A machine embroidered design can be placed on any fabric, including silks and soft wools, but producing embroidery that is well suited to the fabric, doesn’t pucker or change the drape of the fabric requires more than just embroidering the design.
What you must have before you even begin to embroider are:
- An embroidery machine that is well tuned and set at the correct needle and bobbin tensions;
- A well digitized and positioned design.
- The correct needle and thread for the embroidery design.
- A good understanding of the fabric you are working with so that it is properly hooped and stabilized.
One thing that we need to realize is that not every design should not be used on every type of fabric, even with the proper stabilizer. Most digitizers design for a middle-of-the-road fabric type, so unless you have digitized the design yourself for a specific type of fabric, always do a test sewout on the fabric, using the same thread and stabilizer as you will use on the final garment or project.
A very dense design can put stress on fabrics such as knits and lightweight loosely woven fabrics, which in some cases can cause the weave to pull apart. If you have a very fluid fabric, a dense design will impede the flow of the fabric, and would not be suitable. The most successful combination of a dense design is with a stable, medium-to-heavyweight woven fabric.
A very small design with a lot of open areas would not be suitable for a thick pile fabric such as fleece or terry toweling as that would cause the details of the design to be lost in the fabric. A topper such as organza may hold the fibres down under the design, but the organza must match the colour of the fleece or terry toweling on designs with several or even one very large open area. Do not rely on washaway toppers such as Solvy to permanently hold down the fabric pile, as over time it will degrade and eventually disappear entirely.
However, if you have a design with substantial underlay, it would embroider beautifully on pile or fleece fabrics because the underlay will keep the pile from poking through the stitches. But this same design, due to the heavy underlay, may be too dense for softer fabrics.
If you just have to have a fairly dense design on a lightweight fabric, the correct stabilizer will allow you to embroider the design, but you may run into the dreaded “bulletproof “ embroidery or ruin the drape of the fabric, so be aware that stabilizing a design is not always the answer.
If you have a lighter density design with open, airy areas, you may consider adding a topping to the fabric if you are concerned about “pokies”, no matter which type of fabric on which the design is embroidered. Some toppings such as “dry cover up” from Hoop-it-All will not only add stability to the top of the design, but they also are available in various colour. Whenever possible, match the colour with the largest amount of fill in the design or alternatively match the colour with the fabric, thus eliminating “pokies”.
Try using lame´ as a topping. The open spaces will have the shimmering lame peeking through and you may end up with a more interesting design that you started out with! A gold lame´ topper will give your design that extra “zing” when the light hits it and really make the design a winner!
There is no “magic formula” for perfect embroidery, but by matching the design to the fabric, correct stabilizers and toppings, you should not have too many problems.
To avoid the “big three” when it comes to problems – puckering, poor fabric coverage or poor registration – correct stabilization, correct hooping and correct tension on your embroidery machine will not only make your embroidery much more successful but also make you enjoy the complete embroidery process, rather than dreading the end results.
If you find your embroidery is puckering when released from the hoop, it may be that the fabric has been stretched too tightly when hooped. When the fabric relaxes, the area around the embroidery will pucker. Overly tight machine tensions can also cause puckering.
Check your machine tension by sewing a straight column or satin stitch. Look at the back of the fabric. If you don’t see any bobbin thread, the bobbin is too tight or the top thread too loose, or possibly both. The ideal tension is when the bobbin thread is the middle one-third of the entire column, with the top stitching overlapping one-third on each side.
Before assuming the tension settings are the problem you may find that may not always be the case. Always check to make sure the top thread is correctly threaded and has not jumped out of the take-up lever before taking the machine entirely apart or calling a technician for simple problems. Don’t always look for the cuckoo, it may just be a canary!