My very first “sewing” project as a child was hand embroidery. My mother took me to Fred’s during a trip to visit family in Alabama, and there she bought me some of the Aunt Martha’s Iron on Transfer Embroidery Designs, a couple of tea towels, embroidery floss and needles.  It inspired a love of needlework that endures to this day. Sadly, I just don’t have the time to sit and stab a needle through a bit of fabric 2,846,468 times to make a hand towel these days. Thank goodness for the embroidery machine! There are so many embroidery designs available now, you can probably find something that’s just your style. And those designs can be used in so many ways, the possibilities are limitless!

My Machine Embroidery Obsession

My first embroidery machine landed in my studio around 2001, a Brother PC-8500. When the very first Brother Disney embroidery machines were introduced, someone traded in it. It was a great deal, and I loved it dearly. That machine and I had some good times, all the way up until it started having problems that couldn’t be repaired in 2010 or so. Back then, the embroidery designs I had were all on little cards that plugged in to the machine.

Since then, I’ve owned a Brother 2500D and now George, my Brother DreamCreator VM5100. I’ve also added a Brother Persona PRS 100, and a Pfaff Creative 4.5, but George remains my favorite embroidery machine.

Every embroidery machine I’ve owned has done sensational embroidery. Which one you choose is a matter of personal preference. Since all but the PRS 100 is a combo machine, my own choice came down to sewing features. The good news is that there are websites all over the Internet that sell designs in nearly every file format, so if you find a design you like, it’s likely you can get it in any file format you need.

Where to Find Embroidery Designs Online

Most machines come with embroidery designs built in, but it doesn’t take long for most people to want more. When I first started machine embroidery, the only real way to get designs was to buy the cards. Oh, you could design them yourself, but it was difficult and unwieldy. In the Internet age, however, it’s quite easy to find just about any type of design you need. My personal favorite sites are Embroidery Library, Designs by JuJu, and Urban Threads.

There is no mystery to acquiring and using the designs. Still, I often see people ask how to get the designs from website to machine. This little walk through should help!

Purchasing Your Design

Find a design that you would like to have. In my case, I fell in love with this design set from Embroidery Library and I MUST have it!

The first thing you want to do is make sure that you choose the correct file format for your machine. You can see this in the red circle on the screenshot below.

Be sure to check your machine’s manual so you’re selecting the correct format! In my case, I do the majority of my embroidery on the Brother machines, so my default format on Embroidery Library is the .pes file. If I wanted to use the designs on my Pfaff, I would choose .vp3.

Once you have the correct file format selected, click Add to Basket. This will take you directly to your shopping cart, where you can 1) continue to shop, or 2) check out.

If you have a discount code or gift certificate, you can apply the code there in the middle of this shot. I choose Check Out with Credit Card, and it takes me to this screen:

Fill in your credit card information and press Accept Charges. Upon successful payment, you will be taken to this screen, where you can download your design(s)!

From this screen, you can get a printable receipt with or without images, change the format, and download everything you purchased. I always choose 1-Click Download in the second column on the bottom. If you use Chrome, the file would download and give you a bar at the bottom of your screen, so you can see when it’s done.


Finding your Designs

My mom always has trouble with this; she can never remember how to get to her designs once she’s downloaded them. Using Chrome, it’s very easy. Just click on the button on the bar, and your designs will be unzipped for you.

I have a file system that’s set up specifically for embroidery designs. When you have collected hundreds, if not thousands, of designs over the year, you really need to keep them organized.

This entire set is being moved to “Seaside” because that’s where I put everything related to the ocean. Simple and easy to remember!

Fine, but how do I get them to my machine?!

Alright, you’ve found a design you love, purchased it, and put it on your computer. Now you’re wondering how to get them from the computer to the embroidery machine, am I right? This is a super easy process, and you’re going to be up and embroidering in no time at all!

First, you need a USB drive, sometimes called a thumb or flash drive. My Pfaff came with a thumb drive, but I had to buy a drive for my Brother. Choose a drive that’s sort of small – most embroidery machine mafacturers recommend a 4 GB drive. A single 4 GB drive is nearly impossible to find these days, so I use an 8 GB. I’ve never had a problem with the larger drives, and I like being able to put several designs on it at once. I like this SanDisk Cruzer 8GB drive from Amazon (not affiliated, it’s just an easy link). I have several here – one I use exclusively for machine updates, and one for each of the three embroidery machines. I also tend to keep a couple of spares, just in case I misplace a drive. They’re small, and that’s easy to do.

Anyway, once you have your drive, locate your USB port on your computer. On a desktop, it’s most often in the front; on a laptop, it’s on the side. Plug in your drive to the USB port, then go to File Explorer by clicking on Start in Windows, and typing in File Explorer in the search field.

Now you can navigate to where you saved your unzipped embroidery files.

Choose the file(s) you want to embroider, and drag them to the thumb drive listed File Explorer:

Once you have added all your files to the drive, right click it and choose Eject from the menu that pops up.

Remove the thumb drive from the USB port on the computer and take it to your embroidery machine!

I’m at my embroidery machine; now what?

Plug the drive in to the USB port on the side of your machine.


Now, turn on your machine … This is George, my Brother DreamCreator VM5100 …

Choose the Embroidery mode on your machine. You may need to check your machine manual if you don’t know how to get there.

Next, you’re going to choose your source for the files. We’re going to choose the three pronged pitch fork looking thing – that is the universal symbol for USB.

You will see the thumbnails for the designs. On George, they’re at the bottom of the screen.

Choose your design, and it’s ready to go!

From here, follow your manual on actually embroidering the design. But now you know how to get all those cute designs from the Internet to your embroidery machine! Design choices are virtually infinite, bound only by your wallet and your storage space.

I hope you have learned something from this tutorial. Please let me know in the comments if you found this useful at all, or if you have any questions.

Happy embroidering!