Sequence changes

3 places where you have some control over the order things are done :
– alter the stitching within an embroidery step,
– change the sequence of embroidery steps within a motif,
– change the sequence of embroidery motifs within a combination.

– – –

Change which stitches are sewn within an embroidery step

Use the thread break tool on the Embroidery screen.


Use this if you want to :
– repeat some of the stitches within an embroidery step (perhaps for added strength or because you had to unpick some),
– omit some stitches (I have skipped some stitches of an in-the-hoop design where the stitches on a bulky area were landing in the wrong place – I did that part of the construction on a sewing machine instead).

See Thread break post for more on how to use this tool.

Change sequence of whole embroidery steps within a motif

In most embroidery motifs the different steps are for different colours.

In some embroideries (appliqué, piecing, in-the-hoop, etc.), some steps are for construction. In some of those cases you may be able to add another motif between construction steps by using the colour bar, post in preparation.

Change the sequence of steps using the colour bar on the Embroidery screen.

The colour bar is in the colour used in the current step, and the screen image shows the parts of the motif stitched in this step.

Use the up and down arrows if you want to :
– repeat a whole embroidery step,
– omit a whole embroidery step,
– change the order of embroidery steps.

See Embroidery screen tools post for more on how to use this tool.

Change sequence of motifs within a motif combination

Two options here :

Long term change :
Use the motif re-ordering tool on the Editing screen

See the Change stitch out order post for more on how to use this tool.
This new version of your design can be saved for later use.

Short term change :
Use the colour bar on the Embroidery screen to select the first step of the motif you want to stitch next.
See above and Embroidery screen post for how to use this tool.

= = = = =

Routine maintenance

TLC for the Bernina 500E :

– Change the needle,
– clear out threads and fluff from the thread catcher and around the bobbin area,
– oil the bobbin area.
There’s no one simple rule for when to do these actions.

– – –

Change needle

manual p.37

Bernina suggest changing :
– a conventional embroidery needle every 30,000 stitches,
– a gold/ chrome needle every 90,000 stitches.
The Workbook recommends ‘change your needle every 4-6 hours of sewing time’, but I don’t find it easy to measure sewing time, see later.

A main embroidery supplier here (UK) suggests :
– change a conventional needle every 8 hours,
– a Superior/Organ titanium needle lasts 5 to 8 times as long.
That could be 150,000 to 240,000 stitches ! As these needles are not much more expensive, that could make a good saving.

Check how many stitches in the next project. Would it be a good idea to change needle before starting ?
Perhaps choose needle type according to how big the next project is ? I recently bought a design which has 250,000 stitches in all – perhaps that isn’t as far beyond the bounds of possibility as I thought !

Find how many stitches in a design :
a. from information supplied by designer,
b. it’s given on the stitching screen of the 500E during stitch out,
c. you can usually get it in embroidery software.

Find the total number of stitches sewn so far by the 500E.
Touch this icon sequence :
number stitches sewn
manual p.60

I log the stitch count when I change the needle and change the bobbin, and at the beginning or end of big projects, so I can keep track of this.

– – –

Clean thread cutter and fluff under stitch plate

Take off stitch plate.
Clean above bobbin hook.

If you leave cleaning the thread cutter for a while, a notice may come up on screen telling you to do it.
The stitches count screen (see above) also records ‘Total number of cut cycles since cleaning’.

Videos showing how to do this cleaning – not on the 500E but on other machines with the big bobbin :
Sarah at Sewing Mastery – 3 min.
Bernina Jeff – 9 min.
They show it’s important to do this using the on-machine instructions, as those instructions include part of the process.

Touch this icon sequence to get to cleaning instructions on the 500E :
access cleaning
manual p.64

On the 500E, moving the thread catcher for easy access is a 2-step process :
– touch ‘move thread catcher out’ on-screen link (beeps),
– thread catcher moves when you press the real button with scissors on, above the needle.

While there : as well as the thread catcher, clean out lint and any other fluff under the stitch plate (manual p.94)

Finish with another 2-step process :
– touch ‘move thread catcher in’ link (beeps),
– press real button marked with scissors.

(Not the same icons or actions as in the Workbook or the post linked at end here.)

– – –

Clean hook race

Clean around bobbin case area.

good photos – manual p.93-4
Bernina blog post

On recent models it’s easier to get the hook race back in :
position the hook so you can see the coloured circle on the hook driver through the hole in the hook (manual p.94).
Here’s a video from Sara of Sewing Mastery.

– – –


Bernina machines do need oiling regularly in the bobbin area.

Use Bernina oil, not general sewing machine oil, or any other type of oil.
Hmm – the oiler could have come with instructions :
– pull off the transparent cap,
– with a light touch, press the 2 light ovals in the dark area.

Good brief Bernina oiling video.
One drop in each place – on the hook race, and the circles in the bobbin case holder.
In the bobbin case holder, keep oil away from the central metal circle, and wipe excess off the black area.

Manual p.94-5 has good photos if you like to take it more slowly.

This is the oiling needed by ‘new 5 Series’ machines. Bernina oiling instructions are specific to given bobbin mechanisms. So don’t follow oiling instructions for earlier models.

Here’s a written tutorial from the Bernina blog with information about oiling most Bernina machines.

– – –

How frequently ?

On an embroidery machine it can be helpful to use bobbin change as a rough time marker as, whatever the projects stitched, the same bobbin thread is usually used throughout.

Bobbin change and needle change ? I’m currently changing the bobbin thread I use, so haven’t yet used a complete bobbin sufficiently often to have a clear idea how many stitches are made with one bobbin.

Bobbin change and cleaning-oiling ? Bernina say :
“It is recommended that you clean and oil every other bobbin, or every 3-4 hours of actual sewing time.”
Is this instruction left over from the days of smaller bobbins ? or are they talking about the larger bobbins. . .

The trouble with time limits is that I like to take things slowly with many a pause for thought, and I usually run the machine at half speed or less, so my sewing time bears no relation whatever to how much work the machine has done.

Some people clean and oil after every big project, or daily if they use their machine a great deal. How often you need to clean also depends on how fluffy the thread you use is (usually cheaper = fluffier). Sara at Sewing Mastery says to oil each time you sit down to sew. I work very slowly, so not much is done in any one sewing session. Too much oil causes different problems from too little. Obviously this is a matter where you need to take personal factors into account !

So for now I choose to clean and oil at every bobbin change.

– – –

Bernina blog post about the maintenance guidance on your machine (mainly for the 880).

The machine will also tell you when it needs a professional service, see manual p.102.
My dealer says every 3 years even if it’s not used much. . .

It is worth helping your machine to work well for you 😀

= = = = =

Machine troubleshooting

Here are some links to help with troubleshooting the machine.

For troubleshooting embroidery, see What your sample can tell you – stitch troubleshooting.

Thread nest

How to deal with thread nests must be the most frequently asked question from a new owner on the Bernina 5 series Facebook page. I too spent the first few days with each of my Bernina’s thinking I had bought a lemon.
When I got my 480 I learned :
when top threading, ensure :
machine is switched on before threading.
presser foot lever is up.
After threading :
1. hold thread at spool and needle ends and ‘floss’ to and fro to ensure it’s between tension discs.
2. put presser foot down and pull on thread from needle end, to ensure it is held by tension discs. If not, completely un-thread and thread again.
(see about half way through Threading post).
When I got my 500E I also found :
After both those tests, do a thread up to bring the bobbin thread up above the fabric (see about half way through the One colour stitch out post).

For a written post about more solutions to try, see this from the Bernina blog : all the things you can do about a thread nest.

You may have to clear out thread tangled in the hook race around the bobbin case. Robyn Curd demos dealing with it in this video, from 20.10.
The easy way of getting the bobbin case holder, the ‘hook’, back in the right place is to position the hook so you can see the coloured circle on the hook driver through the hole in the hook (manual p.94).

Some Berninas are fussy about which thread brand they stitch well with. I haven’t heard that with the 500E, and I haven’t had any such problem so far. (I don’t use really cheap thread.)

(The second most frequent question on the FB page asks how to stitch 6×10 designs : use the Mega hoop.)

If the protective plastic won’t come off :
For me it only stayed stuck to the stainless steel arm top surface. I have seen stainless steel cleaner recommended. Only spraying it on direct worked for me, not applying it with a cloth. Spray round the edges of the plastic so it can seep underneath, leave for a few minutes, then pull off from the edge. It needed repeated applications. But it did all come off in the end.

for other issues, try these :

Manual, pp.96-102.

Operating system problems

Check that all the settings in the left menu are correct. It’s not enough that foot, hoop, stitch plate, needle are correct physically on the machine, the software has to know that they’re correct too !

Sounds simple – but just switch off and then switch on again. Often the machine recovers from getting confused !

Physical problems

Bernina Jeff (videos, scroll down, most apply to the 500E as well)

Jack Creek Road (videos, not specific to Bernina)

– – –

Why I am writing this

For all the topics covered in other posts, see the black pull-down menu under the header photo.

I hope you find these posts as helpful to read as I did to write 😀

= = =

The manual for this machine – hmm. . .
Here hopefully is what you need to know.
Well, my liking for detailed written instructions is not right for everyone. All this is not best for ‘jump in and have a go’ learners, or for people who need to see a video 😀

If you do greatly prefer videos, the marvellous Sara at Sewing Mastery has several series on Bernina machines. She has just (mid 2020) started filming the Bernina 790 Plus, the first machine she has filmed which has much the same embroidery software as the 500E, so I am looking forward to seeing her videos on this.

The Bernina 500 series Facebook page is also full of helpful people who answer specific queries.

– – –

I read manuals. When I do something for the first time I like to work through detailed step by step instructions.
For me the exploring comes later, when I know the basics of what to do.
The 500E does many marvellous things, and I want to use it to the full.

But this manual I can barely make any sense of.
I guess Bernina assumes you have easy access to dealer advice.
But in the UK, access to dealer lessons is very rare – my dealer is 200 miles away. So we depend on the manual.
And I’ve found this manual very difficult to make sense of. It’s not written from the point of view of the user.

There’s a pdf version of the manual here.

Happily the machine and software are very much better thought out than the manual.
But this machine is complex, it takes a bit of effort to get to grips with it all at first.

I’m the sort of person who needs to know the general principles and concepts of what I’m doing. And this manual is very much in : ‘if you press this button this happens’ style. Fortunately the workbook is better for giving coherent sequence for doing something. But it too rarely says why you might want to do it.

I also like know a lot about what to do before I try something for real. And this manual and workbook rarely have the answers to my questions. I’ve had to do much exploring. And calm down and recover from much confusion, when I’ve often completely misunderstood how to do something.

I’m also the sort of person who writes things out as part of making sense of them, and writes out my own detailed instructions when they’re not provided. So this is primarily for me. If I can write instructions, then I understand what to do and have a written record to refer back to. If this also helps other people then good, and you’re welcome 😀

Even two years after I got this machine, I am still learning more about basic operations, and adding to this when I do. This ‘blog’ makes a ‘log’ of what I did finally discover is how things work, both the structure of what operations are available, and how to do them. And a source to check when I do something again, to see if I have forgotten details.

Here’s the sequence of tutorials/instructions for myself that I came up with. I have used an embroidery machine (though more than a decade ago), and a Bernina machine with the same bobbin – so I did know how to start, and how to make sense of things without much guidance. But this does mean I may leave out some point that is important for complete beginners !

And I certainly did not get to this point quickly or easily. I’ve been through several cycles of thinking I understood what to do, then finding another nugget of information which made me realise I didn’t understand how it works at all and got plunged back into confusion.
Hopefully I have now gone through enough of those cycles and do know what I’m talking about !
So some of these posts have gone through 3 or 4 versions, when what I thought earlier turned out to be nonsense. . . or when I tried out what instructions there are in the manual and a whole lot of unexpected things happened.

I’m not giving complete information about how to do things in these posts.
I assume you’re looking at the manual pages mentioned.
This is just the things I would have liked the manual to tell me, that I usually had to find out or make sense of for myself !

When I first got the 500E, 2 years ago, after a couple of weeks of desperate and unsuccessful blundering about, I listed several posts planned about what to do leading up to a first stitch out, as this machine is certainly not ‘switch on and go’ :
– general set-up.
– threading.
– hoops and hooping.
– permanent menu, the Home screen.
– selecting a built-in design, the navigation bar.
– doing a one-colour stitch out.
– troubleshooting and maintenance.
I added long term plans for groups of posts on using embroidery designs from the internet, and using the lettering, editing, colouring, combining, and placement tools on this machine.

Two years later many of these posts have been written – see black pull-down Index bar under header photo for these. These posts are still being added to as I find out more. It may be a while before I get down to sorting out how to do much re-colouring, or accurate placement on the fabric, as they’re not my current priorities.

[Note : most modern Bernina embroidery machines have similar firmware and editing functions, so my ‘discoveries’ apply to most of them. There are some things the 535, 570, 770QEE cannot do, and I have tried to mention them.]

= = = = =

Mega hoop

Topics :
Measurements of embroidery area.
3 Positions and 5 Areas of hoop.
Adding position changes to embroidery instructions.
Changing position during stitch-out, position change and warning animations.

The long thin Bernina Mega hoop, optional but usable on the Bernina 500E, has an embroidery area 400mm/ 15.75″ maximum length, and 150mm/ 6″ maximum width approx.

Marked with 6″ square (red) and 6″x10″ rectangle (green)

(Hoop image from the Bernina USA site. I used Graphic software to show roughly the embroidery design sizes.)

6″x 10″ (150 x 250mm) designs can be stitched in the middle position of the Bernina Mega hoop without moving the hoop.

You can also stitch 6″x6″ (150mm x 150mm) squares, but that can be rather wasteful of materials. I often hoop only the stabiliser, and ‘float’ i.e. baste a piece of fabric onto it.
For 6×6 designs you have the choice of Midi or Mega hoop, but you need the Mega for 6×10.

This is a ‘multi-position’ hoop.
A long design is stitched in 2-3 separate sections using this hoop. There is no need to re-hoop the fabric, instead the hoop can be used at 3 different positions on the machine.
The multi-position Bernina Mega hoop makes it possible to stitch up to 400mm/ c15-3/4″ length designs on Bernina 5 series machines without re-hooping the fabric, even though these machines only have a 250mm/ 10″ length embroidery field.

You can use this hoop on Bernina 7 series and 880 machines, but it isn’t necessary. They can stitch up to 400mm in the Maxi and Jumbo hoops without changing position.

Like the Large Oval and Midi hoops, the embroidery area in the Bernina Mega hoop is not a rectangle, you can’t stitch a design of 6″ width all the way along the hoop.
The largest complete rectangles you can stitch using this hoop are about :
width . . . . . . . . . . length
150mm/ 6″ . . . . . 300mm/ 12″
80mm/ 3.2″ . . . . . 400mm/ 15.75″
To stitch out those lengths, you have to change the position of the hoop.

3 settings and 5 areas of hoop

Left – total area of the hoop which can be stitched when the hoop is in this position.
Right – this area of the hoop can be stitched when the hoop is in these positions.

Use the Var.00 template (purple grid) with the 500E. Template grid lines every 1cm.

These overlapping areas mean when using a multi-position hoop there doesn’t need to be a clean dividing line across the design where the position changes. For example, some parts of the design in the second area may be stitched while the hoop is in position 1, other parts while the hoop is in position 2, and so on along the design.

I have used my Bernina Mega hoop for 6×10″ designs (position 2 only), but haven’t yet used it for multi-position designs. So the next sections are just what I’ve found out so far, not based on stitching experience.

Adding hoop position changes to a row of small designs

When there’s a gap between motifs in a design, for example if it’s a series of letters or a repeated ‘Endless’ motif or other motifs in a row, then the 500E can decide to make a hoop position change in a gap. It tells you when to change, see later.

If you want to make good use of the ‘Endless embroidery’ function, it’s helpful to have a Mega hoop. If you’re making a long border you have to do fewer fabric re-hoopings than with a Large Oval hoop. And you can use slightly wider motifs. The 500E can make all the decisions needed for Endless embroidery – you don’t need any extra software.

Adding hoop position changes to long continuous designs

When there is no natural break in a long (longer than 10″/ 250mm) design, the instructions about which parts of the design to stitch when the hoop is in a given position and when to change the hoop position, need to be included in the embroidery design.

Built-in long designs
There are a couple of long designs among the built-in designs on the 500E. They include hoop position change instructions. Neither of them is long enough to use the entire hoop.
folder 3, motif 34, manual p.121 (uses 2nd and 1st positions)
folder 10, motif 21, manual p.150 (uses 3rd and 2nd positions)
(If you want to have a look at this – the move-hoop instructions appear even if you just click through the colours on the Embroidery screen without doing the actual stitching. The Embroidery screen insists there must be a Mega hoop on the 500E, but you can use an empty one !)

Imported long designs
If you have an imported design from another designer which is long enough to need this hoop, then you also need upper-mid-level embroidery software which does ‘design splitting’.
This software tool can add the necessary change-hoop-position instructions to the design.

I don’t know about all the software options, but design splitting is listed in the functions of these :
Embird Basic (Windows).
Embrilliance Essentials (Windows and Mac).
Wilcom Hatch Composer (Windows).
Bernina Toolbox does not do design splitting.

Changing hoop position during stitch-out

When to change position
An animation on the 500E screen tells you to move the hoop.
Here is the one for moving to position 1 (not the image shown in the hoop booklet).

mega pos1 manual p.100

How to change position
Change the position manually : hold the hoop attachment handles together and slide the hoop along in the attachment mechanism until it clicks in place.

If the hoop is not correctly in one of the click-in-place positions, when you touch the Embroidery tab a ghost hoop screen appears briefly, then it reverts back to the Design Overview screen.

– – –

There is much more that you can do with the Bernina Mega hoop than you might guess from the booklet that comes with it.
More notes to come on this hoop – there are many options to try out !

= = = = =

Text 2 – letter layout, stitch density

There are four extra editing tools which only work on text, in two different groups :
Word Art – change layout of letters : spread them out or curve them.
Stitch Density – change stitch length and stitch spacing.
Plus I give an example of changed stitch length in a large letter.

– – –

These are specialised editing tools which apply only to text. Text can also be changed with the general editing tools which can be used on all motifs, see the Text basics post.

Word Art
button on Edit screen, manual p.71, workbook p.28.

The Word Art tools change the layout of the letters in the text motif. There are 2 options, for :
– spreading letters further apart,
– curving a row of letters.
As you turn the rotary knobs, the effect appears on the 500E screen next to the controls, so these tools are easy to use.

This tool only works on newly entered text, it doesn’t alter duplicated or saved text motifs. If the tool is not available, the button is greyed out on the Edit screen.

Spread letters further apart – use Upper rotary knob.
There doesn’t seem to be any limit to how far apart you can spread them, except of course for hoop size.
letter spacing workbook 2013 : Drifter font.

Curve text – use Lower rotary knob :
turn knob clockwise – middle of motif curves up, anti-clockwise – curves down.
Goes out to ±100, about half a circle.
letters curved Child’s Play font.

I haven’t got these to work on imported text.
The 770QEE cannot do these functions.

= = =

Stitch Density
stitch density button on Edit screen, manual p.71-2, workbook p.32

The ‘Stitch Density’ tools change the way letters are stitched.
The letters on the 500E are made from satin-stitch-like zigzags.
There are tools for changing 2 types of ‘density’.

stitch type tools manual p.72

Change each ‘zig’ and ‘zag’ from being one stitch to a line of shorter stitches (step stitches).
Touch the switch (1) to activate, use Upper rotary knob or ± buttons to change stitch length (2).
Stitch shortening can be good with large letters, in which long stitches could get snagged easily. See example later.
It can change the surface texture of letters. The texture depends on the interaction of font, letter size, and stitch length – needs testing for specific cases.

Change how far apart the zigzags are.
Use Lower rotary knob or ± buttons. Turn clockwise to get zigzags closer together.
Useful to control the coverage with textured fabrics or different thickness threads.
Can change the look of the letters, but if you open up the stitches too much the underlay stitches will show.

I found in my try-outs that it’s best to change stitch length before stitch spacing. Sometimes if you use the tools the other way round nothing changes – aargh, at first I thought this tool wasn’t working. . .

Much to my surprise, this does work on some imported satin-stitch text – needs testing for each case.

Example of a large letter

Making the fonts on the 500E smaller may not be very successful, see my comments in the Text basics post.
But it is possible to make these letters very much larger. And you can use the Stitch Density tools on these larger letters.

anniversary A
Anniversary A, enlarged to 580%, size 144 x 177mm/ 5.7 x 7″, step stitch length 2mm, c21,000 stitches,
stitched with polyester embroidery thread on quilting cotton in Mega hoop.
With 2 layers of no-show mesh stabiliser, the wide upright is very puckered.

The re-sizing tool must have added many extra stitches, otherwise the zigzags would be well spaced apart.
Using the stitch density controls, I changed the stitch length but not the stitch spacing in this letter.
I think it’s impressive and exciting that the 500E can do this 😀
Though the enlargement isn’t perfect – look carefully and the outline is a little wobbly. A small fraction of a millimetre, when multiplied, becomes a noticeable amount.
(I wonder if on the 880 it’s possible to fill the Jumbo hoop with one letter !)

Notice the effect of these density tools isn’t shown on the same screen as the controls.
The effects of stitch length and spacing changes can’t be shown easily on the 500E screen – this screen isn’t really suited to seeing what’s happening at stitch level ! At maximum zoom you can only see a tiny area of the design – enough to see there has been a stitch change, and that the change is different with different stitch lengths. It shows a small area of stitch positions, but can’t show the visual effect of real stitches.
step stitches
Those apparent lines of dots are not all on the same original stitch. That part of the embroidery is about 8mm wide, so each original stitch should have become 4 stitches, and it looks like that in the photo. To the eye, the embroidery looks as if it has a twill-fabric-like texture.

The central line of stitches is the underlay stitching – that didn’t get doubled up when the letter size was increased !

Although the manual and workbook only have a couple of sentences about these special text editing tools, the effect of these stitch changing tools is complex.
In most real applications, the effect of changes in stitch length and spacing on how letters look depends not only on font and letter size, but also on fabric texture and thread thickness. The full effect of these tools can’t be seen on the 500E screen.
So stitch density changes need to be tried in real stitch-out samples to find the best settings to use.
It is impressive that the 500E can do this with existing letters. But it must be admitted – in some applications the result is more predictable using digitising software, which allows you to set up letter shapes from scratch and choose the fill pattern.

Good Luck with exploring the possibilities 😀

= = = = =

Hoops 3 – larger hoops

Topics :
Sizes of bigger hoops and what can be stitched in them.
Relative prices of machines which can use bigger hoops.
Effect of using bigger hoops on ease of making large projects such as quilts.

– – –

Sizes of bigger hoops and what can be stitched in them

The widest embroidery a Bernina new 5 series machine can stitch is 165mm/ about 6.5″.
This looks as if it’s a software limit on the 500E, the embroidery module and free arm look as if they have space for wider hoops.

The widest hoop usable on new 5 series machines is the Midi – 165mm / 6.5″ wide.
The longest hoop usable is the Mega – 400mm / 15.75″ long.

There are bigger Bernina hoops.
But the Bernina Maxi (about 8″ wide) and Jumbo (about 10″ wide) hoops can’t be used on the 500E, they are not recognised by the software. They’re optional on 7 and 8 series machines.

Maximum length :
The Mega, Maxi and Jumbo hoops are all the same maximum length, 40cm/ 15-3/4″.
7 and 8 series machines can stitch the entire length of the Maxi and Jumbo hoops in one go, these are not multi-position hoops.

Maximum width – these are oval hoops, not square or rectangular :

15cm/ 6″ wide designs, on 7 and 8 series :
Maxi hoop – 6″ rectangles can be about 35cm/13-3/4″ long.
Jumbo hoop – 6″ rectangles can be about 37cm/14-1/2″ long.

20cm/8″ wide designs, on 7 and 8 series :
Maxi hoop (max. length 400mm/ 15-3/4″, max. width 210mm/ 8-1/4″)
8″ rectangles can be about 250mm/10″ (possibly 280mm/11″) long.
(template lines are 1cm apart, 2.5 squares = 1″)
maxi hoop

Jumbo hoop (max. length 400mm/ 15-3/4″, max. width 260mm/ 10-1/4″)
8″ rectangles can be about 330mm/13″ long (so you can stitch 8×12 designs on an 880).
jumbo hoop

The 7 series can take a Jumbo hoop, but only stitch up to 8″ wide designs. It stitches 8″ to one side of the Jumbo hoop, not down the middle.
jumbo marked 7
approx. area of the Jumbo hoop which can be stitched on a 7 series machine

22.5cm/9″ wide designs, on 8 series only :
Jumbo hoop – 9″ rectangles can be about 280mm/11″ long.

25cm/10″ wide designs, on 8 series only :
Jumbo hoop (max. width 260mm / 10.25″) – 10″ rectangles can about about 220mm/8-3/4″ long.

Currently (early 2020) the biggest complete rectangles which can be stitched on ‘domestic’ machines from other companies are approx. :
Janome : 9″ x 12″
Babylock, Brother : 9-1/2″ x 14″
Husqvarna, Pfaff : 13-1/4″ x 14″
Bernina have emphasised robustness over size in their hoop designs. (The cheaper Bernette embroidery machines do have rectangular hoops, biggest about 6″x10″.)

Larger designs can be stitched in smaller hoops, by using mid-level embroidery software to split a big design so it can be stitched section by section.
This involves re-hooping the fabric. There are several aids to accurate placement on the 500E, which I plan to talk about later.

– – –

Relative prices of machines which can use bigger hoops

What do you have to spend on a Bernina machine, to be able to stitch out wider designs without splitting the design and re-hooping the fabric ?
8″ designs : The Bernina 700E embroidery-only machine costs about 40% more than the 500E. The embroidery area is about 40% bigger too. The design editing you can do is much the same as on the 500E.
10″ designs : The Bernina 880 machine is for sewing and embroidery combined. It costs about 3 times the price of a 500E. The embroidery area is about 75% bigger, and you get enriched decorative stitch and design editing options too.
Both machines are bigger and heavier, with a bigger screen.

I’m very happy with my 480 sewing and 500E embroidery machines, combined cost about 55% of the 880 price. I like to have the 2 functions separated, instead of having to make all the changes needed to switch between sewing and embroidery modes on a combo machine.
Also when I started machine embroidery, I thought 5×7 designs were huge (they were the biggest possible at the time). I now find the Large Oval hoop plenty large enough for most clothing embroideries. Perhaps I would like to do more than 6×10 (using the Mega hoop) on bags and quilts !
I haven’t yet got my head around what I might do with 10×15 😀 I also doubt whether I have the hooping skills needed to use these big hoops well. I’m not so far so obsessed about stitching bigger embroidery motifs that I need to splurge out on/ cope with a bigger even more complex machine ! But I am beginning to think up my own in-the-hoop designs. Perhaps I’m beginning to be tempted by a 700E, though not by an 880 😀

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Effect of using bigger hoops on ease of making large projects such as quilts

I think these bigger machines are attractive to people who like to decorate the whole back of jackets. Or large areas of special occasion clothes. And to quilt and bag makers and home dec embroiderers who like quicker projects.
There are plenty of 5″ quilting blocks built-in on the 500E, but you would need to make rather a lot of them to complete a quilt !
As a rough estimate, using square blocks to make a King size quilt you need :
hoop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . number of blocks
10″ square . . Jumbo hoop on 8 series . . . . . . . 100
8″ square . . . Maxi hoop on 7 series . . . . . . . . . 156
6″ square . . . Mega/ Midi hoop on 5 series . . . . 278
5″ square . . . Large Oval hoop . . . . . . . . . . . . . 400
4″ square . . . Medium hoop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 624
(The actual number depends on specific size of blocks, and how much you use sashings and borders, but this gives a general idea of the amount of effort needed !)
(And to emphasise the Small hoop really is a very small special purpose hoop – to make a King size quilt using this would require 2496 @ 2″ squares.)

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Simplest colour changes on screen

There are several ways you can edit colours on the 500E.
This post just gives a simplified example of changing a single on-screen colour. I’m planning a more detailed version.
The colour tab is yet another of the options I’ve found difficult to make sense of, so I plan to extend this post quite a bit when I think I know more about re-colouring – how to change colours deliberately rather than by luck !

You can of course simply change colours in a stitch out by changing the thread used.
But what if you want to change a colour on the screen, to see the effect ?

Here’s an example from my post on combining motifs.

Text appears on the screen in black, as the text default colour.
What if you want to see on screen how coloured lettering looks in your design ?

Touch the Colour Information tab in the inner right menu : ”color-tab”
The colours used in the design are listed on the right side of the screen that appears. You can only see 4 at a time, swipe to see the others.

(Check that you are looking at the correct colour by matching the number-in-design-sequence in the colour bar on the embroidery screen with the number in this list.)

Swipe up to the black, in this design it’s the 7th colour used.
Named as Default – a specific black thread has not been chosen !

Touch rotating icon at right of black colour bar.
That gets to a different screen with a complete listing of colours in the same thread brand as the other colours of the design.
(You can change to another brand if you want to, using the menu above the colour options. There’s a huge data base of thread colours hidden away on this machine !)
Swipe up to see all colours in this brand.
Touch the colour wanted.

Some brands have 100s of subtle colours, e.g. Isacord, so it may be easier to enter colour numbers chosen from a thread card or spool.
After touching rotating icon, if need be – select thread brand in menu at top.
To get an ‘enter number’ screen : touch Q icon in navigation bar on the screen with the brand bar at top.

To go back to the design : touch Edit tab (above Colour tab, pencil icon) in inner right menu.
The motif now has this colour.

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Note on other colouring options

What is called a ‘colour wheel’ in the colour tab is not used in the conventional sense of colour mixing and working through the rainbow, as used by artists and quilters.

The ‘colour wheel’ on the colour tab changes all the colours in a design, in ways chosen by the machine, manual p.83-4.
[Note : the 535, 570, 770QEE do not have the Colour wheel.]

More on the other colouring options is planned for a later post.

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Text 3 : more fonts, more text editing

Topics :
– there are many embroidery alphabets consisting of individual letters.
– software with text tools allows you to write words and sentences, you’re not limited to using each letter as a separate motif.
– with some software you can make big changes in font sizes.
– some software can convert the True Type fonts used by word processors to embroidery files.

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If you love lettering, you’re not limited to using the 7 fonts on the 500E in your embroidery designs. (Here’s the basic text post with an image showing those.)

There are many embroidery alphabets free and to purchase on-line, some very ornate and beautiful.
”JacobeanZ” . . . . . ”ABC-Z”
Embroidery Library Jacobean . . . . . . ABC Embroidery Victorian Whitework

100s more fonts from those sites alone. Search the web for ‘machine embroidery alphabet’ or ‘machine embroidery font’ to find 1000s more.

When using those in a design, each letter has to be entered as a separate motif. So it is a lengthy process to enter more than just an initial or monogram.
Writing whole names, words and sentences is much easier using a text tool, such as on the 500E, as you can input complete lines of text.
Embrilliance Alpha Tricks is an example of software which can convert separate letter alphabets to usable from a keyboard.

Most general embroidery software allows you to input words and sentences, not just letters one at a time, so may be a good buy if you’d like more fonts with easy ways of using them.
For example, Bernina Toolbox has 100 fonts. (There’s a link on that page which says ‘Overview of Designs, Lettering and Monograms’ but it only shows designs and is very very slow.)

The software I have (Embrilliance Essentials) has 12 fonts. They’re different in style to the ones on the 500E, so make a good supplement.

The 500E can do many marvellous things, including the ways it can edit text, but many more changes can be done in text-specialised software.
Some software, such as Bernina Toolbox, has options specifically for processing lettering.
Some software can change their built-in fonts in a wider range of ways than are possible on the 500E. For example, you can’t slant the letters on the 500E – you can in some embroidery software, including Toolbox.

Stitch out a quotation or poem ? Quite small letters needed to fit it all in a hoop.
On the 500E the built-in letters don’t turn out well at much less than 1″/2.5cm height (though they can get very much bigger, see Text 2 – extra editing post).
Some software can make smaller as well as larger text size changes with their built-in fonts. Several solutions. As an example, the fonts from Embrilliance are ‘fully scaleable’ – some fonts can go down to about 1/4″/ 8mm, some up to 8″/20cm. While Bernina Toolbox uses a different method – it has special letters for small sizes.
Some of the specialist sites for embroidery fonts sort them by size. Here are a couple of them : Designs by JuJu (left menu), The Itch 2 Stitch.

My Mac computer word processors include a large number of fonts. And there are many other fonts available free or to purchase. Some embroidery software can convert word processor fonts to embroidery files.
For example, this video about Embrilliance Stitch Artist Level 1 shows how easy that can be, from 3.15 – 5.00 min.

(I’ve mentioned Embrilliance products frequently in this post because they’re available for Mac, so I’m familiar with them. There are many other sources of embroidery software for Windows, from both embroidery machine and independent companies, see this post.)

Which shapes of letters do you fall in love with ? which express ‘you’ ? which show your style ? 😀

Good Luck with your Graphic Design. It is possible to sink deep into this huge area of delights 😀

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Going further

Options emphasised in bold.
Links to more information about :
More embroidery techniques.
More editing.
What other embroidery machines offer.

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These options are available on most embroidery machines. Where relevant, I’ll relate the possibilities to the 500E.

Start with using built-in designs on the machine, without changing them, to learn the basic operations of this machine. (See the post on a one-colour stitch out.)

Then use downloaded designs, without changing them, to learn how to download and transfer designs.
Here’s a post on using a usb stick and downloaded designs.

Many many designs available to buy on-line. Whatever you love, whatever your favourite style, you can probably find someone who loves it enough to have made embroidery designs featuring it (pets, cars, hobbies, sports, lifestyles, dreams, cute, humour, fantasy, goth, steampunk . . . ).
Just some of the biggest design sites :
OESD (a Bernina company).
Embroidery Library.
Anita Goodesign.

There are so many design riches already available.
Using ready-made basic designs, in which your involvement in the stitching process is just to change thread colours, may fill your embroidering dreams.

But there are several avenues for adding to what you can do with your embroidery machine.
Some techniques need more actions from you in preparation for embroidering, some need more involvement during the embroidery process.
Explore to find what you enjoy – the process and the result 😀 ♥️ 👍 ♥️ 😀

Use different machine embroidery techniques.

Embroidery Library (Projects) and Anita Goodesign (Customer Centre) above have extensive photo tutorials and videos on different techniques. Try appliqué, lace, patchwork piecing, quilting, zippered purses, face masks . . .

There are also formal on-line video classes (not free), from such as :
Martha Pullen/The Sewing Collection.
Sewing Mastery/Heirloom Creations (class on the Anita Goodesign fundamentals sampler).

When you know what you love, searching can be rewarding. You may find small design companies which share your design style and specialise in what you love, perhaps crazy quilting, bags, quilts, in-the-hoop designs. . . Though designs and support information can vary greatly in quality.

There’s also learning about the stabilisers needed to stitch on different types of fabric. There are Bernina videos and e-books on stabilisers :
Bernina video about OESD stabilisers (many other stabiliser companies too).
Bernina e-book on stabilisers.

Or find out how to stitch on ready-made items such as tees and caps. . .
It may be easier to stitch on garments and bags with the 500E as it has a free arm.
Some links on this about 2/3 down the first Hoops post.

There’s a hoop aid for stitching on caps, a “cap buddy”. Also used for stitching on other complex 3D shapes. The Bernina Hoop-n-Buddyz is not a hoop itself but is used with the Large Oval hoop.
Some links on using it about 2/3 down the second Hoops post.

Bernina have optional ‘presser feet’ for using your machine to :
– cut out fabric shapes for appliqué,
– paint fabric,
– add crystals
which can enhance your embroidery designs. There are a few built-in designs using these tools on the 500E (manual p.151-5). More designs can be bought on-line from the Bernina designs company OESD. Plus there’s Windows-only software for using those tools to make your own designs (Design Works).
(In the UK the tools and supplies are very expensive, and I have seen comments that Bernina has not kept the software up-to-date.)

Change designs

When you see a design, do you immediately want to change it a little. . .

Explore all the editing possibilities on the 500E, see the Editing tab in the black pull-down menu above.
You can change designs, and combine designs together, and/or combine with text.
Perhaps the easiest and most used alteration is to change the design size, see about half way down the main Editing post.

You can do much more editing on the 500E than you can in free Bernina ARTlink 8 software (for Windows only, there is other software for Mac).
But ARTlink is useful if you want to see designs at full size, or print out placement templates and colour lists.

For a wider range of editing options, if you find you enjoy adapting other people’s designs to match your own ideas, get mid-level embroidery software for editing designs on your computer.
Here’s a post about Bernina software.

Make your own designs

If you find you want to make your own designs from scratch, you need digitising software.
Bernina’s digitising software is among the most expensive on the market.
See this post for a range of other software options. You can use any software which produces formats which can be read by the 500E.

Change up to another machine ?

With the 500E there’s a lifetime’s wealth of embroidery possibilities to explore 😀 but you may be thinking you could do yet more with a different machine.

In terms of the types of machine embroidery you can do, there isn’t much advantage to changing to a bigger machine.
Nearly all the different types of embroidery technique can be done in a 4″x4″ hoop.

The main advantage with more expensive machines is you can stitch bigger embroideries. The big differences with Bernina 7 and 8 series machines are in the hardware. They can embroider a wider area (8″ on the 7 series, 10″ on the 880, compared to 6″ on the 5 series), and have a much bigger screen (7″ wide compared to 4.3″ on the 500E). On the sewing side they have dual feed. They’re also bigger and heavier machines, difficult to move from one position to another or take to a class.

Mostly the 7 and 8 series do the same design editing as the 500E. There are some increased firmware abilities :
– the 880 Plus, 790 Plus and 590 can include decorative stitches in embroidery designs.
– the 880 Plus (the top Bernina machine) includes ’embroidery shaping and distortion’ to change existing designs, and ’stitch designer’ to make your own decorative stitches.

There are even more expensive Top Of Line machines from other companies, which do include other technologies. These machines have tablet sized screens.
– scan and auto-digitise on the machine (BabyLock, Brother)
– develop a design and transfer to the machine using apps on a tablet or phone and wi-fi (Husqvarna Viking, Janome , Pfaff).
TOL Husqvarna and Pfaff machines also have 13″x14″ hoops.

People who love playing with technology love these machines. But these machines aren’t essential for doing those editing tasks.

Tablet size screen : Several of those companies also have cheaper machines with tablet-size screens, without the super-power technologies. It’s even cheaper to have an embroidery machine with small screen, and see your designs full size using embroidery software on a computer !

Auto-digitising : You can do auto-digitising (make an embroidery instructions file automatically from your own image) using software on a computer. It isn’t necessary to have an embroidery machine that can do it, see software options post.

Tablet apps and wi-fi : There are machine independent apps for editing designs on a tablet or phone. From the on-site descriptions it looks as if in both Stitch Buddy and DRAWingsSnap you may be able to edit parts of a design, which you can’t do direct on the 500E. I haven’t tried them, I prefer editing on a big screen.
With these 2 apps you can’t use wi-fi to transfer designs direct to your embroidery machine, you have to do the transfer using a computer and usb stick.
I don’t know how the editing features of the TOL tablet-wifi apps compare to these.

As a quilt and bag lover I do occasionally dream of being able to stitch out larger designs, but I’m a long way from having worked through all the things I can do with my 500E 😀

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