Q: How does the embroidery machine know where to put all the stitches?
A: You just scan the image and the software analyzes the art and tells the machine where to place the stitches.
Well, that's what our customers think. I wish it were that easy. Actually, I don't .. if it were that easy, I wouldn't have a job!!
An embroidery artist (digitizer) analyzes a piece of art, and quickly, he/she can tell you how they think the design will run best, and with the fewest stops (trims or color changes). The digitizer then uses embroidery software to define areas and segments into the three basic stitch types: run, satin or fill. The differences between digitizing abilities among digitizers are typically based on the knowledge of, and the use of the different densities and stitch lengths of these stitch types.
- RUN STITCH: Consists of one stitch between two points or needle penetrations. Varies in length, but, should be no shorter than .8 mm or longer than 12 mm. Run stitches are used for detail in a design or travelling from one part of the design to the other; also for small lettering reminiscent of cross stitch lettering. Most digitizing softwares have patterned run stitches for beautiful detail work.
- SATIN STITCH: Formed by closely arranged zigzag stitches. Usually the stitches are set perpendicular to the column they are creating, but, they dont have to. The suggested width of a satin stitch can vary from as small as .8 mm wide to 8 mm wide. Satin stitches are used to outline fill areas, area definition, but most commonly for the use in creating names.
- FILL STITCH: A series of running stitches closely placed together to cover large areas. Different patterns can be created by changing the stitch angle, stitch length, and the repeat sequence of the stitches. Most digitizing softwares offer many different patterns built in to the program.
The knowledge of the above stitch types is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creating an embroidery design from art. The end design should not only look good, but, also embroider well. No one wants to babysit an embroidery design that breaks thread every 1,000 stitches .. embroidery is then not fun, but, aggravating work.
It has been said that if you put 6 qualified digitizers in a room, gave them the same piece of art, and asked them to create the design for the same garment at the same size, you would get 6 different approaches to the same design. Assuming all 6 digitizers were competent, you should get 6 nice looking designs, all with different characteristics. There are digitizers that are more artistic than others. Most of the time, I appreciate the more artistic look versus a flat looking embroidery.
If I were to create steps of HOW I approach each design, they would look something like this:
- Study the design and its components: find what segments/colors are hidden by things on top of them and work form the background forward. Embroidery is much like a landscape painting, it is not often you would expect the painter to paint the trees in the foreground THEN try to add the lake in the background.
- Take into consideration the fabric/garment: hats generally need to be digitized in a different order/direction than do shirts. Different materials may also pose different complexities as to how to digitize the design. Stretchy fabrics may dictate that you work in, and complete small areas to complete the design. This will cause more color changes/trims, but your design will look better because of it.
- Start digitizing by dropping the needle: I like to drop the needle right from center and run to where I'm going to start my digitizing; most of the time, I will outline the area of the whole design to a. capture the work area and reduce the push and pull of the fabric and b. attach my backing to the garment immediately for better stabilization. And, depending upon the fabric/garment I may lay down a cross-hatch underlay for the whole design to eliminate the need for it per color. This will be discussed in another post.
- Insert the color: after the prep work is done, the digitizing process is fairly simple when you understand the stitch types, their uses and limitations. Complete each color, working from the background foreward, until all the color is laid in.
- Add the detail, and the outlining: Once your color is laid in, it will look like a colorful mess. Your outlines and detail will bring all your hard work into focus. The detail is usually black, or dark in color, and creates the coloring book effect that really creates the embroidery design.
For more artistic work, for example flowers, water color scenes, you may not have detail on 100% of your design, it may just be on certain elements.
I hope this primer on basic digitizing has enlightened some of you to a. the elements involved and b. the process by which typically each digitizer goes through.
Until next time .. best wishes,