As an embroiderer, I am always learning and growing. As a teacher, I am always thinking about what I wish I had learned before embarking on the long journey to comprehension.
With embroidery (and I’m sure any other form of decoration), there are so many reasons, so many techniques, and so many ways to produce just one item. In the beginning, I always struggled with the concept that there is not one answer or one book to tell me what to do and it work out perfectly. I was frustrated that it took me multiple trials just to embroider a design on a pique knit shirt and it look perfect. It couldn’t be that hard, right? Just get the design, put it on the machine, and stitch – then, Voila! I had a finished garment. Yeah – not so much.
It’s easy to become enchanted with embroidery – I did. But, it can be frustrating in the beginning, but don’t worry; it’s gets much easier after knowing what to look at and what to look for. I think it was frustrating for me mainly because I didn’t study the basics – I wasn’t taught the basics and the “behind the scenes” concepts. That’s where I like to start when teaching and educating – mostly because I wish I had started there.
I always begin explaining a recipe of sorts when teaching people about embroidery. I even took a look at the meaning of recipe and here is what I found online from the Merriam-Webster website:
Recipe | noun | rec-i-pe | \ˈre-sə-(ˌ)pē\
: a set of instructions for making food
: a way of doing something that will produce a particular result
: a set of instructions for making something from various ingredients
: a formula or procedure for doing or attaining something
That first definition doesn’t really apply, but that last one speaks volumes, “A formula or procedure for doing or attaining something.” Embroidery is definitely a formula – and a procedure. I always tell people to take a step back - away from the machine and the design / digitizing and let’s look at the raw material and what’s happening to it. And, how that can affect our end result.
Let’s look at the formula structure. First, we have to consider the textile or material that will be embellished with embroidery. It’s hard to know where to start in describing textiles since there is such a broad spectrum of embroidable items. The important part is the textile makeup and how it is affected by all parts of the embroidery process. In my opinion, understanding the fabric is one of the most fascinating factors. Look, touch, and feel the materials and then correspond those findings to the particular components of embroidery.
The next thing to consider is the actual act of embroidery. When embroidering an item, a needle is going through a textile; whether it is piercing the material (making a hole) or separating the fibers of the garment. As that action happens, the material will move or displace or even change form. In addition to this factor, the needle has a 3-dimensional piece of thread going through that hole – and returning back (backing up) through that same hole. I know we are really talking on a micro level, but imagine that happening hundreds of times in one small area. Just think how this is affecting your fabric. And, that’s just needles and thread – only two parts of the recipe.
There are a lot of things to think about just in regards to needles and thread. There are different needle sizes, point types, metal makeup, country of origin and manufacturers. It’s part of the same thing with thread – sizes, material makeup, twist and tensile strength, dying process, country of origin, and manufacturers. And, I’m sure that’s not all of the factors, but some of these things can attribute to the differences in needles and thread. Which, in turn, can affect the outcome of your embroidery.
Then, we have backing / stabilizer – another part of the recipe. There are different materials and textiles that call for various backing types. Taking another step back, backing is also referred to stabilizer - it is one of the major factors to help stabilize the textile and keep it in place while it is being embroidered. Companies offer a wide variety of backings and it can get overwhelming at times, but think about the fabric and what that fabric can handle in regards to needle penetrations and thread type. The textile that is being embroidered on, as well as the design, will help decipher the stability it needs. It’s a good idea to explore backings and really understand their makeup.
Lastly (for now), is the hoop that is being utilized as well as the hooping technique. Like backing, there are so many different types of hoops, clamps, hoop-less systems, and other accessories to frame up your fabric. This can also be overwhelming. But, I always encourage understanding the different hooping mechanisms and why they are used. Ask about the applications the frames are used for and determine if they fall into your needs. Choosing the right hoop can be detrimental to the finished product.
In addition to the hoops, an operator must also reflect on hooping technique. If the garment is not hooped properly (with the correct hoop), this can cause all kinds of problems. But, if it is properly hooped, it can make a big difference in the outcome. Again, utilize the expertise from industry veterans to understand the right way to hoop and why hooping incorrectly can affect your embroidery.
I could go on and on and on about all the different things we have to think about, but start here. Start at the very basics – understand the components that are being used with the machinery. Explore the different companies that sell the consumables and understand the makeup of these items. There are a lot of great businesses that sell and support supplies – and even provide great education on their products.
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