FAQ Series: What is a Stitch Map?

FAQ Series: What is a Stitch Map?

FAQ Series: What is a Stitch Map?


If you've been in embroidery a while, you may remember life before fancy PDF tutorials. Back in the olden days, we had to rely on the stitch map files. These files are helpful to know how to read even with the existence of full tutorials. You can print the stitch map and add your own notes as you stitch the file so that you remember what you did in your own words.

Let's look at the Seaside Top Zip Clutch Zipper Bag.

This is the inside of the main folder once I unzip the file and add it to my POP folder.


Here is the inside of the Seaside Top Zip folder. What a mess! The files are all jumbled up. 


Click on the Type tab and the folder will sort itself by file type.


The stitch map files will have a BMP or JPG file extension. In this case, they are BMP type files. Let's select the 5x7 size. 


Here is the 5x7 stitch map. When you click on it to open, your computer will open it in whichever default photo viewing app or program you've designated. In the upper left corner of the stitch map, you will see the file name, the stitch count, the exact size in inches and millimeters, the location at which the design begins and ends in the hoop, the number of colors and thread stops, as well as the date the file was saved.


The rest of the stitch map is literally a *map* to what your machine is going to stitch. The steps are illustrated and numbered. Step 1 is almost always going to be a placement stitch when you are doing an ITH or in the hoop design. 

In the recent tutorials, there is now a "cheat sheet" on page 5 or 6. If one is not included in the design, you can create your own. I print only this page of the tutorial, and I will add  notes to remind myself of important details, such as where to add personalization, and when to open the zipper. 

When you look at the stitch map for the Seaside Top Zip Clutch Zipper Bag before sewing, you will realize that the fabric you put down first at Step 3 will be the "shell" of the design, and the bottom shape is an applique added later. There's no need to guess what is going to happen next in any POP design (or any designer whose files include stitch maps). Taking a few minutes to review the stitch map will save you time and frustration!