What is Embroidery Digitizing

Digitizing embroidery

Needle and thread embroidery, an exacting historically popular art form, continues to have broad appeal as many textile arts enjoy a resurgence. However, embroidery has also entered the digital world. Essentially, embroidery digitizing converts an image, such as a logo or text into a so-called “stitch file” that is then read by an embroidery machine. The equipment then, in turn, creates different types of thread and stitches to reproduce the desired image. However, the process is rather complex and requires several steps.

First, the image or artwork that is to be digitized must be analyzed using a graphics program. Since many print images that one may see on letterhead or business cards cannot be adequately duplicated, it requires that portions of the image be edited. For example, if the print text or a logo is too small or large the image may need to be sized in order to be digitized.

After the artwork is appropriately edited and saved, an embroidery program reads the image and creates a stitch sequence termed “pathing.” Appropriate pathing results in a smoother design that ensures that gaps, uneven stitching or misshapen letters are eliminated efficiently. Since most people pay professionals to create digital embroidery, efficient pathing reduces the cost of the project.

Next, the digitizer assigns various types of stitches to the pattern in order to produce a sharp image. Underlay stitches must be put down; these help to secure the fabric to the backing, smooth out the nap of the fabric, and create the needed relief in the artwork so that it is clean and clear to the eye. Then, the digitizer employs three basic types of stitches - run, satin, and fill - and the various subtypes of each of these stitches, which combine to create the desired result. For example, a fill stitch is used for large areas, but the digitizer must choose which fill stitch will work best to create a smooth and even image. The digitizer achieves this by locating beginning and ending points as well as the direction of the fill on the fabric. Additionally, different fabrics require different types of stitches. Some fabrics, like denim or nylon, allow the stitches to lay on the surface, while other fabrics like polar fleece or pique knit allow the stitches to sink into the fabric.

As the digitizer creates the design, the fabric is pushed and pulled. While this action is typical in the embroidery process, when the fabric is bulky, stitches are longer, or large areas are being covered, the fabric may more readily shift and potentially create undesired movement in the design and subsequent shifts in the stitches. The digitizer must, then, compensate for these movements to ensure a quality design.

Digitizing is a multi-faceted process that requires technical and artistic skill, as well as considerable experience. The digitizer must be well acquainted with artwork, stitches, fabrics, and computer software and embroidery machines in order to produce a design that meets the needs and expectations of customers.