If you have ever researched having apparel embroidered (for a sports team, company logo, or any other use), digitizing was likely part of the discussion. No, the sales person you talked to wasn’t trying to rip you off by charging you to have your design digitized. Digitizing is a necessary requirement to be able to embroider a design onto a garment. We aren’t talking “necessary” as in a mandatory resort fee that hotels charge to give you access to things you don’t need. We are talking about “necessary” as in “essential” or “required”. An embroidery machine cannot function without a digitized file.
Locating a Digitized Embroidery File
Digitized files are typically not something you would have. An exception would be if you had one made before, and the company that made it sent you the file. Digitized files are not something that would be included when having a graphic design company make a logo or design for you. They are completely different than vector art files. Digitized files are only for use with commercial embroidery machines. If you don’t have the proper software (which you generally won’t), you couldn’t even open the file to look at it. In most cases, if you do have a digitized file, you’d also have a “run sheet” to go with it. This is typically a PDF file. It shows the embroidery machine operator the thread colors and sequences of the embroidered design.
The instructions in a digitized embroidery file contain extremely detailed instructions. The following topics cover the main aspects of a digitized file.
Underlay stitching is the initial stitching in a design. These special stitches hold the fabric to the backing. They also lay down the fibers of a garment, so the main portion of the design sits on top.
The digitizer determines a path for the embroidery. The embroidery path tells the machine where to start and stop the design. Additionally, it explains the order each part of the design are embroidered. For instance, it would tell the machine to sew the fill of the design, and then the border over the edge. Otherwise, the design will look odd when finished. This leads to the next aspect, pull compensation.
Pull compensation (pull comp) is how the embroidery compensates for different fabric types. Some fabrics don’t stretch at all. For instance, leather is extremely rigid. Other fabrics are extremely stretchable. For instance, a polyester/spandex blended polo stretches much more than a cotton t-shirt. Adjusting the pull comp allows a design to sew properly across different fabrics.
Next, a digitized file has instructions on what types of stitching to use in a design. Run, satin, and fill stitches are the three main types of embroidery stitches. A run stitch is a continuous stitch the width of the thread. It is used for tiny thinnest parts of a design like thin borders and text. A satin stitch is much more common. It is used frequently for most text, some details, and thick borders. Finally, there is a fill stitch. This is exactly what i
t sounds like. Fill stitches are tightly compacted stitches that are used to cover large areas of a design. There are many variations of fill stitches. Fill stitches can be used strategically to create patterns in design by sewing the thread in difference directions.