Applying initials to something to identify it as undeniably yours dates back as far as the signet rings of the ancient Romans. Although often pictorial in nature that long ago, featuring crests and coats of arms, engraved initials were also common, and as time wore on, actually became the more typical mark. We’ve all watched dozens of movie scenes where a harried messenger arrives with an important note. Its monogrammed seal must be torn open to reveal the pivotal contents. 

Today, a monogram is more about personalization and embellishment than secret messages, but it still stamps an item as undeniably yours. We worked with our friend, Anne Hein, Education Coordinator at Janome America to take a look at four different ways to add initials to your next project – from traditional to highly customized. As an exclusive Janome studio, our examples all feature Janome machines, technology, and ingenuity. However, other brands are likely to have similar options. 

1. Built-in Monograms

The majority of Janome machines with embroidery functionality have a set of standard monograms, such as the Continental M17, Janome Memory Craft Horizon 15000, Skyline S9  or an embroidery-only model, like the Janome 550E.

You’ll find a selection of Two and Three letter choices as well as several borders. For the sample of this built-in option, Anne chose a classic monogrammed hand towel. 

A cut-away mesh stabilizer was hooped and a light layer of spray baste applied. A towel is rather thick and hard to get in the hoop, which is why Anne instead floated the towel on the hooped stabilizer. Over the towel, a layer of wash-away stabilizer should be placed to hold the towel loops down and give the stitches a smooth surface to build on. You could also add a “knockdown stitch” – this is a set of stitches behind your design that holds the loops down. Not all napped fabrics need this, but know that it is an option if you have something very dense or loopy. There are knockdown stitch patterns you can buy or if you have the Janome Artistic Digitizer software, you can easily create your own set of knockdown stitches for any shape you need.

Once all the layers were in place, Anne used the Janome Baste function to further secure the towel to the stabilizer.

It’s best to keep the bulk of the towel out from under the arm of the machine, which means turning the design and the towel. Using a printed template for placement helps with this positioning.  

Finally, when stitching a monogram on something with a thick nap, like a towel, it can help to stitch the design twice. This gives the built-in letters and frame double the dimension.

Some fun S4H projects that use a built-in monogram include our: Weather Ready Tote, Rolled Clutch, and Soft Sack Lunch Bag.

2. Embroidery Alphabets

The Two and Three letter monograms described above are the most traditional, but sometimes – a single initial is all you want and need. A great way to add this is with an Embroidery Alphabet. Again, of course, you need a machine capable of embroidery, such as the Continental M17, Janome Memory Craft Horizon 15000, Skyline S9 or an embroidery-only model, like the Janome 550E.

There are built-in embroidery alphabets to choose from on most Janome embroidery machines. The options shown below are from the new Continental M17, which has a wonderful variety from modern to whimsical to floral. The Janome machines also allow you to bring in purchased designs from outside sources to add to your choices.

Anne chose an adorable floral initial in a script font, adding it to the corner of a napkin. You could make your own napkins or add this personalization to a store bought set. Either way, it’s a fast and easy way to embellish table linens for a special holiday gathering or as a unique gift bundle. 

We used a single embroidered initial on a set of Oven Mitts, which was a fun way to bring monogramming into the realm of kitchen linens. We also featured it on our popular Travel Tote Trio. Or, think out of the box by appliquéing a fabric letter in place as we did with our Custom Bath Towels. This technique can be done with any machine.

3. Customizing Monograms with Artistic Digitizer

If built-in or pre-programmed selections aren’t quite what you’re looking for, you may be ready to step up to the embroidery customization power of Janome Artistic Digitizer and AD Junior. Both of these software products are compatible with most machine brands.

Anne used a pillowcase to highlight this option. In the Artistic Digitizer Software, you can choose the monogram template – how the letters will be placed, the font you like, and a border. Each of these can be edited separately to get the exact look you want. The software offers 25 different templates using Two and Three letter monograms. There are over 200 pre-digitized fonts to choose from plus any True Type font could be imported into the software to be used. 

As you are creating your monogram in Artistic Digitizer, you can easily sample the fonts in your design by scrolling with your mouse wheel. This makes it very easy to see how the fonts look with your selections. 

The software gives you control every step of the way. Anne edited her design slightly to get the A and R into an alignment that better suited her project – as shown in the before (left) and after (right) images below.


To stitch the monogram onto the store-bought pillowcase, the band was opened so the stitching could be done on a single layer and the back of the embroidery covered by the replacement of the band. This keeps the pillowcase looking just as nice on the outside as the inside.

As suggested above with the built-in monogram stitched on the towel, this sample was also floated on top of cut-away mesh stabilizer lightly sprayed with Artistic Tack spray baste. Also as above, the opened band of the pillowcase was further secured to the stabilizer using the Janome Baste function. Before stitching, a layer of mid-weight tear-away stabilizer was added under the hoop. Part of Anne’s editing above included increasing the density of the design, so it made sense to have a bit more stabilization to support that density. The pretty monogram was stitched in thread that matched the fabric for a subtle tone-on-tone effect. Once done, carefully tear away the bottom stabilizer and trim the cut-away close to the design. 

Anne stitched the band back into place using the new Janome Bi-Level foot, which made it extra easy to stay on the exact edge of the pillowcase. The side seam was closed with an OverEdge stitch and foot, and the whole thing was finished with a nice pressing.

You can create own elegant bed linens to rival any five-star hotel. 

4. The Embroidery Link App on the Continental M17

This option is exclusive to the amazing new Janome Continental M17 sewing and embroidery machine. The unique stacked Three letter monogram was built from the lettering package included in the Embroidery Link App for the CM17.  This is a powerful little app that allows you to position and resize items individually. The App will recalculate the stitches in each letter rather than just stretching it out. Once Anne had all three letters just where she wanted, the design could be quickly sent to the machine to stitch out.  

Anne hooped her stabilizer, then arranged the corner of a store-bought napkin in the hoop, using embroidery tape to hold the napkin in place before using the Janome Baste stitch to finish securing the corner. Placement was made easy with the hoop grid as well as a confirming glance at the design on the edit screen of the machine. 

In order to emphasize the last name initial, the thread for the H is a slightly darker tone than the thread for the A and R. This is a nice touch if making a set of linens to celebrate a wedding. 

The Janome AcuDesign App, available with other models, such as the Skyline S9 or the Horizon Quilt Maker MC15000, is another way to create this higher level of customization. The added font package is necessary for this application. 

Our thanks again to Anne Hein, Education Coordinator for Janome America for her expertise and beautiful samples. 

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