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Nothing is more frustrating, and costly, than damaging a product during the embroidery process.

Manage Embroidery Missteps

by: 

Ed Levy

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

Nothing is more frustrating, and costly, than damaging a product during the embroidery process. No matter hard we try, no one is perfect. To complicate matters more, there are so many different variables that can occur to turn a beautiful product into a costly reject. Following are some of the more common issues that can occur.

  1. A lack of oil. The key to a well maintained machine involves oiling the hook and other essential parts regularly. Sometimes the spray of excess oil will show itself on a garment in the most conspicuous spot.
  2. Broken needles. When a needle breaks, there is still a stitch that is inserted in the garment just after the break. It takes the lack of the needle interacting with the bobbin to detect the break. The broken needle enters the garment with a much thicker shaft than when the needle is in perfect condition. The end result is usually a hole that will damage the garment. Always use caution after a needle break because the broken tip of the needle is likely somewhere near the garment or in the hook area.
  3. Birds nest. If there is more tension on the bottom bobbin than the top, the thread can be pulled down between the garment and the needle plate. As the machine continues to stitch, the thread continues to accumulate in one spot and the actual garment begins to get pulled into the needle plate. Once this happens, it takes a gentle and patient form of surgery to cut the garment free. In some cases, there is no damage to the garment and in other cases, the garment ends up with a huge hole in it.
  4. Design error. Designs react differently on different materials. A design that ran perfect on one material may at some point create damage to a different material. Density settings, underlay values and problem areas—such as the inside of a lower case e—all contribute to problems.  
  5. Hooping error. A design is only as secure as the hoop that is holding it. A bulky garment or a hoop that is not sufficiently tightened can pop off during the embroidery process leaving the garment free to move around rather than being held securely in place. Another common hooping error is failing to move the backside of the garment away from the needle plate which results in stitching the front of the garment to the back of the garment. In this instance, the chance of saving the garment is almost non-existent.
  6. Misspellings. No matter how careful someone is, sooner or later there will be a misspelling on a garment. The misspelling could be a single letter or the misspelling can be an entire order.

All of these factors and more can quickly destroy any chance of profits on an order. However, just because the order is ruined, it doesn’t mean the garment will be ruined as well. Depending on the nature and severity of the problem, a garment can either be saved or can be repurposed for another order.

Fixing a small section  

Sometimes one or two letters or a small area of a design needs to be corrected and the garment was already removed from the hoop. The most common instance of this is to correct a misspelling. It is always better if the mistake can be caught prior to the garment being removed from the hoop, but if not, simply use the following steps to recover.

Step 1: Remove the portion of the design that is incorrect. Use a commercial stitch eraser, a razor blade or any method you would normally use to remove the incorrect stitching.

Step 2: Create a new letter to replace the incorrect letter and set the start and stop point on an easily identifiable portion of the design. Most software programs allow for the manual selection of a design start and stop point. This serves as nothing more than a reference point. The machine will not actually place any stitches at this location. It will simply be the starting and ending point of the indexing of the embroidery machine.

Step 3: Remove all of the other portions of the design and save the new file. The only portion that should be saved is the actual replacement embroidery.

Step 4: Rehoop the garment as straight as possible.  Place the embroidery needle on the established start and stop point.

Step 5: Run the embroidery machine.

Fixing a major error

Sometimes a mistake is not as simple as removing a small section and fixing it. Sometimes an error is a major mistake. In this case, it is time to get creative.

Rather than throwing out the garments, save them for an order that has a logo that will cover the original. Do note, however, this process will not work with all logos as there becomes a point when there are too many layers of stitching.

Placing two pieces of tearaway backing between the old design and new design can help prevent the old design from coming through.

The larger the area of stitching in the original design, the more difficult it will be to cover up the design in this manner. Too many stitches will distort the garment, make the embroidery area too stiff and cause production problems such as thread breaks and needle breaks.

The solution in this case would be to use appliqué material instead of a design with fill stitches. This will cover the affected area without adding a tremendous amount of fill stitches. The appliqué method is often a great solution in just about all of the cases. Another solution is to stitch a pre-embroidered patch on top of the erroneous embroidery. When utilizing a patch or appliqué, place a piece of cutaway backing on the inside of the garment. This will cover up the prior stitching as appliqué and the patch will not cover up the underside of the garment in the same manner as a fill, which allows the old embroidery to show through on the inside of the garment.

The process for appliqué is very similar to the process for using a filled design. Once again utilizing a start and stop point on the original design as a reference point will help ensure that the new design is lined up correctly to the old one. Imagine taking all of these steps to fix a mistake and the new design not aligning properly with the original design. At that point the garment would be wasted.

 In the event that this happens, never throw out the garment. Test material is always valuable in every embroidery shop. Cut the remaining portion of the garment into as many 8 X 8 squares as possible and then throw out the scrap. Not only is this a good way to ensure there is plenty of material on hand for samples but it serves as a reminder of how easy it is for mistakes to happen.

If you are unable to utilize these methods on customer orders, create something for self-promotion that falls within the suggestions provided and distribute them to friends, family and work associates. Any source other than a garbage can is a win-win.