In this two-part step-by-step guide, award-winning embroiderer David Morrish of Kingfly shows you how to split up a large embroidery design with no visible joins

When your design has exceeded your maximum hoop size, it can leave you feeling frustrated, lost and confused. You know you don’t want to reduce the size of your design, so what do you do? David Morrish of Kingfly, who has twice been named Wilcom Digital Embroiderer of the Year and is appearing in the BBC1 series, Make It At Market, has the answer.

His dramatic and distinctive work frequently requires him to carefully split up the designs before embroidering them back together with no join lines; the piece that led to David being presented with the Wilcom Award for Digital Embroidery at the Hand & Lock annual embroidery competition in 2021 took 65 hoopings and measured more than 1.5 metres in length.

“There are design-splitting tools available in some digitising programmes, however these are not always 100% reliable and can cause some unsightly join lines that, if embroidered, would spoil the appearance of your design,” he explains. “I am going to show you how I manually split a large design whilst avoiding visible joins.”

It is, he says, like doing a jigsaw puzzle where you create each piece. “When I digitise a large design I do it as one whole image; I call this file the ‘master’. Once I’m happy with it, I then split it into sections – each section, which I call a hooping, should fit your selected hoop size.” The image in this step-by-step guide contains four hoopings and one master file.

Next month in Images, David will explain how to embroider the different sections together to create a seamless finished result.

(1) Select your hoop from the preset menu of your software program. I used Wilcom e4.5 digitising software for this step-by-step. Alternatively, add in the measurements as a new custom hoop – make your hoop visible so you can see the difference between your design and the hoop area. This hoop is 36cm x 20cm and is the maximum hoop for the Janome MC550E machine I will be using
(2) Study your design and identify the best places to split your design – try to identify areas that are easy to hide when embroidered. Think layers and overlapping. The aim is to embroider with no visible join lines. If possible, whole shapes are better than cutting through shapes and then trying to match them back up. With the freehand selection tool, click and drag over whole shapes that sit within the hoop area. The top rose and stems should easily fit into one new hoop. Once happy, go to Edit, then Cut
(3) Open a new file (File, New), then go to Edit, then Paste. You have created a new file for the top section of your design – save it with an appropriate name. I often use numbers to determine the embroidery hoop order. If this is the first hoop to embroider I would call it “1 – top rose and stems”
(4) Notice that not all the stems transferred across. This sometimes happens, so you need to manually select the remnants and cut and paste them onto the new file. You may need to resequence after pasting so the design looks correct. If you did not move the first image when you pasted it on the new file, then the new pasted remnants should be in the correct place in relation to it. If you did move it, then you will need to move the remnants so they are in the correct place

(5) The top section is now fully separated. I will often spend time working on the section, refining, reordering and making sure all the settings are correct (underlays, pull compensations, etc)

(6) Back to the master file. Select all and move into the hoop area. Again, look for large whole sections that you can cut out with ease
(7) Using the freehand selection tool, select the area. Here I can see the central stems and two roses are all comfortably within the hoop. The top red rose sits over the right-hand side edge so I will leave this for now. I don’t really want to be splitting a rose head if it can be avoided
(8) Go to Edit, then Cut. Again, as before, there are a few stem remnants which I will transfer across afterwards
(9) Open a new file. Go to Edit, then Paste. You may need to change your hoop settings to get your design to sit centrally in your hoop. Do you notice the missing stems that did not transfer over?
(10) Cut and paste the remnants from the master to the new file. Save the file with a suitable name: “2 – two central roses with stems”
(11) Back to the master file to look for next hoop split
(12) Using the freehand selection tool, select the area. Go to Edit, then Cut
(13) Open a new file. Go to Edit then Paste. Save the file: “3 – two red roses”

(14) Select the last area. Here I used the standard selection tool. Go to Edit then Cut

(15) Open a new file. Go to Edit then Paste. Save the file: “4 – Bottom rose and bud”

(16) In the first file (hoop 1), select all, then go to Edit, Copy. In the master file, go to Edit, then Paste. Select all of hoop 1 – Group. Repeat for the remaining three hoops. This keeps your sections separate for ease of working. When I work on each section, I will replace the relevant hoop in the master. The master gives me an overall view of the design
(17) Move the sections into their correct place. Continue working on each section until you are happy. Remember to update the master file and keep the hoops separated
(18) For this design I have managed to split the full design into four smaller hoops. There are five files in total, including the master file