Embroidery machines are so fun. I recently wrote about the Brother PE770 Embroidery-only machine and how it let your creativity shine. With any embroidery machine, you can creative side run wild with fabric selection, thread colors, and design. What you create is totally up to you. But oh, the disappointment of a fabulous project gone bad.
Plan Ahead to Protect Your Project
With any creative process, things can go wrong. So I am going to share some tips to help you avoid the mistakes that can turn your masterpiece into a major wreck. As you continue reading, you will learn how to get the best out of your embroidery sewing machine.
First, I’m going to tell you about hoops. To get the best results out of your embroidery project the right hoop and hooping technique are essential. Using a hoop that is too large can result in slippage and bad registration. Hooping the wrong fabric can leave a permanent hoop burn on it. Tightening the hoop too tightly on your fabric can increase the push-pull effect and ruin your design. Finally, your hoop, fabric, stabilizer and machine all need to work together to create the best embroidery possible.
Wait, Is That Upside Down?
If you ever embroidered by hand, you know that there is an inner and outer ring that are pressed together to hold your fabric. When you hold the hoops for stitching, the outer ring is on top and the inner ring is on the bottom. The fabric is stretched to create a flat surface facing up toward you and your stitches go on this top surface.
Hooping for an embroidery machine is different. Your fabric is still placed between two rings, but rather than serving to create a taut surface for you to stitch on top, the hooping is designed to create a taut surface to rest on the bed of the machine. Instead of the hollow well formed by the fabric and the inner hoop facing down, it faces up. So in effect, your two hoops combined together should look like a shallow tray with a fabric bottom.
Here is where it may be tricky for a hand embroiderer to follow. If you were stitching an item by hand, this inside ring hollow would be the wrong side of your fabric. But in your embroidery machine, it is the opposite. The wrong side of your fabric should be pressed against the stabilizer layer which is then pressed against the bed of your embroidery machine. Your design will be produced face up, in the hollow created by the two rings. So in essence, when first settling the fabric into the rings, the side that you would place up when ringing for hand embroidery is the side that you place down for machine embroidery.
To make sure you have your fabric placed correctly before stitching, place your hoop correcting onto your embroidery arm and then look at your fabric. If you cannot see the right side of your fabric, it is in your hoops upside down.
Oh, one more thing, make sure the tab of the hoop is at the top of your design. If you are stitching a design on a T-shirt, this means the tab will be near the collar of your shirt. If you get this step wrong, your design will be stitched on your garment upside down. Take a minute to picture the final embroidered design on your garment, or better yet, use a template to make sure things turn out the way you intended.
Choosing the Right Hoop Size
The purpose of the hoop is to hold your fabric perfectly taut and flat against the bed of your embroidery machine. You need room for your needle to do its work while stitching the design, but otherwise, try to choose the smallest hoop possible for your project. The smaller the hoop, the less room there is for your fabric to shift while being stitched.
Avoid the Burn
There are fabrics that cannot be hooped at all. You can still hoop your stabilizer, but hooping the fabric itself will lead to disaster. Fabrics with a napped texture will show wear if hooped. Napping is yarns or fibers that stick up from the actual flat woven surface of the fabric. When the two rings of a hoop are locked into one another with fabric in between, this nap is crushed. Unfortunately, it may never recover from the experience. Some fabrics, such as thick sweatshirt fabric, will be temporarily compressed by use of a hoop but will recover when washed. This is not true with many napped fabrics such as corduroy, velour, suede, and velvet. Once these fabrics are rubbed the wrong way by the hoops, they won’t bounce back.
I mentioned that thick sweatshirt fabric can recover from being crushed, other thicker fabrics will not. In particular, fabrics with less malleability, or give, such as leather or vinyl may not withstand the hoop’s pressure treatment. Finally, delicate fabrics such as silks or linens and fabrics with a very loose weave that snags easily aren’t good candidates for hooping.
If you are not certain if your fabric can withstand the pressure of the hoop without being damaged, test a scrap piece. If there is any sign of marking or wear on your sample after you’ve tested it, don’t use a hoop on that fabric. It is simply not worth the risk. You might also consider trying a specialty hoop designed to prevent this type of marking.
Stitchers disagree as to what constitutes a good hold on a fabric. Many seek to tighten the hoops as tightly as possible while others believe in having a slightly lighter touch. I am going to help you understand how to judge your own hoop setting by explaining more about the nature of fabric and hooping process.
The purpose of the hoops, along with your stabilizer, is to prevent the fabric from moving during the embroidery process. The needle needs to be able to pierce the fabric with as little vertical or horizontal response from the fabric as possible. To achieve this goal, the hoops have to hold the fabric tightly. If this hold is not tight, the needle will pull the fabric out of position a little bit more with each stitch.
Each type fabric has unique characteristics, including how much that fabric naturally moves or gives under pressure. The weave, dye or print treatments, fiber content and other coatings all affect how a piece of fabric behaves. The fabric of a knit T-shirt will give or stretch a great deal, a tightly woven linen will not.
When you place a stretchy fabric, you want it tightly held. But you don’t want to tighten the hoops so much that you begin to distort or stretch your fabric in one direction or another. You need to tighten the hoop evenly on all sides but stop if the fabric begins to pull. Likewise, you don’t want to pull a sensitive fabric so tightly that you stress the fibers or the fabric may weaken when the needle pierces it. Finally, sometimes your hoops will fit together in some places better than others. When you tighten the screws on your hoop, you will want to compensate for any gaps with a little extra twist.
Keep Learning and Discovering With Your Embroidery Machine
It may take you some time to get used to the feel of your fabrics and to observe how they perform under the needle of your particular embroidery machine. But getting to know about your machines and all the wonderful fabrics there are to work with is part of the fun. Enjoy your embroidery machine and the adventures it offers while you create your wonderful, one-of-a-kind projects.