Take Advantage of Monogram Madness

This traditional one-off embroidery is more popular than ever, leaving room for extra profits for your business.

By Deborah Jones, Contributing Writer

With interlocking, part of each letter is created in satin stitches, alternating with wider sections made using a random satin or a fill stitch.

April 15, 2015

Unless you’ve been living on another planet or in a cave for the past year, you’ve noticed that monograms are everywhere. When I opened my Internet browser two weeks before Christmas, I was stunned to see the term “monogram” was the No. 1 trending topic.

I heard an interview in which a celebrity was asked what she would get Oprah Winfrey as a gift. Her reply was, “Something monogrammed.” That says quite a lot about the perception of monograms; they can make a gift suitable for Oprah, a woman who seemingly has everything.

Once primarily relegated to shirt cuffs, blouses and bathrobes, monograms now adorn everything from shoe tongues and boots to straw hats and chair backs. Let’s explore what’s driving this trend of personalizing every item that we can conceivably put a needle through.

There are many incarnations of monograms. Perhaps the seeds of the current craze were sown by pre-embroidered and preprinted merchandise with single-initial monograms. It has almost certainly been fueled by embroidery offerings from mail-order companies such as Land’s End and thirtyonegifts.com.

Whatever the origin, business is good for anyone who services the one-off personalization market. The trends may change in the coming months, but I think demand for monograms will continue to be strong for the foreseeable future.

From bath curtains to pillow shams, oversized monograms are impressive.
Although enlarging fonts in your software is easy, it may not produce a satisfactory result, particularly on lightweight fabrics.

In most script lettering styles, the letters are narrow in some areas and wider in others. When enlarged several inches in height to create a monogram, the stitches in the wide areas become too long to be practical or serviceable. Yet most embroiderers agree that customers prefer the liquid appearance of satin stitches to the shorter and more practical fill stitches.

So what’s the solution? Many software packages have a compromise: a stitch type called a split satin, random satin, blended satin or special satin. This is a wonderful solution because satin stitches of medium length blend randomly in the center of the column, maintaining more of the appearance of a satin stitch than a fill stitch.

On the other end of the spectrum is the issue experienced when creating small monograms, such as those on men’s shirt cuffs. It seems that men who indulge in this tradition think that a smaller monogram means higher status.

Some software packages include a few fonts with names like Small Century, ¼-inch Block or 6mm Script. MicroFonts from Gunold is a specialty standalone software program for small lettering that contains fonts that have been specially digitized to eliminate bulk and changes in stitch direction, making small text clear and readable. Designed for use with fine, 60-weight thread, this software provides a solution for the common issue with lumpy areas in small monograms.

Some embroiderers specializing in monograms rely heavily on fonts from resources outside of their primary software. This greatly increases the variety available, but there are some things you should know about downloadable fonts.

Because they aren’t native to the software in which you open them, each character generally is treated as a design. Creating a monogram requires the user to merge the characters needed for the monogram and move each one into
position relative to the others, creating a pleasing combination.

Some software programs, however, have a convenient mapping feature, allowing purchased fonts to be “mapped” to the various keys on the computer keyboard. After the alphabet has been mapped, the user can type monograms, as well as other personalizations and lettering creations, as if they were native fonts.

Some programs even have a format that allows external alphabets to be installed automatically, eliminating the need for them to be mapped at all. Digitizers who create their fonts using this .BX extension enjoy great popularity among users of Embroidery Works and Embrilliance software.

Other embroidery software offers the ability to convert TrueType fonts to embroidery stitches. While this sounds magical at first, the reality is a bit more harsh.

First, modifications must be made for the lettering to be stitched at an even height. This is because of the phenomenon known as “push and pull.” Vertical elements push up, making them appear taller, while round elements pull in, making them appear shorter. TrueType conversions can do little to compensate for the physical distortion that occurs when a needle and thread enter fabric.

Then there’s the matter of stitch direction. Most of the time, letters with serifs — the small extenders, or “feet,” found in fonts like Times New Roman or Century — are particularly problematic. Often, the software creates horizontal stitches for these elements when fonts digitized by a human have a more suitable vertical stitch direction.

Still, there are situations when TrueType creations are appropriate and fun. For example, the dog’s name on the doggie day care bag shown to the left was embroidered using a converted TrueType font that looks like bones. In this instance, factors such as uniform letter height go out the window in favor of a bit of humor.

Interlocked script probably is the most popular monogram style currently in the marketplace. For the purist, the letters admittedly are not technically intertwined, with the extensions being properly over and under the connecting letter. Still, this doesn’t spoil its timeless elegance and universal appeal. There are many versions of this basic font’s style available for download from the Internet. The one shown on page 54 is the Rivermill Vine alphabet, and it’s available in various sizes.

Part of each letter is created in satin stitches, alternating with wider sections made using a random satin or a fill stitch. If you don’t own a good interlocking script, you don’t know what sales opportunities — and fun — you may be missing. It’s tailor-made for gift items and works well in almost any scale.

Specialty fonts, including appliqué monogram styles, also are available for download. And the illusion of plaid can be created with a font style that uses a few colors and a light, airy fill pattern. The light density makes it practical to place this playful font in a large size on a wide variety of fabrics. Playing with the colors is half the fun.

For three-letter monograms, the tradition is for the last name to be represented by the initial in the center. For an individual, the initial of the first name appears to the left and the middle initial appears to the right. For couples combining their initials into a single monogram, tradition dictates that the gentleman’s initial is placed to the right and the lady’s to the left.

When it comes to embellishing the monogram, I like to offer the option of adding an accent design to any personalization. To keep this process simple, I preselect about six simple designs containing no more than three or four colors. I stitch these out with a sample name or initials and place them in my selection book. This way, the time spent selecting an accent is minimal and I don’t need to charge the customer a separate setup fee.

It’s worth noting that personalization also is popular in media other than embroidery. Glassware, wood, metal and all kinds of materials also are ideal for monograms. Even in apparel, embroidery isn’t the only means of applying monograms; heat-applied vinyl also provides a suitable method.

Even though they are one-offs, monograms can be a very profitable aspect of your business. Most specialty stores, such as children’s shops, bed and bath shops, and even dry cleaners, need monogramming services. Be prepared before you pitch. Take samples of stitched designs, order forms and your price list with you to call on a specialty store or dry cleaner.

Offer a discount of about 30% from your retail price for monogramming to keep pricing simple. Only offer specific styles and colors to keep the process easy for the store staff.

This regular, profitable work can help fill in some idle time on your machines and spread the joy of monograms to customers beyond your own.

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.

Hear Deborah speak on embroidery topics at the Imprinted Sportswear Shows (ISS). Individual seminars are just $25 if you pre-register.

Suggested Reading:

Like this article? Read these and other embroidery articles at impressionsmag.com:
• “Use Software Settings for More Quality Embroidery”
• “Commercial vs. Crossover: A Machine Comparison”
• “How to Choose the Correct Bobbin Type”