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(Almost) Free Embroidery Software?

I think the title will surprise you; and yes, it is a teaser, as they call it, but it is also true. There is such a thing as very affordable, almost free, embroidery software! And this is a short review of the software.

Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author of the software, nor did I receive any compensation for this review. The author of the software did not ask me to review it either.
Therefore I can review it to my heart’s content!

So why do I review it? Very simple. I think it will be useful for every beginner in embroidery out there and even for advanced users who have a collection of designs already. It is a good and cheap tool and I think it deserves to be known.

Digitizing embroidery software review

When I started embroidery, many, many years ago, there were very few commercial programs and those had limited features. I remember using an early version of Embird, and the main usage I got out of that program was to SEE what designs are on the disk.

Some time ago I talked to my friends in our sewing group in Naples, FL about this program, and every single one of them had difficulties believing me: how can one sell for $20 that which, if you buy from Brother, sells (PE Design) for well over $1000? But as I said: there IS such a thing as cheap embroidery software.

You can buy designs from many sources. I have seen on eBay offers for USB sticks with 260,000 designs (yes, two hundred sixty thousand!), or you can buy individual designs as needed from specialized companies for a couple of dollars. No matter how you start, in time you will end up with thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of designs, and of course finding the right one for a project will be a big issue.

Embird was expensive; its initial price plus its add-on modules were a good 5 or 6 hundred dollars. I bought an older version, without the option to upgrade, and I remember that even in its simple version from 15+ years ago I found it baffling. You need a Ph.D. degree in Embird to use it! But its add-on module “Iconizer” was what I liked most because it allowed me to see at a glance the contents of an embroidery file, without opening the file.

That version of Embird no longer worked when I upgraded my computers, and I needed a replacement. I missed so much the capability to see the designs at a glance that I seriously considered shelling out the big $$$ to purchase a newer license, but then I remembered the difficulty to use it, and I realized I will never design my own embroidery – much cheaper and faster to buy, so I came to my senses.

Data 7 Consultancy

My logo in embroidery

But I still needed a viewer, and for a long time I went through a number of alternatives, none of them satisfactory, until sometime in 2014 I think this came to my attention: Data 7 Consultancy. They have three programs now, a designer, a viewer/convertor, and a simple viewer. The price? Around $25 for all three, something I can appreciate, and under $10 for the viewer alone. I think if I go to the movies, I will spend more, and I definitely have less fun at the movies than I have at my sewing desk!

When I bought the program the first time ( I think I bought it twice, I ended up with two licenses, for my two active computers) there was no viewer, so I only have the first two modules: EDS Design and Converter.

The price I mentioned is only informational, the author has frequent sales and the price therefore varies. The program is also offered for a free trial for a limited time, you can try it, and if you do not like it, nothing is lost – simply delete it and that’s that.

Embroidery Design Suite

The Design Suite is by far the most complex among the modules and promises full-scale digitizing capabilities.

I can attest to that: it does offer it, and it works.

I used the module for its digitizing capabilities exactly once, when I needed to digitize my logo.

In the end, I got it right even if it took me forever! The author has a very good tutorial on how to do exactly this, and it works, but the process is too long to describe here. Funny thing: in the end, I did not use the digitized design, I liked better the embroidery on the red velvet I showed above.

I did not explore the program’s capability fully, but the author has very nice tutorials, both in print (pdf) and video.

However, IT IS NOT THE PROGRAM’S FAULT that it took me long. I own now at least three other programs that do the same thing (digitize embroidery from images): Palette 11 from Babylock (equivalent to PE Design 11, the latest version at the time of this writing, which cost over $1000) and two built-in versions of the program that came with my newest embroidery machines.

Guess what: neither of the three is very easy to use, so I use them very sparingly. I don’t have fun working on the computer, I have fun making nice things, so I prefer to spend $10 to BUY a design and only modify it slightly. But the comparison of the $20 EDS software with the much more expensive ones made me appreciate the complexity of the program.

Please don’t get me wrong: a $1000 program (like PE Design) will offer a ton of features and will probably be very useful if you are a professional embroidery design maker. You will spend a lot of time learning it, and after a while, you will get the maximum benefit out of it.

I fully recommend getting this program first, if you want to explore the world of embroidery, before shelling out the big $$. You may find out in the end – as I did – that you do not want, or do not have the time, to digitize!

>> Check my tutorial Machine Embroidery on Leather

By the way, I would LOVE to hear your experience, is it only me who is frustrated with the effort needed to digitize?

I did use the EDS software extensively for combining designs. The program is good at this and I consider the $20 I spent (remember, it was long ago) a good expense even if only for this reason. You can easily rotate and combine designs, and while the rotation in itself is not remarkable – after all, you can always rotate the fabric in the hoop – the ability to combine designs so rotated is good.

Here is a series of three images showing how I loaded a design, rotated it 90 degrees then combined it with the same design to create a new one. This is of course only a short demo, it took me probably less than one minute to do all this.

Embroidery Design Conversion Tool

The conversion tool promises one thing: conversion between embroidery formats.

When I bought my Janome 350 (have you read my article Best Beginner Embroidery Machine – a practical guide ?) I had previously only Brother embroidery machines and therefore all my designs were.PES format required by Brother. Janome does not use it.PES; wanted.JEF. In fact, manufacturers of embroidery machines do not seem to want to come to this millennium in their thinking, and every single one of them has its own format.

We have automated translation for speech, but in embroidery formats, you have to go through hoops to translate. Well, the conversion tool does the trick and does it well. I do not think I need to say more. The process is very simple: go to the directory where the design to be converted is, use the mouse to right-click on it, and save it in a different format.

There are many formats available, the program reads and writes them all.

The images below show this:

So yes, the conversion tool was excellent for me, and I got a ton of designs converted. By the way, the tool allows converting all the designs in a directory in one step which is an extremely useful time-saving feature. I think the $10 or whatever the author charges at this time (prices change, he has frequent sales) are worth only the conversion function.

But I also use the conversion tool as a viewer. The standalone viewer (which I do not have, so I will not review) is in my opinion less useful if you have the conversion tool, frankly, I do not see what features I would like in a dedicated viewer that this conversion tool does not have.

Look at the images below: you can change the number of designs you preview on screen from one or two per screen to a table which in my case was 12×6 for a total of 72 icons on the screen at the same time.

Did you notice the slider at the bottom right of the images above? By moving that, you change the size of an icon, and therefore the number of icons shown simultaneously on the screen.

You can change the icon size from 80×60 pixels up to 400×300 pixels, and anything in between. The program has built-in settings for a 2×2, 3×3, or 4×4 or a variable size table (to show the designs) but I found that by keeping the “variable size” setting and varying the icon size I get the best use out of it.

Another feature that I find very useful when used under Windows 10, is the “design properties preview”; if you hover with the mouse for a second on a design you get full info, like the number of stitches, colors, width, and height. The dimensions can be shown in either metric or imperial, I have it set in inches. You do not need to open the design for this.

The program features a “Design Properties” window too where the design is shown magnified with more information:

You will notice that the information may be printed if you so wish (I never found the need to do that though).

When I started this, there was one thing that I thought needed improvement: the licensing mechanism. It was relatively difficult to transfer licenses from one machine to another unless you had access to both machines, and I wrote to the author about this. I was pleasantly surprised that the author really took my remark to heart and made it easier, now you no longer need access to the old machine, if you lost it somehow; it is not often that you get useful software, very cheap, AND support when needed!

I hope this preview is useful. In case you were wondering if there is a low-cost alternative to commercial embroidery software, this shows that there is. The software works, and it is very useful to me!

Did you find this guide helpful? If so, save this pin (see below) on your sewing board so you can come to this guide later when you are ready to try this great embroidery software, and follow me on Pinterest for more tips, tutorials, and inspiration!

Digitizing embroidery software review

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DS Embroidery UK

Monday 20th of November 2023

I presently use PE Design 10 and wilcom hatch 3... Since I started embroidery 5 years ago I have enjoyed learning to design.. I work a lot from photos and convert to vector before converting to thread designs... I have found both my softwares to work well ... I look forwards to trying this software to see if it has any different features or easier to follow design options.. Thank you for your reviews .. Damian...

Olga Balasa

Monday 20th of November 2023

PE Design (and the Babylock equivalent, Palette) are great, however they are also very expensive. This software is extremely cheap and can definitely not compare with PE Design but I found it useful especially for archiving, viewing and retrieving designs.

Sharon Jones

Saturday 18th of September 2021

The article about software was so interesting. I'm new at embroidering and love it but freaking out about figuring out the software and what to purchase. I purchased Embrilliance last year and it was so over my head, I sent it back.

Edna Touhill

Friday 20th of November 2020

I currently use envied and struggle all the time to the point where I give up and go on to something else. I did not see any pricing?

Olga Balasa

Friday 20th of November 2020

The author has pricing on his page, and he frequently has sales. I am not associated with them, I am just a user :-) Try this link http://www.data7consultancy.com/embdefault.asp

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