A hand-embroidered set of flowers. Hand embroidery was the original form of embroidery. Used mainly for embellishing garments. (Karaj, Iran)
What is Embroidery?
Embroidery is the art of decorating a fabric medium or garment using a needle and thread. There are two types of embroidery, hand embroidery, and machine embroidery. While some businesses still specialize in hand embroidery, you'll find that a majority of companies in the embroidery business now use embroidery machines. Using an embroidery machine allows for one's work to be significantly faster and cleaner. The most popular embroidery medius where you can see embroidered designs are caps, coats, shirts, denim, stockings, and blankets.
An ancient piece of Russian embroidery. (Tarnoga, Arkhangelsk region, Russia) Courtesy of The Museum of Russian Art
History of Embroidery
Embroidery dates back to Cro-Magnon days or 30,000 B.C. It started as a form of art that depicted pictures that told stories. As time went on it continued to develop. People began to realize that you could do more with sewing that just patch, mend, reinforce, and tailor. This realization that sewing could be used to decorate led to the development of embroidery. Overtime, embroidery continued to advance alongside technology. It's now faster, more efficient, and we can embroider (almost) anything we can think of.
Traditional Estonian embroidered skirt. Many cultures have used embroidery as a form of expression for generations (Tartu, Estonia)
Different Types of Embroidery
Hand embroidery is exactly what it sounds like; embroidery that is done by hand. If you're doing embroidering as a hobby, hand embroidery is the way to go. You can easily get started. It's easily accessible to everyone and doesn't require a lot of tools, and any tools that are required can be picked up at your local craft store.
Hand Embroidery Essentials:
- Needle - These vary in sizes depending on what fabric you are looking to embroider. A thicker fabric like leather will obviously require a large needle. Whereas to embroidery a handkerchief, a more delicate material, your needle will need to be a smaller size.
- Thread - There are a lot of different choices for thread on the market when you're doing any type of embroidery. The thread can vary in composition, from wool to cotton, to even polyester. The type of thread you want to choose will vary based on the look you're going for and again your fabric. For thicker material, I would recommend choosing something with strong tensile strength like polyester-based threads.
- The garment of your choice.
For professional work, hand embroidery isn't the best idea. Hand embroidery may be fun as a hobby, but it requires a lot of time and is tedious. If you're operating a business, you'll miss out on a lot of potential revenue because you're not optimizing your time.
A 20-head Tajima embroidery machine can produce up to 20 garments at a time!
Machine embroidery is defined as using an embroidery machine or sewing machine to create patterns on cloth. Using a machine to embroider, used to only be done exclusively by large industrial companies, but now everyday people also use them. They've become extremely affordable with some entry-level models costing under $5,000. Your friends, parents, grandparents, or distant relatives may use machinery to embroider. Machine embroidering is becoming more and more common. Usually, when most people think of embroidery, they automatically think of machine embroidery. I even found an article by a frustrated woman who runs a hand embroidery business. In the article, she's frustrated because she constantly receives calls for work that's considered machine embroidery, and she believes that there is a significant difference between the two (which there is). Most people think of machine embroidery because it's faster, more efficient, and is widely available everywhere. But to use machine embroidery you must first have your art digitized.
In this video, Phil, teaches you how to digitize using Embroidery i2 for Adobe Illustrator CS6. Now keep in mind, there are a ton of great digitizing software available on the market for creating embroidery logos, this is just one of them.
Digitizing | Preparing Embroidery Files
Digitizing is converting a design or image into a stitch file so that it can be read by the machine sewing. It's similar to wanting a hand-drawn design converted into a digital image, so it can be printed onto clothes. The process of digitizing is fairly simple. It's just that depending on the size and complexity of the design it can take several hours to copy it correctly. The art must be first examined, then an outline is created (by plotting the stitches), and then additional information is filled in (density, underlay, path, other factors). The file must then be converted into a file that fits your embroidery machine
The Process of Embroidery
In this video, Phil shows you how to vectorize a raster image. This process converts a pixel-based image into a vector-based image that is scalable.
- Art - You must first have the art that you want to be embroidered. So, create it yourself, outsource, or come to CapSwag and we'll help you create your ideal design. Ideally, for any artwork, you want to have it in a high-resolution png or vector-based image like (.svg , .ai , .eps or .pdf). While the artwork will still need to be converted into a machine-ready embroidery file, these formats can be used for a variety of other custom apparel applications like DTG and screen printing.
- Digitizing - Converting your design into a stitch file that allows the machine to read it. Digitizing software allows us to take an image and dictate to the machine what functions to perform at each command point. We can tell the machine to stitch, trim, jump, and more.
- Pre-Production - Prepare the embroidery machine. This includes loading the machine with the correct threads, needles, sequencing, and programming that it needs to function. The specifics of this step, like how to load a design on an embroidery machine, all obviously depend on the machine you have.
- Production - Stretch the garment (when it comes to embroidery, material tension is key) across the frame, attach to the hoop, stabilize and remove extra stitching that accumulates throughout the process.
The logo on the left costs significantly more because of the time that goes into setting up the digitized file, embroidering and quality controlling, in addition to using a lot more material.
Pricing for embroidery varies and changes based on a lot of factors. These factors include the number of stitches, number of colors, number of locations, quantity of items embroidering, the complexity of the design, size, cost of the garment (if you don't supply it), rate of turnover, and type of garment embroidering.
This Philadelphia Athletics fitted cap features 3D Puff Embroidery.3D Puff/Foam
- 3D Puff is a technique that uses foam (usually 3mm or 6mm) to create a 3D look on headwear. The artwork is digitized in a specific way so that the foam can be used. The density has to be multiplied by two and programmed to stitch in the order of underlay, border, then 3D section. The foam is inserted when the machine stops in between the border and the 3D section. The foam is pulled away when the machine finishes stitching the 3D section, a heat gun is used to remove the residual foam left. This process is more expensive because of the time it takes, but it’s definitely worth it. The 3D section on your headwear will stand for itself.
- The Natural/Layer technique isn’t as effective as Puff in creating a 3D look, but it gets the job done. Instead of using foam to create a 3D look, it uses layers to create the look. It also has to digitized in a specific way in order for it to work. It’s programmed to do an underlay on the edge of the stitches, then it stitches on top of that to create a raised pocket effect. This pocket will be smaller because it’s layered and not stitched on top of the foam.
This is an example of applique, notice how the heart is a different material and is attached to the base material using an outline stitch. Courtesy of WikiHow
Applique sounds like something super complicated when you first read it, but it’s actually really simple. It’s derived from a French word that means attach. So, its definition in regard to embroidery is; the technique of attaching (stitching) smaller pieces of fabric onto larger pieces to create the desired look. This is a very broad definition, many people consider applique to be its own field. But applique is something that’s very common in embroidery and I consider it to be a sub-field. You see applique every day and don’t even know it. Some everyday items that utilize applique are caps, sports jerseys, shoes, sweaters, dresses, jackets, and book bags. Now the next time you turn on the tv to watch your favorite sports team you can look at their jerseys and be like “hey, that’s applique.”
Embroidered patches are a great way to express yourself. Courtesy of ColorLib
I don’t know if embroidered patches have always been popular, but it seems like they’ve become popular. When I was in high school, all of a sudden everything had embroidered patches on it. Bookbags, hoodies, shirts, pants, jackets, especially leather jackets. Now, I’m in college and I see it even more. I feel like people find embroidered patches so appealing because they are easy to use. You simply pick out the design, symbol, or picture you want and attach it to wherever. I also think people like them because you don’t have to commit to a design on your clothes. Most embroidered patches can be removed easily. So, if you get tired of it you can just take it off. There’s a variety of backing types when it comes to embroidered patches. They can have a plastic, pin, adhesive, iron-on, hook and loop, or no backing at all. A more modern type of backing is Velcro or a magnetic backing. Embroidery patches can be permeant too, just get them sewn on. Even though they can most patches can be removed, they can be reused multiple times because they’re durable. Any design or logo you have can be made into an embroidery patch. Once you have found the design you want, next you have to pick which type of border you want. If your patch is a complex shape you should get a die-cut border. If not, merrowed borders are used for simple shape designs. A patch is made by using fabric, some type of backing, thread, and a needle or needles. Once your design is completed, it can be placed anywhere that you want.
Embroidery Machine Comparison
There are a wide variety of embroidery machines that commercial companies use to produce their products. They choose these machines based on their capabilities and what’s best for the needs of their company. They look for a machine that has ideal functions and won’t limit their work. Each individual function on the machine is important in its own way. The functions they look at include but are not limited to the number of needles, sewing field, software, max speed, included hoops, and stitch memory. The top brands that most people use are Avance, Tajima, Barudan, Melco, and Brother. If you want more information about embroidery machines go to this linked website. This website is a little bit biased because it’s written by Avance, but it’s good information none the less.
Types of Embroidery Thread
There are actually two popular types of thread used for embroidery, rayon, and polyester. These two are very different types of thread but almost all embroidery equipment and needles can use both. They both come in over 400 colors, are designed for running at high speeds on machines, reflect light, and are free from harmful substances. So, what’s the difference and which thread should I use? Well that depends on the type of durability, versatility, and operability you want. If you want something durable like work clothes or something that you can toss into a heavy-duty laundry, you should choose polyester. Almost all of the polyester threads are resistance to chlorine bleach, this even includes chlorine pools. Polyester threads will hold their colors whereas rayon can’t. If you want a versatile thread, rayon comes in a variety of different sizes. There is a very fine, 75-weight thread, that is perfect for small details and lettering. Rayon also comes in 30-weight and 12-weight thread size for larger fills, so you do not have to waste thread filling bigger areas. When it comes to operability, both have their pluses. Polyester has low elongation which provides more accuracy for each stitch and requires less critical timing. The low elongation also decreases the looping and puckering of the thread. Rayon, on the other hand, is widely known to be stitched out in any direction and lie flat even in complicated designs. This is because of its flexibility, pliability, and strength. So, depending on what you want and the task at hand, you can choose whichever is the best for you.
Cap Swag Embroidery
If I peaked your interest in embroidery and you want something embroidered, you’re on the right site. Cap Swag does all types of embroidery and offers everything above. We digitize designs, 3D puff, Natural/ Layer, applique, we do it all. Cap Swag offers high-quality embroidery at an affordable cost. Our team is specialized in design and technique and we’ll help your visions come to life. Since you’re already on the site, you might as well stay a while and look around 😉.