Jonathan's Embroidery Digitizing Story

I bought my 1st embroidery machine in late 1997 and started a home business in 1998. Jonathan was 6 years old. He spent most of the day around the machine with me.

As he got older, he started helping in the shop a little. Hooping shirts, carrying boxes, helping me with deliveries.

During this time, I used outside services for any digitizing needs.

Over the years, I have always hoped that maybe one day my kids might want to take over the business and be able to work from home. Jonathan never really showed an interest until 2019. I had purchased Wilcom's commercial digitizing software along with a newer commercial machine a few years ago, took some lessons and started digitizing on a part time basis since I was still doing embroidery and screen printing. I tried to get him interested in learning to digitize many times during the last few years.

Jonathan has a natural gift for “detail”. He notices everything and has a very analytical mind. I thought digitizing might be a perfect fit for him, and he is a pretty good artist as well.

Once he expressed some interest, I purchased Wilcom Hatch Embroidery Software and put it on a second computer in my office to entice him once again to give it a try.

He finally gave in around September 2019 and sat down with Hatch. All he wanted to know from me is what each “button” did… “just show me how to use this and I will figure the rest out” is how he put it…lol.

He has watched many designs stitch out over the years, but I wasn’t sure how much he understood about how a design went together and how it needed to stitch out. He had never tried anything like this before.

Jonathan is a very determined person. Once he decides to learn something, he will study hard and give it 100%. So off he went to his desk to teach himself to digitize.

We went back and forth with simple designs. He watched them stitch out, went back to edit and stitch out again and again.

His first try was a simple apple design. Tatami fill stitch and satin stitching. There he discovered push and pull made a big difference from the computer screen to stitching out on fabric. But he kept at it editing and stitching out until he made it work. I noticed that he split the apple leaf in two instead of just using a flat fill stitch for it. That was my first indication that he might be pretty good at digitizing. He was looking at artwork with a realistic eye and adding detail most people skip.

I had taken some digitizing lessons from Wilcom and could digitize designs too but was still sending out more complicated logos and designs to other digitizers.

I had also started selling some of my designs online and wanted Jonathan to go in that direction too. We agreed on a plan for him to learn to digitize and have the opportunity to work from home if he chose to.

I think the challenge of that first design intrigued him enough that he realized digitizing would be a great learning process and that was his “thing”. A never ending challenge since artwork can vary so widely.

I added that simple apple design to my website when he was finished and together we watched it sell. We watched the photos people posted on social media of how they used the design. It sparked enough interest in him to digitize another design. And another. And watch the process. He was enjoying seeing what others used his designs for.

He was using mostly tatami fills, satin stitching, running stitches and a few of the built in, fancier fill stitches occasionally.

Jonathan was enjoying the process very much at this point, and had created a nice little collection of simple designs.

So, when I saw the online ad for John Deer’s online embroidery digitizing lessons, I signed him up right away. This was perfect timing and would be an opportunity for him to learn from one of the best digitizers in the world.

And I was looking forward to it also! I had seen the name, John Deer, in so many articles over the years that it was going to be a treat for me to watch him in action.

Jonathan was really looking forward to the class and when it started he was all in. Soaked up every piece of information he could and truly enjoyed watching John live on screen. He seemed fascinated by the process and the critical thinking it involved.

We printed out the short cut sheets and John’s Cheat Sheet for the building blocks of quality embroidery. A piece of paper that still sits on his desk for reference. He was ready to dive in.

After that first live class, he started the “homework” classes. They consisted of several recorded videos he could follow along and review and learn the basics of how designs react on fabric. Painting or drawing on paper is one thing but when you take thread and stitch it out, there are all sorts of things that come into play and affect the outcome. John did a fabulous job of explaining all these things in detail in the classes.

Jonathan and I talked about it all week while he did the homework lessons. I have been in the embroidery business for many years and even I learned lots of new things during those lessons.

They truly are great lessons for anyone, no matter your skill level.

Next, he went on to creating a running stitch design in the lessons and John taught him how to create a true red work design. It came out perfectly and Jonathan stitched that design out a few times to watch it run.

I remember one night waking up around 1:30 am and I could hear a man’s voice in the house. “Curve, curve, straight, curve, straight….”

I realized it was John Deer’s voice and Jonathan was up in the middle of the night watching and practicing some of the recorded lessons…LOL   that is when I knew he was hooked and loving every minute of the class!

Jonathan went on to digitizing a beautiful floral design in class with curved fills. As he stitched out the lessons, we decided to use them on projects too…. They were just too pretty!

That was one of the best things about the class, everyone was working on the same artwork and John was guiding them though the process step by step and explaining every detail and the reasoning behind them.

Jonathan learned to use some of the powerful features in Wilcom Hatch and how to do the same thing without fancy software.

I was watching him take digitizing to a whole new level that without John’s classes may have taken him years to do.

Jonathan was learning about minimum – maximum stitch lengths, angles, density, underlay… all the components to great digitizing.

He digitized red work, used curved fill stitching, satin stitching to create a beautiful wreath, a lightbulb with layers to create shading with thread. And he soaked up all that knowledge in a few weeks.

Then John offered a more advanced online class.

He learned some advanced techniques like mylar applique, working with foam, and digitizing fonts.

Jonathan followed along to digitize a gorgeous sunflower with a light fill stitch and mylar underneath the design to step it up a notch. That sunflower came out fabulous and was a huge turning point for Jonathan. He wanted me to find more complicated artwork to try.

I purchased a beautiful and very detailed piece of artwork of a hummingbird. Jonathan worked on that design on and off for a week. I would peek in from time to time and watched the design come to life on the screen. I was stunned at what I was seeing.

The big test would come in the first stitch out.  We both watched that hummingbird stitch out and I couldn’t believe what I was watching. It was almost as if the needle was “painting” the thread on the fabric.

And the biggest thing was that he did it all with very few edits. John Deer had taught him how to work through a design with the fewest possible trims and how to layer colors without ending up with “bulletproof” embroidery.

I think he had to fix a couple of trims that he did not want in the design and that was about it. Jonathan had digitized a work of art with almost no issues to edit at all.

This week he is working on another detailed design, a beautiful seahorse. I noticed he was able to do this one faster than the hummingbird.

He has truly gone from simple digitizing to beautiful, detailed and stunning designs.

Jonathan is still looking back to some of the designs he created in John Deer’s class. He keeps the stitch outs on his desk and refers back to them often when he encounters new artwork and is looking for an idea to make it unique.

The printouts are still laying there too for reference. I feel like he is well on his way to becoming the best digitizer that he can be and we are all so proud of him. Finding something you can do for a living is good, finding something you love to do for a living is a blessing. Digitizing offers everyday challenges for those who enjoy something unique and is a continuing learning experience.

And after the classes and wonderful comments from others who have seen Jonathan's work, nothing has made me prouder and more appreciative than the feedback, encouragement and help he has received from John Deer himself:

"When it comes to Digitizing, I consider myself a good instructor/educator in my field. In part, due to the decades of refining my presentations and teaching methods. But mostly due to the foundations I was taught by Schiffli mentors who I have the utmost respect.

In the over two decades of giving classes, workshops, and now webinars, I have taught thousands of people the theory that I was so blessed to have received. From my students, I've seen some show incredible talent by becoming educators, starting companies, and winning awards.

Recently, I have witnessed one person who, in my opinion, has shown to have a real gift in "The Art of Digitizing." Jonathan Sigrist recently attended our first Virtual Digitizers Dream Workshop and quickly completed the work, executing the theory perfectly. That was impressive, but seeing his results in our first Advance Class blew me away!

In the last few months since that workshop, I have been following his progress and beautiful creations. I am so looking forward to seeing what he achieves in the years ahead."

John Deer

Jonathan is looking forward to taking more classes with John in the future and I am watching him develop his skills everyday and loving every minute of it.

UPDATE AS OF October 2022

Two more designs that I consider works of art that he has digitized since this blog post was originally written are his Giant Dragonfly design and his FSL Red Knee Tarantula design.

The Giant Dragonfly was an idea that came to him from talking with someone who had made a giant dragonfly out of metal as a yard sculpture. He said "I want to create one in thread at the same size as Meganeura, a prehistoric version of our modern day dragonfly."

Jonathan worked on this project on and off for about 6 months. Editing and changing the design until it finally evolved into what he wanted. He likes to experiment with digitizing and try new things. The wings stitch out in one continuous pattern with no jumps or trims. He designed them after actual dragonfly wings. They are stitched over iridescent mylar to give them the look of real wings. The head, body and tail are free standing lace.

The finished design when assembled is an impressive 26" wide by 17" long

And most recently, he decided to try and create a free standing lace tarantula. He has always had a fascination with insects, animals, etc. and had a few tarantulas as a teenager. He worked on this project for a few weeks experimenting and editing the design over and over until he got it to portray an actual Red Knee Tarantula complete with hairy legs.

It is so mesmerizing to watch stitch out. The legs are bendable when finished with no additional wire, glue, stiffener... just embroidery thread and water soluble stabilizer needed to create this little arachnid. 

This design sort of went viral on Facebook in the embroidery world and it was so exciting to see everyone stitching it out and all the ways they were having fun with the design. It truly took on a life of it's own and we are mapping out all the places in the world where this design was stitched out.

 PS – If you would like to see some of the designs Jonathan has digitized that are his favorites, click here

You can find Jonathan and his "quality control" assistant Mikko, at his desk most afternoons creating beautiful designs to share with you!

A little about me....


I am Rhonda Sigrist, owner of A Stitch in Time Embroidery Designs.

I have always been an "artist" at heart as long as I can remember and my mom taught me to sew when I was 8 years old. Getting into the embroidery business was a natural fit for me.

I had worked in an office for many years in office management outside of the home and had always wanted to be home with my children. When Jonathan (my second child) was around 6 years old, a friend told me about an embroidery business that was for sale. I went and looked at all the equipment and started investigating the in and outs of machine embroidery and the business. Then I shopped around to see what new equipment would cost. I decided to start fresh and do it on my own and not purchase an existing business. That way I could work in my current job and build my own business over time for less money. 

So I took the plunge in late 1997 and purchased my first embroidery machine. I spent a few months learning everything machine embroidery and officially started a business in early 1998. Although I was still working full time in office management when I started, I had decided this was going to work no matter what and worked hard to grow the business at night and on the weekends. Six months later, even though I was scared, I left the security of my full time job.

After joining a local business association and meeting lots of business owners, managers and employees in the area, I decided to focus on embroidering company logos on shirts, caps, jackets, tote bags, etc. My little business grew fairly quickly after that and we added additional machines and screen printing equipment. We were embroidering hundreds of shirts, jackets and caps each month and screen printing for schools, festivals, clubs, etc. My parents were a huge help during those years. Mom was always here helping with the kids and orders. She loved the business and all my customers. Some of them even called her mom... she would invite them in, try to feed them,  My dad helped me make deliveries, set up or move equipment and was always encouraging me and telling me I could do anything I put my mind to. He is still the voice in my head cheering me on although he is gone now.

I served for a few years on the board of directors and as President for the Saint Charles Business Association which allowed me to meet and work with so many wonderful people. We helped with fundraisers, local events, etc. and it helped grow my business even more.

At that time we contracted out all of our custom digitizing. I did do a lot of editing for many years but had never tried to digitize a design from scratch. I was too busy with all the other aspects of the business.

As my children got older and I wanted them to be more involved in the business, I purchased Wilcom Digitizing Software and tried to get my son Jonathan to learn the art of digitizing. He resisted at first as all kids do so I set out to learn myself. I took Wilcom online classes and also had a very talented and experienced digitizer help me along the way.

I started selling some of my designs on Etsy and later created this website to sell them on. Things were going great and I had some wonderful friends that were helping me to advertise on social media.

In 2019 Jonathan finally agreed to learn to digitize and I purchased Wilcom Hatch for him to use. He was mostly self-taught until John Deer offered an online class using Hatch. I enrolled Jonathan right away and he learned to digitize like he had been doing it all his life. His story is also in this blog if you are interested in reading it.

Now our business is mostly digitizing designs. Jonathan and I sell our embroidery designs on this website even though we still have a few favorite local business customers that we do direct embroidery for. They have been with us since our beginning and are “family” now.

My daughter Tabitha is learning the office tasks, website management and marketing and we hope to have her working with us full time soon.

It has really evolved into the "family business" as she calls it... on any given day, you can find me in my sewing studio before the sun comes up since that is my favorite time of the day, checking emails from customers, posting on social media and planning my day. I usually get any local orders done in the morning, have lunch with Jonathan and Mikko our mascot (a blue and gold macaw) while we discuss new designs and other business issues. Then in the afternoon we are testing designs, taking photographs, planning, etc. And now in the evenings a few days a month I teach online machine embroidery classes.

We love what we do and sometimes work 7 days a week during busy seasons. Being creative is what I enjoy doing. As long as I can remember I have been creating something. In my earlier years I was always drawing, painting, sewing costumes, etc.

I hope you enjoy using some of the embroidery designs we have created and would love to see pictures of what you are creating with them. Join our Facebook group, Embroidery Room Reality to make new friends and hang out with us!

PS – If you would like to see some of the designs I have digitized that are my favoritesclick here

Happy Stitching!