The Devil in the Detail of Machine Embroidery
Embroidery is one of the oldest forms of craftsmanship which has evolved over time. It started as a manual laborious task with hours and hours spent doing the minutest of the details, moving to the traditional sewing machines, still extremely laborious as an executable pattern had to be made and the machine embroidery movements had to be precise otherwise the whole design would turn out differently or the thread breaking midway, rendering the whole item unusable.
Then came the technology that revolutionized the industry itself, which changed the whole perspective of how we view embroidery in general. The art of embroidery was all about manual labor but with the advent of machine embroidery, the art moved from executing the design, as in the embroidering process, to the actual design and creating it in the first place.
People who are responsible for changing the design from an ordinary photo, illustration or artwork to an embroidery machine readable file are called digitizers or punchers. The digitizing process is an art in itself and is a discussion for another time, for now, let’s understand the mechanics of the machine embroidery process.
The process of machine embroidery starts at the very beginning with having the digitized embroidery design file, either purchased or created. Creation itself can take up to hours so newer or basic embroiders are recommended to leave the technical process to the professionals.
Once the design is acquired, it can be edited slightly or combined with other designs however the software enabling the users to do is expensive and hard to understand at times. Moreover, the editing itself can alter the design and may influence the integrity of the overall design, hence this step is optional and only suggested for the individual's experience enough to execute this step.
Once the prep work is done, the design is loaded onto the embroidery machine. It is to be noted, each machine has its own set of formats that it can read so embroiders need to be mindful of the machine they will use for embroidery when creating or purchasing the design. Another aspect to note is the dimensions and to make sure they fit within the hoops of the embroidery machine.
Next crucial process is the selection of stabilizer, commonly known as backing, to be used as the backing for the fabric on which the embroidery is to be implemented, or is also placed between the hooped garment and machine needle plate. Stabilizers are usually made of woven or non-woven material and are available in large variety of weights and types, chosen according to the nature of the fabric the process of embroidery would occur on. When selected, the fabric is backed and placed in the embroidery machine.
When the machine is ready to do embroidery. Start the machine and let the magic happen. The process is automated, however, it is recommended to monitor the process as there are several issues that are to be taken care of while the machine is performing, from changing the threads when needed, for color change or otherwise, rethreading the machine or any error that could occur within the machine. As it is a mechanical process, it is highly advised to keep a good amount of needles and bobbins handy at all times as needles break easily (dependent on the quality of course) and also to keep a brush and scissor within reach to make the necessary snippets, cleaning and removing the excess threads to keep the design as neat as possible.
The process of machine embroidery is a science in itself and needs to be exact, however, mistakes are expected, either because of a poorly digitized design, wrong sort of thread, mechanical errors, inefficient selection of stabilizer among other reasons. Faulty embroidery is discarded and the whole process run through from the very beginning to eliminate the inefficiencies until the design of embroidery achieved is as required on the fabric.
This is the complete process of machine embroidery which is complex and technical however like every other art form, perfection, or close to, can be achieved with practice. Machine embroidery is technically proficient, effective, consistent, economical and faster, making it the best and most apt method of embroidery for the day and age we live in.