We’ve Got Your Back(ing)

Figuring out what stabilizer to use seems pretty simple.   If you don’t want to cut,  you use tearaway.   If you don’t mind cutting,  you use cutaway.  Rolls are more economical,  in most cases,  but pre-cut sheets can be faster and easier.  White can work on everything,  but black or beige may sometimes be the better option,  if those colors are available.  Choosing a backing seems simple,  but it may not be as simple as you think.   The more you know,  the better you understand how backing construction,  type and even color can play a role in the success or failure of your finished embroidery.  That’s where we come in.

Part of what we do here at EnMart is teach.   Our job,  besides finding and selling top quality embroidery and sublimation supplies,  is to teach you how to best use what we sell.   It’s kind of a circle of life thing,  we offer a backing for sale,  we educate you about why that backing is a good buy and necessary to your project’s success,  you buy it,  your projects turn out fabulous,  you come back and buy more backing.  The cycle, hopefully, repeats,  over and over again.

With that in mind,  I wanted to take a moment today to share some photos of backing we took with a new tool we recently purchased,  a microscope.  Now you may be wondering what a microscope can tell you about backing,  and the answer is quite a lot.  Here’s some of what we learned.

2.5 oz. cutaway

This is our 2.5 ounce cutaway backing. The first thing you notice when you look at this picture is the long unbroken strands.   That’s the sign of a cutaway,  long strands of fiber which can’t be torn.   The second thing you notice is how many strands there are.   Quality backing will always have a good ratio of fibers to filler.  Less fibers and more filler generally means a more uneven, less strong stabilizer.

1.8 ounce tearaway

Next is our 1.8 ounce tearaway stabilizer.  In this picture,  you can see the fibers are shorter and thinner,  which makes them easier to tear.   Again,  the ratio of filler to fiber is weighted on the side of the fibers,  indicating that this is a quality backing.  This is a backing which,  if you did the light test,  where you hold a piece up to a light source to see if it has uneven spots,  would pass the test.

Poly Mesh

Our third picture is of the poly mesh backing.    It almost looks like a diamond,  which is fitting, as poly mesh is a unique stabilizer.  It is designed to hold a lot of stitches and has been textured to allow it to do so. Much like the name implies,  you can see the fibers do form a kind of mesh and that,  although the backing is thin,  the fibers that make it up are thicker,  allowing it to hold more stitches despite its thinness.

Waffle weave tearaway

Finally,  we have our waffle-weave tearaway,  which is designed to be extremely easy to tear.   You can see that reflected in the fibers that are used to make up the backing.   They’re extremely thin and very multi-directional. The fibers are also much shorter,  which makes them easier to tear.  This is a backing that could be torn apart quite easily.

Understanding how backing is made,  and how that method of creation impacts the finished product can help you make the best choices when choosing backing for your project.  Now,  we know that most of you will never put your backing under a microscope,  but we never expected you would.  That’s what we’re here for.  We’ve got you back and your backing and we’re happy to help you make the best choices possible when it comes to purchasing supplies.

Save

Save

Save

No Hint of Lint – Ultra Quilting Thread

Lint can be the bane of a quilter’s existence.  A cotton thread that produces too much lint causes build-up inside the machine.   From the outside all looks serene,  but take a look inside and you’ll find the lint monster lurking.   Lint gums up the thread path.   It lurks around the bobbin case,  the bobbin area and the tension disks.  Lint causes your thread to lose tension in the middle of quilting. It makes your machine stitch erratically,  causing flaws in your design.  This insidious fluff can also throw the timing of your machine off or stop it from working entirely.  Lint looks fluffy and harmless but,  if allowed to build up,  it can create a number of problems for you and your machine.

Now it should be said that lint doesn’t only come from cotton thread.  Batting and fabric can also create lint,  which contributes to the build-up inside your machine.   Cotton thread, however,  can often be a huge culprit when it comes to lint production.   Because of the nature of the beast,  and how it runs through a machine, cotton thread can create a ton of lint.

So,  given that we know lint is bad,  and cotton thread is one of the primary causes of lint in a machine,  how do you avoid this linty dilemma?   Some people will tell you the solution is not to use cotton thread at all,  and there are quilters who choose to do just that.   Instead of cotton,  they use a polyester,  like Iris UltraBrite Polyester,  to create their quilts.   As we know from experience,  the results when polyester thread is used can be quite stunning,  but that option isn’t for all quilters.   Some like cotton and want to use it without any annoying fluff balls of lint.

For those quilters,  Ultra Quilting Thread is the perfect option.  It is 100% long staple Egyptian cotton.  This thread is double mercerized,  which means it has been treated to allow the dye to better penetrate the fibers.  Mercerizing also increases the strength and luster of the thread.  Ultra cotton thread has also been gassed,  a process which exposes the thread to high heat and results in a dramatic reduction in lint production.  The end result is a thread that is smooth and lustrous, one which is strong enough to run well during the most complicated quilting sessions,  and which produces little to no lint.

Now,  we understand that “little to no lint” is a subjective description,  so we have provided you with a visual aid,  the picture that accompanies this post.  That picture is of the bobbin case from the owner of EnMart’s sewing machine.  She is a beginning quilter and has now made two quilts with that machine,  and what you see in the bobbin case is the lint the Ultra Thread produced during the entire process of creating those two quilts. The small picture to the right of this paragraph is a close-up version of the bobbin case in the picture at the top of the post.   As you can see,  there’s little,  if any, lint to be seen.

We’re confident that Iris Ultra Quilting Thread is one of the lowest lint,  if not the lowest lint cotton thread in the quilting industry,  but we’re not going to ask you to take our pictures as proof.  We know that seeing is believing,  but trying cements that belief.  If you’d like to try a sample of Ultra thread for yourself,  just comment on this blog post or contact us with your name and address and we’ll get a sample out to you.

Banish the lint monster once and for all.  Get your sample of Ultra Quilting Thread today!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Gifts of Summer

While you couldn’t tell it by the temperatures in Northern Michigan for the last few weeks,  summer is rapidly approaching.  The start of summer means a lot of things,  graduations,  the end of the school year,  summer camp,  family reunions,  Fourth of July,  and numerous cookouts, pool parties and campfires.  All of these events,  of course,  are also opportunities for personalized gifts or promo products.   If you’re one of the businesses that wants to capitalize on the season,  we have some ideas that will help.

First,  let’s start with education.   Teacher gifts are big at the end of the year,  and it would be nice to be able to offer something more than an apple.  A personalized Owl Cubbie (owls are symbols of wisdom) would make a great gift for a special teacher or professor.   The graduate in your life would most likely treasure a Cubbie in the shape of the school mascot embroidered with the name of the school and the date of graduation.   Tigersbears, and lions are common school mascots and could be easily decorated.  The mascot option also works to commemorate sports championships,  or membership in the cheer squad or the school band.

Cubbies also make a great option for the child going to sleep away camp for the first time.   A personalized, huggable harlequin dog or adorable penguin could help ease any pangs of homesickness.  Personalized messenger bags are a great option for those going to day camp.   Luggage and bag tags can help make sure that any necessary supplies or equipment go to the right person so your favorite camper is well supplied.

Cookouts are a fertile ground for personalized cooking utensils.   Your favorite BBQ chef would love to have a personalized cutting board on which to chop onions for burgers or mushrooms for steaks.   If the BBQ pit also features a bar area,  personalized shot glasses or beer mugs will be a big hit.  Decorated coasters could help keep frosty drinks from staining patio furniture.

The Fourth of July is probably the major summer holiday and is also a great time for personalized decorated items.   Patriot variegated embroidery thread is perfect for that patriotic quilt or tablecloth for the Fourth of July celebration.  Flag patches could be used as table favors or as giveaways.  A patriotic mural could be made from sublimated tiles.

Truth be told,  every season is brimming over with events that are crying out for promotional items and personalized goods,  summer just happens to be the one that is coming up.  The trick to capitalizing on each season and the opportunities it may bring is to be alert and to think about how you can marry the circumstances of your markets to the products that are available.   Customers often don’t know what they want or need, and part of your job,  as a decorator,  is to show them the possibilities.   This post outlines a few of the options that are available for summer.   We look forward to seeing the seasonal decorative items that you all will discover and create.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Supply Spotlight: Specialty Stabilizer

We just came back from the DAX Show in Minneapolis.   While we were at the show,  as usual,  we fielded quite a few questions about stabilizer.  It seems that stabilizer is one of the things about embroidery that can be confusing for those who are just starting out,  or for those who haven’t had much exposure to the variety of specialized stabilizers that are available.  Since everyone who reads this blog wasn’t able to be at the show and hear our explanations there,  I figured I’d share the information here as well.

First,  let’s define what a specialty stabilizer is.   In general,  a specialty stabilizer is one that is developed for a particular type of embroidery,  to perform a particular function or to work with a particular type of fabric or embroiderable good.  A specialty stabilizer is often used because it will increase the quality of the finished embroidery in some way.

There are a variety of specialty stabilizers available,  and covering each one in depth would result in a blog post that was miles long,  so I’m just going to try and give you an overview of the common options and the reasons why they are used.

Poly Mesh  Poly mesh stabilizer is a light weight, textured stabilizer that is great for t-shirts and light weight fabrics.  The texture allows for the support of a large number of stitches,  but the light weight ensures that the garment or the embroidered design won’t be distorted by a large wad of backing.

Fusible Poly MeshFusible poly mesh is the same material as regular poly mesh,  with the same light weight feel and the same texture.   The difference is that fusible,  as the name implies,  can be fused,  with heat,  to the back of a garment.  Fusible is useful for infant or children’s clothing, covering embroidery that might otherwise scratch delicate skin.   It can also be used with performance wear,  to stabilize and help eliminate the stretch in these types of fabrics.

AdhesiveAdhesive backing is coated with an adhesive which is covered with a release paper.  This type of backing can be hooped,  after which the release paper is scored,  exposing the adhesive,  and allowing for the securing of small items which couldn’t otherwise be hooped,  like patches or socks.  Adhesive backing can also be another option for performance wear,  functioning as a barrier against the stretchiness of the material being embroidered.

Water SolubleWater soluble stabilizer can be a backing or a topping.  As a topping,  water soluble is used on top of fabrics that have a pile.  It is commonly used on fleece or towels and works to keep the stitches from sinking into the pile and disappearing.   Another type of water soluble,  called Badgemaster, is thicker and used for making free standing lace.

Cutaway/Washaway – Another option for free standing lace is a cutaway/washaway backing.  This type of stabilizer can be used to create free standing lace ornaments,  as it can be embroidered and then the excess can be dissolved away.   Cutaway/washaway can also be a good option for when the back of an embroidered item, like a monogrammed towel, for instance,  might be seen.  The excess stabilizer will wash away over time,  leaving the back of the embroidery tidy.

Cap Backing – Hats are a popular item with many embroiderers,  and cap backing makes embroidering a hat easier.  This type of backing is usually 2.5 to 3.0 ounces,  and is often offered in smaller sizes like 4 x 7.  Cap backing is a stiff, paperlike tearaway,  which tears cleanly, and is stiff enough to support stitch heavy logos.

Some embroiderers will tell you that specialty stabilizers aren’t necessary,  that a simple cutaway or tearaway will get the job done in almost any situation,  and they wouldn’t be wrong.  What specialty stabilizers offer is the ability not just to get the job done,  but to get it done in a way that works with the fabric and creates a finished design that is really a work of art.

Save

Save

New Ways to Use Embroiderable Stuffed Animals

medium_qf4KrRRQeKKCHueje3tA_CowOne of the fun things about the Cubbies embroiderable stuffed animals is that there are new designs coming out on a regular basis.   We have the most fun deciding which animals to bring in,  and figuring out unique ideas for how they can be used.  Embroidery and sublimation are,  of course,  two ways these cuddly little friends can be decorated,  but the type of decoration that is put on them can change based on the use to which the animal will be put.

Take school mascots for instance.   Schools use lions (we have one),  mustangs ( we have an adorable harlequin horse), bears (in white or brown),  or ducks as mascots.   We also have owls which could be gifted to an especially wise graduate.   Simply add the graduation date,  the school name and the graduate’s name,  or use any of these graduation themed designs to make a memento of graduation any graduate would be proud to own.

If you live in the country or have your business in an area where a lot of people farm or ranch,  the harlequin horse would be a great souvenir for a horse farm or riding stable.   A dairy farm, especially one that sells milk or cheese,  would probably love their very own embroidered cow souvenir.  Ducks,  lambs and pigs would also fit into this category.    These cute farm themed designs from Embroidery Library would be adorable on any of these animals.

Speaking of pigs,  what could make a more perfect mascot for a BBQ restaurant?   Yes,  I know it sounds a bit weird,  but think of how many BBQ restaurants use a pig in their logo.  A cow could also work in this situation, depending on the types of meats served.   Creative Connections has some cute BBQ and restaurant themed embroidery designs that could be used to turn a Cubbie into a fun restaurant souvenir.

Finally,  let’s not forget the Dumbles and the fact that baby themed items are a fast growing market for Cubbies.   Subway art birth announcements can be used to commemorate a birth.   You can find examples of digitized subway art birth announcement designs here and here.  The Embroidery Library also has a wide array of baby and child themed designs,  many of which would suit a Cubbie admirably.

The main thing to remember,  when working with Cubbies,  is to think outside the box.   An embroidered or sublimated Cubbie can be used for many different purposes,  as a mascot,  a memento,  a souvenir,  a promotional item or a collectible.  Your job,  as the decorator,  is to help your customers see all the possibilities in this simple embroiderable stuffed animal.

Supply Spotlight: Pearl Cotton

FiveGroupWhen most people who vaguely know of pearl cotton think of it,  they probably think of tatting or making doilies.  While this is a common use of pearl (or perle) cotton thread,  it is by no means the only use.   Pearl cotton has a variety of applications when it comes to crafting,  needlework and crochet.  It is a versatile thread,  which should be a part of any embroidery, crafting, quilting or crocheting tool kit.

If you aren’t familiar with pearl cotton, we’ll start with the basics.   Pearl cotton is a non-divisible thread,  which means it cannot be separated into strands the way that embroidery floss can be separated.   This thread is sized like most threads,  with the lower numbers being thicker and the higher numbers being thinner.   Size 3 and 5 are heavier threads,  size 8 is a medium weight and size 12 is a fine thread.

Pearl cotton has a variety of uses.   The size 3 is perfect for cross stitch,  crewel embroidery and crochet.  Size 5 can be used for needlepoint, crochet,  smocking and applique.   Size 8 pearl cotton is ideal for quilting,  crochet,  lace making, and tatting.   It can also be used in bobbins.   Size 12 which is the thinnest thread,  works for embroidery and cross stitch, smocking and tatting.  pearl cotton also can,  depending on size,  be used in embroidery machines,  long arm quilting machines and sewing machines.   Pearl cotton is also ideal for quilters,  as it is very useful in stitching decorative lines.

One nice thing about pearl cotton is its sheen.   This type of thread is a mercerized thread,  which means the thread has undergone a process of submersion,  first in sodium hydroxide and then in an acid bath.   Mercerizing thread increases the thread’s luster, strength, ability to be dyed and resistance to mildew.

To learn more about pearl cotton and how it can be used,  take a few moments to watch the following helpful videos:

Hand Quilting With Perle Cotton Tutorial

How to Chain Stitch Crochet with Beads

Beginning Shuttle Tatting

Ideas for Selling Embroiderable Stuffed Animals

penquinForEmail
Courtesy of Strikke Knits

Whenever you see a picture of an embroidered stuffed animal,  it is primarily shown in the arms of a delighted looking child,  or placed near the crib or seat of a cute as a button baby.  Since these are stuffed animals,  it isn’t all that odd that many people who sell them tend to think of babies and children, or the parents of the babies and children,  as a natural market. The problem starts when that market is thought of as the only market for these animals.  Embroiderable stuffed animals are far more versatile than most people realize.   Here are some other ways they can be used.

Like the adorable penguin in the picture above,  stuffed animals can be embroidered with the names and dates of local festivals.  There are enough different types of animals that one of them should be able to be made to fit the theme of the event for which they would be made. If a festival happens every year,  it could be a fun idea to have a new animal for every year,  so frequent festival goers can form their own collections.  Since almost every town or city has at least one festival of some kind during the year,  this could potentially be a very lucrative market.

Local attractions or businesses are another great market for these adorable embroiderables.  A lion or an elephant for a local zoo seems like a no brainer,  but what about an owl for a local college (an animal that’s supposed to be wise and learned) or a hedgehog for a local self defense class ( hedgehogs are supposed to be calm and collected and know how to protect themselves in a crisis).  The trick is to come up with a connection between the animals and the attraction or business in question.

Don’t underestimate the value of these using these animals as advertisements as well.  The body that surrounds the stuffing pod inside the animal is large enough to hold a variety of items,  or even to hold a hot or cold pack to soothe a child’s injury.   If you know of a snack mix or candy that uses a particular animal as a theme,  you might sell them animals embroidered with the company logo that also hold a sweet or savory surprise.  Pediatricians might love animals embroidered with the name of their practice and equipped with a reusable hot or cold pack to put on little sprained ankles or broken arms.  An embroiderable stuffed animal is also an advertisement that keeps on working,  since most people will keep the animal much after its initial use has expired.

Finally,  don’t forget these cuddly animals are perfect for holidays and life events.  Embroidered stockings will be hung by the chimney with even more care. An embroidered reindeer is an adorable memento of baby’s first Christmas.  A bear with “I love you” embroidered on his stomach is a great way to deliver an engagement ring or a Valentine’s gift.  An embroidered duck makes a perfect addition to an Easter basket.  An owl embroidered with a high school or college logo and graduation date could make a lovely keepsake for a new graduate.