Working With Embroidery Design Files

Navigating the road from downloading an embroidery design, to sewing it out can be confusing for the new embroidery machine owner. Once you are familiar with the steps, and the terminology though, you'll find it to be quite simple. Although I've covered this subject in various articles, I think it would be helpful for the newbie to be able to find the answers in one place so...this is an FAQ on working with embroidery designs. Click "Read More" to continue...

I want to download some designs. What file format should I choose?
It's going to depend entirely on your machine. Check your machine manual to determine what type of file you need. For example, a Brother or Baby Lock machines use the PES format, Janome uses JEF, Bernina uses ART, Singer uses XXX, Viking uses HUS.

What if the design isn't available in the format my machine uses?
If you have editing or digitizing software, you will probably be able to convert the design to the format you need by opening the design, and then exporting it to the format you need. If you do not have editing or digitizing software, you can purchase conversion software, or you can go to and use their free conversion service.

Why can't I open my embroidery designs on my computer?
You need to have either digitizing, editing, or embroidery file viewing software to open the design on your computer.

I downloaded a design in the right format but I can't open it in my embroidery machine. Why?
This usually happens because the design is larger than your machine's maximum embroidery field. Many machines with a maximum embroidery field of 4" X 4" come with additional hoops that are larger than the max field. This large hoop does not make the field larger, it is usually meant for re-positioning in order to split designs, or sew out 2 designs without re-hooping.

If the design is not significantly larger than your maximum field, you can re-size the design with editing, digitizing, or re-sizing software. Be sure to use a program that will adjust the stitch count.

What is the stitch count, and why do I need to adjust it?
That would be the total number of stitches contained in the design. If you downsize a 8"X6" design with 30K stitches to 4"X3" without adjusting the stitch count, your 4"X3" design with 30K stitches would be one ugly little lump of stitches. Conversly, if you stretched a 4"X3" design with 10K stitches to 8"X6" without adjusting the stitch count, your design would look very "thin".

How do I get the designs from my computer to my machine?
If your embroidery machine has a USB port, it may also have come equipped with software to allow for transferring designs via a USB cable, or USB memory stick. Check your machine owner's manual for specifics on transferring via USB cable.

If your embroidery machine has a card slot, but no USB port, you will need a card reader/writer, and a blank card such as the Amazing Designs Little Max bundle. Connect the reader/writer box to your computer with the included USB cable, and transfer your design to the Little Max card. The place the card in your embroidery machine to access the design.

Note: The Little Max cards are available in several formats (PES, JEF, ART, etc.) sure to purchase the correct format for your machine.

If you have a Brother or Baby Lock machine, the Brother PED-Basic reader/writer, and blank card will work with your machine.

I downloaded designs to my computer but my transfer box software doesn't recognize them. What do I do now?
The files are probably zipped, so you need to extract them. If you do not know how to do this, do a web search on "how to extract zipped folders in XXX" where XXX = your operating system (i.e. Windows 7, Windows Vista, etc.) If you are having trouble finding the file you downloaded, and you're using Windows, check your Downloads folder. This folder is often visible by clicking Start then Computer (or My Computer) -- if you don't see it on the list look in C:/Users/your computer name.

I purchased some Alaphabets, but they are not showing up in my embroidery machine, or software lettering screen. How do I access them?
When you purchase alphabets, you are actually purchasing 26 (or more) different design files, not fonts. For more information on alphabets vs. fonts, click on "Topics", and read the Embroidery Software Buying Guide.

Do you still have questions? Please feel free to comment here, or on my FaceBook page.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Where do you find the weight of Coats Dual Duty XP Heavy thread? It is not on the spool anywhere or even on their website.

    1. Most of the manufacturers don't list the weight of threads anymore.

    2. Well that is convenient for us beginners....

    3. Yea, I hear ya. Maybe they felt the system was too confusing, but they didn't do us any favors by removing those references. I think it's safe to assume that unless a thread is marked "heavy", it's a 40 weight thread -- most sewing and embroidery threads are. You can find a little more info in my Sewing Thread Primer on this site...

    4. :) thank you Sounds like just what I need!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!
    I'm a beginner in this field. Since I have imagination and some graphic designer skills more than embroidery or sewing, I'm aiming to set up a shop specializing in digital downloads for machine embroidery appliques. Could you please share your advise on what software should I buy in order to export to formats ART, DST, EXP, JEF, PES, VIP, VP3, XXX, HUS if there is any (one) that I can use to export in all formats. Thank you!

  4. awesome advice, generously given. thank you for answering a ton of questions I had, in just one post. I am a longtime sewist who just got her mittens on a cool embroidery machine. looking for answers on the interweb has been horrifyingly confusing. thanks for being the cool breath of fresh air. i comment here, because the comments to the other post are closed.

    I downloaded some pretty alphabets, managed to stitch them out as individuals to form a word, and was looking to see if there is an option where i can just string them together in the software to make the name as one file :)
    thanks to you, now i know where to look. thank you for giving your expertise and time for the general public. it helps a lot, in case you did not know. stay blessed!
    best regards,
    Jaya's Place