The Perfectly Embroidered Design

girls_sewing With our embroidery, as in life, we strive for perfection.

When embroidering a design what are the main “imperfections”? Some of the problems may not be with your final sewout but how the design was digitized.

There are quite a few things you can do to improve the final sewout of your design including proper stabilization, both backing and topping, proper hooping, correct machine tension, type of thread and needle used for the project and even making adjustments to suit the type of fabric you are using.

That sounds frightening, doesn’t it? But with a bit of preparation prior to embroidering your design you should have the best results possible.


Have you ever stitched a design where everything was digitized at a 45 degree angle? If you have, then you know how much it pulls and distorts the fabric around it.

The most basic digitizing technique to achieve successful embroidery is to alternate the direction of the stitches from one design element to the next, but there’s much more you can do.

Most designs will need underlay in the opposite direction of the stitches.

Added pull compensation will help offset the pull of the stitches. Without them, circles will become ovals, and your heads will be lopsided.
If your software allows it, using a curved fill pattern to follow the shape of the design will help further minimize the pulling and pushing that can occur when a section is filled in only one direction.

With Embird Studio, the curved stitch style can be found under parameters/effect/wave.

Be careful when using satin stitches. Many embroidery machines don’t handle long satin stitches well, and the longer the threads, the more frequently the thread breaks.

Long satin stitches pull on the fabric and can cause bunching and puckering. The maximum width for satin stitching in Embird Studio is 12.5 mm, but even that width is very wide and should be avoided.

Whenever possible with wide stitching use column with a pattern or use a different sample to add nodes either in the centre of the column or along the inner edges.

Experiment with the different samples and envelopes in the parameters screen to digitize unique and outstanding column effects.
In most cases, the default density settings will be set for a 4 mm stitch, which can be fairly dense. A density of 4.5 mm to 5.0 mm is a good setting for most home embroidery formats.

Always do a test sewout to check for pull compensation, density and any other settings you have chosen.


Select the correct type of backing (stabilizer) for your fabric. Only use stabilizers that were made for embroidery.

Sewing stabilizers and interfacings have more stretch and are not designed to provide the stability that embroidery demands.

Cheap substitutes, such as typing paper and coffee filters add lint to your machine, and dull your needles, causing your design stitch quality to suffer. Use the lightest weight stabilizer you can for the type of fabric on which you will be embroidering.

Remember that you can layer stabilizer but if you use something too heavy, it will add weight to your design, which will eventually pull on your fabric and make it cave into the fabric causing a buckling effect.

Secondly, the edges of the stabilizer will show through to the front, which is undesirable.

The third reason for as little stabilizer as possible is that famous “bulletproof embroidery”. Too much stabilizer will contribute to the bulletproof effect.
Cut your stabilizer larger than your hoop at least 1 inch or more extra on each side of the hoop. Purchase a wide roll for your largest hoop, turning the stabilizer sideways, cutting it shorter for the smaller hoops.

Save your money and use only one sheet of stabilizer. Designs should rarely need more than one layer of stabilizer.

If your design needs more than one layer then it may be that the design is incorrectly hooped, or you may be using the wrong type of stabilizer for the project.

However, there are always rules that are made to be broken and you can combine several layers of polymesh stabilizer successfully if one layer will be too light.


Hooping incorrectly is the most common reason a design puckers or buckles on lightweight fabric.

Always embroider a basting stitch around the inside edge of the hoop.

You can add a basting stitch around the design with Embird Editor or, alternatively, add a basting stitch at your machine. This will help keep the fabric more stable inside the hoop, and is particularly helpful in keeping heavy sweatshirts and towels from pulling, which causes puckering. You will be surprised at the difference a basting stitch can make.

Method 1: Hooping fabric and stabilizer together

Sandwich your stabilizer and fabric between both parts of the hoop.

Method 2: Hooping stabilizer then adhering the fabric
Hooping Tips:

Cutaways generally give better definition than tearaways, as the fibers are longer, allowing the threads to grasp tighter.
Use tearaway stabilizer for fabrics that don’t stretch, such as quilting cotton, and other woven fabrics. Tearaway breaks down over time and will disappear totally or in part eventually.

Quality matters! The process used to create a stabilizer determines how stable it really is. The Wet Laid process creates a non-directional, dense, non-woven stabilizer, which means you only need one layer when you use it. Random Laid, or Carded techniques, on the other hand, have weak areas, or can stretch in one or more directions.

When embroidering items that are too small to hoop the design can be printed right on the stabilizer before it is hooped. Be sure to center it accurately, and then stick your fabric to it. A second method that may be more accurate is to embroider the design without thread right on the stabilizer. The needle marks will show you the exact placement for your small item.

Use black stabilizer for dark fabrics, especially the insides of jackets or vests, where the stabilizer may show.

When embroidering on dark fabric, place some white stabilizer (or fabric) underneath the stitching on top of the fabric. Advance the design, and sew the outline first, to make an appliqué. Remove the excess stabilizer (or fabric), then return to the beginning of the design, and stitch as usual. The white background will make the colors stand out brilliantly. This is especially useful for light thread colors, or hologram thread.

Note: Part 1 of this topic deals with a “perfectly digitized design”.