Jun 082009
 

Embroidery Backing, which is also known as Embroidery stabilizer, is one of the most important components to producing a high quality finished product. In this writing I will provide a background for working with Backing. I will outline what Backing is, tips, how it is used, various applications for Backing, and the types of Backing available.

Embroidery backing is a non-woven product that is applied to the back of a garment before a design is sewn onto the other side of the article. It may be made of 100% cotton or a mix of Cotton and Polyester. The basic process to a non-woven is to press the materials together under immense pressure and then force them through rollers until they become a cohesive solid. They will continue to be rolled until they resemble large rolls of paper.

Backing is something that anyone doing embroidery for more than a day is probably using. Backing, being a stabilizer, helps fuse or hold the thread/stitches to the fabric. It is sometimes sold in large rolls to commercial embroidery shops. Backing is also sold as cut squares in bundles.

The first thing that most people will consider when sewing an item is “How well will this fabric sew?” This is also the question you should be asking yourself. Not only should you ask which type of fabric is being sewn, but also thread type, size of the embroidery, stitch density, stitch length, and stitch speed. All of these things are factors to consider when choosing a backing.

The age of your embroidery machine may also play into the stitch speed and would influence your choice of backing. Try different backings until you find what suites your setup. You need to also make sure that the fabric you are sewing on is stretched tight on your hoop and that you are hooping the entire piece of backing. This helps improve the stability of the sewing surface and again contributes to a cleaner and finished embroidery output.

There are more than 15 different types of backings available in rolls and sheets or bundles. Among the different types of backings are: tear away, cutaway, and wash away. Most embroidery backing will be made for industrial or commercial machines, but there are always great alternatives for personal embroidery machines.

Tearaway is the most popular choice of backing due to the fact that jobs can be finished faster and cheaper. With a cutaway you must cut the backing with scissors, which can be tedious at best. Tearaways must be able to withstand being punctured by the embroidery needles several times while the design is being sewn. They must also be able to be torn off the back of the garment without causing damage to the design.

Cutaways are usually considered the second most popular backing. This backing is most commonly used when working with a lightweight or stretchy fabric. Cutaway is sturdier than a traditional tearaway and therefore will provide more stability in your thin or stretchy fabric. This will also help achieve a better output of your design because it will help stabilize the sewing surface. One thing that you must always be aware of with a cutaway is the cutting. Once you are done with your garment and it comes time to cutaway the backing pay attention to what you are doing. It can be very easy to snag or accidentally cut your finished product with your scissors.

The next several backings fall under the Specialty Backings area. There are many different backings that will fall in this area I will discuss a few.

Cap backing are generally tearaways. With a backing like this is a preferable to have a clean tear due to the nature of the caps. The backing is needed to support the crispness and clarity of the design, sound familiar? There’s special consideration needed when working with low profile or unstructured caps. Some may think that a hat is fairly sturdy and therefore does not need backing, do make this mistake. Cap backing also helps keep the caps frames in place and prevents the registration or alignment from slipping.

Fusibles backing is the next one. This is backing that can be permanently applied to the garment with an iron or other heat source. Fusibles are used on items that are hard to hoop such as, fleece, leather, and some athletic wearables. Fusibles can be chemical sprays and are generally less preferred.

Puff backing is a specialized stabilizer that is lofty or puffy but still has some rigidity to it. It is used to create a raised, profiled, or three-dimensional look. It is most commonly found in caps. Many collegiate or professional sports team will employ a puff backing in order to achieve a higher looking and higher priced end product. Puff should be tested with your fabric/surface to ensure that it will hold up to the rigors of repeated thread puncture.

Black Backings are less common but do serve a specialized purpose. If you are applying a logo to a leather jacket, dark sweater, or black sweatshirt this backing is your choice. The black backing will have less show through than a garment with white backing.

Toppings are the last one I will cover. Toppings are a type of spray film that prevents stitching from sinking into the patterns of fabrics like pique knit, yarn knit, terry cloth and others. Topping is not necessarily a traditional backing. It is sprayed on the top of the garment to achieve its affect. One of the many product names given to Toppings is Solvy. Most toppings are water-soluble or polyethylene.

As you can tell by now there are many options for backing that can make your job easier and your product better. Using backing in your embroidery operations is a must. While this article is a very basic overview of backing it is a good idea to use the limitless resources available to gain a better understanding of backings. Attend trade shows, subscribe to the free magazines and online groups, and get in touch with your peers.

Jun 082009
 

1) When purchasing Embroidery equipment of any kind, take advantage of any training offered to you by the supplier of this equipment. Some may also offer free follow-up training courses. While sometimes the classes may seem to cater to the beginner, anyone can benefit from the courses and there are always new things to learn throughout your career.

2) Take advantage of the innumerable resources both offline and online. These resources may include: trade shows, magazines, industry peers, chat rooms, bulletin boards, user groups and e-mail lists. It is quite remarkable how often you will find a fellow embroiderer willing to offer advice and help in this industry. Many believe that competitors don’t help one another, but people do look out for one another.

3) Create a workflow. Having a workflow is critical to most processes in any industry in which something is being produced. This may be construction, software development, filming a movie, or running an embroidery shop. How jobs flow through the production process from order taking to delivery is crucial to your operation. To be more efficient and save time, group jobs by the type of frame or hoop needed. For example, embroider all the caps, then switch to flat garments or vice versa.

4) We must place the next tip near the top of our list because it is a core component to our model, technology. Design and digitizing technology advances at a rapid pace and can make the art process faster and more accurate. You will experience a better output and therefore happier customers. It pays to have the latest embroidery software updates as they become available. Some may even want to consider updating your most important cornerstone, your machines. This would apply to working with machines 20 years or older.

5) The next tip is also related to your workflow. Take a look at the size of hoop or frame required for an order. It makes sense to run similar sew locations in a consecutive order (i.e. left-chest jobs, then full-front embroideries) than it does jumping from one job to the next always changing the position of the logos. Lastly, arrange jobs in a sequence that will limit the number of times you need to change the thread bobbins on your machines.

6) Arrange your work area to limit the amount of physical movement required to complete the job. These days the more we can cut down on repetitive stress and overall movement of any kind, the more efficient we will be. Additionally, you should get an approval from your customer, provide a sew out proof (digital pictures may apply), hoop, sew, finish and pack an order without moving more than two feet in any direction. The less energy you exert, the more you will be to focus on the true task at hand.

7) Your order taking process is critical to getting the job done correctly and is a crucial part of good customer service. If you go back to the customer to ask for missing information, they may question your abilities. To prevent issues you may use an order form. This could be something as simple as a spreadsheet. You should include thread colors, size, location, need date, scheduling details, any special instructions, shipping method, and of course price. Get something that works for you and don’t be afraid to change it if you think something is not working.

8) Using a reference chart of standard variables for working with different garments is key. Doing this will simplify similar orders in the future and serve as a helpful tool for discussing jobs with customers. When it comes to repeat business having notes about thread count, hoop size, location, and other instructions shows organization and professionalism to your customers. This will also save time. In turn using a general reference tools will help you cruise through new orders.

9) Thread tension is an important tip for both the life of your machine and the quality of embroidery you produce. Improper thread tension usually results in poor quality embroidery. Learn how to adjust the tension on your machine, and check that it’s properly set whenever possible. There are several things that may affect thread tension, depending on the machine these include; needle eye size, dye from the thread, humidity, fabric type, backing, and thread path. Watch your sew out for problems (i.e. visibly loose threads). Finally, check the tension every time you change a bobbin or cone of thread or repair a thread/needle break.

10) Take advantage of your machine. Today’s modern machines are technological wonders and many embroiderers use the default settings on their design software. Just like someone using their new computer they way it came in the box, don’t be afraid to make some adjustments. This might seem like a safe approach, but you are not getting all you can out of your machine and are limiting your creativity and visual output. Learn your software’s capabilities, read the owners manuals, and call tech-support. Keep in mind that if you happen to make mistake and change something on your machine, someone will be there to help you.

11) Watch for dull needles. Dull needles can hurt embroidery quality because they don’t pierce the fabric correctly. This will lead to uneven and jagged stitches, especially on heavyweight items. It may also cause the thread to break and cost you valuable time. Commercial embroidery needles should be changed frequently. Changing needles will ultimately be cheaper than trying to stretch a needle beyond its use. Needles are commonly changed once a month. The heavier and tougher the material the more often your needles will dull. It can never hurt to play it safe and check them everyday.

12) Doing regular press checks is a very important step to saving you time and money.
We have all been there; the phone is ringing, you have customers walking in the door, and you realize that you put an embroidery job on your machines and did not check them. This is a key time to look for flaws in your design, make sure the sewing is crisp and clean, and that the design is sewing the way it should. It is always a good idea to check the job on the first run of a new design. If you have help in your shop and cannot get to it ask someone else to take a look. Flaws are usually pretty easy to spot. Less easy to spot are thread tension and correct thread colors. As the owner/operator of the machines this may fall squarely in your lap and is equally important. Doing these check will prevent you from having big problems and are worth the time.

13) Hoop the entire piece of backing. Backing is used to stabilize a fabric and to make sure the thread sews properly to the fabric. By making your backing as big as the hoop or hooping the entire thing you are providing a good smooth surface that will increase the quality of your output and ensure the design sews like it should. (There will be a subsequent article on backing).

14) Create a library or database of designs that you use often. When working with schools and other organization you will find that many logos and lettering may be very similar. In these cases it is a good idea to create and save a template for future use. These days we all are most likely using software that will allow us to do that. This can also apply to monogramming where your names and letters may be used over and over again. This saves time on future job setups and will help produce consistent designs.

15) Many problems can arise when sewing on fabric that has a rough or uneven surface. Among these materials are: terry cloth, sweaters, corduroy, pique knits and fleece. It is a great idea to use a water-soluble topping, usually a spray. This is known as Solvy. Solvy is applied before sewing and helps stabilize your surface. Washing or applying a damp cloth will remove the Solvy.

16) Check your thread paths. Incorrect paths on your thread will most certainly cause your output to be incorrect or at best look very poor. As the thread runs from the cone to the needle it passes through several guides and beneath tension knobs. Check these paths every time you have a thread break.

17) Know your hoop size. The bigger a hoop is the less stable your sewing surface is and this directly affects the quality of your embroidery. This is why it is not only a good idea to use the correct hoop size, but also to invest in many hoops of different sizes. Use the smallest hoop possible for the job.

18) Save yourself the time and effort by getting a hoping aid. This will keep you from having to hoop the garment over and over again and will ensure that you get the hoop aligned properly the first time. There are many hoping aids available and some of them are: The Snappy, Embroiderer’s Buddy, Embroiderer’s Friend, and Embroiderer’s Hoop Mate.

19) As you move along in your career you will certain get the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. This is also your opportunity to document why you made the mistake. Create a system that will allow you to record notes about the difficulty of certain jobs, fabrics, sew locations and difficult logos. Just like creating templates this will save you time and make you more efficient.

20) Modern embroidery machines are quite easy to take care of. It is wise to read any owners manuals and other guides that may have been given to you with your machines. Follow all the recommendations to ensure a long and productive life for your machine. Check the manufacturer’s website for up-to-date materials and if offered buy the cleaners an oils they suggest.