notes from Ken, the owner
I have learned, in the 10+ years that I have been doing embroidery, that the majority of people know very little about how the embroidery process is actually done. Many people think we do embroidery by hand. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the folks out there who have the skill and ability to create things with embroidery by hand, but we don't do that at Ken's Custom Embroidery.
Here are some facts and information about how commercial embroidery is done:
1. All embroidery is done with a high-speed, computer-driven embroidery machine.
2. We can do almost any design you may have or wish to do. But, #1: the design has to be
"digitized", so that our machines can run it. And, #2: It has to fit in our embroidery hoop!
3. What is "digitizing"? It's the process of converting a graphic drawing into a computerized
embroidery file. We provide the customer with a free estimate before doing anything. The
setup cost covers the digitizing and also a sewn sample of the design for your approval.
4. The embroidery process involves several steps:
a. The design. The design may be lettering that we put together in the shop from stock fonts. It may be a stock design that we have purchased from a design company, that
we have added lettering to, or, it may be a custom design of your own that you want
put on your garments, such as a business logo, or a graphic image of some type. But
one way or the other, the design has to be in embroidery format to do it. That's
where digitizing comes in. There may be a setup cost associated with the design,
which is based on an estimated stitch count of the item at whatever size is appropriate,
or estimated time involved in setting it up, or both.
b. Hooping the garment. Once we have the design ready, then we hoop the
garment in an embroidery hoop. The hoop fastens to the machine, so that
the garment is held securely in place during the decorating process. A backing
material is applied to the back of the garment during hooping for stabilization.
c. Loading the design. Once we have the design, we load it into the machine. This
is similar to loading software onto your home computer.
d. Setting up the colors. The colors in the design are programmed to sew in a certain
sequence. A 'sew sequence' is written on paper and color shades are selected so
that they match the colors in the design, as closely as possible. Then, those thread
colors are loaded on the machine, and pulled through the needle. Then the machine is
programmed to sew the colors based on the sew sequence so that the image comes
out looking like the original design. This process can take some time.
e. Running the design. The operator runs the design, keeping a close eye on the job
to make sure the colors are sewing correctly. He or she also is there incase a thread
breaks or the machine runs out of bobbin. Also, many times, a water-soluable plastic
topping material is applied to the garment which helps the sewing process.
f. Finishing and Folding. When the embroidery is finished, that's not the end. We still
have to do some, or all of the following:
1. Remove the backing material.
2. Clip unwanted connecting threads that the machine did not trim during embroidery.
3. Remove the water-soluable topping that was applied during embroidery, by
spraying it with water and blotting it with a towel. Then the garment is
allowed to dry. These three steps are known as "cleaning" the garment.
4. Last, we fold the garment, or hang it on a hanger for pickup.
I know that's a lot of detail! But, I mention this process to show that there is quite a bit of labor involved in the embroidery process, that the customer does not see. This is why embroidery may seem a little expensive, especially when we are doing one item. Improvements in the equipment over the years has helped to streamline the process, though. I remember when I first got into this business, we had an older machine that did not do thread trimming or color changing. Now, the newer machines do the thread trimming and color changing automatically, which helps, but there is still a lot of labor that has to be done by hand.
Thanks for listening!