Saturday, February 8, 2014

Size is Everything

When embroidering size is everything.

I get asked a lot of machine embroidery questions everyday.  I guess it comes with the territory.  I own a successful embroidery business, I have written many articles on the embroidery process for nationally syndicated magazines, taught at international conventions and I love helping new embroidery artists perfect their art.

The question that seems to puzzle most is re-sizing.  The ability to re-size an embroidery design is a glorious thing.  

During the digitizing process the digitizer will place stitches either by hand-punching them or using an auto punch software.  Keep in mind that it is a process and most good quality digitizers 'digitize to size' meaning that they create the design in the size that it will be sewn out.  

  The thing to bear in mind is that some designs re-size very well and others don't.  Eventually you will be able to look at the way a design is created and discern if and by how much it can be re-sized.

Having said that, most designs fall under the 20% rule meaning that they can be re-sized down or up twenty percent without truly affecting the stitch quality.


Using the Floriani Total Control Software I will show you an example of  an embroidery design that we have re-sized past the 20% rule.  This will help you to see what happens during the automatic re-sizing process.


This is a contemporary floral design and I do not know the original source of the design but the size is about 3 inches tall. 

You will notice it has a satin border for the stem and leaves as well as around the petals.  The inside of the flower petals is a fill stitch which is appropriate as the petal width is too wide for a satin stitch.  

The industry standard for a good quality satin stitch is 3/8" of an inch  wide,  although  some commercial embroidery machines can stitch a wider satin and not have difficulty.

Let's re-size the design to twice the original size and see what happens.
So far so good, it doesn't appear that the design quality has been affected too much.  The satin stitches are obviously wider now as we have doubled the size but everything still looks okay, no missing stitches or anything.

Pictured above we have TRIPLED the size of the original design.  Notice there are missing stitches in the leaf.   They just kinda spread out and disappeared.   This design was of good quality and it was digitized to be about 3 inches tall.  The satin stitches were created with the leaf being the ORIGINAL size and while the design didn't suffer too much when we doubled the size you can see that tripling it is out of the question.  This is because we have reached the maximum acceptable width of a satin stitch...as a matter of fact we are WAY past it.

A satin stitch has a minimum and maximum width.  When you pass the threshold either direction,  either by increasing or decreasing the size you are going to see your stitch quality decrease.  With good software it is easy to fix this design to be sewn any size but please realize that you can't just re-size any design without first considering the elements of the design.  Satin and fill stitches are common, but you must understand the differences and when to use each type of stitch.

If we change the way we re-size we will have better results.  By studying the original design we notice that it contains both fill and satin stitches at the three inch size and we notice that the leaf part of the design when tripled in size lost areas of stitching.  By simply converting this area  to a fill stitch we can change the size of this design with very good results.
Not all soft ware manufacturers make it as easy as point-click-convert so you may need to locate your owners manual to see how this is done within your own software
Here is the design re-sized again at triple the original size, you will notice that the leaf is now filled with stitches and not patchy as before.  We converted the original satin stitch to a fill stitch prior to re-sizing. 

 Due to the re-sizing the satin stitch around the petals has grown in width and may have difficulties stitching well.
Using the pull/push compensation within the Floriani Software we can make this satin stitch a little narrower without having to re-digitize.  I will decrease the pull to 75% of the size it is now.

Now the yellow satin border is an appropriate width and will stitch well.  By decreasing the width of the yellow satin border you can see that the petal border does not cover the orange stem border as before.  Just select the elements and move them down to cover the top of the stem.

Here is the completed design with the adjustments made to allow for tripling the original size.  This design was nicely digitized  so re-sizing was a snap once we knew what types stitches were going to be required.  Understanding the maximum width of a satin stitch will help you when you re-size your designs.

When  re-sizing notice what the original width of the satin stitch is and see if the area could be converted to a fill to make the re-sizing work well.  Always be aware of your embroidery design sources and if you notice that the designs they supply can't be re-sized you have two choices...

1.  Buy from a source that offers designs of a high enough caliber that they can be easily re-sized.

2.  Purchase editing or digitizing software so you can convert the stitches that don't re-size well.

Most embroidery artists do not want to learn to digitize or cringe at the thought of purchasing full embroidery software packages and they resign themselves to stitching the designs that are available to them, but most would like the ability to re-size designs quickly and efficiently and to do this you will need editing software.

There are many brands of embroidery editing software on the market and many have trial downloads that cost nothing. Usually the trial version does not have the ability to save a design and sew it out so you can truly test one software against another so it might be a better idea to visit your local embroidery machine retailer and ask for a demonstration of the different soft-wares available today.

Nicci Brazzell
MaEd, M.F.A