Aah, a cap design...the greatest single challenge for any digitizer! And it challenges the embroiderer, too. This particular embroiderer has been using the design with great satisfaction on pique flats, but when converting to caps, has a problem with the density being too intense, as well as the loss of detail on the fish, which might also be attributed to density. He also claims that the lettering is wider on the caps than on the flats.
Most designs that have been digitized for flat embroidery have been pathed for the most efficient running of the embroidery machine. The design should move from color to color, working from the background of the design to the foreground, with as few color changes as possible, to save time. The same pathing procedure may not be the best choice for embroidering caps.
Rule #1: Work from the center out.
As I analyze this design before getting started with the actual project digitizing, I see that the biggest problem is going to be setting up the work from the center out. There is an oval that will require fill and three columns around it, one on the inside and two on the outside. For example, divided into segments and embroidered from the center under one of the columns and repeat the process for the top right quadrant. After that, walk to the center of the bottom half and repeat both segments for that portion of the oval.
On the black oval columns, start in the upper center oval and digitize the column to the left side, walk back to the center in the body of the fish, and digitize the column to the right side. On the bottom of the center oval, walk under the column stitch to the middle, and digitize to the left, then walk through the body of the fish again all the way to the right and back under the column to the center, and digitize to the right. This will allow you to walk through the tail of the fish without picking up the needle to get to the outer black oval. Follow the same steps as above, except this time all the runnning stitches can be concealed under the teal oval.
Working the teal oval from the center out is not as easy as the black oval, since there are no remaining hiding places for running stitches. I would just start at the top center, digitize a column to the left, move to the bottom center and digitize to the left. Then I would use a jump stitch to het back to the top center and follow the same paths to the right.
By the time the oval has been embroidered, there should be enough stitching to hold the cap in place. I would digitize the fish the same way I would if I were digitizing for a flat garment, working from the underside to the top. My first color would be the white, walking from one fill section to another, making sure that those running stitches will be underneath the detail columns so they do not mar the appearance of the other colors. Then in sequence I would place the yellow, light blue, blue and black.
Last, but certainly not least, is the lettering. Here again, I would work from the center out. Doing so will assure the alignment of the letters in the oval, keeping spacing even between the inner and outer ovals. Once that’s done, the project is accurate. This is where we find out if there’s any “tweaking” to be done. Once satisfied, then we test on the actual garment. In this case, the real test is placement on the cap.
Addressing the Problems
Problem #1: Fills too dense.
I have learned through much trial and error, that most fill design parameters are too dense. One can easily solve the problem by manually entering a fill density. Since caps are a challenge, lightening up the fill density will eliminate many thread breaks and allow for better registration.
Problem #2: Detail on the fish getting bunched up.
Without actually seeing the original digitizing for the crest design, it’s hard to make a judgement call on this problem. However, it would be my guess that this, too, was digitized in columns and that they are too dense. The black in the printed design is very bold, and the same effect can be created with light density columns.
Problem #3: Wider columns on the lettering than when stitched flat.
Machine speed is most likely the culprit in the irregularities in column width. That’s the reason that our software has pull compensation as an option. Caps are usually stitched at a slower speed than flats, which would result in less pull on the columns, making them appear wider. Adjusting the column width to a narrower column would affect the entire design, so it may be a tradeoff as to whether one would want to slow the machine speed on flats, or increase the speed on caps. I would personally like the wider column better, and would be inclined to leave the cap speed at lower setting. I would wonder if the difference is wide enough to be caught by the inexperinced eye! This is a problem I would take directly to my customer, to ensure that he is pleased with the final outcome.
The Best Solution
It must be said that hooping caps properly is the most important aspect in achieving a perfect design. The cap must be hooped tightly, and there should be no bulge in the center. Taking caution in that process will eliminate most of the push factor of the fabric, and will make the registration much more accurate. No matter how well a design is digitized for caps, unless the cap is “flat” against the hoop, there will be problems. Eliminate the problems before the cap is on the machine. Get it tight and the design will be “tight”!