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Screen Printing and Embroidery

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.

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