Stitching Staples Get Upgrades

From machines to hoops, innovative features make the embroidery process easier than ever

By Deborah Jones, Contributing Writer

May 16, 2016

DURING THE PAST few years, there have been some interesting developments in the embroidery machines and supplies arena. Just when you think there couldn’t possibly be anything else that could be added to these stitching staples, industry innovators have come up with unique productivity features and tools. Here’s an overview of trends and new developments in this industry sector.

Mighty Machines
for home studios have become popular for small-business use. Some features and benefits of true commercial models and crossover machines overlap, while others remain exclusive to each type. For some buyers, versatility and utility are pitted against compact design, a shorter learning curve and unique technology.

Some machines in both the commercial and crossover embroidery categories have touchscreen technology. While this is more sizzle than steak, its appeal is undeniable.

A pinpoint laser is a common but invaluable tool for locating the starting point for accurate placement. It also provides a visual perimeter of the design when the Trace feature is used. Previously, some embroiderers resorted to lowering the presser foot to get a clear idea of design boundaries within the hoop. This sometimes resulted in a bent presser foot when the design was “out of bounds” with respect to the hoop. The laser feature clearly illuminates the needle’s path with pinpoint accuracy, making this risky practice a thing of the past.

Some crossover machines take this a step further with built-in cameras that offer a visual needle-drop position. One option enhances the camera feature by offering a full-size scan of the entire hoop area while displaying the design as an overlay image. This takes design positioning to a new level, displaying even the slightest difference in angle between the hooped fabric and the design orientation.

This popular upgrade also includes an auto-rotation function based on recognition of a specially designed sticker. When the sticker is placed straight and upright on the fabric, the machine will rotate the loaded design in the proper direction to match the sticker’s position, such as upside down or at an angle. It even will slightly rotate the design to stitch it straight with the sticker if the fabric has been hooped slightly crooked.

Filed under “It’s about time!” is the unique automatic threading feature that currently is found on a couple of machine brands, Although a sexy feature and a timesaver, this luxury must be balanced with more restricted access under the sewing head. Some true commercial machines now tout their ease of access — perhaps in response to this auto-threading feature that’s exclusive to specific machine brands.

Most machines today also have networking capabilities and some are expanding the number of available ports. In addition to linking multiple machines and direct connections to computers, the additional ports can accommodate such peripherals as barcode scanners.

Onboard editing and resizing is available on most modern machines, allowing users to perform basic or sometimes intermediate editing at the machine panel. While many users opt to handle editing at a dedicated computer station, this capability is fairly standard and is more practical than ever with new, larger displays.

Sewing speeds for crossovers typically average about 1,000 stitches per minute, with true commercial models averaging between 1,200 and 1,500 stitches per minute. Many machines now feature quieter operation and less vibration.

Finally, some true commercial machines now offer electronically adjustable presser feet. This capability makes it possible to fine tune presser-foot height for demanding jobs such as thick items or materials, including embroidery foam. Similarly, electronically controlled tensioning continues to have many fans.

Essential Supplies
the supplies category that probably has seen the most innovation in the embroidery industry. Following up on the tremendous success of the Fast Frame’s holding system, which centers on self-adhesive stabilizer, we have seen other useful and ingenious aftermarket developments, including clamps, magnetic hoops and “missing” hoop sizes. The latter category is a term I use for hoops made by aftermarket manufacturers that fill in the gaps for what is not included from machine manufacturers.

One of the most popular developments in the aftermarket hoop arena is the flat hat hoop from Durkee. This hoop holds caps flat for embroidery, even on cylinder arm machines that can accept a traditional cap frame. Less expensive than a traditional cap setup, it also allows for a larger embroidery area.

Another unique innovation is the freshly patented rip-away appliqué process from Data Stitch that makes it possible to embroider appliqués without cutting — even on finished caps. Appliqué on caps previously has been limited to work done on flat panels before assembly.

 One problem among embroiderers is the need for clarity of small lettering and fine detail. Thread makers have responded to this almost universal need with smaller- diameter threads. Exquisite, Madeira, Gunold and Robison-Anton all have different versions of products in this category.

Standard embroidery thread is designated as 40 weight, while these lightweights range between 60- and 75-weight designations.

Specific software, such as Gunold’s MicroFonts and Fine Line software from The Embroidery Store, feature fonts digitized specifically for small, finer thread sizes.

As you can tell, there’s plenty of resourcefulness and inventiveness of the part of product developers in our industry. We owe them a big thank you for making our work days a bit easier and our capabilities seemingly endless.

Deborah Jones is a commercial and home embroiderer with more than 30 years experience in the computerized embroidery field. She runs myembroiderymentor.com and regularly speaks at the Imprinted Sportswear Shows (ISS). For more information or to comment on this article, email Deborah at djones@myembroiderymentor.com.