Pairing Shine and Stitches

Follow these tips for using embroidery to accentuate and command higher value on bling designs.

By Lee Caroselli-Barnes, Contributing Writer

It is hard to believe this Christmas tree could be more beautiful. However, adding embroidered ribbon and using metallic thread for the lettering enhances the sparkle.

March 11, 2015

Most retail apparel customers, can’t help being drawn to the sparkle of rhinestones. As bling becomes more prevalent, it continues to be more in demand.

As an apparel decorator, you probably see bling in tasteful touches, as well as in excess. You may even be feeling the pressure to add a little shine to your offerings for customers.

However, whether you are bringing in premade rhinestone designs that can be heat-applied or making your own, don’t forget you have an advantage that comes with owning an embroidery machine.

You easily can personalize bling with your machine. It is hard to believe the Christmas tree in Figure 1 could be more beautiful. However, adding just a few stitches gives it an upscale look at a low production price. As an example of personalization, you can use the ribbon running through the tree (Figure 2) to result in a design that features a customized message.

“Season’s Greetings” can be used for designs on a table runner or tree skirt. Substituting that phrase for a family name makes the design perfect for a Christmas flag that can be a great hostess gift for a holiday party. With embroidery, you can customize the tree without making additional rhinestone templates for your names or messages.

Although bling can be a show stopper, mixing in a bit of embroidery can yield an upscale garment with a low production cost. Once again, mixing media allows a higher perceived value. Combining the two is easy. Rhinestone patterns are available from a variety of industry suppliers on clear plastic carrier sheets, and once you have completed the embroidery, simply place the bling over the top of it and apply heat with a heat press. Creating the two complementary pieces — one in embroidery and the other with rhinestones — can be a challenge.

If you are creating bling designs and are adding embroidery, you may want to do your embroidery design first, and then add the bling as a second file. If you have a digitizing program that allows for multimedia designs, you can have both on the screen at the same time and send the bling design to your cutter, while saving the embroidery part to send to your machine. If not, then you will have to use the scan of the embroidery design as your template for placing rhinestones in the perfect spots. Keep in mind that you will be limited to the size of the design’s bling portion; your embroidery cannot be scaled up or down once you have created the template.

If you are working with a preexisting bling design, such as the tree example, you will have to scan it and use it as a template. Then, digitize the embroidered part of the image so that it complements the bling design. With the Christmas tree example, just enough embroidered ribbon is running through the tree that it appears to belong. It does not overpower the design and the ribbon at the end lends itself to lettering. Using metallic thread for that lettering continues to enhance the sparkle and make the two media compatible (Figure 3).

Whether you create your own rhinestone designs or buy them already made, bling and embroidery constitute a winning combination that will increase your bottom line.

The 4th of July design started with an existing design in red, white and blue (Figure 4). However, to make sure the burst of bling complements the design, I ran a light coverage of silver over the lettering and gave the letters a metallic border. With the embroidery already sparkling, the added burst of rhinestones looks perfect (Figure 5). That burst of rhinestones will cost you less than $3 from Isaacs Designs in Hallandale Fla., and, as you can see, it makes the design.

In the heart design example, the addition of a small piece of bling makes it special for Valentine’s Day (Figure 6). However, if you change the color of the embroidery thread and add a different background, the result becomes a beautiful album cover for the bride and groom (Figure 7) or a ring bearer’s pillow. Both can be customized and sold at a nice price. However, neither the heart design nor the bling would be complete without the other.

As you peruse different bling catalogs, think of different ways you can enhance the designs with embroidery. Take them apart to add your embroidered touches. Change backgrounds to create new looks and uses that set your business apart and enlarge your market. At the same time, think of your existing designs. A little bling can give them new life.

When you are creating new designs, don’t think of only one medium. Look at all the alternatives you now have. Combine media and keep all your equipment busy. Don’t think of only bling; add the color of embroidery. Using a minimal amount of stitches, you can make a statement that bling, alone, cannot make. Together, each piece can be individualized for your customer, giving you the ideal product that is low in production cost and high in perceived value.

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.