How to Organize Machine Embroidery Designs

Tired of spending more time searching for the perfect design than actually embroidering? Overwhelmed by the thought of organizing your embroidery files? We’ll show you how!

Little is more frustrating than spending your free time searching for machine embroidery designs that you know you have, but can’t find. Designs are an investment and well worth the initial effort it takes to keep them in one place. Organization is key and it is just a matter of getting started.

Set Up a Storage Area

Create a folder on your computer as the holding pen for your embroidery files. Mine is C:/EMBROIDERY. You can locate and name yours however you like. I chose to host it on the main drive of my computer so that is it easy to find.

Not sure how to add a folder to your computer? Consult your manual or click here for a PC and here for a Mac.

Choosing Categories

Think of this folder as your filing cabinet. Drag embroidery files into their respective folders. Start with general categories within your collection, like Animals and Holidays. You can always change names and locations later as sub-folders become evident.

Add Sub-Categories

If you have several cat designs, create a Cat sub-folder under the Animal folder. Do the same with your other folder categories.

You can break things down further by adding individual designers within the Cat subfolder. Just create a folder under each subfolder for each designer with cat designs. 

This is Bonnie’s preferred way to organize her files. I organize mine pretty much the same way except that I also like to keep some of my favorite designers, like Sew Inspired by Bonnie, as their own category.

It all depends what makes sense to you. The goal is to organize your embroidery designs in such a way that you know exactly where you can find them (or at least have a pretty good idea). If you want every one of your cat designs in one folder, file them that way. If you are more apt to remember certain designs according to the designer, file them that way.

Just get started. You can always make changes later, but categories will fall into place as you go. Check back for future blogs on cataloging programs, how to find everything, backing up files, and cross-referencing design categories.

How do you organize your embroidery designs?


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  • Bonnie Welsh - December 29, 2023

    Marisa—There are several programs that allow you to see the designs in an image format. Thumbnailer (from Embrilliance) is one that works well and can be found here:

  • Marisa - December 29, 2023

    Hi, what program can i use to see all the formats (picture) of the design? Please help.
    Kind regards. M

  • Maria Marais - November 04, 2023

    Thanks for design filing tips will definitely change my system which drives me nutty maria.

  • Kathy Blais - May 04, 2022

    This is pretty much the way I do my embroidery designs. But in addition, I make copies of the pix of them which I keep telling n binders. Each binder refers to a specific USB stick which has those designs on them. Each USB stick hangs from a key organizer available at most hardware stores.

  • Bonnie Welsh - March 14, 2022

    Mary Jane—You’re most welcome! =)

  • Mary Jane - March 14, 2022

    Thank you so much for your information. I have recently purchased a new sewing/embroidery machine and I’ve downloaded some new designs and it seems as though there are many designs that left me frustrated as how to organize them. Your information will be very useful for me so “thank you” very much.

  • Susanna Jorde - September 15, 2020

    I add the designer name and the design set name in front of each design so if I want to use multiple designs in the same set that are stored across multiple categories, I can easily search for them, I use the free Bulk Rename Utility to change all the file names at once

  • Sue Moore - September 14, 2020

    Can you give us these instructions in a PDF without all the comments, it will be very appreciated. I don’t want to waste paper printing all the comments. Instructions are all I would love to have. Thank you. Sue

  • Bonnie Welsh - September 01, 2020

    Michele—That’s very clever. Many designers, like myself, add our initials at the front of the file name too. =)

  • Bonnie Welsh - September 01, 2020

    Debi—I ran into that problem and it’s why I switched to this method. Makes it much easier to look at all the “cats” or “dogs” and see which I prefer for a specific project more easily instead of going back and forth between folders. =)

  • Michele Matlock - August 31, 2020

    I sort mine by category with the designer initials on the front of the pattern name ie. dbjjdog, bkwatermelon, sibbcarbook.

  • Debi - August 31, 2020

    I have mine all sorted by designer, which doesn’t make it easy to find a specific design when i don’t remember who made it! I do save a pic of the design in the file (if the site allows it) so i don’t have to have the special software to see them (I misplaced my purchased software years ago, and it’s never shown up). I like how you sort by category then designer… if i have free time, i may try switching over to this as it seems easier to locate. Thanks!!

  • Rainell - August 31, 2020

    Thank u for telling us how to file I may have questions when I get started! Lol

  • Sandra Fidler - August 31, 2020

    This is the way I do mine.

  • Bonnie Welsh - August 31, 2020

    WillieMae—You’re most welcome. This blog post was written by Debbie who shared both our styles of file organization.
    She helps me immensely with my blog. =)

  • Bonnie Welsh - August 31, 2020

    Susan—Makes perfect sense to have the sizes in there as well. Love it! =)

  • Bonnie Welsh - August 31, 2020

    Darlene—Great additional tips. I assume you simply add the size and stitch counts to the file name or folder?

  • Bonnie Welsh - August 31, 2020

    Barbara—Smart girl to back up your files. When I first started out, I organized by where I bought from but my “collection” got so large, I started having trouble remembering who I bought what from. Work with what makes best sense for you. If it works, don’t fix it. =)

  • WillieMae Charles - August 31, 2020

    Thanks Bonnie great idea. I will give it a try. It can’t hurt and it sure beats what I’ve got now.
    Thanks again.

  • Susan Krout - August 31, 2020

    My system is similar except under cats I sort by size. My designers have there own file. So I can check to see if I already own that design—ha!

  • Darlene - August 31, 2020

    I do both! Most of my designs are by category but I’ve not yet taken the time to set up subcategories under those. If I have tons of designs by a certain designer, I have a folder with the designer’s name on it and then subcategories under that. I was shown how to select certain info when setting up so you get size, stitch count and number of color changes by hovering your cursor over the design name.
    Really helpful when prepping fabrics for your project. This is a great article for those who have not yet set up a filing system and for those who have one but might want to tweek their system a bit!

  • Barbara - August 31, 2020

    I use Microsoft one drive to back up my designs. Organize by where i bought the designs from.

  • Bonnie Welsh - August 31, 2020

    You can always cross file. Just be consistent and do what makes sense to you. And, yes, the search bar is a great help too. It’s funny how we can keep adding and adding folders. Who knew after 10 years we could still be adding a new category? Remember to back everything up. =)

  • susan brake - August 31, 2020

    Great article… This is exactly how I do my organizing of embroidery files too ! I keep each designer/company separate . Love the windows search bar for when I want to find a file too !! After 10 years, I’m still adding new categories as I find designs !!!

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