“What? The? Title?” This is a post about custom embroidery from an image (also known as digitization) for a luxe Dark Side apron.

I have a long list of belated projects and gifts.  One of them is my best friend, Dannette’s, birthday present.  I promised her “something awesome” – a faux leather Darth Vader apron with custom embroidery – and then the birthday came and went.  That was March.  It’s almost September.

Digitized Darth Vader

This is the final product of the first major embroidery element of this project: Darth Vader’s chest detail

A major obstacle, affecting my embroidery mojo, was the need to reinstall my graphics software after a massive open-heart operation on my dual-boot MacBook Pro (OSX Sierra & Win 10, 64-bit).  It was acting up, so one small upgrade turned into  a massive month-long operation (1 TB total dual SSD-drives, max out RAM, new motherboard, new keyboard, new wifi card, etc, etc).  By the time it was stable, I lost interest in it.  I looked at that pile of CDs (Bernina Designer Plus, Bernina Designworks, OESD Galaxy Plus, Photoshop), and went “pfft!!”

Sometime in August, I turned on that laptop (more like a desktop, it’s so overclocked it will burn your lap) because I broke up with my webhost and decided to move on.  I needed to back up and migrate 10 years of sewing glory, which meant DAYS of downloading backups and uploading to the new server.  When put my overhauled machine to the task, combined with my new webhost, it blew me away.  

I was inspired to install Designer Plus, and it ran like someone had given it an adrenaline shot.

My mojo was back.

So the first point of business was to layout the embroidery design.  There are a lot of cute dresses and tops put out by Her Universe, which is sold online and at Disney Parks.  I first saw a design I like at The Vault at Downtown Disney (Anaheim) which featured a Darth Vader print.  I snapped a photo and filed it away for the project.

I use a multi-step approach to digitizing (this is the same process I used to create the “Anna” embroidery for the corset portion of the project) 


This dress is by Her Universe, and is sold online and at Disney Parks.

The Pattern

I chose Butterick 5551 as the base pattern, from the “See&Sew” series

First, I obtain an good image (center facing) of the motif I want to digitize, and then, using Photoshop on Mac, I start placing the design on the pattern, at the same time cleaning up the design.  The reason I start with Photoshop is because you have many more transforms that you can work with, as well as the ability to manipulate the visible layers. In the images below, you can see how easily I can manipulate a scanned pattern piece to create background for the placement. Using various shape tools, I trace out the major color blocks, building the layers and reducing colors.  Once I’ve created all of the objects, I turn off the backgrounds and export only the artwork (JPG).  

The Background

Scan and clone (if necessary) the pattern piece to get a full background to draw on.


Find your inspiration design and create a new layer from it


Make both layers semi-transparent and start tracing your objects

Trace out the Objects

Trace out each object from the background.  When you’ve completed. Turn off the pattern and design layers, replacing the background for a high contrast color (see high-resolution gallery at bottom for example).

Once I have an image reduced to a design that can be digitized, I boot into Windows 10 to start Bernina Designer Plus.  From here, I lay down each object, carefully sequencing to reduce color changes.  Once the shapes are created, it’s very easy to select groups and change the fills & outlines.  You can quickly make multiple versions and styles.  I usually pick the design with the most fill work to test stitch out because it is most likely to reveal issues that need to be calibrated and addressed.

Here are some views of the original designs, followed by a short video of the first stitch out.  As you can see, not everything translates to the fabric as you would envision.

Satin Stitch

This design features satin-stitching


This one features some fancy fill textures.


This design is only the object outlines in a stipple stitch


This is a very simple outline design.  Could possibly be used for in-hoop applique?

This is the final design, and it’s stitch out.  Even during this stitch out, I found more areas to tune.

I’m working on a few more accents for this set, and it will be available to download when I’m done! Standby for the next installment!