Anticipate ‘Push-Pull’ in Designs

Know the properties of the single stitch to use this phenomenon to your advantage in digitizing.

By Lee Caroselli-Barnes, Contributing Writer

Please see the attached photo gallery in reference to this article.

August 7, 2015

When you create a digitized design, it is important to know what will happen with the stitches in your sewout. There is nothing worse than painstakingly following all the rules, only to find that the design looks perfect on screen, but flawed when it’s stitched. This phenomenon varies from garment to garment.

The main cause of this frustration is the distortion that results when stitches pull in at one part of the design and push out at another. Compounding this is the need to find the perfect underlay that will prevent this distortion.

Both the “push-pull” phenomenon and underlay have become the biggest digitizing mysteries. These variables take away the joy of creating a design and cause apprehension. If you learn to anticipate the push and pull in your design, you can digitize with confidence.

A single stitch has one property: length. The longer the stitch, the more it will pull in. All three “groups” of stitches — running, column/satin and fill stitches — are comprised of single stitches. Therefore, all three groups will be influenced by this property to a certain extent.

In the case of the running stitch, the longer stitch in a design’s detail will result in distortion. Anticipating this means simply shortening the stitches in that area.

In the case of the fill or tatami stitch, an object with longer stitches — while providing more gloss — will pull in more than an object with shorter stitches. That means that in a traditional fill, you will have to anticipate more distortion to that shape with the longer stitch, add to the underlay to control it and adjust your outlines. This will vary with different fabrics, as well as the overall design’s size.

However, if that same object is done with a layered fill, with only the final layer having a longer stitch, it will have no pull or push, but still will have the gloss. So, in the case of the fill or tatami, you will have ultimate control of the object by stitching three layers of a fill that are each one-third of the total density. Doing this will result in no push or pull and there will be no need to anticipate the amount of distortion. (Editor’s note: For more details on this technique, read “How to Work With Push-Pull Compensation” at impressionsmag.com.)

This leaves the column or satin stitch to address. A wider column stitch, which is composed of longer stitches, will pull in more than a narrow one. The more this happens, the more they push out and appear to fill in — to the point of fighting for room. This is why lettering posts wobble and overall distortion appears in some objects.

While you can control the width of those stitches and, therefore, the push-pull by using underlay, the latter is not the only solution. The underlay will set the width of the column stitch, but as the stitches pull in, their density must be addressed. By opening up the space between each stitch in the column, you will compensate for their inevitable pull.

Understanding this, don’t try to stabilize stitches that are pulling in by simply adding underlay. Lighten the column’s density so that the stitches that are pulling in no longer have to fight for room.

If you look at Figure 1, you will see three column stitches with an edge-run underlay. As the underlay gets closer to the center of the column, the overlying stitches will pull in against the underlay and be anchored by it. The stitches will take the form of the underlay, even in width. The more narrow the underlay, the more the stitches will pull in. And the more they pull in, the more they are forced to displace each other and push out.

Lightening the density and increasing the spacing between these stitches will assure room for all. Anticipating this reaction from your stitches will save frustration.

If you want to create a rounded column stitch, use the push-pull phenomenon to your advantage by making underlay more narrow and in the center. If, on the other hand, you want a glossy, flat column stitch — as in the Balboa letters (see Figure 2) — position the underlay close to the edge. The stitches still will pull in against the underlay, but you can anticipate the width of that column and the push-pull action.

To further control the push-pull in that wide glossy letter, add a second underlay composed of tatami or fill stitches. This attaches the garment to the backing and creates a stronger platform for those long stitches.

Anticipating the push and pull in a design involves not only understanding what the stitches will do in relation to their length, but also what they will do in relation to the underlying stitches. If you are placing any stitches on a background fill, they will sink in if they are going the same direction. They will begin to disappear as they pull in the same direction as the fill. However, if those stitches are placed on top at another angle, they will stand up and become three dimensional.

The pheasant in Figure 3 and its breast feathers include a wide column on top of a fill. That column is going the same direction as the underlying fill. In this case, the stitches in the background fill are horizontal. As the column pulls in, the stitches all but disappear. (see Figure 4).

In Figure 5, to hold the edges so that the breast feathers are tipped in black, a running stitch was manually placed on the side it appears. The other side is left open so that it can pull in as anticipated.

The result of anticipating the push-pull is pictured in the scan of the finished pheasant where you see only the slightest definition of the edge of the breast feather, rather than the large, heavy area of black that you see in the picture captured from the screen.

The difference between the screen shot and the picture of the stitched bird is a clear gauge of the push-pull phenomenon. On screen, the full column stitch appears strong and overpowering. In the resulting sewout of the same design, the anticipated push and pull was used to create, or copy, that fine tip on the breast feathers. To assure the stitches form that tip, a running stitch was used as an underlay on only one side of the column stitch. The other side remained open so that it would sink in. Travel up the row of breast feathers with the running stitch outlining the very edge of the feather, then come back to the starting point using a column stitch.

The same push-pull action will continue when sewing a column stitch on top of a fill that runs at another angle. With the parrot (see Figure 6), the stitches pull in, fill in and now become three dimensional simply by changing the angle.

Knowing that a longer single stitch is destined to pull in — and anticipating that this property carries through to the running, column and the fill stitches — allows you to anticipate results and use the push-pull phenomenon to your advantage. Shorten running stitches for control and layer fills so that you have no push or pull, enabling alignment of outlines and detail.

In the case of the column stitch, rely on underlay to dictate the amount of pull, while lightening density to avoid the resulting push.

Finally, use the push-pull features to create needed textures on top of your fills by changing angles. Knowing this, you can anticipate the push and pull in your design, and you can enjoy digitizing with confidence.

Lee Caroselli-Barnes, owner of Balboa Threadworks Embroidery Design, is known for her innovation and excellence in embroidery digitizing. She has 30 years of experience in the embroidery industry. For more information or to comment on this article, email Lee at balboainfo@aol.com.

Hear Lee speak on digitizing topics at the 2015 Imprinted Sportswear Shows (ISS). Individual seminars are just $25 if you preregister: issshows.com.

Suggested Reading
Like this article? Read these and other digitizing articles
at impressionsmag.com:
• “How to Work With Push-Pull Compensation
• “Everything You Should Know About Nodes
• “Short Stitches and Controlling Cornering