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(Pocket-lint) - A quick search on the internet for embroidery patterns finds the same old selection of flowers, fruit and butterflies. Even the word, embroidery, summons up a craft obsessed with order and tidiness, with Brie Van De Camp as head of the sewing circle. In steps Brother's software to turn the world of embroidery upside down.

At the heart of PE Design is a Stitch Wizard, which automatically converts any image into a sewing pattern. The pattern is saved using a USB card reader/writer. Brother's computer storage cards fit all its embroidery machines to produce the finished design.

We put the Stitch Wizard to the test. Our first image was a ceramic head, made by one of our editorial team. Loading images for conversion is straightforward, either via the clipboard or browsing to find the image file and then importing it. One click opens the Image to Stitch Wizard function. This takes you through several steps, the most important of which is selecting colours to create your image. The program assumes 10 colours and selects them automatically. This may be too many, say if your image is black and white so you will need to edit the colours to include just black and white. When the image has a lot of colours, you can increase the number of colours, or edit the selection so you have the right mix. The software then takes about five seconds to convert the image into a stitch pattern, most likely of tens of thousands of stitches.

As beginners, we found it was trial and error finding images that worked well. Brother suggests converting photos of people into embroidery designs but this did not work too well for us. The software can convert any image, but put rubbish in and you get rubbish out. Our favourites were graphic patterns and images with strong blocks of colour. Our editorial team also managed some good results from photographs of our pets and houses where we live.

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The program gives you a preview of what the finished embroidery will look like so you are saved the hassle of producing designs that don't work well once sewn. The Stitch Wizard gives an embroidery style that is more abstract and closer to a tactile, knitted finish than the neat look of traditional embroidery stitching.

PE-Design includes functions similar to a graphics package to create your own designs from scratch, rather than working from an image. There are 35 embroidery typefaces for lettering and the software loads all the typefaces on your computer as well. When it comes to stitching, the file saved via the USB card reader/writer includes instructions for sewing order, loading colours and stitch counts.


Brilliant software that creates stunning embroidery. Brother's program does a lot to bring the traditional craft into the 21st century.Your only problem will be deciding what you want to make given literally endless choices.

Writing by Debbie Davies. Originally published on 11 April 2005.