Custom Embroidered Apparel Buyers Guide
These days anyone can buy an embroidery machine and set up shop
with very little money. Unfortunately, embroidery is much more of an
art than a science, which means than it takes a lot more than a shiny
new machine and some software to do a quality embroidery job. This
guide will help you to understand what it takes to produce great looking embroidered
Creating Your Embroidered Design
The most important part of any
embroidery job begins with the designer or (sometimes called a
digitizer). Their job is to take your logo or design and convert
it into a series of stitches that will be stitched on a
garment. While there are software programs that make this job
easier, there is no software program that can reproduce the talent of a
good designer (even though many software companies claim otherwise).
Elements of a High Quality Embroidery Design
Generally speaking, there are two types of threads used for
embroidered designs, Polyester and Rayon. Rayon produces the
best looking embroidered designs, however it can be prone to breakage
during stitching and it is slightly less durable than Polyester.
Polyester is quite durable, however it does not always produce great
looking designs on all types of fabrics. Many people choose
Rayon over Polyester thread because it looks
great on all fabric types.
Choosing the right thread color is probably
the most important thing you will need to think about. You need
to be concerned with how the colors in your design will look with the
color of the garment that you choose. In general, less contrast
between the garment color and embroidery color is best since this
tends to hide imperfections in the stitching.
The threads in fabric form a "grid" with series
of microscopic openings. The thread that makes up the embroidered
design is passed through these small openings as the design is
stitched. Fabrics that have relatively large openings (knits) tend to
cause the edges of the design to be slightly imperfect. An experienced
embroidery designer can optimize the fill stitch so that your
design will look great on a variery of fabrics.
Filled in areas of the design are made up of
tiny stitches arranged in a pattern. If there are too many
stitches, they will tend to pull on the fabric and create
small gaps in the fabric around the outside of the design.
To few stitches and the fabric will show through the
design. To make matters worse some fabric types are more
sensitive to stitch fill than others. For example, a design may
look great when stitched on a woven baseball cap, however when
stitched on a polo shirt the results may be disappointing.
An experienced designer will create a design that provides an optimal
stitch fill for a variety of fabrics.
Backing materials provide support and
structure to an embroidered design and are critical to a long lasting
design. A sheet of backing material is placed behind the area
where the design will be applied. The design is then stitched
through the fabric and the backing material.
There are two types of backing material
"Tearaway" and "Cutaway". As the name suggests, tearaway backing
can be torn off without tools after the design is stitched.
Cutaway backing must be cut around the design using scissors
after the design is stitched. It is very important to match the
backing to the type of fabric being embroidered. Tearaway
backing is typically used with woven fabric such as dress
shirts. Cutaway backing is used on knit fabrics. As you
would probably guess, tearaway backing is the easiest for the
embroidery shop to use since it is easy to remove. Some less
reputable embroidery companies use only tearaway backing or worse no
backing at all! A quality embroidery job should be using backing
appropriate for the fabric.
Some fabrics such as fleece, have a rough
texture with many "loose" fibers. Sometimes these fibers can get
caught in between the stitches of the embroidered design and look
unsightly. To prevent this, a transparent sheet of topping
material is placed over the design area. The design is then
stitched through the topping, fabric, and backing material.
When the design is complete, the topping material is removed by
wetting it with water. Topping is not always needed and depends
on the type of fabric being stitched.
Brand, color, and style of the
apparel is completely up to the consumer. As
with anything, there are good quality brands and poor quality
brands. If you are going to spend $3.50 - $5.00 to
stitch an embroidered design it makes little sense to stitch it on
a garment that will wear out long before the design. When
ordering a large number of garments it makes sense to get a sample of
the garment that you will be buying so you can judge the quality of the
garment for yourself. A reputable embroidery shop will arrange for
a sample to be shipped to you for review. Remember to ship the
garment back when you are finished with it or you may end up getting
charged for it (samples are usually not free).
A good embroidery company will
have a book or catalog of "Stock Designs". Stock designs require
very little in the way of setup and stitch very well on a variety
of fabrics. Most stock designs can be made 10% larger
or smaller as needed. Stock designs are the best way to
save money on a custom embroidery job.
The locations you can apply an embroidered design vary by the type
of garment. The embroidery charge is based on the number
of locations you choose. Most people choose to
embroider the primary location since it is the most visible, however
there is no limit to the number of locations to
embroider. The default embroidery location for jackets and shirts is on the left chest.
The following table describes possible locations
on different types of apparel:
Short Sleeve Shirt
Center Back, Right Chest
Long Sleeve Shirt
Right Chest, Upper or Lower Arm
Center Back Over Clasp
Call for other options
Lower Corner Straight
Lower Corner Diagonal