Thursday, April 19, 2012

Helpful Embroidery Tips

Here are some quick ideas to help save time and extra work in your commercial embroidery shop

Stop thread shedding

Shiny rayon threads look just as lush sewn into garments as on the cone, but this silky quality can sometimes be maddening when the slippery stuff sheds off the cone. And when dropped, unlike other thread types, a cone of rayon thread can quickly resemble a handful of spaghetti, rather than a cone of thread. Instead of considering a dropped cone a hopeless casualty, grasp the cone upright in one hand, and with your other hand, pull straight upward on the layers of unwound thread. Repeat as is necessary until you have uncovered the undisturbed layers. Although this will remove many yards of thread, it is a far better alternative than tossing the entire cone.

To deal with shedding that occurs while the cone is in use, some embroiderers cover the cone with a “sock” made of netting. This product, sold by some thread manufacturers, was developed from a homemade remedy employed by freehand chainstitchers. Working with heavyweight rayon fabric, operators of manual chainstitch machines often used real socks placed over their thread cones to control shedding. To add more control, the stitcher would cut a notch in the bottom of the large cardboard cone holding the chainstitch thread, and the thread would follow this patch: through the notch, up through the inside of the cone, exiting through the cone’s top opening. In this way the thread is controlled, but not restricted from fluid movement.

Use waxed paper to help with sewing metallic thread

You can use waxed paper as a backing with nylon fabrics. It seems that  the lubricating properties of the paper when activated by the needle's heat results in fewer thread breaks. You can also have good luck using waxed paper as a backing when sewing with metallic threads.  Place the waxed paper next to the garment, then a piece of regular backing next to the machine table.  The reduced friction on the metallic thread makes an incredible difference in reducing the number of thread breaks. The metallic thread also has a smoother look when sewn into the fabric.

Repairing embroidered logos

How many times have you already unhooped a garment before you notice missing embroidery in a design because of an undetected thread break or empty bobbin?

Consider using a manual satin stitch machine for performing such repairs. These machines make the same type of stitch as computerized equipment, but instead of being controlled by a pantograph and a computer program, the goods are guided beneath the needle by a skilled operator. The width of the stitch is determined by a knee control, and the speed by a foot pedal.

This is much more efficient than placing a garment under the head of a computerized machine and jogging the pantograph a dozen times to realign the design. This technique works better than markers for covering bobbin thread that has been pulled to the top side of the fabric. With practice, missing column sections as well as lettering can be replaced discreetly. Fill stitched areas are not as well suited for this repair method because the repetition of the fill sequence cannot be duplicated manually.

Because this machine is a true monogram machine, it can also be pressed into service for personal monograms when you don't want to tie up your computerized equipment to apply single names. This type of embroidery machine is still manufactured by most major industrial sewing machine manufacturers, and even older, used models will give many years of repair service.

Protecting embroidery samples

Often a shop’s best embroidery samples become worn out quickly because, naturally, because these are the very pieces customers want to handle the most. Yet, because embroidery is even more beautiful when viewed closely, most of us hesitate to put these items out of our customers’ reach.

One solution is to enclose these samples in plastic bags with a vacuum food saver machine. The lightweight, crystal clear film protects the embroidery from moisture, dust and soil.   You can sometimes find these machines at thrift stores or garage sales.

Framing presses

More and more shops are realizing the benefits of using framing presses in their shops. Use of a press allows the hooper to get excellent surface tension on goods, easily hoop heavy or bulky goods, hoop faster and reduce the risk of repetitive motion disorders.

Using a framing press is a double-edged sword, however. Because the press affords its user super human strength, it is possible to force an inner ring into an outer ring that is adjusted too tight. This can result in third degree hoop burns, where the fibers of the fabric are actually bruised or stretched.

Test for proper hoop adjustment by first hooping the goods by hand. Adjust the outer ring to easily accommodate hand hooping, then use this adjustment setting for the hoops on the press.

Sometimes, however, the inner ring is the source of hooping tensions. The head of the press holds this ring so tightly that it is difficult to remove the hooped garment. Unfortunately, over-tightened hoops are sometimes used with presses, because a properly adjusted hoop will come apart when removed from an improperly adjusted press head. Overcome this problem by adjusted the screw heads or ball bearing screws on the press head so it releases the inner ring more easily.

Better grip for hoops

Many embroiderers have developed their own unique techniques for getting their hoops to grip just a bit better. By affixing velvet ribbon to your hoops can help provide the friction needed for tighter gripping power. Specifically, glue a strip of velvet ribbon around the inside of the larger ring of your hoop, and the outside of the smaller ring. The fabric of the garment to be embroidered will then be sandwiched between the velvet ribbon and, hopefully, will not slip out of the hoop as easily.

Seam rippers

Trimming around backing is neither quick nor easy, but there is a way to make it so. Use an inexpensive seam ripper, which can be purchased at your local fabric store, to trim around backing materials. Use the sharp point to poke through the backing to get you started on your way to trimming. Then, carefully slide the seam ripper around the embroidery, keeping the short end with the protective ball against the garment at all times.

The seam ripper has an added advantage: It can also be used to remove unwanted embroidery stitches by simply running the blade along the bobbin stitches on the underside of the embroidery.


  1. Some very good ideas, actually. Though I've tried using a seam ripper for small cutting jobs and usually end up tearing or piercing my fabric. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. Also, about the shiny rayon thread, I always used the netting bag they put oranges in at the grocery store. This is a free option, if you don't have a net bag from the craft store. It works temporarily until you can buy something better.

  2. Useful tips, but I don't think I will move into embroidery

  3. Thanks for the tips, they will come in use

  4. Sweet tips man, this is a very informative post especially about embroidery, which I didn't know much about

  5. Awesome tips on embroidery, very useful for people, like myself who enjoy embroidery on hats

  6. Great ideas and very useful to a novice like me

  7. Seam rippers, why didn't I think of that?

  8. Sweet momma that is a lot of info. Good guide dude.

  9. Good tips. I didn't know that a seam ripper existed. I thought that was a wood cutter

  10. And with this comment, I say sweet tips man

  11. Great post! The fact that you means someone is reading and liking it! Congrats!That’s great advice.

  12. Some useful embroidery tips to follow. I need to follow some of these tips.

  13. Wow....what fantastic advice; I must save all that. (Near the end I though it said 'don't forget to hold your breath when you start to stitch' ....because that's what I do :-)