Master bag and tote embroidery for business

Business in the Bag

Born in the U.S., designer/digitizer Bonnie Nielsen works in the Freiburg, Germany, headquarters of embroidery thread manufacturer Madeira. Nielsen has distinguished herself internationally with her embroidered art pieces and articles that appear in international professional garment and embroidery magazines such as Eurostitch. Madeira utilizes Nielsen's expertise to work on special projects that include educating embroiderers on technique and working with specialty thread.

For embroiderers who may be timid about trying something new, embroidering on tote bags offers the perfect material to dive into. Heavy woven bags are usually twill or canvas, which offers a solid substrate that will remain stable for running specialty embroidery thread. Using a thicker thread, such as a metallic or a wool-blend, should prove pain-free. Or, try mixed media, combining print with embroidery, for a fun technique for bags. There are other opportunities to explore in terms of the tote—for example, the new bags that are created from recycled materials are a good place to experiment with something new.

Plus, this accessory is a unique breed. Whether heavy woven or lightweight non-woven, the stretch and give of knits is usually nowhere to be found when it comes to bags. This makes the ability to experiment and try new threads all the more appealing.

Understanding the canvas

Woven fabrics are widely used in the production of tote bags and the weaving process is one of the oldest methods of cloth making. You can recognize woven fabrics as those that are made with two or more sets of yarns interlaced at right angles to each other. This right-angle position of the yarns gives the cloth its firmness.

Digitizing for the medium and heavy woven fabrics that are used in backpacks, tote bags and luggage material is easy because they are so stable. These woven fabrics can handle various amounts of stitch densities. And, while underlay stitching is necessary even on woven fabrics in order to keep the top stitches in place, the amount of underlay stitching can be reduced.

Choose a sharp needle, as opposed to a ball point, for bags made of tightly woven fabrics like denim, twill or canvas. The sharp point allows the needle to travel through these materials with ease. On artificial or genuine leather, avoid wedge point needles, as they can perforate and tear. The best results can be found by sticking with the sharp point, but in the smallest needle size. This will, of course, depend on the thread size, which will dictate which size sharp needle you should use.

Choosing a thread type

Embroidery threads are comprised of many different types and weights. They come in a large range of colors and optical effects, depending on the manufacturer. They can be shiny, sparkling, matte, multi-color, ombre and wooly. Threads that are used simply to personalize the fashion bags that are so popular right now tend to be rayon or polyester.

Rayon embroidery thread is made from organic materials (trees and other plants). This thread has a nice, natural luster and is soft and durable. It is one of the standard threads used in the industry, and can be run at top speed.

Polyester embroidery thread is a shiny, strong thread. It can be run at top speeds on embroidery machines, and will hold up to wash water that contains bleach. For this reason, polyester is used for items that may undergo heavy-duty commercial laundering. Like rayon, polyester embroidery thread is used on bags to personalize with names, initials or monograms. Some manufacturers offer a matte finish polyester embroidery thread which is popular for achieving a subtle, tone-on-tone effect.

Wool blend embroidery thread is thicker, and its weight will dictate which fabrics it will look best on. The many bags that are made with dense fabrics offer a good opportunity to experiment with it. The wool blend thread gives a hand-embroidered appearance and a thick, warm look. It requires a larger needle, but will perform particularly well on bags.

Metallic embroidery threads come in many different weights and colors and can be shiny or sparkly. Running some of them on bags might be just the place to test your metal. The thicker metallics can be used as accents on the tote bag’s stable fabric, as long as the correct needle size is used. Try to use metallic thread as an accent; avoid fill areas or very small stitches. In areas of fill, density will need to be cut down.

On-trend totes

Whether a bag is already decorative and trend-setting on its own, with fancy fabrics and functionality, or one that is destined to be branded with a logo or corporate image, there is an embroidery thread that will satisfy any need.

Look at the unembellished canvas bag as an artist would look at a blank canvas and use your imagination. The use of specialty thread or unique techniques will allow you to stand out from the competition and the end user to stand out from the crowd. With the added ingredient of creativity, you’ll be able to request a higher price point.