Embroidery is the craft of decorating a garment using a needle and thread to add texture and embellishment. It is one of the oldest and most permanent print methods. Embroidery gets done in our shop on all types of apparel, from Polo shirts to Richardson Hats and everything in between. If we can hoop it, we can stitch it. Clients tend to gravitate to Embroidery because it has a premium finish, has the best washability out of all of the print methods, and because it can be decorated on all different types of items.
Embroidery machines come in all shapes and sizes, the machines we use in our shop range from a 6-head machine to a 15-head machine. The machine's heads just mean how many different items we can do at the same time. A machine operator pays close attention to detail while garments are being stitched, because these machines are very mechanical. A special file, typically digitized in a .DST format, tells the Embroidery machine what segments to run in a specific order. This file tells the Embroidery machine the layers of the artwork, the compensations and density required, all which depends on the item that is being embroidered. When we stitch on a thin polo, similar to a Nike Dry Fit or Adidas Lightweight Polo, the compensation and density of a given design is different vs. when we run a Richardson Hat or an Acrylic knit beanie. So not all Embroidery files are created equal. We digitize artwork with these variables in mind. Other variables we take into consideration when digitizing artwork for Embroidery would be the machine that it will run on, the type of thread being used, and premium add-ons like Reflective thread, 3D Puff Foam, and more.
Embroidery is much more than just putting the garment on the machine and pressing "Go". The garments get hooped onto special holders, called "Hoops", so the garment stays as sturdy as possible. There is a backing or stabilizer used on the back end of the garment in between the hoop enclosure to keep the stitches from puckering. If you have ever worn an embroidered garment, you can usually see the stabilizer on the inside of the item. Certain artwork and fabrics require us to use a cut-away stabilizer, which is typically used for higher stitch count projects. Tear-away stabilizer is used on hats or small, quick embroidery runs where the stitch count is low and the tear-away wouldn't interfere with the overall project. Cut-away stabilizer will yield a nice finished product, but you will usually see the excess stabilizer on the back-end of the garment. We also use a water-soluble topping, called "Solvy", on items like Towels and Beanies. This helps keep the garment stabilized on the top-end, so the stitches don't fall into the grooves of the garment. Many shops skip this step, since it's an added cost, but we use this as an opportunity to complete the finished product and ensure washability standards.
This image is mid-sew out, you can see on the bottom left side of the image there is a "Running Stitch" underlay that was sewn out underneath the design. This helps the design stay stabilized to the garment and to the backing, so that the fill stitch, or the red area that is being sewn out, will be stitched nice and neat. This helps the design add that extra texture, and it is another step that many Embroidery shops skip in order to keep the stitch count low. Lower stitch counts mean less time for each run on the Embroidery machine, and to those shops, more of a profit. In our case, we rather keep a run on the machine a little longer to ensure a better final product. All of these steps are laid out on the digitized file, and the file tells the machine what to do. The operator keeps their eyes on the sew out, while multi-tasking and preparing the next run.
Some tools that Embroiderers use to make projects easier and more efficient are Magnetic Hoops, Magnetic Bobbins, and a Premium Backing/Stabilizer. Magnetic hoops are one of the best inventions in the embroidery space. We use magnetic hoops from Mighty Hoop, they are an awesome company with a premium product. Magnetic hoops help us keep garments stabilized and flat, help our operators hoop more efficiently and safely while keeping production runs consistent. Magnetic bobbins are also a huge win for the industry. Bobbins are used to tie the thread underneath the garment as the top-thread travels through the needle and through the garment to create the decoration. The magnetic bobbins we use are from Fil-tec, they come at a premium cost vs. the competitor bobbins but we get great results and less headaches. These bobbins stay in the bobbin case close to 100% of the time. They don't unravel randomly (which would cause massive issues on even the most simple stitch-outs) and they are manufactured by Hab and Dash, who makes a plethora of sewing and embroidery tools and thread. Lastly, having a premium stabilizer is important to your overall sew out and consistency. It's hard to name just one that is a go-to, because the stabilizer is used depending on the garment you are stitching on, the logo being embroidered and more. We use many different stabilizers from Fabrictex Embroidery/Emblematic in NJ. Their cap backing is next to none, and we wouldn't use anyone else's. They also have a great heavyweight backing (CD30) that is a nice heavyweight fabric that can stitch close to 100k stitches with 1 piece. We also use a performance woven cut-away stabilizer from Madeira USA that is amazing on Polos and knit fabrics, some of the toughest items to embroider on.
We covered all types of information regarding Embroidery, but there is always more to learn. We are students and teachers of the art of Embroidery, learning every day as new challenges present themselves. We take a lot of pride in the work that we do, especially on our Embroidery machines, as this is the most coveted embellishment option in the industry. If you are looking for some Embroidery, feel free to contact us and we'd love to show you around the shop. We are located in New Hyde Park, NY, by appointment only. We have 3 6-head Embroidery machines, and 2 15-head Embroidery machines, for a total of 48 heads. Tajima and Barudan machines line the whole left-side of our 5000 sq ft. shop, and we are sure that you would love the work that we do.