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The Custom Embroidery Process

Embroidery is one of the most appealing ways to bring your logo to life on apparel items, hats and caps, bags, blankets and more. Our in-house embroidery division, Rapid Logo, makes personalization quick and easy, while delivering the highest quality products every time.

These are the basic steps for creating embroidery with a computerized embroidery machine:

  • Purchase or create a digitized embroidery design file
  • Edit the design and/or combine with other designs (optional)
  • Load the final design file into the embroidery machine
  • Stabilize the fabric and place it in the machine
  • Start and monitor the embroidery machine

Design Files

Digitized embroidery design files can be either purchased or created. Many machine embroidery designs can be downloaded from web sites and one can be sewing them out within minutes. Please note that there are many different brands of machines, and each may use a different format. A person who creates a design is known as an "embroidery digitizer" or "puncher". The digitizer, or puncher, uses special digitizing software to create their embroidery design.

The digitizer creates the design in the native file format for the digitizing software (.EMB for example). These are 'Object Based' designs and allow the digitizer to easily reshape and edit the design later.

The native file formats retain important information such as:

  • Object outlines
  • Thread colors
  • Original artwork used to punch the designs

As a digitizer it is critical to maintain and keep the original digitized design file. Converting the design to a stitch file such as DST, PES and DSB will lose many of the valuable information, and make editing and changing the design very difficult or impossible.

Editing Designs

Once a design has been digitized, it can be edited or combined with other designs by software. With most embroidery software the user can rotate, scale, move, stretch, distort, split, crop, or duplicate the design in an endless pattern. Most software allows the user to add text quickly and easily. Often the colors of the design can be changed, made monochrome, or re-sorted. More sophisticated packages will allow the user to edit, add or remove individual stitches. For those without editing software, some embroidery machines have rudimentary design editing features built in.

Loading the Design

After editing the final design, the design file is loaded into the embroidery machine. Different machines expect different files formats. The commercial format DST (Tajima) is the most popular. Embroidery patterns can be transferred to the computerized embroidery machines in a variety of ways, either through cables, CDs, floppy disks, USB interfaces, or special cards that resemble flash and compact cards.

Stabilizing the Fabric

To prevent wrinkles and other problems, the fabric must be stabilized. The method of stabilizing depends to a large degree on the type of machine, the fabric type, and the design density. For example, knits and large designs typically require firm stabilization. There are many methods for stabilizing fabric, but most often one or more additional pieces of material called "stabilizers" or "interfacing" are added beneath and/or on top of the fabric. Many types of stabilizers exist, including cut-away, tear-away, vinyl, nylon, water-soluble, heat-n-gone, adhesive, open mesh, and combinations of these. These stabilizers are often called Pellon, but this is inaccurate as Pellon is a trademarked brand name of Freudenberg of Germany.

For smaller embroidered items, the item to be embroidered is hooped, and the hoop is attached to the machine. There is a mechanism on the machine (usually called an arm) that then moves the hoop under the needle.

For large commercially embroidered items, a bolt of fabric can be worked by a long row of embroidery "heads", producing a continuous pattern of embroidery. Each embroidery head is a sewing machine with multiple needles for different colors, and is usually capable of producing many special fabric effects including satin-stitch embroidery, chain-stitch embroidery, sequins, applique, cutwork, and other effects.

Embroidering the Design

Finally, the embroidery machine is started and monitored. For commercial machines, this process is a lot more automated than for the home embroiderer. For most designs, there is more than one color, and often additional processing for appliqué, foam, and other special effects. Since home machines only have one needle, every color change requires the user to cut the thread and change the color manually. In addition, most designs will have a few or many jumps that need to be cut. Depending on the quality and size of the design, stitching out a design file can require a few minutes or an hour or more.