Appliqué — French term meaning applying, usually by sewing, one piece of fabric to the surface of another. A cut piece of material stitched to another adds dimension and texture and reduces the stitch count.

Backing or stabilizer — are often used interchangeably to refer to materials, generally non-woven textiles, which are placed inside or under the item to be embroidered. The backing provides support and stability to the garment which will improve the quality of the finished embroidered product. Backings come primarily in two types: cutaway and tear-away. With cutaway, the excess backing is cut with a pair of scissors. With tear-away, the excess is torn away after the item is embroidered. Additional types of stabilizer can be dissolved by water or heat. Stabilizing the fabric - to prevent wrinkles and other problems, the fabric must be stabilized. The method of stabilizing depends on the type of machine, the fabric type, and the design density. For example, knits and large designs typically require firm stabilization. There are many methods for stabilizing fabric, but most often one or more additional pieces of material called stabilizers or interfacing are added beneath or on top of the fabric, or both. Stabilizer types include cut-away, tear-away, solvy water-soluble, heat-n-gone, filmoplast, and open mesh, sometimes in various combinations. For embroidered wearable items, the fabric is placed in a hoop. This is then attached to the machine. An X and Y drive mechanism moves the hoop under the needle following the design coordinates created when the design was digitized for embroidery.

Bobbin — A small spool of thread inside the rotary hook housing of a sewing machine. The bobbin thread forms the stitches on the underside of the garment. Bobbin thread holds the top embroidery thread to the garment. The bobbin on an embroidery machine works in the same manner and for the same purpose as on a standard sewing machine.

Center line input — When the embroidery software creates a satin stitch around a single line entered by the digitizer.

Converter — A software program that can convert design from one format to another. Converters usually can make transformations and include a viewer.

Density — Stitches per inch; system for measuring density or the amount of satin stitches in an inch of embroidery.

Digitizing — A computerized method of converting artwork into a series of commands to be read by an embroidery machine's computer.

Digitizing process — A process for creating a digitized embroidery file that includes at least the following steps:

  • Creation of a drawing in a format that will remain editable. Some software also allows to import bitmap and vector formats which then can be translated (with some manual intervention).
  • Digitizing (translate, punch) to a (preferably) editable stitching format. A stitchable design includes embroidery-specific information like stitches and thread color. However good formats define stitching lines and fills (columns and areas) that are parameterized with stitching information such as the filling patterns, density, stitch density etc. Professional digitizing is difficult. Non-professional lower quality digitizing is fairly easy with good software (I learned in a few days...).
  • If needed, translation of an editable stitch file to a machine-specific format.

Editing — Changing aspects of a design via a computerized editing program. Most programs allow the user to scale designs up or down, edit stitch by stitch or block by block, merge lettering with the design, move aspects of the design around, combine designs and insert or edit machine commands.

Embroidery — Decorative stitching on fabric. Generally, involves non-lettering designs but can also include lettering and/or monograms. Evidence of embroidery exists during the reign of Egyptian pharaohs, in the writings of Homer and from the Crusaders of the 12th century. It has evolved from hand work to manual sewing machines and from handlooms and schiffli machines with hundreds of needles to high-speed, computerized multihead machines. Machine embroidery is a process then embroidery machine is started and monitored. For commercial machines, this process is more automated than for the home machines. Many designs require more than one color and may involve additional processing for appliqués, foam, or other special effects. Since home machines have only one needle, every color change requires the user to cut the thread and change the color manually. In addition, most designs have one or more jumps that need to be cut. Depending on the quality and size of the design, sewing a design file can require anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour.

Embroidery design — A computer file that contains instractions for embroidery machine.

Embroidery digitizer — A person who creates a design. Software vendors often advertise auto-punching or auto-digitizing capabilities. However, if high quality embroidery is essential, then industry experts highly recommend either purchasing solid designs from reputable digitizers or obtaining training on solid digitization techniques.

Embroidery format — After editing the final design, the file is loaded into the embroidery machine. Different machines require different formats that are proprietary to that company. Embroidery patterns can be transferred to the computerized embroidery machines through cables, CDs, floppy disks, USB interfaces, or special cards that resemble flash or compact cards. Embroidery Machine Format generally contain primarily stitch data (offsets) and machine functions (trims, jumps, etc.) and are thus not easily scaled or edited without extensive manual work. machines have one or more machine formats specific to their brand. However, some formats such as Tajima's .dst, Melco's .exp/.cnd and Barudan's .fdr have become so prevalent that they have effectively become industry standards and are often supported by machines built by rival companies. Common design file formats for the home and hobby market include ART, .HUS, .JEF, .PES, .SEW, and .VIP.

Embroidery machines — are specialized computerized machines that can create embroidery from computerized designs. Generally machine have a screen, a USB interface, auto threading, built-in design editing software, embroidery adviser software, and design file storage systems. Commercial embroidery machines can be purchased with a set number of needle colors per head(1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 12, 15,18 or more colors). Industrial embroidery machines are available with 1 to 56 heads. machines exist for the home market, for the small independent professional and for mass production. Many home sewing machines can be turned into an embroidery machine by adding a hardware module.

Embroidery process — the basic steps for creating an embroidery are as follows:

  • Get or create a digitized embroidery design file preferably in some kind of editable format. Typical formats are .emb, .exe, .dst, .cnd and .fdr.
  • Edit the design and/or combine with other designs (optional)
  • Translate to machine executable code, i.e. a stitch file (this is optional if the original format is already machine-readable).
  • Load the final design file into the embroidery machine
  • Stabilize the fabric and place it in the machine
  • Start and monitor the embroidery machine

Embroidery software — Design software exists in various form, either as special-purpose tools for various design stages or as complete design suites.

Fabric for embroidery — Almost any type of fabric can be embroidered, given the proper stabilizer. Base materials include paper, fabric, and lightweight balsa wood.

Fill stitch — Fill stitches are a series of running stitches sewn closely together to form broad areas of embroidery with varying patterns and stitch directions.

Finishing— Processes performed after embroidery is complete. Includes trimming loose threads, cutting or tearing away excess backing, removing topping, cleaning any stains, pressing or steaming to remove wrinkles or hoop marks and packaging for sale or shipment.

Hoop— Device made from wood, plastic or steel with which fabric is gripped tightly between an inner ring and an outer ring and attached to the machine's pantograph. Machine hoops are designed to push the fabric to the bottom of the inner ring and hold it against the machine bed for embroidering.

Hooping device — Device that aids in hooping garments or items for embroidery. Especially helpful for hooping multi-layered items and for uniformly hooping multiple items.

Lettering— Embroidery using letters or words. Lettering, commonly called “keyboard lettering,” may be created using an embroidery lettering program on a PC or from circuit boards that allow variance of letter style, size, height, density and other characteristics.

Logo — Name, symbol or trademark of a company or organization. Short for logotype.

Looping — Loops on the surface of embroidery generally caused by poor top tension or tension problems. Typically occurs when polyester top thread has been improperly tensioned.

Puckering — Result of the fabric being gathered into small folds or wrinkles by the stitches, caused by incorrect density, loose hooping, having no backing, incorrect tension or a dull needle.

Running stitch — One straight line of stitches, often used for fine details, outlining, and underlay.

Sizing — Ability to scale a design to different sizes.

SPM — Stitches per minute; system for measuring the running speed of an embroidery machine.

Source formats — Are specific to the software used to create the design. For these formats, the digitizer keeps the original file for the purposes of editing.

Scaling — Ability within one design program to enlarge or reduce a design. In expanded format, most scaling is limited 10 to 20 percent because the stitch count remains constant despite final design size. Condensed or outline formats, on the other hand, scale changes may be more dramatic because stitch count and density may be varied.

Stitch processing — The calculation of stitch information by means of specialized software, allowing scaling of expanded format designs with density compensation. A trademarked software feature developed by Wilcom Pty. of Australia.

Stock designs — Digitized generic embroidery designs that are readily available at a cost below that of custom-digitized designs.

Tension — Tautness of thread when forming stitches. Top thread tension, as well as bobbin thread tension, needs to be set. Proper thread tension is achieved when about one-third of the thread showing on the underside of the fabric on a column stitch is bobbin thread.

Thread — Fine cord of natural or synthetic material made from two or more filaments twisted together and used for stitching. Machine embroidery threads come in rayon, which has a high sheen; cotton, which has a duller finish than rayon but is available in very fine deniers; polyester, which is strong and colorfast; metallic thread, which have a high luster and are composed of a synthetic core wrapped in metal foil; and acrylic, which is purported to have rayon's sheen. 40 wt thread is the most commonly used embroidery thread weight. Bobbin thread is usually either 60 wt or 90 wt. The quality of thread used can greatly affect the number of thread breaks and other embroidery problems. Polyester thread is generally more color-safe and durable. High quality embroidery thread is produced by Gunold, Madeira, Maraton and Robison-Anton.

Topping — Material hooped or placed on top of fabrics that have definable nap or surface texture, such as corduroy and terry cloth, prior to embroidery. The topping compacts the wale or nap and holds the stitches above it. Includes a variety of substances, such as plastic wrap, water-soluble plastic “foil” and open-weave fabric that has been chemically treated to disintegrate with the application of heat. Also known as facing.

Trimming — Operation in the finishing process that involves trimming the reverse and top sides of the embroidery, including jump stitches and backing.

Underlay — A stabilizing pattern of embroidery which, if used, precedes the main body of satin or fill stitching. It consists of one or a combination of running stitches for centering, edging, paralleling, or zigzagging the design area. A money and time saving technique is to use, instead of a large amount of embroidery thread for underlay, a fancy specialty stitch saver patch material that simulates underlay.