A few months ago, I surprised my wife with the Brother SE-270D Embroidery Machine to give my domestic diva the creative opportunity to broaden her sewing skills. Of course, as with most things technical, once you upgrade your sewing machine (or computer, or cell phone, or MP3 player, etc.) you find that there are add-ons that will take your original purchase from good to great.
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Such is the case with the Brother SE-270D. Although the machines memory contains nearly 100 pre-installed designs, my wife discovered that there are exponentially more designs available online just waiting to be downloaded and added to her embroidery pattern collection. The problem was, that in order to transfer the downloaded designs from her computer to her embroidery machine, shewe!were going to have to make an additional purchaseBrothers PED Basic Media Card Reader & Software. The following review is based on her direct experience installing and using the PED Basic embroidery transfer system.
In just a short time, Ive discovered that embroidery patterns are designed by some of the most creative and tech-savvy enthusiasts who provide an astounding variety of subjects. Yes, there are the typical teddy bears and lacy flowers, but there are also designs for racing car buffs, dance aficionados, martial arts enthusiasts, and most any category imaginable. Many designers provide freebie designs to download and try out, and often designs can be purchased either as a collection or singly. This is why youre going to need a program like PED Basic if youre going to take advantage of these online resources with your home embroidery machine.
PED Basic is, well, pretty basic. The box contained a Version 1.0 CD-ROM, one 4MB blank memory card, a USB Card Writer Box, and 13 pages of instructions. PED Basic is labeled as appropriate for ALL Brother Home Embroidery Machinesnot just the SE-270D that I own. The system is Windows 98/98SE/ME/2000/XP compatible (sorry Mac users!) and its main purpose is to allow you to preview the downloaded design onscreen, and then transfer the design to the memory card. Once the image is transferred to the memory card, you insert the card into the embroidery machine slot where you can select and stitch out your design. Simple.
PED Basic allows only the simplest sizing operations, so dont buy this thinking that you can create or freely edit embroidery designs. You cant. For that functionality, it will cost you an additional $350 or so for the Brother PE-Design 6.0 Digitizing, Editing & Lettering Software.
After doing some online comparison shopping, we decided to purchase the software from Amazon.com. It was available from other sources such as Wal-Mart and HSN, but the prices were not wildly different. Considering that the unit retails for about $125- $150, I initially thought I was going to get a bit more functionality out of the purchase. But no, it really is basically a blank disk and USB compatible box.
The installation process was barely a minute long, and it caused no problems with my computer. After installing it, I did discover that an upgrade to Version 1.07 was freely available online from Brother.com. In order to install the upgrade, I was instructed to completely remove the software I had just installed, and reinstall with the v1.07 file I had just downloaded. Again, the process was pretty simple, and I assume the upgrade contained some tweaks to make the software run better.
Once I hooked up the USB Card Writer Boxwhich amounts to a lightweight slotted box with a cord attachedI inserted the memory card, and started up the program.
I began the process by searching for free patterns on the web. I found sites like annthegran.com, artisticthreadworks.com, and secretsof.com to have a nice variety of professional-quality freebies available. Its important to mention that there are several file formats for downloading embroidery files the Brother machines require the .pes format. Once I found some designs in the required format, I downloaded them and saved them on my computer to a folder I named "Embroidery Designs."
The PED Basic program is really self explanatory and consists of the usual icons, menus, and function buttons that are easily recognizable in most software on the market. On the left, you can select the hoop size (the SE-270D uses the small or medium size. Patterns that are too large or have too many stitches are crossed out with a big red slash!). Select the system unit (the default was millimeters so I changed it to inches), and then click OK to confirm the setting.
Below the hoop size indicator, you can browse the available patterns in .pes format that you have downloaded and saved to your computer. I previewed the images and discovered that one was marked with a yellow double-box icon. This icon is superimposed on any image that is larger than the specified hoop size. I found that by using the Pattern Size Slider I could reduce it to 90% and then it was the right size to use. It is noteworthy, however, that you are limited in changing the size of a pattern from a range of 90% to 120%, and even then, the image may not stitch correctly. So if you make any sizing edits to a design, its a good idea to make a test run on scrap fabric before beginning a project you care about.
I selected the images I wanted to try (two adorable frog patterns) and clicked the button to write the data to the memory card. There is a bar indicator that lets you know how much memory you have remaining on the card. The card is originally blank, so I had plenty of room to add patterns. Since the card is re-writable, you can always make room for new designs by keeping the original pattern on your computer and erasing the copies on the card when youre finished. However, if there are any images on the card that you do not want erased, make sure that you have selected them before you add new images to be written to the card. The LED indicator flashes during the transfer process, and after a couple of minutes, it was completed.
My next step was to print out the images and color chart for each design. Its very helpful to have the printout, especially when it comes time to make the color changes during the embroidery process. In fact, if you cut out the grid sheet, you can use it for a template to help you determine where to place the design on your garment.
Finally, I removed the memory card from the Card Writer, and I inserted it into my Brother SE270D embroidery machine. I selected one of the frog patterns, set up the machine, and the design stitched perfectly. Since my first try at transferring patterns, I have now downloaded dozens more designs and successfully transferred them. In short, the PED Basic software and card writer worked exactly as it was advertised. Its a bit of an expensive add-on (I think) but it really does provide additional opportunities for pursuing my craft.
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