Turn your handwriting into an embroidery font

I love adding special touches to items I make, especially when the item is for someone else.

I'm making a custom shirt for my boyfriend and wanted to include a hidden handwritten note inside. With Bernina Embroidery Software 9, I realized I could create my own handwritten font and embroider a small, unique note like a label.

Early in our relationship, when we were in our early teens, one of our favorite bands was Plain White Tees. I cited their song 1, 2, 3, 4 in my note on Matt's shirt. So much has changed since I first heard the song over 10 years ago, but the feeling is the same.

What will be needed:

Keyboard Designs Collection Feature

Bernina Embroidery Software 9 includes a feature called Keyboard Design Collection.

Bernina created it to be able to map 3rd Festive embroidery character designs on your keyboard.

Usually when you purchase/download special embroidered alphabets, you have to insert and place each letter individually, which can take some time when you have a long word to spell.

With the Keyboard Design Collection, you can map each character to a key on your computer keyboard. This means that you can easily type the word(s) on your keyboard and the respective embroidery letters will be entered. Essentially, embroidery designs will become a font!

The mapping process may take a little time, but the end result makes using these embroidery characters more convenient. I would only recommend doing this if you plan to use the special embroidery characters often.

I figured that since each character is an embroidery design, I could scan a sample of my handwriting, turn each letter into an embroidery design, and follow the same idea of ​​mapping the letters to my keyboard using the function Keyboard Design Collection.


Handwriting sample

Using a black pen on white paper, write a panagram in lower case and then again in upper case.
If it helps, you can draw a line to write on in pencil and then erase it.

After taking this photo, I realized that I had mistakenly written “jumped” instead of “jumps” and corrected it later.

A panagram is a sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet such as: The fast brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
This will help achieve a more natural writing style.
You can also write numbers and punctuation marks to include in your font. If it seems too complicated to create all the characters, you can always add them to your collection over time and just start with lowercase letters.

Import a sample

Scan or photograph the samples and import them into Bernina Embroidery Software 9.


Steps for scanning and importing a physical document are available in the blog post Custom embroidery designs for an underbust corset


Since I don't have access to my scanner at the moment, I photographed my writing samples with my phone. You can also use a digital camera.

Take a photo as clear as possible
Lay the paper on a flat surface.
You want the phone to be as parallel to the paper as possible.
Use the grid feature on your phone's camera to help you get an accurate level photo.

Download the photo to your computer.

Edit sample

In order to easily scan the handwriting into the software, I recommend editing the image (sometimes even the scanned image may need editing).

The goal is to create contrast between the characters and the background, ideally by making the background as white as possible but keeping the characters as sharp as possible.

Here's how to edit in embroidery software using CorelDraw.

  1. Import the image into the embroidery canvas.
    Insert an illustration and navigate in the pop-up to where you saved the photo.
  1. Select the artwork and click Retouch Bitmap in the Auto-Scan toolbox.
    The illustration should open in Corel PHOTO PAINT.
    Otherwise, right-click Bitmap Retouch and select Corel PHOTO PAINT from the context menu and click OK.
  1. Select the Adjust tab and click Brightness/Contrast/Intensity.
  1. Move the sliders to adjust the image.
    Use the Preview function to evaluate the adjustments.
    Click OK when you are satisfied.
  1. Crop the image.
  1. Save the image.
    I like to increase the DPI to 1200 for a sharp image.
    You can close Corel PHOTO PAINT after the image is saved.

Automatic scanning

  1. Click the Auto-Scan toolbox, select the artwork and if necessary, crop the artwork.
    Drag the shape over the area you want to crop and release to crop.
  1. While the artwork is selected, click the auto-scan tool.
  1. In the pop-up window, use the sliders to adjust the details and reduce the amount of colors.
    You can merge similar colors:
    Click on the colored square, hold ctlr on your keyboard and select the color(s) you want to merge, release ctlr and select the Merge button.
    Select OK to continue
  1. Choose which colors to omit.
    We don't want the background to be converted to embroidery, so omit this color.
    Select Centerline under the Point Details tab.
    Select OK to continue.
  1. Delete the artwork, select the letters, and change the thread color(s) to black.
  1. While characters are selected, you can also change the stitch type.

Create a collection of keyboard designs

  1. Open the Keyboard Designs Collection tool and click the New button.
  1. Type a name for your collection and specify a reference height.
    You can either enter the desired height or click the Use Selection button.
    This will use the digitized height of the selected character. Round it up.
    “The reference height does not resize designs during mapping. It is used as a reference when sizing lettering and becomes the default letter height in the Object Properties > Lettering dialog box. – BERNINA 9 embroidery software help
    I wanted my font to be a similar size to my writing, so I kept it relatively small.
  1. You can adjust the character spacing.
    “This is specified as a percentage of the size. This may vary depending on the style of the source characters. Again, this value can be overridden in the Object Properties > Lettering dialog box when using the type design font. – BERNINA 9 embroidery software help
  1. You can also enter a recommended height range.
    “Scalability depends on the quality of the original characters. Basic rules:
    Category A designs: ±20%
    Category B, C, D: ±10%
    For example, a grade B font with a reference height of 150mm might have a recommended size range of 135mm to 165mm. – BERNINA 9 embroidery software help

    Since you scanned the artwork into the software, it should be grade A. The software will tell you the quality of the design in the lower right corner.
    I measured the height of some of my handwritten characters for reference to determine the height range.

  1. For letters like y, j, g… you will need to modify the baseline so that their tails follow the line.
    Select the location of the letter and click Adjust Baseline and Spacing.
    Move the bottom line to where you feel best.

Map the design workspace personas

When a character is selected:
-type the corresponding character in the mapping window
-choose the category it belongs to in the drop-down window
-click on Map.

Repeat for each character.

If you make a mistake, click the location and select Remove Mapping.

Once you have finished mapping the characters, you can close the Keyboard Designs Collection tab.

Added to collection

Repeat these steps if you want to add characters to the collection over time:
Create the Handwriting sample,
Iimport to the software
And Automatic scanning characters.

Next, open the Keyboard Design Collection tool and select your custom font from the Collection drop-down menu.

Repeat the steps to Map the characters.

Use your new font

  1. Open the Lettering/Monogram toolbox and select the lettering tool.
  1. Click in the design workspace, type your text and press Enter on your keyboard.
  1. Double-click the label to open the Object Properties window.
    Select Keyboard Design Collection under Font Type and choose your custom font from the drop-down window.
    Click OK when finished.
  1. You can resize the text to fit your chosen hoop.
  1. Save or export the design as usual.

Embroider the pattern

Set up your machine and embroider as you normally would.

I embroidered on the interior yoke with an iron on stabilizer.

Check back to see how I use the embroidered yoke in a linen shirt I'm making in my next blog post.

I’d love to see what you make, feel free to share with me!


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