• Jody

What is an Embroidery Design?

Happy New Year!

Your embroidery machine can be a source of joy and happiness, or a major frustration. Knowing what the embroidery design that you just purchased actually does may help you stay on the joy and happiness side. I’ve been digitizing designs for almost 25 years and this question comes up fairly often.

So, let’s start with what the design actually is. An embroidery design is actually a small software program. This small software program doesn’t completely control your embroidery machine. It controls the x y axis of the embroidery arm. It works within the confines of your machine software, so the design actually works slightly different on different machines.

Your machine has hard wired programming to control how fast it can sew, how small the smallest stitch is, how large the largest stitch is, whether it trims or not, how far it will “jump” without trimming and a host of other “rules”. These are all build into your machine and if they are variable, they are controlled by the settings you have selected for your machine.

The embroidery design controls the location of the x y hoop arm. The embroidery design moves the hoop underneath the sewing machine but will always conform to the rules in your machine. Things like thread changes are set in your machine as a stopping point. Although some commercial machines actually can read a “stop” inserted into the design, most machines cannot and so digitizers use thread color changes to force your machine to stop. If your machine is designed to cut threads, and you have that feature turned on, the thread color change is a signal for your machine to trim. There is no way for an embroidery design to override this.

Trims within a design are also controlled by your machine’s parameters. Let’s say your machine is designed to trim any jump greater than 5 mm. That means small jumps within the design that are less than 5 mm will not be trimmed.

During the digitizing design process, I do choose between jumps and stitches. You’ll see stitched connections that are later covered by another part of the design in many of my embroidery designs. This is done to eliminate trims, which are considered the weakest part of a design.

Things like tension and sewing speed are strictly controlled by your machine.

What my design does control is the location of the xy arm that holds your hoop, however, your machine controls the timing of the moves to match the needle position in the sewing head. I also create the sequence of moves and thread changes. I always minimize thread changes and trims. I never have stitch sizes that violate the minimum and maximum. If a stitch size violates the rules of your machine those stitches will be skipped.

If you have loops in the design, it is most likely tension. Top loops are usually upper tension, lower loops are usually bobbin tension. The other reason for loops can be that the stabilizer and fabric are separating.

If you are having trouble with a design, the surest way to isolate the issue is to sew it out on stabilizer only. This allows you to see what’s going on without the extra variable of the fabric.

Digitizing is super fun. A balance of creative and technical. If you are considering learning to digitize, I highly recommend that you start by learning the rules imposed by the embroidery machine. This will help immensely in creating good designs that sew out well.

PS: This month's design is a seashell. I guess I'm already thinking about summer!

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