Tips for Digitizing on Thin Fabrics

By Talia LeBlanc, Contributing Writer

February 8, 2021

Embroidering on thin fabrics such as performancewear and tri-blend garments can scare away some embroiderers. The thin, stretchy, sheer materials typically present a challenge even to the most experienced embroiders. These garments take even more consideration compared to the traditional garments out there. These challenges can be overcome with the proper digitizing and embroidery supplies. Follow our tips and tricks to excel with these difficult garments.

Designs and Digitizing
Choosing the right design plays a key role while working with thin fabrics. Always keep in mind the fabric type, required design size, the artwork and any additional requirements. Most designs need to be modified to some extent. In some instances, outlining may need to be eliminated and small text may need to be rearranged, especially with thinner fabrics. It is also important to test run the design to see if making any necessary adjustments to the digitizing are needed.

Thinner fabrics are much more susceptible to puckering and distortion, therefore, properly digitizing these designs are crucial. Improper digitizing, overall, produces poor results. The more stitches that are loaded into the design will most likely cause more distortion. Avoid high stitch counts at all costs when working with thinner fabrics. Keep it simple and ensure that the stitch density is to a minimum.

Digitize your thinner, stretchy garment designs to stitch from the center out, from the bottom up. This helps to reduce stretch and helps to prevent distortion and puckering.

Push and Pull
Assign embroidery stitch types to specific areas while considering factors such as the fabric type and “push and pull” of the garment. The push and pull of the garment is a phrase that you will hear frequently in embroidery digitizing. A design may move when being embroidered and this tends to cause stitches to shift. When digitizing, one must account for the possible effects of the push and pull factor. This typically occurs when using long stitches, large areas of thread and tighter bobbin thread. The pull effect is enhanced on a long stitch or a stretchy, thin fabric. Managing this effect is considered the pull compensation.

The sequence that the machine embroiders the design is very crucial. When embroidering the design, the machine should first begin with the placement stitch, the underlay and then the top stitch. The sequence is extremely important and if it is not properly followed, it will not effectively stabilize the design; that will result in distorted and poorly stitched designs.

When digitizing, you must decide how the “pathing” will run. Pathing is the sequence of stitches in the design from the start to finish. This will also determine how an embroidered design will lie once it is finished. If the design is not embroidered in the proper sequence on the garment, you might have some unwanted spaces or the text may end up uneven. In the long run, the pathing will affect how the design will run on the embroidery machine.

Proper Underlay & Stitch Density
The underlay is the foundation of your design as it secures the backing and fabric together. It also provides a firm foundation to build the design on top of. There are many different types of underlays that give the stitches a smooth surface to embroider on and minimize distortion of the design. Embroidering on these thin fabrics that are stretchy without and underlay would cause the design to distort. The wrong underlay on these thin fabrics won’t stabilize the design, resulting in a very difficult embroidery process such as the stitches sinking into the fabric.

Keep in mind that too many jump stitches cause some issues. These jump stitches happen when the needle tends to travel from one part of the design onto another and dragging the thread along as it goes. Sometimes, jump stitches can occur due to a poorly digitized design where the needle moves randomly from one part of the design to the other. This is usually an occurrence when the design sequence isn’t thought of during digitization. Jump stitches can cause a lot of different obstacles during the embroidery process including puckering, distortion, low quality performance and having to manually trim them.

The stitch density is critical because it has a large impact on the overall embroidered design. When embroidering on thinner fabrics, keep stitch density to a minimum. When there is less density on the design, the stitch time is shorter and reduces the odds of broken needles and thread breaks. Adding more underlay in the fill will allow you to reduce the overall fill stitches.

Thin garments and lighter materials can be tricky to embroider because of the flimsiness can pull the garment together, causing unwanted bunching and puckering. A trick to preventing some puckering with the lightweight fabric is to add some adhesive spray to start and then add a low profile No Show Weblon or Performance backing. Then, add a light weight tear away for more stability and crispiness to the overall design. Adhere the layers of stabilizer to the thinner fabric using the adhesive recommended above and hoop it all together. Try to avoid overstretching the fabrics inside of the hoop. You want the fabric to be nice and taut to give yourself a nice space to embroider your design.

Digitizing is such a major key to embroidery and without it, there would not be any designs to embroider. With these simple tips and tricks, you will create high-quality designs that you and your customers are going to love! Digitizing doesn’t have to be difficult or bothersome, it is important to follow these simple tips and the rest will be smooth sailing.

Talia LeBlanc is the product marketer, specializing in embroidery thread and bobbins at Madeira USA. Skilled in embroidery and communications, Talia manages the marketing of Madeira thread from the company headquarters in New Hampshire. For more information or to comment on this article, email Talia at tleblanc@madeirausa.com.