Embroidered emblems can be a profitable addition to any embroidery operation. The small embroiderer can produce small emblem runs that often are not accepted by large, specialized emblem houses, and can make emblems from existing stock designs for special events. If the quantity of emblems sought by the customer is too large to be produced cost effectively in house, the small embroidery shop might subcontract the work out to a larger embroidery operation satisfying the customer and making a profit, as well.
Direct Embroidery versus Emblems
My first choice is almost always to direct embroider an item rather than make an emblem and sew it onto the garment. However, there are instances when an emblem is the better choice.
Emblems, because of their portability are the first choice when the embroidered design represents and earned award, such as the emblems earned in scouting. Emblems can be moved from one garment to another; therefore, they are often the choice for uniforms. They also can be a good choice when the area to be embroidered is too difficult to hoop, for example a finished golf bag. Emblems also can be used to cover a damaged area on a garment or areas which had embroidery or screen printing for identification and where the ID is no longer correct or desired.
Anatomy of an Emblem
The majority of emblems are constructed form a cotton twill fabric. This fabric is very durable and the slight ridges of the fabric enhance the embroidery. Behind the fabric is a backing material that provides stability during the embroidery process.
An additional layer of backing, usually heat sensitive, is often added so the emblem can be heat sealed into place. A merrowed edge usually is added to convex shapes. Merrowing machines produce a special stitch, which overcasts the edge of the emblem fabric to eliminate fraying and give it a finished look. Emblems with small concave curves are usually too difficult to merrow; these often are finished with a satin stitch border then trimmed as closely as possible to limit fraying of the fabric.
Large Emblem Shops
Large multi-head shops often embroider large sheets of fabric utilizing a sash frame to hold the fabric taut. Most large emblem shops base the cost of an emblem on its dimensions, calculating the number of emblems that will fit on a sheet of material within a sash frame.
Another method for costing and pricing emblems is based on the amount of coverage or stitches needed for a design, and the number of colors required to complete the design. The number of colors that can be used in a given design is usually limited to the number of colors the embroiderer’s machines can handle.
Because of their portability, many emblems are made overseas where labor costs are significantly lower. If you’re subcontracting an order, determine if your customer is concerned about where the emblem is made. Many of the large U.S. emblem makers have divisions overseas or contract work out to overseas embroidery houses.
Small Embroidery Shops
Three options are available to small embroidery shops that wish to produce emblems. The first is to purchase pre-merrowed patches. These are available from large embroidery houses and from sewing supply houses.
The patches are cut to a pre-determined size and merrowed in the color appropriate for the design. These pre-merrowed parches are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased in small quantities. The limitation in working with pre-made patches is that your design or lettering must fit within the predetermined size.
Also available are precut patches without a merrowed border. These patches allow the embroiderer a wider choice of border colors, provided the embroiderer has a merrowing machine and a supply of the desired thread. Generally, a 12 denier thread, much heavier that that which is usually is used for embroidery, is used for merrowing.
The third method of making emblems is to purchase the desired fabric and embroider the design on it, including a cutting line around the design. The patches then are cut by hand or with a die cutter. After cutting the emblems, they can be finished with a merrowed edge or satin stitch. By cutting your own emblem fabric, it is possible to embroider virtually any size or shape that will fit within your embroidery machine’s hoops.
Embroidery Pre-Cut Emblems
Since most embroiderers in small shops choose this option when the need for emblems arises, here are some suggestions that will make the job a little easier. For this application we use either adhesive tear-away backing or a tear-away that has been sprayed with embroidery spray adhesive.
1) Using your editing program, program a single walk stitch the same size and shape as the perimeter of the pre-cut emblem.; Insert a color change or stop at the end of this stitching. This stop allows you to position the emblem on the tearaway before further stitching.
2) If the design is filled and can distort the patch, program a low-density tack-down stitch after the above stitching to accurately tack the emblem to the backing. If the design is not filled, the tack-down stitch is not necessary. Continue with the design or lettering to be used on the patch in the proper position within the border you’ve just created.
3) Use the step-and-repeat function to sew multiple emblems within a hoop.
4) When the emblem is completed, remove from the tear-away backing. If tack-down stitches were required remove these stitches now.
Sewing Tip: If multiple emblems are sewn within a hooping you may layer the design by color and sew all the perimeter stiches first, then the tack-down stitches and finally the designs.
Get the terminology right. We sell emblems, not patches. According to Webster’s dictionary, an emblem is a visible symbol of a thing, idea, class of people, etc. A patch, on the other hand, is a piece of material applied to cover something, such a hole.
You may have noticed that I used the term “patch” in several places in this article. However, I used it only when referring to a blank piece of fabric, either plain or bordered. Once a patch is embroidered, it becomes an emblem. Changing your vocabulary changes your customer’s perspective of what you are selling.
Having sample emblems for your customer to see and feel, makes the selling of emblems easy. Base your pricing on your costs; obviously the operator of a single-head machine cannot produce emblems in large quantities for the same price as a large multi-head shop. However the small shop has the ability to produce just one emblem or several, and it can produce such short runs more efficiently than large emblem shops, where minimums runs often can be 100 pieces or more.
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