Machine embroidery offers the crafter artistic freedom and control on multiple levels. Size, position, pattern and colour are available on virtually every machine and with study and the right software; you can even create your own embroidery designs. For those of us who do not or cannot devote great time and money to embroidery design, however, the Internet provides access to millions of free and reasonably priced designs.
Before downloading embroidery designs, the trick is to find them (see links in Resources). If all else fails, use your favourite search engine and type keywords such as "machine embroidery," "designs," "files" and/or "downloads." "Free" is always a great keyword to add, but be aware that search results that appear may not really be free. Many sites use a free download as an additional attraction for additional shopping. Make sure the file you want is actually free. The file extension for your specific machine can be helpful if you choose not to convert formats. Look for files with these file extensions: SEW, PES, DST, HUS and JEF. Searching by machine brand names, such as Brother, Singer and Janome, can be helpful. If you are looking for a specific design or image, use specific keywords such as "cat," "kitten" and "kitty." You may want to do several searches until you find the best pattern.
Once you have found a pattern you like, determine if it is a free download or if you need to buy it.
Most websites with embroidery designs available for purchase use a shopping trolley. You'll want to click "Add to Cart" or the site's equivalent. Some free files are offered through a shopping trolley system as well. Many free files are only accessible when you sign up for a newsletter or create an account with the site and log in. Depending on the amount of security you are willing to accept, you may want to keep searching for quick and easy access.
Purchase and/or access your embroidery design. If you have added 1 or more items to your shopping trolley, proceed to check out and read the web site's download policy. Some sites direct you to a specific download page after purchase. Others will send you an e-mail that has a link to a download page or that has the file(s) attached to the email. For free downloads that do not require a shopping trolley, typically you may click or right click the image or link provided and save the file. If a link is available for your file extension, use that. If no file extension or format is specified, the downloaded file may be compressed with a ZIP extension. These compressed files usually contain multiple file formats.
Download and save the file. Whether your access is through e-mail or direct link, you'll want to save the embroidery design to your computer. The location/path is completely your preference. Save it somewhere easily accessible.
Open and use your file. If the downloaded embroidery design is already in your format, it is ready to transfer to your machine and use. If the downloaded file is compressed/zipped, extract the files and find your file format. (Most computers sold after 2000 include compression software. Often, you can right click the zipped file and select "Extract All." If your computer does not have compression software installed, download free versions of PKUNZIP or WinZip (see links in Resources.)