Content written by Sue Biele and Sue Taylor, in official SWF distribution training materials.
1. How do I know if my garment is tight enough in the hoop?
Hooping is the first step to doing quality embroidery. If the fabric is not hooped correctly, it can mean the difference between good or bad stitching. Think of building a house with only the roof and no walls. The house will not stay up very well. Embroidery is the same way. The hoop stabilizes the garment while sewing. As you are hooping your garment, try to keep your hands on the hoop and not the fabric. This way you will not distort your fabric by pressing on it with your hands. Start at the top (or bottom) of the hoop and roll the hoop down (or up) until it falls onto the fabric. Make sure the inner and outer hoops are flush.
a. If the hoop slides onto the fabric easily then your hoop is probably too loose. This could cause the garment to come unhooped while sewing. Tighten the hoop a little and try again.
b. If you have to push real hard on the hoop then it is probably too tight. This could cause hoop burn on some colors and/or fabrics. Loosen the hoop a little and try again.
2. What needle do I use to sew on knits?
This is a very common question for new embroiderers. The two most common types of needles used for embroidery machines are sharp and ball point.
A rule of thumb to follow is: the looser the weave of the fabric threads being sewn on, the more the needle should be rounded. A ball point needle has a rounded tip on it. Using a sharp needle on knits could pierce the knit’s fabric threads and may cause the fabric to run. Knits are loosely woven materials so a ball point would be more suitable. For tightly woven materials a sharp would be more suitable except for fabrics like satin and certain types of leather.
3. How do I know if my design will look good on a garment?
A good rule to follow is to do a test sewout of the design on a fabric similar to that of the garment. It is wise to go to a fabric store and purchase several different types of fabrics that you will be using and stitch your samples onto it. This will give you a true test of how the design will look when stitched onto the garment. Keep in mind that whenever you alter a design – change the scale, for example – you should always do a test sewout to make sure everything is going to line up properly. The stitch types, spacing or lengths may need adjusting to compensate for the changes made to the design. The more experienced you become, the less you need to do this.
4. What’s that “plastic stuff” for?
It is a water soluble topping that is placed on top of your garment after hooping. Its use is to hold stitches “up” preventing them from sinking into the garment. This is particularly useful when working with knits or high pile fabrics such as terry cloth. Supply companies have different names for this type of topping including Solvy, Solufab, and Aquafilm.
5. How does density (stitch spacing) affect my design? What will happen if I have too many or too few stitches?
Too many stitches in a design can cause the design to pucker, which can lead to distortion and missed registration of outlines. Excessive thread breaks and holes in the garment are also common occurrences when too many stitches are in a design. Too few stitches can cause poor coverage, thus allowing the garment to show through the stitching. Jagged-looking edges instead of clean, sharp edges can also be a characteristic of too few stitches.
6. Can I use any kind of oil or grease on my embroidery machine?
It is best to contact the manufacturer of your equipment and use what they recommend for your type of machine. However, most embroidery machines use a clear sewing machine oil, also known as a colorless sewing machine oil, which is really just a refined oil. Do not use oil that has a brown tint to it.
Embroidery machines that use grease, usually use a grease called multi-purpose bearing grease. Multi-head machines may use an additional lubricant which will either be graphite based or soap based. It is important to know these greases must never be mixed because this may cause a chemical breakdown of lubricant.