Monday, August 23, 2010

Cutwork Needle Tutorial

This tutorial walks through the steps of stitching a design with the PFAFF Embroidery Cutwork Needle Kit.

The kit comes with a set of four cutwork needles - each color-coded needle has a "chisel" point angled in a different direction.

Click here to see the Cutwork Needle Kit in action.

This is design #17 from PFAFF collection #441 - Creative Cutwork. These designs can be stitched using the Cutwork Needle Kit, or cut with scissors like traditional cutwork designs. The benefit to the Cutwork Needles is you don't have to remove the hoop and trim out all those tiny areas by hand.

Embroidery designs digitized to use the Cutwork Needles have teeny tiny running stitch lines (0.3mm) programmed to follow the area that is to be cut out. When you get to that color stop, you remove the regular needle and insert the correct Cutwork Needle and the design continues.

To begin, we hooped some black fabric and Inspira Whisper Web mesh stabilizer. I love using Whisper Web - it's a polyester mesh cutaway and it supports the embroidery nicely, drapes well, and doesn't have to be removed - although, you can cut away the excess if you wish. I often sew it into my quilt projects. When you wash away the water-soluble stabilizer that we'll talk about later, the Whisper Web will hold up after rinsing (unlike tear-away stablizer). The designs in this collection are all running stitches and satin stitches, so they don't require lots of extra stabilizer.

Color stop #1 stitches the stem and the cutout line for the six eyelets (the design isn't programmed to cut these eyelets. You do that with an eyelet punch. In our example, we decided not to punch them and left the centers of the eyelets as a place for crystals.) Color #2 then satin stitches around the eyelet holes.

Color #3 stitches around the basic cutwork outlines (all the flowers and leaves) with running stitches.

Then, the machine stops and prompts you to insert Cutwork Needle 1. These are inserted just like a standard needle - flat side toward the back. The tips are very sharp, so rather than using your fingernail, use the MultiPurpose tool included in the kit to hold the needle while you tighten the needle screw.

(The PFAFF Creative Vision family or the Viking Diamond family of machines - with the latest firmware update - will prompt you when to install each cutwork needle. Other embroidery machines see those color stops as any other thread color - you just follow the steps in the instruction booklet and it'll tell you when to insert each needle and thread.)

Color #4 will move the red Cutwork Needle around the areas to be cut out. As the Cutwork Needle "stitches" around the area, the chisel point cuts the fabric and stabilizer. As it goes around each flower and leaf, it will periodically jump a gap of 2 mm or so, this leaves a small gap in the perforations so the cut piece remains held in place and doesn't fall out prematurely. 

Color #5 prompts you for the yellow Cutwork Needle and runs around the same cutwork areas. The yellow needle's point is angled a different direction and helps ensure that the edge is cut completely.

Designs that will have satin stitches covering the cut edges (like this one) use only the first two needles.

Designs that leave the cut edges raw use all four needles - each needle cutting bits of the line at different angles to give you a cleaner edge (this is best for materials that don't fray, such as felt, vinyl, paper, etc.) Designs that use all four needles cannot be rotated or mirrored because that would change the angles and mess up the cutting.

After the cutting is done, leave the cutouts in place and slip a piece of water-soluble stabilizer under the hoop - Color #6 will baste the new stabilizer to the top fabric and run a tack-down stitch around the cutwork edges. The water-soluble stabilizer will support the satin stitches as they are sewn over the cutwork edges. (In our example, we added a bottom layer of contrasting fabric instead of stablizer. This gives us an interesting reverse-applique effect and doesn't have to be washed out at the end!) Leaving the cutouts in place during this basting step will support the cut edges and help keep the securing stitch from distorting them.

Once the cut edges have been secured with tack-down stitches, move the hoop to the Cut position (or remove it from the embroidery arm) and use sharp scissors to clip the little retaining tabs around the cutwork pieces and remove the cutouts. Curved blade thread snips work great for this. Be careful not to cut the bottom layer you just added.

(NOTE: I wasn't paying attention to the instructions and I did my sample incorrectly - I removed the cutout pieces before the bottom fabric had been secured in place.)

The cutwork is done, so we just continue sewing to finish the design.

Color #7 sews the satin stitches around the leaves and Color #8 sews satin stitches around the flowers.

After that, you just need to remove the basting stitches, wash out the water soluble stabilizer, and your cutwork piece is ready for finishing!

The final step is to remove the stitch plate, bobbin, and bobbin basket so you can clean out the bobbin area. As you can see, the cutting process leaves behind some lint! This mess was the result of at least three cutwork stitchouts, so it was really linty by the time we finally cleaned the machine.

Here's the final project with backing, batting, crystals, and a simple fused binding added:

The Embroidery Cutwork Needle Kit includes a package of four color-coded Inspira Cutwork Needles, a Multi-Purpose Tool for inserting the needles (identical to the tool that comes with the CV and Diamond machines, but thoughtfully provided for older machines that didn't come with one.), an instruction booklet, and a CD with designs, instructions, templates, video, and a very handy tip sheet.

The Embroidery Cutwork Needle Kit comes in PFAFF and Viking versions. The only difference between them is the embroidery designs that come on the CD.

The original run of kits has an error in the printed instruction booklet. The color coding of the needles is listed in reverse. PFAFF has said this will be corrected in subsequent printings.

The correct Needle order is:
     Needle #1 - Red
     Needle #2 - Yellow
     Needle #3 - Green
     Needle #4 - Blue

Also, the five designs on the CD that comes with the Kit do not have securing tabs programmed in them to keep the cutouts from falling out until you clip them away. PFAFF has provided updated versions of the five kit designs for Dealers to download and distribute.


  1. Thanks so much!!! Very helpful and nice to keep as a reference....

  2. I bought the needle kit but had no idea what to do with them. Thanks to your I know. Piper

  3. Does this only sew already digitized cutwork designs or can you use it to create original cutwork designs, like the Bernina Software can. Can you give us an idea on price?

  4. Who carries the needle set for purchase?? Price?? Thanks

  5. You can purchase the Cutwork Needle sets at PFAFF and Viking dealers. The only difference in the two sets are the designs that come with them. Check with your dealer for pricing.

  6. Purchased designs have to be specially digitized for use with the Cutwork Needles. The Bernina Cutwork software is a standalone software package with automatic cutwork tools. There are no automatic tools in the PFAFF Suite yet, but in the 9.1 update for PFAFF 5D Suite software, they added the capability to create a .3mm running stitch to create a cutting line in your own designs. They also added the Cutwork Needles as a thread range so you can set the cutting lines to reference the specific needles. So they've got the basic tools to manually create cutwork cutting paths, so you could go in and retro-fit older cutwork designs and add cutting lines. We assume they'll be adding some automatic cutwork tools in the next major update - hopefully something where you could define a shape, then it would add the cutting line, reinforcement stitches, and satin stitches.

  7. I have 2 questions that I can't seem to ge answers from, please Help.

    I have the Viking SE and Pfaff CV 5.0, so if I purchase the Pfaff Cutwork package I am assuming tha I can use it in both machines -- is this correct ??

    If I purchase the Bernina Cutwork software can I then save in vip3 and have all the functions (cut and stitch) on my Pfaff/Viking machines, via usb stick?

    Thank You Very much for any help.

  8. Please can you tell me,I am using the 9.1 update with 5D software.
    I know the cutwork needles are used in order but some bought designs use two needles and some four.
    So my question is if I am digitizing or creating a cutwork design which needle is used for which part, are they for inside and outside cuts?

  9. I live in Norway, does anyone know any such schools like Don and Phils in Oslo?.GAIL

  10. Please can anybody help? What about the Brother owners. Is this needles compatible to Brother machines also.?

    1. Yes, they work wonderfully well! You must turn off your thread sensor notification on your machine, if this is not availiable on your machine thread the machine as normal and wrap the thread around the bar or bracket above the needle. Also be sure that you can convert the Pfaff vp3 format to Brother pes format, PE-Next does not convert this.

  11. FYI - the needles are compatible with any machine which will allow you to sew without thread in the upper tension.

  12. I own a Pfaff 2170 does the Cutwork Needle work with my machine.

  13. what kind of fabrics can you use for using these needles.

  14. I have a Topaz 30 and want to install the Inspira cutwork needles on my machine. I have added them I think at the thread manager but they don't come up like the thread does. I am trying to use a design that came with the 5D Embroidery Extra which is under flowers and listed as Tablecloth center vp3. Help me please.

  15. I like your blog very much..The new Omni thread is good so far. Love the colour selection...
    I tried Magnifico last night in my embroidery machine and it was a wonderful thread to work with. No breaks at all!Thanks for sharing these valuable information.

    embroidery digitizing service

    embroidery digitizing company


Please keep comments constructive, respectful and clean...