1. When I purchased my embroidery software, I got a really great deal for purchasing digitizing software at the same time. I figured that I could save a lot of money by doing my own designs. Why can’t I digitize like the pros when I have the top-level software?
First of all, it takes a long time to learn the ins and outs of digitizing. If you are new to the embroidery business, you will want to gain experience embroidering before you start to digitize. As a youngster, baby steps are mastered by a marathon runner, just the same as any ordinary individual, and it’s the same in our business. You need to learn to walk before you can run. It’s important to run designs that have been digitized by many digitizers. You will notice that some perform better than others. Try to analyze why.
Learning the editing process is the first step to becoming a good digitizer. When a design doesn’t stitch to your exacting specifications, the ability to go into that design and change the problem areas will give you the foundation that you need to make digitizing decisions. When you are comfortable with those tools, then you may be ready to digitize. Some people really love the digitizing process, and others discover that they really don’t like it at all. It requires a huge amount of patience and hours and hours of practice.
In the beginning, it’s a good idea to have a professional digitizer in your corner. While you learn the process, you can send out the designs that you are not yet capable of mastering. A great way to learn is to digitize the same design that you send to a digitizer, then compare the finished product. Compare the types and directions of stitches, and notice the differences in pathing the design. At some point, you may like your work better than the digitizer’s. That’s when you are ready to do your own digitizing.
Most software comes with a training package. If I were purchasing the digitizing package with my embroidery software, I would ask if the training can be split into different sessions so that you, too, can “learn to walk before you learn to run!”
2. I have purchased several applique designs from different stock design companies. I have noticed that some have a zig-zag tackdown stitch and others have a running line. Also, some have only a tackdown and others are completed with a column. What is the correct process?
There really isn’t a right or wrong way in applique, but there are reasons for each of the processes that you asked about. First, let’s go over the three parts of the applique. The outline defines where the fabric is placed and serves as a cutting line for those who own applique cutting equipment. The tackdown, step number two, holds the fabric in place. The border provides an attractive edge and prevents the fabric from fraying.
The zigzag tackdown stitch covers the edge of a cut piece of fabric, and is a good one to use especially when the applique material is twill. Because twill is heavy, the edges tend to pop up with a mere running stitch holding it in place, making it more difficult for the column border to lie flat. However, if you are doing your cutting during the applique process, you will much prefer a running stitch to tack the fabric in place. The scissors, which will get caught in the jagged edged of the zigzag stitch, will slide smoothly around a running stitch outline.
Sometimes only a low-density column (zigzag) is used to keep the applique in place and the column border is not even part of the design. You see this mostly in athletic wear, and the applique product is adhesive backed twill. When this is the process, it is imperative that you heat press the applique in place, in addition to the stitching, to keep the fabric from buckling or fraying with repeated laundering. Even when a column border is used to finish off the design, I am a proponent of using a heat press to complete the process. The design will retain its professional quality for the life of the garment when you take the few extra seconds to put on the finishing touch.
3. I have trouble selling high stitch count designs to customers for a price they can afford and still maintain a profit on my work. I’m not really into slave labor. Is there any way that I can reduce the stitch count on some of the designs offered by stock design companies?
If you’re like us, when a customer comes to your shop and wants something other than a logo, you will place all of your design catalogs in front of him and let him choose a design. If you don’t set up any guidelines before he looks, he will invariably select a large design and most likely want it for a cap or crest. Why? The large designs have more detail, and therefore are more attractive in the catalog.
We learned our lesson the hard way. In our early years, we usually forgot to explain why some designs are used for jacket backs and others are more suitable for small logos. Most of the catalogs have a stitch count and size by the design. If you tell the customer what your charge is per thousand stitches, he can calculate the cost of each design as he peruses.
While it is not advisable to take a jacket back design down to a cap size, or vice verse, there are some things you can do to reduce stitch count. It requires the use of your editing tools, however! You might be able to reduce the size of the design, and if your software has a stitch processor, it should remove stitches for you. You can also check the fill patterns that were chosen and substitute a fill with longer stitches. Sometimes you can reduce the density of the column stitches. You might try a longer stitch length, too. Analyze the underlay. Is it more than you need for the garment? Get rid of some of it.
It is important to remember that changing these things will affect the sewing quality of the design. Stitch it out to make sure the design still looks top-notch. If it does, you just added valuable embroidery time to your schedule. However, editing takes time, too, and the game must be worth the prize. If you are not charging the customer for editing time, you won’t want to waste that valuable commodity for a small number of garments….unless this is a design you will use again!
4. I have a hard time removing topping from some of the designs that are very intricate. It’s especially troublesome when we have a large order of terry or polar fleece garments. Any suggestions?
Solvy, one of the toppings available, gets its name from the fact that it is a soluble product. It disappears when it gets wet. It’s easy to remove by tearing away most of it, then using a clean wet towel or steam iron to dissolve the small areas remaining. It can be somewhat time consuming, however.
You can adjust the underlay of the fills in your designs to lay down the nap on these fabrics. For a large run, I like to use a light fill underlay, and a second light fill underlay going the opposite direction. The combination of the two will pretty much eliminates the nap before the fill embroidery is stitched. For columns, a center walk underlay in combination with an edge walk may do the trick. If not, add a low-density column underlay, too.
You will be adding considerably to the stitch count of the design by adding this much underlay to both columns and fills, but I find that it takes less time to stitch the underlay than to remove the topping from the product. When we use this type of underlay, we find that it is no longer necessary to use topping.