Estimating Stitch Count


Ed Levy

Ed Levy is an industry veteran and director of software technologies at Hirsch Solutions.

Does the thought of estimating a stitch count for customers send shivers down your spine? If you guess too low, you run the risk of creating a chain reaction of shock and dismay. If you guess too high, you run the risk of scaring your customer away.

When you estimate, what you are really doing is setting expectations. When a weather forecaster states that the following day will be bright and sunny with no chance of rain, but you are then caught in a downpour, your faith in the weather forecaster goes straight downhill. As the stitch forecaster for your customers, you don’t want to fall into the same category.

One of the problems is that an estimate is nothing more than a guess. But, better to make an educated guess based on prior experience. There are also some helpful tools to assist in setting stitch count expectations, which we’ll share here.

Set Expectations: Define Policies

First, it’s important to admit that it is inevitable that we will all make an incorrect estimate. Don’t try to hide from it! If you try to be the wizard of stitch count estimation, you will end up disappointing a customer. Instead, provide a simple statement that explains how a stitch count is only a guess. More importantly, that statement should also define what happens in the case of an error.

Everyone’s policy for what happens if the count is way off is different. Pick the policy and detail it. The key is that an estimating policy sets clear expectations from the start. Following is an example statement to include with every estimate:

“The enclosed estimate is based upon a design stitch count. Every attempt is made to achieve accurate results. However, due to the nature of design, each piece is unique. The design may require some interpretation of the stitch types during production to ensure a quality result. Hence, the provided stitch count is only an estimate. The invoice will reflect the actual stitch count in production. This may result in a higher or lower price than quoted. In the event the stitch count is drastically different, we will honor the pricing quoted within an X% variance.”

Keep it Simple

If stitch count is a stumbling block, just forget about it. While this sounds easy enough, most embroiderers fear this approach. Some, when asked “how much is each garment?” try to answer by explaining that, to give an accurate stitch count, you first need to have the design digitized, and once you get the actual stitch count, you can then return with a price and complete the deal.

Instead, keep it simple. Provide an immediate price to the customer by developing a series of averages, changing your pricing model according to the size of the design. For example, the average left chest design has 7,500 stitches. Base your estimate on this as a starting point. Your pricing model might look something like this:

• Any design that fills a 2” X 4” area has a flat rate production price of $XX.
• Any design that fills a full left-chest area (4” X 4”) has a flat rate production price of $XX.
• Any design that fills a center chest area (6” X 6”) has a flat rate production price of $XX.

Such a pricing model allows instant quoting for the average order. But, if you have an extraordinarily large order, it might be a good idea to take the pricing to more of a true stitch count model. As risky as the flat rate process sounds, most people who try it feel it works great in the majority of situations.

General Guidelines

If the flat-rate process is not for you and you are determined to both provide an estimate and provide it on the spot, the following guidelines will help with accuracy:

• One square inch of fill can estimate at approximately 1,000 stitches. Look over the design and calculate which areas should be done in a fill stitch and measure the shapes. If there is approximately 5 square inches of fill, then estimate 5,000 stitches.
• The average 6 mm (1/4”) lettering can be calculated at approximately 100 stitches per letter.
• The average 12mm (1/2”) lettering can be calculated at approximately 250 stitches per letter.
• The average linear inch of satin stitches can be calculated at approximately 150 stitches per inch.

Take a series of completed designs, work the above calculations and then review the official stitch count. Based on how you interpret each design, you can then modify the above numbers to achieve realistic results. Note: Always try to build in a slight buffer to allow for miscalculations.

An important factor that tends to throw off the accuracy of the stitch count is interpretation. As the estimator, if you were calculating 1/2” lettering at 250 stitches per letter, but the digitizer programs the lettering as a fill with a satin stitch border around it, the stitch count per letter can be drastically off. Combine that with the number of letters, and a nightmare can quickly surface. So, be sure to be on the same page with the digitizer.

Regardless of the method selected to estimate stitches and price production, the bottom line is that the expectations must be set right from start to eliminate any surprises. If you set realistic expectations and have a plan to price and estimate, both you and your customers will be happy.