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EMBROIDERY Q & A: Tips and Tricks to Save You Time, Money, and Maybe Even Your Sanity

(April 2008) posted on Tue Apr 22, 2008

Stuck on a stitch? Dealing with a daunting design? The advice presented here can help you overcome some of the challenges you may face in the production of embroidered goods.

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By Malcolm Eckel, Sherry Higgins

A: There are a few things you can do to improve the quality of your sewout. A very important factor is that the color of the foam and thread should be as close as possible. Too much contrast between the foam and the thread is very obvious. The density needs to be increased. Digitizers use anywhere from 130-200%, so somewhere around 150% should work well. You always need to cap the open end(s) of a satin stitch with another satin stitch to cut the foam properly (Figure 4). The satin stitch sews perpendicular to the top stitching. It should extend out beyond the end of the top stitching or the top stitching falls off the edge and gets loopy. Some digitizers slant the edges of the cap in so they won’t pop out from under the top stitching, and some use a random edge on the inside edge of the satin to avoid cutting the foam where they don’t want it cut. Both methods work equally well.

You can digitize in several ways. Some digitizers use a double-edge walk underlay before stitching. Others stitch the letter twice. They lay down the foam, sew the letter first at a 50-75% density, then stop the machine and pull the foam, then sew the letter again over the top at a normal density. You will need experiment for yourself, because there is no shortcut to experience.

Remove the foam after you sew the design. Foam materials vary tremendously. They don’t all pull off the same or have the same loft, even if they have the same thickness. Even different colors from the same brand don’t behave the same way. In many cases, it’s best to pull off the foam like you’re pulling off a bandage—one quick, pulling motion. After pulling off the foam, you will often see little fuzzies that you can clear up with a steamer, steam iron, hair dryer, or something similar. These techniques should improve your sewing quality.


Several solutions

Building experience as an embroiderer gives you a powerful assortment of tools and techniques to use when you face roadblocks in production. But even the experts encounter problems that require them to try several remedies in order to complete the more challenging sewing jobs. Don’t get frustrated when a process doesn’t work out the first time. Try another approach, and be sure to sew on scraps so that you don’t risk ruining good garments. Remember: Practice leads to the productivity that can make you a successful embroiderer.




Sherry Higgins is a freelance writer, marketing consultant, and president of Total Marketing Solutions LLC, a full-service agency specializing in marketing strategy and de-sign. She has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and public relations, with expertise in the garment-decorating market. She can be reached at 908-686-9031 or

Malcolm Eckel is a technical engineer for the Industrial Products Div. of Brother Int’l Corp. He’s been in the embroidery industry since 1980 and has punched more than 15,000 designs. Eckel started in the days before computerized embroidery, when every design was punched stitch for stitch.EMBROIDERY Q & A





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