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Gallery Connection November 2009

Overcoming the 7 Fabric Challenges
I’ve never seen a succinct list of the fabric ‘issues’ in embroidery, so let’s make that list and discuss the problems and solutions:
1.) The fabric ‘pulls’ or ‘puckers up’ because of the tension applied to embroidery thread.
2.) The fabric ‘pushes out’ from being squished flat under the embroidery.
3.) The fabric is a loose knit or weave, therefore stitches that are close together wind up in the same needle-hole.
4.) The fabric has a nap which can poke up in-between the embroidery stitches.
5.) The fabric gets perforated by the needle which can weaken or even cut out a hole.
6.) The fabric slides around in the hoop.
7.) The fabric gets marks from the hoop, A.K.A. ‘Hoop Burn’.

Problem #1: Pull or Pucker
‘Pull’ occurs when a stitch is pulled tight by the machine. Most hand sewers have seen this effect when running multiple stitches on the needle: After pulling the needle through, you often have to stretch the fabric back out so that the full amount of thread is used for each stitch, which allows the fabric to relax.
 Naturally the machine cannot relax the fabric between stitches, so there is a problem with ‘pull’ on the fabric from the stitches. The result of ‘pull’ often results in a gap between embroidered areas. Also the final product can appear to have the fabric ‘sucked in’ toward the design, an effect that is very visible on knits.
Here are some ways to solve this problem:
1.) The person who digitized the design adds ‘compensation’ which means that the stitches are made with a planned shrinkage.
2.) Stiffness is added to the fabric by using a stabilizer. While there are many stabilizers available, and we’ll talk about several in this article, the ones that help prevent pull are Cut-Away and, to a lesser extent, Tear-Away.  Depending on the softness of the fabric, you’ll likely want to add some stability during embroidery. Another option is starch, which will also help with the issue of pull. However if you use starch or a stabilizer that washes out, you’ll likely see the ‘pull’ issues develop or worsen over time because the tension applied while the stitch is made remains in the embroidery.
3.) Flatten or relax the embroidery. Now this is controversial, but I include it here for completeness. Some people will use an iron to ‘set’ the embroidery, which basically creases the stitches as they come out of the fabric. Once the stitches are set, they are less likely to pull on the fabric over time. Additionally some threads are man-made such as the polyester threads, and they have stretch. If you stretch out something that is elastic, you can actually weaken that elasticity. So if your design and fabric can be tugged or stretched out after sewing, you can lessen the residual pull. If you do it with a combination of ‘tugging’ and heat, you can definitely flatten a design that got pulled in.

Problem #2: Push
‘Push’ occurs when a stitch flattens the fabric. You see this often on heavier knits. This is sometimes described as ‘making a bowl’ in the fabric. It can create a distortion which forces running stitch outlines into the embroidery which it surrounds.
Here are some ways to solve this problem:
1.) The person who digitized the design adds ‘push compensation’ which means that the stitches are made smaller, or are inset, into the design.
2.) A topping stabilizer is added to the fabric. The stabilizers will not stretch, and by making a ‘stabilizer sandwich’ the tension applied is spread out over the area of the design, which makes the problem less of an issue at critical areas in the design.

Problem #3: Loose Weave/ Knit Inaccuracy
This occurs on a loose fabric. The needle can deflect slightly as it descends, finding the path of least resistance. If the needle goes into the same hole as it did in the prior stitch, the design looks irregular, particularly with satin stitches.
Here are some ways to solve this problem:
1.) The person who digitized the design could reduce the density of the design. If the stitches are far enough apart, the needle will be less likely to travel into the same hole. Naturally this can create coverage issues, but it is generally preferred to an irregular stitch.
2.) A topping stabilizer is added to the fabric. The needle will penetrate the stabilizer before it hits the fabric. Once the needle path is established, it is less likely to deflect. The drawback is that the needle is more likely to cut the fabric being embroidered.
3.) A Cut-Away stabilizer is also used whenever possible because the needle can actually make separate holes in the stabilizer, thus retaining some separation of the threads as they come up out of the design. It has been shown that even a soft, sheer cut-away stabilizer can be helpful.
4.) Use DensityWorks on the design. ‘Remove Hidden Stitches’ and ‘Declump’ helps prevent pull at areas where the needle strikes multiple times. Just click the button labeled ‘All’ to do this. Also reducing the number of stitches in the design will help for the same reason.

Problem #4: Fabric Nap
Fabric with a nap can poke up in-between the embroidered stitches.
Here are some ways to solve this problem:
1.) The person who digitized the design could add underlay to the design. Underlay can be done in several ways, but to help with nap a light fill or zig-zag can be used to anchor down some of the nap before the top layer of covering stitches is applied.
2.) A topping stabilizer is added to the fabric. The stabilizer holds down the nap while it is being stitched over.

Problem #5: Perforated Fabric
Paper, Leather and Vinyl are typical examples of fabrics that can be cut out by multiple needle penetrations that are too close together. Although the needle makes a hole, the fabric can tear just  a little bit under tension and subsequent stress on the fabric such as wear. As these tears expand, the holes connect and tear out, like a perforated paper edge.
Here are some ways to solve this problem:
1.) The person who digitized the design could reduce the density of the stitches near the outside of the design. If the stitches are far enough apart, the fabric won’t tear as easily.
2.) An adhered (Sticky or Spray Adhered) permanent stabilizer is also used whenever possible because it helps prevent tearing of the fabric.
3.) Enlarge the design without recalculating stitches. By spreading out the design you can accomplish a density reduction which can prevent perforation.
4.) Use DensityWorks on the design. ‘Remove Hidden Stitches’,  ‘Declump’, ‘Density Limiter’ and reducing coverage will all help reduce the stitch count, which helps solve the problem. You can also adjust the preferences to remove the underlay. We recommend leaving underlay in the Satin, but removing it from Fill stitches if you are embroidering on paper.

Problem #6 and 7: Slippery Fabric and Fabrics that get Hoop Burn
Silk, satin and acetate will not be trapped in the hoop as well as fabrics with more texture or grip. Also these fabrics tend to get a ‘Hoop Burn’. The solutions to these problems are similar.
To solve this problem:
1.) Add something else on the top and bottom of the fabric where it goes into the hoop.
2.) ‘Stick’ the fabric to the stabilizer using adhesive stabilizer or with spray adhesive.

Until next time, happy stitching!
-Brian

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Posted in Brian's Articles and News 7 years, 7 months ago at 8:54 pm.

1 comment

One Reply

  1. HI there,

    Thanks for the info on overcoming 7 embroidery challenges. Normally I find it very difficult to do embroidery on perforated paper.


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