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Bits from Brian – May 2010

The editors of the e-news were looking to do a light, easy edition this month – trying to give your brain a rest and inspire you toward creative freedom. When confronted with this idea, I responded, “Oh you want a Puff Piece.” Perfect. We never talk about Puffy Foam™ anymore! For that matter, there are a few ideas that come to mind, being inspired by “Light and Easy”.

So what’s Puffy Foam™? Some of you are new to this, and some are veteran enough to go, “Yeah, whatever happened to that stuff?”

Puffy Foam™ is made by Sulky, but is generically called 3D embroidery foam, and it is like the hula hoop. It’s always there, but comes and goes in fashion cycles. Basically you have an appliqué that’s thick, and made of high-density foam. Thicknesses vary, but Embroiderer Beware!  Thick stuff needs to have a design made especially for the foam.  The foam gives a 3-dimensional lift to the design. Often it is seen used on caps. This is odd, by the way, because caps are already the hardest darn thing to digitize for, and to embroider.  Well, one person’s stress is another person’s favorite hat, right? If you try your hand at this, I suggest starting with embroidering on flats.

The interesting part about the foam is that the covering stitch, which is always a satin stitch, cuts away the foam as it sews. It’s an appliqué that cuts itself out! The foam comes in many colors, so that it blends in with your project. This has the useful benefit of acting also like a colorized topping.

When digitizing for foam, consider stitching first perpendicular to the ends of any satin stitches. This will provide coverage all the way around the foam:


In the above example, the square ends are sewn first, so that the foam is completely covered. Also the satins are underlaid with a half density satin. This results in better coverage.


Another “light and easy” topic to consider is what to do with those ‘bulletproof’ designs. First let’s consider why they exist: It is commonly known that commercial digitizers get paid by the stitch. Now, that’s not to say that they add extra stitches to a design in effort to pad their pockets. Quite the opposite is usually true; they try to get a lower price for their customers and so want to use fewer stitches. However, in the past not all tools or training was what it is today. So when some clients’ projects require ‘guaranteed complete coverage’ that instilled a certain school of thought with the digitizers, especially with the stock design business. In order to have complete coverage, the density is usually tight, and the number of layers goes up. And if you’re using a heavy cut-away stabilizer behind a logo, that works. But for most of us, embroidering on ready-to-wear or garments of our own construction, we want the fabric to drape well, even after it’s been embroidered. And we’re not paranoid about coverage as much as we’re concerned with puckering, stiffness, cutting holes in the fabric, etc.

                Designer’s Gallery released a product called DensityWorks way back in 2002. It was and is a revolution and is the genuine answer to many of these problems when sewing ‘bulletproof’ embroidery designs. If you cannot digitize yourself, basically you need a tool to fix existing designs, and that tool needs to be easy to run. In fact, DensityWorks does most of what you need with one button, and it is labeled, “All.” Think of the Staples “Easy” button, but we made ours first, so ours is called, “All.”

                One of the features in DensityWorks is the Density Limiter. It looks at all the objects in the design and compares how much stitching is going down compared with what the fabric and thread could / should hold. Again this is easy, and has no learning curve.  What’s best is that it keeps your pattern fills, including curved fills, and the overall look of the design is kept.     I’m pleased to hear from you that DensityWorks is still doing its job with significant benefits that outweigh any other mechanisms in the market!

Now, another classical method for fixing a design that’s too dense is to make it a hair bigger – on your machine or in software, but without recalculating the stitches. This has the effect of lightening the density all over the design, and that is a big relief for your fabric. How much to increase it? Well, let me do some math: If a .4mm fill is too dense and a .5mm fill is a bit light, .45 ought to work well. That’s 11%.

                Naturally, size matters when it comes to embroidery, so I’ll give you a tip when you’re using sizing software by itself, without DensityWorks.  No, I’m not saying you can live without DensityWorks, but I am saying that not everyone can afford all the programs, and rather than buy an inferior solution, this will help you greatly. Of course if you have DensityWorks, this is just one of the features available: You can simply add or remove density to the design by simply moving a slider.

But, when you size your design with stitch recalculation using a program like our fabulous SizeWorks, you can make the design about 10% smaller than you actually need it. Save the file. Then re-open the file you just saved and scale it up by 11%, but this time, turn off the stitch recalculation. Now your file is the right size and is 11% ‘lighter’. Don’t worry about the stitch counts being accurate – there are many things that affect that such as underlay, etc.

Now, for those of you who digitize, let me suggest some settings, regardless of the fabric (stabilizer helps you more than anything there):

Satins: Use a satin underlay at half density, or on auto. Then make your density .45. or even up to .5mm. This will help with compensation.

Fills: We all hear about 0.4mm, but if you slightly increase that to .43mm – .46mm you will relax the fill. If you want better coverage, consider 2 fills on top of each other, each at half the density you want. This helps the fabric remain more stable during embroidery. Also, consider adjusting angles in different parts of the top fill by making it in sections. This allows light to reflect differently for the different areas. This makes the flat representation of something which really exists in 3 dimensions look more real. Another thing that many embroiderers do is to use too short a stitch length. Try it at 3.5mm. The longer stitch means fewer needle penetrations, and less “Fabric Lash” which is where the fabric is pulled up when the needle comes out. It makes smoother looking embroidery.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s Puff Piece.

Happy Stitching!



Posted in Brian's Articles and News 10 years ago at 2:32 pm.

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