Machine Embroidery: A Marriage of Fabric and Design
by Lindee Goodall
from Threads #86, pp. 36-41
Machine embroidery can be as easy as choosing a great design, plugging the design card into your machine, hooping your fabric, and pushing a button. But if your goal is to make beautiful garments with soft, supple embroidery, there's much more you should know.
You can machine-embroider any fabric, including silks and soft wools. But producing exquisite embroidery that is well suited to the fabric, doesn't pucker, or change the fabric's drape, involves the interaction of all the following elements: a machine that's well-tuned and set at the appropriate needle and bobbin tensions, a well-prepared and positioned design, the correct needle and thread for the job, and a good understanding of the fabric you're embroidering so that it's properly hooped and stabilized. I'll examine these essentials, but I want to concentrate on how to choose designs and fabrics that are compatible with each other and tell you what to do when they're not.
What makes a good embroidery design?
There's more to a good design than subject matter and visual aesthetics. A well-digitized design is made up of a solid framework of stitches forming its outer edge, fill and satin stitches, and underlay stitches if necessary. The design should have a well-planned sewing sequence, with few jump stitches, from one area to another, so there's less thread-trimming to do. And it should be paired with a suitable fabric that displays it to its best advantage.
If you digitize your own designs or have them custom-digitized, you can take into consideration the characteristics of the fabric the design will be sewn on. But when you're working with stock designs from independent design companies, from the Internet, or designs that come with your machine, it's up to you to match the design with the fabric