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  PROBLEM SOLVED: Avoiding Common Embroidery Mistakes

By Brian Burr
Q: "How can I improve my embroidery by avoiding common mistakes?"

A: Producing poor-quality embroidery work is unfortunately easier than many professionals believe. Work smarter, not harder, by watching out for these seven common mistakes.

Mistake #1: Running The Machine Too Fast
Slow down! Your machine should run no more than 600 stitches per minute on a hat frame and 750 for a flat frame. Note, however, that this is just a guideline; each design is different. You may need to slow your machine down even further if your design has many fine details or small letters. In these cases, bringing your speed down to 550 stitches per minute for a hat frame and 650 stitches per minute for a flat frame can improve the registration. Remember, your haste will make waste. Slowing down your machine and getting it right the first time can save you a lot of money in wasted product. It does not matter how fast you run your machine if you get the product back from your customer due to poor quality.

Mistake #2: Improper Hooping
Anything you're embroidering, but especially hats, can be hooped improperly. You want your hat to be nice and tight in the hat hoop; it should be straight and centered. Sometimes, you'll run across a logo or design that should be embroidered slightly off-center to look good. These projects should only be given to your most experienced embroiderers and hooping experts.

Mistake #3: Not Checking Thread Tension
This is probably one of the most common mistakes made by embroiderers. If you're not running regular thread tension checks on your machines, then your complaint department is working overtime. Quality comes from proper tension, which enables your stitches to be nice and tight. Making sure your embroidery machine is always in proper thread tension will keep your logos and letters looking crisp.

Mistake #4: Ignoring The Bobbin
Whenever you change the bobbin, you should check the thread tension. Think of it like putting on your seatbelt: Once you get into the habit, you won't even notice you're doing it. If the bobbin is too loose or too tight, your embroidery quality will suffer. It's a quick, easy and vital step.

Mistake #5: Not Changing Needles Often Enough
There's no one-size-fits-all answer for when you should change out the needles on your embroidery machines. It depends entirely on how many hours the machine is running, the fabric you're using and the quality of your needles. Make it a point to check your needles each week and replace them as needed.

Mistake #6: Incorrect Placement
If you're embroidering hats, for instance, a customer might ask for the embroidery to be placed low, next to the bill. Customers are accustomed to seeing these placements on embroidered products at the mall and might not understand why you can't do the same thing. It's actually a very simple explanation. Embroidery that's placed low, next to a bill of a hat, was likely put there before the hat was constructed on a flat panel program. Since professional embroiderers deal with premade items, we're limited to placing the design no less than half an inch from the front bill and sides of the hat. We've tried other placements and found that anything else will compromise the quality of the embroidery or the hat. Catching the needle on the hat bill or on the frame can crash the machine.

Mistake #7: Not Digitizing
Without a doubt, failing to digitize a logo or design for the specific product is a major mistake. If you're embroidering on hats or caps and you're using a file that's designed for a flat frame like a T-shirt, you're going to have problems. The pull compensation is different for a flat frame than it is for a curved surface like a hat frame. Make sure you're using a professional digitizer who knows how to adjust the file for the pull compensation for curved surfaces like hats and caps.

It's my hope that these tips help you achieve success, minimize mistakes and reduce the number of products that need to be redone. Following these simple steps will keep your shop producing quality embroidery and keep your customers coming back again and again.

This was an article in stitches magazine: Stitches Small Business E-Newsletter Vol. 60
Republished with permission from Editor of Stitches magazine.
For disclaimers please click here.

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