Would you like to search using your current filters below?
(Click Image to Enlarge)
you have hesitated in stitching that first design or maybe you have stitched
out a design, but the results were discouraging. In the beginning, it is completely normal to
hesitate and stumble a bit, but once you understand the process and
requirements for different projects, you will come to know why bad embroidery
happens and then you’ll experience successful results more often than not. Start with the right “ingredients” and the
majority of possible problems will be eliminated. If you have already stitched your project and
are looking for immediate help, view a list of issues and solutions in “Getting
Started Part 2 – Troubleshooting Bad Embroidery”.
Choose the Project
embroidery machine can be used for decorating apparel, household items, bags
and much more, but keep in mind that each type of fabric or other substrate has
different embroidery requirements that you will need to learn about before you
decide to stitch on easily replaced items like that treasured family heirloom of
a silk christening gown or an expensive designer leather jacket. In the beginning, choose projects that will
not hurt your wallet or your pride if they don’t turn out as well as you had
anticipated. If you haven’t any idea
where to begin, I recommend embroidery on a hand towel that has been purchased
at your local dollar store at a bargain price.
Terry, microfiber and polar fleece are not the easiest substrates to stitch on with first-time success,
however, it’s an excellent choice for learning about the needs of fabrics. If it turns out badly, you can use the towel
again for testing prior to stitching on those high dollar towels, and if it
turns out well, you will have created something functional that you might even
be able to use as a gift. Either way,
your inexpensive project will have become your first lesson, by revealing
errors that can occur if proper methods are not observed. And of course, if the embroidery turns out
well, you will know you are on the right track.
Choose the Design
With so many designs to pick from it’s easy to overlook reasons
why some of the most attractive should actually be avoided when stitching on
various types of fabric or other substrate. Be aware of the requirements for the substrate you have chosen to stitch
on, as well as the requirements for the design that you choose. Stretchy fabrics or those with a thick pile
like wool or have looped fibers as on terry cloth, need more of a foundation in
the design, which is usually achieved with stitches digitized below top
stitches (underlay); whereas, a substrate like canvas, leather or nylon needs
no foundation and does best with a low stitch count.
Unlike a custom design that has been digitized specifically for
the substrate, stock designs are digitized most often in a general manner that
may or may not work with the substrate you’ve chosen. When shopping, read customer reviews to check
the type of substrate that the reviewer stitched the design on, as well as the
opinion of the results. One reviewer
might say they were unhappy with the results when the design was stitched on a
knit polo, whereas another will give the same design “5 butterflies” when it
was stitched on a canvas tote bag. These
conflicting reports reveal that the design is more suitable for a substrate
that doesn’t require a strong foundation, so you would not want to use that
particular design for the towel project, but you might keep it in mind for
another, such as a nylon jacket.
this example I have chosen a Treble Clef design offered as a Free Design at
EmbroideryDesigns.com. It’s rated with
4.5 Butterflies by 43 people and all reviews were encouraging. One reviewer noted that the columns were
bulky, but the report also stated the size had been changed, revealing why the
bulk occurred. Resizing a machine file more
than 10-20% is never recommended for most designs in order to avoid improper
density of coverage.
stitching it on a microfiber hand towel, and if it turns out well, it will make
a nice gift for my musician friend to keep handy for polishing her
keyboard. The hand towel is at a size of
about 17 x 16” so I don’t want to use a design that requires a hoop larger than
4 x 4” and the Treble Clef design will fit nicely at 1.35 x 3.83”. The design is one color so there will be no
other colors to worry about, and its stitch count is at a quick 1698 stitches.
of the reviews mentioned using the design on a shirt or quilt. I want a design that shows promise to hold up
well against the towel’s fibers that will certainly try to poke their way
through the stitches, so to be sure, I first examined the Treble Clef in my
software. I found it indeed includes
underlay, but it’s likely not enough to tack down all of the fibers of the
towel, and there’s also a possibility that the satin stitch columns may become
very narrow from the stitches pulling inward on the somewhat loose weave of the
fabric. To compensate for these issues,
I’ll use a water soluble topping to help hold down the fibers and add an
additional sheet of tear-away for backing. If preferred, one could also swap the tear-away for 2-3 sheets of a water
soluble stabilizer to avoid leaving any remnants of the backing that occurs when
the excess is removed.
Test! Test! Test!
Whether or not you are new to embroidery, it’s
always a good idea to test-sew the design first on a scrap of same or similar
substrate. Alternatively, you can use
felt or a couple of sheets of cut-away to test on, but be aware these
substrates will not always show the most accurate results comparable to the
final item. Examine the design in
software before stitching and watch the machine sew out the design to determine
if there is enough underlay stitches to create a strong foundation for your
intended project. If not, you can either
choose a more suitable design or you might try compensating for the issues that
are revealed in the test sample with a different method of stabilization.
will help determine various facts about the design. This image shows the underlay of the design
and it reveals that the digitizer also added additional stitches at stress
points (circled in red) where the columns could otherwise separate and leave a
gap. It also shows that the underlay
stitches are very long, which could be beneficial when stitching on a dense
fabric like nylon, but this fact could also cause excess pull on a less stable
fabric like terry or knit, in which case a stronger foundation would be
there is adequate underlay in the design, but there are obvious flaws in your
sample, determine what is necessary for improvement. If you see the fabric through areas where you
desire more coverage, switch to a heavier thread weight; if you used a 40 WT,
try a 30 WT (the lower the number, the thicker the thread). If columns appear too narrow or there are
gaps between the outline and inside stitches, increase the layers of stabilizer
or change to a stronger stabilizer. For
example, if you have used one sheet of light weight tear-away, add another sheet
or use a heavier weight to strengthen the foundation, or if leaving an excess
margin of backing doesn’t matter on the finished embroidery, switch to one
sheet of a cut-away. Many fabrics, such
as used for a knit polo, do best with an adhesive backing along with a sheet of
no-show poly-mesh cut-away.
|My sample was sewn on felt using one sheet of
tear-away and no topping. It looks
acceptable, with the exception of a very small area at the lower left curve
where stitches have slightly parted. This
small gap isn’t a problem and barely noticeable if it’s stitched on felt or
other non-textured substrate, but if it’s embroidered on a towel a few of the
fabric’s fibers just might make their way through, so a topping of water
soluble stabilizer will be needed. I also used one sheet of tear-away for
backing on felt, but a towel is more vulnerable so I determined it would need
at least two sheets of tear-away on the back for the final sew-out.
As well, my sample on felt told me resizing
this design would be foolish, as the density is near-perfect. Increasing the size would result in poor
coverage and decreasing it would result in bulky corners, as well as fabric
puckering around the design, and decreasing the size too much could even cause
holes in the fabric from excessive needle penetrations.
you determine the right combination of the materials for your project, test
again, and if you find it necessary, try another combination and test yet again
until you have found the best ingredients for the design and the fabric being
embroidered. Testing may seem like a
tremendous amount of wasted time and materials, but remember that once you have
become familiar with different results, these initial repeated tests will save
valuable time and cost in the future. Eventually, one test-sew of one design will be all that is necessary for
you to recognize what is needed for a successfully stitched design on various
continue to change formulations, and that causes the embroidery needs of the
fabric to change. Fabrics, as well as
stabilizers and threads are continuously invented and old favorites are
upgraded, which can take one by surprise when it’s discovered that the same
design suddenly produces different results. So, unless you can afford a mistake now and then, it’s best to always
test a design you’ve never stitched to verify quality, or on a fabric or other
substrate that you’ve never embroidered to determine the needs of the substrate. A test will also help you choose the most
complimenting thread colors for the item, thread weight for the best coverage,
types of stabilizers for the strongest foundation, and a needle type and size
that stitches without thread breaks and without damage to the stitches or
substrate. If all does not go well in the testing, don't toss that poorly
stitched sample! Bad embroidery is your
most valuable teacher. Down the road
you'll thank yourself if you keep those test samples in a notebook or file
folder with all the information about the design, along with the materials used
for the successful results of the final project.
To help you recognize bad embroidery and how to
prevent it, see “Getting Started Part 2 – Troubleshooting” where you’ll find a
list of common problems and solutions.
|Meet The Author: Bonnie Landsberger
Bonnie Landsberger has been a crafter and hand embroiderer since childhood and a machine embroiderer and digitizer since 1986. She was the in-house head digitizer for a 50-head embroidery shop for 11 years and later offered custom digitizing services and stock design sales through her web site for Moonlight Design since 1993. She currently also holds a position as a customer service representative at EmbroideryDesigns.com.
Bonnie has won several awards for digitizing, including a gold medal in the 2002 Digitizing Olympics and grand prize in all categories & first place for Winter Holidays category in the Stitches Magazine Great Greeting Card Contest 2003.
Her embroidery and digitizing technical articles can be found in various trade magazines and she is currently a contributing writer and Editorial Advisory Board Member for Stitches Magazine. You can also find more of her articles online at EmbroideryDesigns.com and will continue to contribute articles to our Learning Center.