X is for Xacto Knife

X is for Xacto KnifeThe dictionary is short on all words beginning with X so it was hard to come up with a word that was relevant to machine embroidery and quilting. While you may not use an actual Xacto knife, you will more than likely need to “X” things that shouldn’t be there!

I prefer to leave my seam ripper alone and instead use a pair of Extra Fine Double Curved Scissors by Havel’s in combination with my BERNINA brand tweezers. The scissors are a lot sharper – and finer – than the seam ripper.

Havel's Extra Fine Double Curved ScissorsHavel’s makes two kinds of Double Curved Scissors – the “regular” ones shown on the right in the photo above, and the Extra Fine ones shown on the left. I’ve come to love the extra fine ones because of the precision they help me to achieve.

When am I going to be X-ing stuff?

In addition to the obvious “made a mess, need to un-sew” situations, there are three things that need to be Xed when doing machine embroidered appliqué.

  1. When you’ve stitched the appliqué placement lines in a design and are ready to fuse the appliqué shapes in place, X all basting lines that would end up underneath the appliqué shapes. These are the basting lines that you stitched on your sewing machine when you were transferring the marking lines from your stabilizer to the background fabric. Just in case you’re wondering which basting lines I’m talking about, click here to check out my Back To Basics Part 2 video which describes how to do multiple hoopings on one piece of background fabric.

    Use your Extra Fine Double Curved Scissors to clip the basting line a couple of stitches outside of the appliqué shape and also clip every 3-4 stitches across the appliqué shape. Be sure to leave all intersections of the basting line intact as you’ll potentially need these for future hoopings. If there’s an intersection underneath an appliqué shape that you’re about to fuse in place and you know there is at least one more hooping that needs to be done – be sure to read the instructions because you’ve probably stitched your hoopings in the wrong order!

    Then grab the snipped threads with your tweezers and pull them out!
  2. Remember the basting line that gets stitched around the outside of the design to hold the background fabric in place on the stabilizer in the hoop? When you’ve finished stitching a design, that basting line needs to be Xed. The easiest way to do it is trim every 2-3 stitches on the right side, then flip everything over and grab hold of the bobbin thread on the back.

    The bobbin thread should pull right out, only needing to be clipped at the end(s). Now you can turn back to the right side and use your tweezers to grab any little bits of thread that are still in the needle holes.
  3. The third thing that needs to be Xed is any jump stitches. In an ideal world, I like to X jump stitches as the design is being stitched. If there are small jump stitches between, say, candlewicking stitches, then I wait until I can take the hoop off the machine to X them. Use your tweezers to lift the jump stitch off the background fabric, making it much easier to use your Extra Fine Double Curved Scissors to get really close into the stitches to trim the jump threads.

As for those “made a mess, need to unsew” situations, get rid of as much thread from underneath as possible using your Extra Fine Double Curved Scissors and then use your tweezers to lift threads off from the top.

If you’re looking for a pair of Havel’s Extra Fine Double Curved Scissors, ask for them at your local BERNINA dealer.

Daily Deal

From 12:01am on July 16, 2017 until 11:59pm on July 18, 2017 Express Yourself and Celebrate all at the same time with 20% off

Enter the promo code “A2Z-X” at the checkout.

Add to CartExpress Yourself, $60.00
(Delivered as a digital download. Optional CD available at the checkout)


What I love about this collection… Words are powerful things. What if you could surround your loved ones with words that empower and inspire? You can – with the Express Yourself quilt.

Express Yourself

Stitched on a BERNINA 830
featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread
and fabric from STOF Quilter’s Shadow collection

The Express Yourself collection was created in response to many people asking when I was going to complete the alphabet used in the Peace Love and Joy collection. It includes stand-alone machine embroidered appliqué letters as well as quilted in the hoop blocks (5″ x 6″ finished) with 3 different quilted backgrounds for each letter.

A quick word.
The Express Yourself quilt is not a true crossword.
And I’m OK with that!

The original Express Yourself quilt the blocks are pieced together and the quilt has a false back on it, with some quilting in the ditch along all seam lines to hold the back flat and in place. The Celebrate quilt, created in 2 versions using the Express Yourself designs, introduces an alternative way of putting the quilted in the hoop blocks together using sashing on the front and back. No hand stitching required!

Celebrate Quilt

Stitched on a BERNINA 830
featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread
and Michael Miller’s Fairy Frost fabric

Celebrate Quilt

Stitched on a BERNINA 830
featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread
and Michael Miller’s Fairy Frost fabric

Celebrate Quilt

Stitched on a BERNINA 830
featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread
and Michael Miller’s Fairy Frost fabric

The Celebrate quilt was originally featured in the September/October 2015 issue of Designs in Machine Embroidery magazine. That issue of the magazine was honoring Ovarian Cancer Month and so I added a cancer ribbon design to the Express Yourself collection.

Celebrate Quilt

Stitched on a BERNINA 830
featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread
and Michael Miller’s Fairy Frost fabric


  1. Thank you for today’s news. The word quilt is amazing have to try this some time. My scissors and accessories are my best friends and no body touches them

  2. Sara you are making it very hard to not buy all of your designs.My wish list just keeps getting bigger and bigger.LOVE all the designs your work is beautiful. Thanks for all the tips that you are giving us each day.

  3. Love this series. Not looking forward to it ending.

  4. I Love getting information in my email daily and I too will be sad for it to come to an end. I have really enjoyed it and have learned a lot of things that I wasn’t sure about. It has built my confidence. Sarah you have inspired me and I am slowly building my supplies I need to try one of your beautiful appliques. Thank you for all of your time spent preparing and sharing with us.

  5. I have this collection. Never realized it has a cancer ribbon. The quilted-in-the-hoop letters are spectacular! I am making a “welcome” banner to hang in my kitchen using this collection.

  6. Sarah, I’m loving your A-Z series so much and I’ve learned so much. Thank you for all of these wonderful tutorials. I have the Express Yourself collection. Is Celebrate part of the collect? If not is there a way to get it?

    • Hi Wanda,
      Celebrate was an add on. If you can send me an email (click on the contact button in the menu bar above) I’m happy to send you the add on 🙂

  7. Thank you, Sarah! I appreciate all the time you took to make this series. I enjoyed it and learned very much. I have been embroidering since 2004 but I do not quilt. I make Mass vestments for missionary priests in India, Africa, and anywhere that I hear of a need. Doing that doesn’t give me time to also make quilts, but I do use many of your approaches to a finished product.

  8. I love both of these desisigs! Thanks for today’s tips.

  9. Thanks again for sharing!

  10. Great tip on removing the basting box and alignment placement stitches.. I use you’re technique when clipping jumpstitch and thread during embroidery
    .love all of your designs and am enjoying this series. Thank you Sarah!

  11. Great tips today once again,

  12. I have had an embroidery machines since 2003 and after following this series of letters then, watching your youtube videos, have realized there are several areas in which I have learned brand new tips and tricks so thank you for this series.

  13. Like you, Sarah, I avoid seam rippers and prefer to use tiny sharp curved scissors and good tweezers. But my favorite tool of all for getting out basting stitches in the hoop is a Clover curved tip awl. Awesome tool, gets into those teeny tiny jump stitches, too, so they can be snipped with those itty bitty scissors … thank you for all the wonderful tips you’ve been posting. I have learned a great deal from you during this alphabet!

  14. I try to guess what word and lesson you have affiliated with each letter. You had me stumped with “X”! Love the A-Z surprises!
    Thanks Sarah!

  15. I will be sorry to see this A-Z end. Have looked forward everyday to something new and inspirational.

  16. Thanks so much! I hope these will stay available for reference!!! I have eagerly awaited each day!

  17. Love this, I couldn’t imagine what you were going to come up with for the “x.” You have such a creative mind.

  18. Great Job!!!! You are a great person, knowing and sharing are super characters to have. Thank you

  19. This is one reason that your work is so perfect……your attention to every detail and finding the best way to accomplish the task at hand. This email series has been so very informative and fun to receive each day . Thanks so much for all of your hard work in bringing it to us. It is so appreciated. Love all of your design collections. If only there were more hours in each day. Hard to choose from all of the wonderful choices.

  20. Thank You Sarah! It is so difficult with arthritic fingers to get to the small threads for clipping etc. I have used my serger tweezers plus a few others I have found but I love the look of the Bernina ones – they look to be more precise. Now on to hunt them down!

  21. I bought “Express Yourself” at Bernina Connection’s first Destination Creativity, but have yet to try it out. Looking forward to getting into this design! I love it!

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