The use of the monogram can be traced back to Roman and Greek times when it was used as a royal signature or seal, as well as on coins to identify a particular ruler. In the Middle Ages, printers, potters and other artisans used renderings of their initials to mark their work. But it's their use in Victorian times that we are most familiar with, when a monogram was a symbol of aristocracy. Upper class families thought it crucial to mark their table linens, cutlery, and other household goods with their monogram as a sign of prestige. We chose to use a monogram as a feature embellishment on two of our eight Citron-Gray Nursery projects: the crib bumpers, posting tomorrow and the baby quilt, posting on August 15th.
Single initial and double initial monograms are both completely acceptable these days, but the traditional three-initial monogram is still the standard and dates from the Victorian era. The initial of your first name goes on the left, the initial of your middle name on the right, and the initial of your last name is large and in charge in the middle. Our Citron-Gray Nursery M-F-M monogram stands for Michael Miller Fabrics, sponsors of the Citron-Gray Nursery Series!
Originally, this pattern was considered a female's monogram, with the male version consisting of same-size letters in a row: first, middle, last. Married monograms usually have the bride's first initial on the left, the groom's first initial on the right, and the joint last name initial in the center. A married woman sometimes opts to use her first name initial on the left, her maiden name initial on the right, and her new last name initial in the center. Today, the monogram is no longer the domain of the elite class, and all rules go out the window. A monogram can be traditional, whimsical, understated or flamboyant.
Monogramming is easier than you might think
For those looking to bring this level of personalization to their home décor, the perfect monogram may be no further than the push of a sewing machine button.
You CAN monogram by hand, but unless you have way more time than most, you'll be much better off monogramming with a embroidery machine.
Today's home embroidery machines allow you to create your own monogram, right on the machine. Most machines have a selection of monogram layouts and fonts built right into the machine.
One interesting side detail to note is the distinction between the ‘monogram' and the ‘cipher'. Strictly speaking, most home embroidery machines create a cipher, which is the creation of two or more letters where each part of the letter remains distinct from the other(s). A monogram combines the letters in such a way that the parts of the letters are combined and the overall design cannot be separated. (We include this detail for your future success as a Jeopardy contestant.)
Can I design my own?
In the early 20th century, much attention was given to the careful design of a monogram. Think of the amazing stylized art nouveau initial work you may have seen on silver or tablecloths from this period. If you would like to try your hand at designing your family's monogram, most manufacturers offer digitizing software, which can turn your personal creations into stitches.
I want one! Shopping tips and what to know about/ask about
Shopping for your first embroidery machine can be a little intimidating to the uninitiated. There are quite a few options to choose from at a wide variety of price points. Fortunately for you, we did our homework with site sponsor, Janome America, and have broken down the necessities to a few top-level considerations. We use Janome models to illustrate features throughout this article. Of course, many companies make home embroidery machines, and you should visit a variety of dealers to determine which machine will best suit you.
Most people's first thought when entering the sewing machine store is price. Embroidery machines can be priced from somewhere in the hundreds, to quite a few thousand dollars.
For the budget conscious, you'll probably want to investigate embroidery-only machines. These machines don't sew; they can only stitch out designs. Our sponsor, Janome offers three machines in this category: the Memory Craft 200E, 300E, and 350E. One downside to embroidery-only machines is they are an add-on to your regular sewing machine - so if space is an issue, you'll need to get creative with storage and work areas. The upside to this, your embroidery-only machine can be embroidering its little heart out while you use your regular sewing machine to complete other steps of your project. It's like doubling your output.
Sewing and Embroidery
The next level of embroidery machine can perform regular sewing functions as well as embroidery. You can find basic models capable of this task, all the way up to the highest-end sewing and embroidery machines. Our dream machine is the Janome Memory Craft 11000 Special Edition. It offers an incredible selection of built in embroidery designs and monograms, as well as amazing functionality for regular sewing. Another great sewing and embroidery model is the Memory Craft 9700. This machine offers a solid selection of designs and advanced features at a conservative price.
Janome also offers the MB-4, a four-needle model for the super-serious embroiderer.
All of these machines are capable of intricate embroidery and monogram work. Some come with more built-in monogram design possibilities than others. But, if you are interested in creating your own embroidery designs, most machines are compatible with special software, called Digitizing Software, that allows you to layout and design embroidery. Janome offers this software in two versions. Digitizer Jr., for the ‘newbie' and Digitizer MB, for someone who is ready to really get involved. One of the great things about this software is you can upgrade the Jr. version once you are ready for more challenging work.
Next, think about what you're going to want to monogram. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, you want to make sure your machine is going to be able to handle your material. Each machine has differently-sized embroidery fields, and you want to make sure your machine can accommodate what you're hoping to do. The size of the designs will also translate into various hoop sizes. Each machine can accommodate certain size hoops, and the hoops will dictate how large the monogrammed designs can be. Many machines or software programs offer the ability to 'split' designs, which means you can break a design into smaller elements, so you can use a smaller hoop to stitch out a large design in parts. This way, you aren't limited by the hoop size of your machine, but it is going to dictate how complicated a given project may be. Some machines come with a few hoops, and offer others as additional accessories. Other machines can only stitch on the hoop that comes with the machine.
Whole bunch o' hoops
While we're on the topic of hoops, here's a quick review of the hoops that may be available. First, is a standard hoop. This is usually approximately 5" x 5" and will handle most embroidery jobs. Some machines also come with a larger hoop to cover a larger area, say 8" x 8". Beyond this, many companies offer a very large hoop, maybe 8" x 11" or more, which will have a name like "Macro Hoop" or "Giga Hoop" or something designating 'large'. This hoop will allow you to stitch very large designs without re-hooping your fabric - you'd want something like this if you were going to put a large team monogram on the back of a jacket, for instance. On the other side, you can also purchase a very small hoop, which can be used for embroidering small initials on socks or cuffs, or for other small detail work. You can also find specialized hoops, like hat hoops, which (surprise!) are made specifically for embroidering hats.
Another point you will want to consider is the type of digital transfer medium the embroidery machine is capable of reading. This sounds pretty complicated, but really it's not - though it is an important aspect to understand. Most embroidery machines are capable of importing designs from other sources, like the Internet or special embroidery design cards. A very common mode of design transfer is the ATA PC card. Many machines use this mode of transfer, and this is a common way designs are sold. Machines will have a port built directly into the machine to read the designs. If you want to download designs from your computer onto an ATA PC card, you will likely need a special card writer to add-on. Most newer home embroidery models have a built-in USB port, so you can transfer designs using a memory stick. And, many of the top-of-the-line embroidery machines, like Janome's MC11000 Special Edition actually contain a direct PC link, so you can plug your desktop or laptop computer directly into the machine to transfer an embroidery design.
Where to shop
We say this quite often on Sew4Home, but it's because we truly believe it: don't skimp on cost at the expense of after-sale support! Especially when you're considering a technical investment, like an embroidery machine and the corresponding software. You should purchase your machine from a specialized dealer, not a big box store. A dealer will be there for you in the event the machine needs service, or if you want lessons to really understand the amazing functionality of your new machine. A good dealer gives you the support you need to be able to start monogramming right out of the box.
What to ask
Here's a list of the things mentioned above, as well as a few other features to ask about when you're visiting a dealer:
- What is the size of the embroidery field?
- What size hoops come standard with the machine? Are additional hoop sizes available for this machine?
- How many designs are built in to the machine?
- What is the software compatibility of this machine? What are my choices for digitizing software?
- What is the design transfer medium?
- Does this machine offer quick conversion from sewing to embroidery?
- Are there additional attachments for converting from sewing to embroidery?
- Does my purchase include lessons or support for the machine?
- Does the manufacturer offer consumer support?
- Which came first, the chicken or the egg? (This is a trick question to make sure they've been listening to you.)
- Finally - ask for a stitch demo. Are the stitches precise and even? Does the machine make a lot of noise, or shake a lot? (If it does - cross it off your list immediately.) Are the steps for monogramming and embroidering intuitive or will you need a stack of manuals close at hand?