Year of the Dragon

This intricately detailed dragon design is a real stunner when stitched in metaillic thread on a black background.

Read on & find out how to get this design free!

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the large dragon embroidery design. I’ve been thinking about this all year—this is the Year of the Dragon—and after not finding any suitable artwork, I finally gave in and started sketching one myself. Drawing is not my favorite thing to do—it can easily take me longer to research and draw something than to digitize it!

Several people have asked why there isn’t one for smaller hoops… Many of us have machines with large hoops now and want embroideries that were designed for that hoop size, not simply enlarged for them. There is simply too much detail to cram this design into a 4×4 hoop!

I also wanted a design that would really show off the SoftLight Metallic threads in big way. I didn’t really plan to sew the entire design in metallics but when I started picking colors, I ended up with 5 of my 7 colors as metallic. If you’ve already downloaded this design, you may have noticed that there are 8 unique colors listed—see the rest of this newsletter for why!


Some other points to notice about this design: Look at the rich detail achieved in only 7 colors and no outlines. I personally don’t like outlines, especially black ones. They are hard to keep in alignment when sewing on a wide range of fabrics and they can make the design look like “color book” art.

True, some designs seem to need them to appear “finished” but they don’t belong on every design. This design has outlines to define the eye and around the fiery tail for a cleaner edge. Don’t see the outline on the tail? It’s because it’s in the same color it is outlining.

Running stitch detail over flat fills is another type of outlining; it just happens to be within a design instead of on the edges. Often a more interesting approach is through creative use of stitches.

Here, I used “stitch carving” to create the illusion of scales, depth and sinuous curves on the body. This is a different technique than a pattern fill, which generally gives a flat wallpaper appearance.

Speciality stitch effects like this can really try a resizer program and may result ina real miss. If you resize this design (or others with non-uniform stitch effects) be sure to check these stitches to see if the effect has been maintained. The quickest way to do that is with a “3D” or simulated view of the design that will render a lifelike image.


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. 🙂

As a test, I opened the dragon in Embrilliance Essentials, resized it to 125%, and the scale pattern was still evident along with other places I had digitized some more customized stitch effects. Whether you digitize or not, having some handy specialized embroidery utilities that are easy to use and reliable can really serve you well!


You may have some designs in your stash that seem to have too many color changes. Inexperienced digitizers may have too many colors due to poor planning. If you’ve sewn lots of these freebies, you may think all designs with repeating colors are unnecessary.

However, a seasoned digitizer repeats colors primarily for:

  1. Layering—to keep the design in proper perspective from background to foreground
  2. Registration optimization—to reduce gapping and other misalignments
  3. A third reason is flexibility. I recently did some custom designs where one section of black was run as 3 separate colors. The second “black” was for some optional lettering (it is easier to skip an entire color change than selected stitches), and a third one for switching to a thinner thread of the same color. In the dragon, I initially colored the eye detail black but sewed it in red, which happens to be followed bythe red eyebrow. This gives you the flexibility to choose any eye color you desire.

If you’d like to learn why digitizers sometimes do things that seem perplexing, check out Anatomy of a Design: How to Think Like a Digitizer and Become a Better Embroiderer. This illustrated e-book will give you an under-the-hood peak at how designs are constructed and go into reasons why color-sorting may not be advisable in every design!

The more you learn about designs, the better embroidery you can produce! You’ll begin to discern when a poor result is a design problem versus a sewing problem. You’ll even learn how to look at a design before sewing it to see if it is worthy of even keeping! How much time and money (and frustration!) would that save you?


Normally I would not sew a design in nearly all metallics. In classes, I often recommend metallics as a spice, to be used sparingly and tastefully. The two main reasons for this are that metallics can be somewhat garish and they can be “particular” in the machine.

I may have to eat those words of advice because SoftLight Metallic is neither of those!

These metallic threads are smoother and not only softer feeling, they are also softer looking. Treat these threads as you would 40 weight Rayon and you should be just fine. For more about this specialty thread, read A New Metallic Thread for Embroiderers & Long-Arm Quilters

At the bottom of the article you’ll see links to other thread related posts.

I recently had an order for SoftLight that will be combined with cashmere for crocheting, which has inspired me to experiment with incorporating a bit of sparkle into snowflakes I crochet. Watch Facebook for updates on that!


For a limited time, you can get this dragon design free with the purchase of any 5 SoftLight Metallics of your choice!

You may want the five I used in the design or maybe select some for some holiday ornaments. I’ve got my eye on some purples and turquoise for the next time I sew the dragon! The dragon will be included with your shipment as a multi-format CD. Oh yeah, and there’s free shipping on the thread! How does it get any better than that?

Just want the dragon? You can get this nearly 50,000 stitch, 140.80 mm x 237.00 mm design for 33% off for a limited time.


This dragon design requires a large hoop. The ideal hoop is one that is just large enough to accommodate the design, which in this case would be a 150 x 240mm hoop. The larger the hoop, the more attention you need to pay to hooping and stabilizing.

Unless you are sewing on a garment that will be worn stretched on the body (and the dragon is not a suitable design for that), your fabric should be hooped at neutral tension; in other words, not stretched, pulled, or distorted in any way. Your stabilizer, on the other hand should be taut and fully within the hoop rings.

The long straight sides on rectangular hoops aren’t as adept at gripping the fabric as a round hoop. To avoid fabric slippage, I like to use duct tape. Since this newsletter is getting pretty long, I’ll refer you to another post: Why Does My Embroidery Pucker?

If you’d like to learn more about hooping, a lesson is embedded in the YouTube video training for the Echidna Hooping station.

In this video, pay attention to what I don’t do:

  • no tugging on the fabric after it is hooped
  • no tightening the screw after it is hooped

The Echidna Hooping Station is being re-manufactured to make it more cost effective. I’ll let you know in a future newsletter when it is once again shipping.


The best way is by embroidering a lot of designs on a variety of fabrics with different stabilizers and inspecting the results. What worked well? What didn’t? Keep a log. I used to store test sews in a binder slip sheets with some notes.

Learn the idiosyncrasies of each machine you use. I have one machine that sews anything happily with little or no adjustment. My favorite machine requires a little fine tuning for different situations.

If you’re wondering why you should test sew designs, check out this article: Why Test Embroidery Designs?

At the end you’ll find links to some handy-dandy forms for tracking results.

Before sewing a design, look at it and think how it might sew. Then watch it sew. You may not know why a digitizer did something—and seldom is there one absolute best way of doing something (unless the design is extremely basic!). Some days we digitizers are just sharper than others and come up with a better way of doing things.

In general, we try to reduce color changes but never at the cost of a quality result. Watching and analyzing how designs sew is a great precursor to learning to digitize if that happens to be on your bucket list.

What should you look for when watching the design sew? There’s a list in this post: How to Analyze an Embroidery Design.


  • 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
  • Softlight Metallic Thread – 52 lucsious shades; 48 40-weight and four 60-weight for fine detail stitching
  • 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.