit the hoop you intend to use.

If you are building a border rather than a single design placement, be sure to plan the repeats correctly. In this case, we need to work in multiples of two so we don’t have to remember to mirror every other pattern at the machine.

Tip: It’s a good idea not to totally max out the sewing field of your hoop especially if you need to precisely align a design or you will have no room to adjust placement at the machine.

9. To make sure your elements are aligned and evenly spaced, Select All, then click on Align and Distribute. Select the Distribute tab and set your options as shown below and then click apply.

10. Save your design. Both Embrilliance and EmbroideryWorks will save a working file (.BE) and a stitch file in the format your machine sews. To change your new design, edit the BE file. Your design is now ready to sew!


After extracting half, think about what else you could design…

How about an arrangement for a neckline accent?

Or have a little fun with Carousel?

Playing around with your designs in software can be almost as fun as stitching them out!


Since my digitizing software can’t group stitch objects, it’s often much easier to build design compositions in another program like Essentials or EmbroideryWorks.

If you’ve ever used a page layout program like InDesign or PageMaker, text may have been created in Word and various graphic elements in PhotoShop and Illustrator. The page layout program is where all the elements are combined and arranged to form a pleasing document.

Customizing and editing programs perform a similar function for embroiderers. We can combine design elements from different sources, arrange them in an interesting way and add some lettering.

Another advantage is that when working with designs that you didn’t digitize yourself or aren’t available in your digitizing software’s native format (not just converted! to your native format!), some programs will actually change and distort the stitches when opening the design.

It’s wise therefore to NOT manipulate outside designs in your digitizing program, not even to convert to another format! (Use a conversion program or your customizer for converting.)


Do keep in mind that the elements still belong to the original designer–even if the design was free; you won’t be able to distribute the digital file in anyway but you should be able to sew the designs with the same freedom as the original design allowed.

If you extract an element from a licensed design, then the entire design assumes the restrictions of the licensed design. In most cases, you are not permitted to extract elements from a licensed design so just be aware!


This tutorial is meant to introduce you to very basic editing. Begin to look through your design stash and see what other designs and elements are “hidden” within more complex designs.

I often find I want coordinating elements from an embroidery design to use as connectors when combining multiple designs or to place in small areas like collars, cuffs, or button plackets.

With editing, you can do that. With editing, you don’t have to learn to digitize; you can simply take elements from one or more designs and combine them.

For example, on the blouse yoke here, I used a design from Floral Fantasy, sewn it mirrored horizontally and monochromatically. Because there was a “blank” space in the middle, I simply extracted one of the flower elements and used it as a connector.

Other elements were extracted and recombined for the front of the blouse. Because the floral elements are separated, this is another easy project to duplicate without having to worry about adding tie stitches to prevent raveling.

On collection used for this tutorial, Love to Sew Redwork, I’ve extracted many elements out for you and none of them were as a simple as the process we just covered. Look through the extracted elements and try recreating one from the free version.

In many cases, you’ll find the pathing (stitch sequence) needs a lot of reworking to avoid excessive jumps.

This type of work is much easier in digitizing when you have the original source file, and that simply isn’t available for these designs—even if you did use the same software I do. While you might think you can just deal with the jumps by trimming the threads, there will be no tie offs.

It is possible to do very intricate editing with EmbroideryWorks but think of it as surgery. Just as the surgeon must do something with severed muscles, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels, you must take care of any disconnected threads. Extensive repathing of a design is indeed very major surgery!


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. 🙂


EmbroideryWorks is a Designer’s Gallery program written by my good friends who also created Embrilliance Essentials, Thumbnailer, AlphaTricks, and Convert It Mac.

Check with your dealer for EmbroideryWorks (Baby Lock dealers are most likely to carry it and other dealers can get it) and for the other programs as well. Most of those listed above come with both the Mac and Windows version and if you have both systems, you can install it on both computers. (Convert It Mac is Mac only.)

  • 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
  • Embrilliance Express (the free version) allow you to use BX fonts as keyboard fonts. A BX font is a special file format that has been created by a designer, most often from individual letter files to make them easier to use.
    • Simply drag and drop a BX file onto a program with the AlphaTricks code (includes Embrilliance Essentials and EmbroideryWorks), and the font is installed and available on the fonts menu for easy keyboard lettering. Learn more about keyboard fonts and AlphaTricks in this blog post: What’s Your Addiction?
  • Check our huge selection of BX-ready fonts!

The design used in this tutorial is from Love to Sew Redwork and can be downloaded for free during October 2013 only. To be notified of current freebies, sign up for the newsletter and check it out when it arrives in your inbox!


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