Machine embroidery is the method of creating embroidery using machines for commercial or personal / hobbyist purposes. Free motion embroidery machines are based on the traditional zigzag machine where the patterns may be controlled manually or automatically. The majority of modern machines are computerized however, with a computer containing patterns and styles with multiple threads and heads. The following explains everything you should know about a home embroidery machine.
In Seattle you haven’t had enough coffee until you can thread a sewing machine while it’s running. ~Jeff Bezos
How Modern Embroidery Machines Work
Today’s embroidery machines come in various styles and use different methods, but the basic process can be summed up in the following steps.
• Create a digitized embroidery file or buy one
• Edit the design or fuse it with other patterns
• Load the completed design into the machine embroidery
• Stabilize the fabric, put it in the machine and start the unit up
After a design undergoes the digitizing process, you can use the software that comes with the machine to further refine its features and make alterations. The majority of these programs allow you to do basic and advanced editing such as duplicate, crop, split, distort, stretch, scale, rotate and more. Modern software makes it easy for you to add text and colors can be added and changed as you see fit. The more advanced machines even have editing features similar to what you would see in some graphics applications.
A Look at Machine Embroidery Design Files
When you are done designing the pattern, you load it into the machine using the format that the machine uses. There are around 24 different file formats in use today with .VIP, .SEW, .PES, .JEF and .ART among the most popular. With regards to embroidery patterns they’re usually available in USB interfaces, cards or most likely bundled with the machine.
Whether you buy or create these design files you’ll be editing them with an embroidery digitizing application. Aside from the file types mentioned above, the file formats for embroidery machines come in two categories: the source and the machine formats.
The source format is the one the design software uses for storing and editing the file. The machine format on the other hand, is used exclusively by that particular device and cannot be edited as readily as the source format. A quick look at today’s embroidery machines show that most of them have at least two formats, and some of them like .fdr, .exp/.cnd and .dst are so widely used they have become something like industry standards.
No matter what format is used by your machine, it’s going to contain offsets or stitch data and various types of machine functions like jumps and trims. Given these features, it’s easy to see why machine formats cannot be edited as easily as the source files. It can be done, but it’s going to require a lot of work.
Online Embroidery Designs
The popularity of computerized machine embroidery has led to the development and availability of online embroidery data which you can download to your machine. However you need to keep in mind that these files come in differentformats and may not be recognized by your machine, so make sure the design you’re downloading is supported.
One of working around this is to use a file converter: this involves using a conversion program to save the pattern design you want to use in a format that your machine will recognize. If you have any experience with graphics programs you know how this works, and even if you don’t the process isn’t that difficult. However you need to make certain you’re using a quality conversion program, otherwise seem details from the original file could be lost.
Embroidery Digitizers and Punchers
Both of the terms above are used to denote a person who uses computerized machines to create embroidery. Essentially what you do here is create the design pattern using the provided software and edit as you see fit. As was pointed out earlier, the source format contains the pertinent information like thread colors, outlines and so on. When you save this in the machine’s stitch format, the information that makes editing possible is lost, so do the editing before converting the format.
Most embroidery machine vendors provide auto-digitizing or auto-punching, and this will do fine for ordinary embroidery work. However it’s much better to buy solid designs if your project requires high quality and professional embroidery.
What are Stabilizers?
As the name implies, stabilizers are used to keep fabrics steady and prevent wrinkles. There are different types of stabilizers and what you’ll use depends on the kind of machine you have, the design density and the fabric. For instance, firm stabilization is often required for knits and other sizeable designs.
Different types of stabilizing methods are used but usually one or more stabilizing materials are added on or under the fabric so it remains stable. The most widely used stabilizers are open mesh, filmoplast, and heat-n-gone, but you’re also going to find a lot of embroidery machines that use solvy water-soluble, tear-away, and cutaway stabilizers or combinations.
When creating embroidery items that will be worn, the fabric is usually placed in a hoop and hooked up to the machine. A drive mechanism then sets the hoop in motion under the needle as it follows the coordinates of the design following its digitization.
The last step is the embroidering process, and in modern machines that requires nothing more than starting it up and tracking the progress. However the automation process is more advanced with the commercial level embroidery machines than those built for home use.
The more complex your embroidery design is, the more input may be required from you. Today’s home machines usually have only one needle, so if you need to change the color it’s going to require manual cutting of the thread and changing the color. Furthermore, most embroidery designs require jumps that necessitate cutting.
Since there are different types of embroidery machines available, you have to do research and base your decision on the designs you will be doing. You should also become familiar with the thread types used, though 40 wt. threads are the most popular.
For quicker reference you will find all the info you need here: Home Embroidery Machines