What Can You Make with Vinyl?

Photo courtesy of Siser NA

As many of you may already know,  EnMart has started selling heat transfer vinyl.  We’re excited about this new product line because it gives our customers yet another decoration option,  and the opportunity to fill all their decoration needs in one place.   We do know,  however,  that we now offer an embarrassment of choices when it comes to decoration options and sometimes it’s hard to know what you want to do.   To help you deal with this problem,  we decided to create some blog posts talking about the various things you can do with the particular products we sell.

Let’s start with the EasyWeed Heat Transfer Vinyl.  EasyWeed applies at a lower temperature than other vinyls,  can be hot or cold peeled and is slightly thinner than other vinyls on the market.   That makes it ideal for things like this cute set of his and her pillowcases.  If pillowcases aren’t your jam,  a blaze orange beanie for the hunter in your life might do the trick.  Keep him or her safe and stylish all at the same time.

A fun way to change things up when it comes to vinyl is EasyWeed Electric,  which offers vibrant colors and a pearlescent metallic sheen.   This is the perfect vinyl for when you want to attract a little notice, without being too over the top.  Using this vinyl,  you can show your eco-friendly cred and make this upcycled Earth Day tote bag.  Or,  if baby’s first Thanksgiving needs a little more sparkle,  you can create this adorable bib and onsie set.

We all know a little sparkle is the spice of life,  and EasyWeed Glitter is a great way to add visual interest without creating a mess.   No small pieces of glitter ending up anywhere,  no sequins to shed,  just pure,  unadulterated attention getting sparkle.  Jazz up the most boring of items, an elbow patch,  with a little extra glitter. Decorate a canvas with HTV Glitter and create your own work of shiny art.

You can also take your vinyl to the next century with the Holographic HTV.  This vinyl has color changing chips which give designs an extra bit of dimension and depth.  It’s perfect for celebrating a milestone,  like a graduation,  by decorating your mortarboard.   You can also add bling to almost any item by creating our own glitter rhinestones.

The one thing to remember about vinyl is that it’s very adaptable and not just for garments.   You can put the vinyl products EnMart sells on wood, on table runners made of burlap,  or even on faux leather.   The only limit is your imagination.

And remember,  at EnMart,  we want you to have it your way when it comes to vinyl.  That’s why we sell vinyl by the yard,  so you can orders as much or as little as you need for your project.   We are also always open to ideas for products we should stock.   If you’re looking for a particular vinyl you don’t see on our site,  contact us and let us know.

Stabilizer Secrets: Choosing a Stabilizer

One thing that many embroiderers overlook,  or may not be aware of,  is the fact that using the correct stabilizer can have a huge impact on the success of failure of a stitch-out.   Yes,  there will always be that one embroiderer who uses one type of backing for everything and does well  but,  for the most part,  a good marriage of stabilizer and fabric and design is required for embroidery to appear at its best.    The correct choice of stabilizer can make your sew-out smoother,  faster and provide a finished piece that is of a higher quality.   Because this is such an important decision,  we wanted to offer some things to consider before you choose.

First,  as we already know from this post backing/stabilizer comes in different types.  If you take it down to the most basic level,  you’re dealing with either cutaway or tearaway stabilizer.  Even the specialty backings will most likely be one of these two types,  so knowing when and why you might want to use a particular type is crucial.  Tearaway stabilizer is easier to remove as it tears away,  so it might be a good option for jobs where there are time constraints.  Cutaway stabilizer generally has less stretch to it,  so it may be a better option for performance wear or other stretchy fabrics.   When choosing which stabilizer to use make sure to take into account all the qualities of the fabric,  requirements of the design,  and things like time and effort expended when making your decision.   The right stabilizer choice will improve both your sew-out and your production time.

Second,  stabilizer weight matters too.   Nothing is less attractive than a stitch-out that is weighted down with a wad of backing.   Or a design that is so dense that it’s like a lump of wood attached to the fabric of the garment.   As a general rule,  light weight fabrics should be stabilized by a light weight backing,  and heavier fabrics with a heavier backing.   The goal is to find a backing that will stabilize the stitch-out without weighing down or distorting the fabric.

Third,  don’t forget backing does have a color palette.   Granted,  it’s not much of one,  generally being confined to black,  white and beige,  but there are color choices available.   If the item to be embroidered is thin or if there’s a chance at all the stabilizer might be seen,  it’s best to try to use a stabilizer that is close in color to the item being embroidered.

Finally,  don’t forget that specialty backing can have a huge impact on how well the finished design works.   Poly mesh is a great option for polos and lightweight fabrics. R2000 (a polypropylene stabilizer) is an ideal option for performance wear.   Adhesive backing comes in very handy when there are items like socks of blank patches to be embroidered.  Water soluble topping helps monograms and other embroidery stand out on fleece or towels.    It is entirely possible that you could go your whole embroidery career using only a standard cutaway or tearaway,  but why would you do that?  The specialty stabilizers can offer a variety of qualities that will help make your jobs easier and the execution of the design much smoother.   While specialty backings may,  in some cases,  be a slightly pricier option,  they will pay for themselves in speedier production time and quality finished products.

Remember,  stabilizer is the foundation on which everything else is built.  Just as you wouldn’t build your house on a sinkhole,  don’t build your embroidery on a stabilizer that can’t do the job required of it.   Choosing your stabilizer with care and after thinking about the requirements of the fabric and the stitch-out will ensure that you make a choice which will stand up to the needs of your embroidery and help create a finished product that will delight your customers.

Stabilizer Secrets: Weight and Why it Matters

One of the more mysterious things about stabilizer,  for some people anyway,  is weight and what that means when it comes to selecting and using stabilizer for a particular job.   On the surface,  backing weight seems pretty simple,  ounces are a familiar weight measurement,  so saying a type of backing is 2.5 ounces seems fairly easy to understand.  What complicates things is when you start factoring backing weight into the success or failure of an embroidered project.   Will using a 2.0 oz. backing rather than a 2.5 oz. backing mean the doom of your design?  Does the weight you choose to use really have that much impact on the success or failure of your project?  Manufacturers go through the bother of weighing stabilizer so the weight much have some impact on the function.

The first thing to understand about stabilizer weight is how manufacturers determine what that weight should be.  The weight of a piece of backing is measured by the square yard.  This means that,  should you have 1.5 oz. backing of the same type but from different manufacturers,  each square yard you weigh should weigh 1.5 oz.   Heavier weight backings,  a 3.0 cutaway for instance,  will be thicker and less flexible.   A lighter weight backing,  say a 1.8 oz. tearaway,  will be thinner and have more flexibility.

Obviously,  the weight of the backing will impact the functionality of the backing as well.  If,  for instance,  you’re sewing a sweatshirt, and the design is dense,  a heavier weight backing will pair with the fabric better and be more suited to holding a dense design.   Suppose,  however,  that you’re sewing on a lightweight polo shirt,  with a bit of a drape.  Then you’ll want a lighter weight stabilizer that is able to move with the drape of the fabric and not interfere with the lines of the garment.  Weight impacts drape and flexibility and the ability to hold a certain number of stitches or a dense design.   All these elements can impact the success or failure of your finished design.

The construction of the backing also has a little bit to do with the weight of the backing,  and a lot to do with the quality.  Machine embroidery stabilizer is typically made up of polyester fibers which are held together with viscose or wood pulp.  High quality backing will have more poly fibers and less viscose,  in lower quality backing the ratios will be the reverse.  What determines the quality of the stabilizer is the length of the poly fibers and the amount of polyester versus filler that is in the material.

A quick and easy test to determine quality is the light test.  Take the piece of stabilizer you want to examine and hold it up to a strong light source.   If the piece you’re examining is high quality,  the stabilizer will have even density and feel smooth when you run your hand over it. A lower quality backing will have thin spots and dense spots making for a more uneven sheet.   This uneven density can impact the quality of your sew-out significantly.

Keep in mind that the sheerness and weight of a backing does not always determine the number of stitches that can be stabilized. Take,  for instance,  the poly mesh backing that EnMart sells.  This backing is embossed,  which means if you hold it to a light source,  you’ll see a textured pattern in the material.   The texture allows the poly mesh to hold substantially more stitches than an unembossed piece of the same weight would be able to hold.

In the end,  weight is just one factor that impacts how a stabilizer will perform for a particular job.   The make-up of the fibers and the construction of the backing can also be critical.   And whether or not the stabilizer has any added features like embossing or texture can also make a difference in the density of the designs that can be used.  When deciding what stabilizer to use for your job,  make sure you take all these factors into account.

Stabilizer Secrets: Types of Stabilizer

Once upon a time,  some years ago and on another blog, we offered a series of posts about stabilizer.   The goal was to enumerate the types of stabilizer,  discuss why specialty stabilizer existed and why it was used,  and generally explain stabilizer to help our customers who purchased it use what they purchased more effectively.

Fast forward to 2019,  and we’ve added some new stabilizers to the mix, and definitely a number of new customers,  so it seemed worthwhile to revisit this series with updates as required.  As Mary Poppins (the original,  not the Emily Blunt version) advised, the best place to start is the very beginning,  so we’ll start with a brief overview of broad categories of stabilizer.  Subsequent posts will deal with specialty stabilizers,  why stabilizer weight matters,  how the materials used to create your stabilizer make a difference in the finished product and how stabilizer and fabric work together for successful embroidery.  The goal,  by the end of the series,  is to leave you with an understanding of the importance of stabilizer, and the ability to choose which stabilizer you need for which project.

At the most basic, stabilizers can be separated into two categories,  cutaway and tearaway.  As the names imply,  one type (tearaway) can be torn,  while the other type (cutaway) requires cutting with scissors to be removed. Every type of stabilizer falls into one of these two categories,  with the exception of water soluble,  which requires water to be removed.  Water solubles also tend to be toppings,  used to keep stitches from sinking into pile fabrics,  or used for standalone projects like freestanding lace.

A lot of embroiderers like tearaway backing because removal can happen fairly quickly,  since the excess stabilizer can simply be torn away.  A lot of the efficiency and quality of a tearaway can be shown by how quickly and cleanly it tears. A tearaway stabilizer that doesn’t tear cleanly will leave fuzzy edges that can fray or just make the embroidery look messy.   You also want a tearaway that stabilizes and holds stitches but which requires only a minimum amount of force to tear.  If you have to yank hard to tear away the excess,  you risk pulling out stitches or distorting the finished product.

Tearaway stabilizers are generally offered in light-weight,  medium-weight and heavy-weight options.  The medium and heavy weight options may also often be called “hat” or “cap” backing.  These are the weights that will most often be used when adding embroidery to a hat.   The cap backings are generally heavier, stiffer and more paper-like,  so they tear cleanly and easily.

Unlike tearaway stabilizers cutaway stabilizers require a little more work to remove. Cutting away the excess stabilizer is the most common method of removal,  and cuts can be as close to the stitches or as far away as desired.  Some embroiderers will cut their stabilizer to slightly larger than their design before they embroider,  which lessens the need for cutting after the stitch-out is finished.

Cutaway stabilizer is often used with lighter or stretchy fabrics as it is sturdy and provides the fabric with increased stability.   This type of stabilizer is also a popular choice for heavy weight fabrics like sweatshirts.   A 2.5 oz. weight is considered to be a universal or multipurpose cutaway and,  for some embroiderers,  is the only stabilizer they use.

While it is tempting to continue this discussion with an in depth look at the types of specialty stabilizers available,  each of which fall into one of these two main categories,  I think we’ll leave that for another post.  Stay tuned for the next entry in this series,  which will discuss specialty backings,  why they’re used, and how they help you create better embroidery.

For Gifts or Souvenirs Remember the Remembears

What’s cuddly and cute,  easily personalized and a great gift or souvenir?   If you answered a Remembear,  you’ve obviously already seen the adorable new embroiderable stuffed animals that EnMart now carries.

Like the popular Cubbies line,  which has been a staple at EnMart for the past several years,  Remembears have a zipper in their bottom and a stuffing pod which can easily be removed for decoration.  The material of the animals is suitable for embroidery,  as well as sublimation and vinyl.  The tags on Remembears say they are hand wash only,  but we tested one in washing machine on the delicate cycle and it came through without an issue,  so the Remembears can be washed,  albeit gently.

One characteristic of the Remembears worth noting is their large size.   These animals are 16 inches tall and offer a larger sewing field.   As the picture with this post shows,  the size difference can be quite striking.   Remembears are definitely a good option for any sort of display or memento,  as the size of the animals makes them stand out noticeably.  Theyre also a good option for larger size fonts or more wordy quotes,  as there is more space on which to work.

You should also keep in mind that Remembears offer some specialty items like the angel bears, which are bears with wings and gold or silver noses.   The angel bears are an ideal option for a memorial,   as they contain a small pocket which could be used to hold a portion of a loved one’s ashes,  or a small memento of that person.   An angel bear could be a lasting memorial to someone who’s gone,  that not only can be displayed,  but also hugged.

The variety of Remembears available means there are a lot of options for sales to different groups and organizations.   The cow could work for a dairy or ice cream shop. The moose or the wolf could work as school mascots or to commemorate a graduation.  The giraffe and the zebra would be great offerings for a zoo.  A natural history museum would love the green triceratops.   The possibilities for these animals are limited only by your imagination.

Since Remembears can also be decorated via methods other than embroidery,  they offer a flexible personalization option.   Buy some sublimation supplies and sublimate a photo or complicated design.  Get a heat press and try some rhinestones.   And,  for those that work with embroidery,  Remembears are a great blank canvas just waiting to be decorated with your favorite thread.  The possibilities are endless,  and the Remembears are here,  at EnMart,  waiting for their furever homes.

There’s No Substitute for Stabilizer

I’ve seen the question so many times I just mostly make a resigned sad face when I see it now,  but it still bothers me.   The question usually starts with the words “Can I..” and then goes on to ask whether it’s acceptable to use freezer paper or printer paper or plastic grocery bags as stabilizer for embroidery.  I get the idea behind the inquiry – stabilizer can be expensive,  or at least more expensive than a roll of freezer paper.  Things like printer paper or plastic grocery bags are also usually at hand and don’t need to be purchased specially.  I also suppose,  to some people,  using a common household item might be less intimidating.  There are understandable reasons why people might pursue the option of using something other than the item specifically designed for the purpose,  but there are also several reasons why that’s not usually a good idea.

Before I go into the reasons why we think using things like freezer paper is not the ideal option,  I do want to address the one exception,  using freezer paper for applique.   When cutting patterns for applique,  freezer paper is an option for stabilizing the fabric while you cut out the shapes.   It’s also a viable option for fusing to the back of a fabric you are intending to draw or paint on,  as raw fabric tends to wrinkle.  Keep in mind,  both these activities are embroidery adjacent,  not actually embroidery,  so I still stand by that statement that freezer paper is not generally a great option when it comes to stabilizing embroidery.  Now let’s discuss the reasons why we think this is so.

Reason 1:  Many stabilizers are designed specifically for machine embroidery – I’m sure there are stabilizers out there that started life as pocket lining or something,  but there are also several classes of stabilizers that are intended specifically to be used with machine embroidery.   This category includes poly meshfusible,  and adhesive backing.  Something that is designed specifically for the requirements of the job at hand will most likely work better than something used randomly.

Reason 2:  An embroidery stabilizer can help improve the look of embroidery – Stabilizers are sometimes designed with a specific weight or type of fabric in mind.  The proper marriage of backing or topping,  fabric,  thread and digitized design will create the most professional look and the best outcome.  Using a stabilizer designed for the fabric you want to embroider and the type of look you want to create will give you a much better chance of a successful finished product.

Reason 3:  An embroidery stabilizer can speed up production –  Designs tend to sew out better when they’re stabilized properly.  There’s less puckering,  fewer thread breaks and definitely a cleaner and more professional looking finished product.  Removing stabilizer more quickly with a tearaway option or presenting a tidier and more professional finished look with a washaway option are also benefits to using a stabilizer designed for embroidery.

Reason 4: The right tool for the right job – Freezer paper is designed to protect food from freezer burn.   Plastic grocery bags are designed for carrying your produce and pasta home from the store.   Embroidery stabilizer is designed to lend stability to embroidered designs,  to improve stitch-outs and to help provide a professional finished appearance.  Using products as they were designed will generally bring about the most successful outcome.

In a nutshell,  those are the reasons we think embroidery should be stabilized with machine embroidery backings and toppings,  but we’d love to get your take on this topic.   Have you ever stabilized your embroidery with something other than standard stabilizer?   What was the result?  We’d love to know what you think.

Why Having a Consistent Thread Matters

I’d guess everyone who works with thread in any fashion has their likes and dislikes when it comes to thread brands.   When you’re just starting out,  it’s hard to know which brand will serve you well and meet your needs the best. Some people buy thread based on what came with their machine.  Other embroiderers work more with colors they need to match rather than thread brands they like.  Certainly there are those who buy based on price, and the cheaper price always seems to win.  One thing that isn’t often considered,  but should be,  is how consistent the thread is.

A consistent thread is one that retains the same properties over time.  The hues of the dyes used to color the thread don’t change.  The tensile strength of the thread remains constant.  The cost of the thread stays reasonably steady.  The quality of the thread doesn’t vary from lot to lot.   What you got when you used the thread for the first time should,  if the thread is consistent,  be the same as what you get when you use the thread for the thirty-first time.  Being consistent is important for thread for several reasons.

Reason 1: Colors don’t change –  Anyone who’s matched a color for a customer knows the importance of color consistency.  Once you find the perfect color to match their logo or graphic,  you need that color to match every time you do an order.  Customers,  as we all know,  can be very picky about color matching.  The last thing you need is a thread color that changes a bit with every dye lot.  A consistent thread will maintain color integrity across dye lots.  The dye recipe will be precise and will be precisely followed.

Reason 2: Strength and durability – An inconsistent thread will have weak spots,  areas where the fibers are uneven or aren’t as thick.  It won’t hold tension as well and may be more prone to thread breaks.   A consistent thread, on the other hand,  will be even, without weak spots.   It will sew smoothly and thread breaks will be limited, and more likely due to design issues than the quality of the thread.  Consistent thread also generally causes far fewer thread breaks,  which results in much less downtime for production.

Reason 3:  Price – Consistent thread is unlikely to be the least expensive thread on the block,  but the quality will be worth paying a slightly higher price.  It’s also unlikely that the prices for a consistent thread will fluctuate much,  since the manufacturer will have sourced quality supplies and ensured their supply chain is secure.  While the price may be adjusted to reflect inflation or changes in the economy,  overall the price should stay pretty steady.

Reason 4:  Sew-out –  A consistent thread will sew out the same every time you sew a design.   It won’t sew perfectly one time and become a knotted mess the next. A thread you can rely on is one that can be predicted,  one that you know will create embroidery that will satisfy your customers.   If you constantly have to adjust tensions or mess with the machine to get the same results as a prior sew-out,  you’re losing time and certainly adding to your stress level.

In the end,  a consistent thread is one that performs the job for you best over the long term.   Yes,  a thread that stays consistent probably won’t be the cheapest option,  but a higher price will be more than justified by the faster production,  stable color and pain free sew-outs.

New Products

Every once in a while I like to go through and showcase some of the new products that have been added to the website,  just in case anyone has missed something.   We have some fun and exciting new things to show you;  some great products that could be either great ways to get new business for your company,  or just things that would be a fun way to pass the time on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

The first category of new items,  as our graphic shows,  is the Pretty Twisted Craft Kits that were added in 2018.   We added three fabulous new string art kits,  Dancing DragonflySenorita Sugar Skull and No Drama Llama.  We also added Color Your Own Mug kits,  giving you the opportunity to decorate a mug that has been sublimated with an abstract design.   If fashion is your thing,  you might find our Decorate Your Own Patch Kits interesting.  These kits combine pre-made patches and pins with patches you can decorate yourself,  and also give you supplies to do the decorating.  All the Pretty Twisted Kits are designed to be fast and fun,  most can be done in a few hours,  even if you’ve never done a craft kit before.

Another fun crafting product we’ve developed is the Felting Fun Needle Felting Starter Kit.  If you’re familiar with needle felting,  this kit should be perfect for you.   It comes with everything you need to create a needle felted project,  including 10 colors of wool,  but leaves the design to your own imagination.  Felt a purse,  felt an animal,  felt whatever you like,  it’s up to you.

For those who machine embroider,  the new blankets and scarves we’re stocking would be the perfect addition.  From fleece (perfect for tailgating before the big game)  to minky (soft as a kiss,  and in baby and throw size) to scarves to keep you warm on a cold winter day,  our blanket blanks are just waiting for monograms and team logos.   The fleece blankets would be great for team booster sales.  The minky blankets, especially the baby blankets,  would be adorable when paired with a Cubbie for a lovely new baby gift.

Speaking of Cubbies,  if you’re a quilter,  you might find our Quilt-A-Cubbies intriguing.   Each Cubbie comes with a specially designed quilt pattern that is suited to the theme of the Cubbie.  Perfect for using up scraps that you’ve never been sure what to do with,  or for shops that need ideas for how to package and sell remnants and bolt ends,  the Quilt-A-Cubbies are both adorable and useful.

Finally,  don’t miss the new backing we’ve added – R2000.   It’s a cutaway that’s perfect for performance wear.  If polymesh backing doesn’t work for your production schedule or your pocketbook,  R2000 is a less expensive option that can accomplish a lot of the same goals.  We brought the backing in after having embroiderers test it and tell us how great it was for performance wear.  Since we’ve been selling it,  we’ve had even more customers tell us the exact same thing.

Core Colors

Let’s face it,  most embroiderers do about 80% of their embroidery with a few core colors.   Black, white,  maybe a red and a blue,  maybe some colors specific to logos in their area,  but most embroidery is done with a fairly consistent palette.  The rest of the thread embroiderers buy is for one offs,  jobs that may only happen once,  which are special requests from a customer,  or which may be small jobs which won’t use an entire cone of thread.  That thread may never get used again,  and generally forms what we call the “thread museum”,  the colors that are always on display,  but rarely,  if ever, used.    With care and proper storage,  that thread can last forever,  which is nice,  but not vital.  What really matters is the thread that accounts for the most expenditure of budget and stitches per garment.

We know that, for many embroiderers,  converting from one thread manufacturer to another is like going to the dentist.  No one really likes doing it,  and you may not do it at all unless you’re in pain.  Our parent company has gone through a conversion process a few times,  so we understand it can be a big undertaking.  We also know it can be very worth the time and effort.  Because we understand what conversion involves,  we’ve also developed some tools to help make the process easier.

One tool is our online thread cross reference converter.  We’ve already done the conversions for a lot of the popular thread brands in both polyester and rayon.   All you have to do is access the converter and search for the brand and number you want to convert.   If we have an acceptable match,  you’ll find the number you need and can click it to see the Iris Thread match.

Another option for conversion is to contact us directly and ask for our help.  We have decades of experience in color matching and can easily help you convert your colors.  All you would need to do is get us a list of the core colors you currently use and want to convert, and we would do the rest.  We even understand digitizing and setting up colors for embroidery machines,  so we may be able to offer advice and support in that area too.

Remember,  too,  that converting your core colors is less work than converting your entire thread museum.  Since your core colors account for roughly 80% of your embroidery work,  those are the colors that will turn most frequently.  If you are interested in obtaining a sample of Iris Thread to try or in converting your current thread inventory to Iris,  talk to your account executive or our customer service staff about what programs may be available.