The Art of Setting Price – Part 1

Setting prices on your work is hard,  particularly if it’s creative work, anyone who has ever had to price something out knows that.  It’s tough to figure out what’s fair,  and what’s necessary,  and what’s going to make the product sell.  Sometimes it’s seems like it would be easier to allow the customer to tell you what they want to pay,  but that method can often lead to a nice home in a box under a bridge.  Often people set prices lower than they should because they think their work is “only a hobby” or “I couldn’t possibly charge that much!”.  There are a ton of reasons why setting prices is complicated,  and sometimes frustrating and occasionally scary.   There are also some things you can do to make the whole process a little bit easier.

The first thing you need to do is the math,  which isn’t always fun,  but is a necessary first step.  What you’re figuring out is how much you need to make, so there are lots of numbers to gather and compute.  Take into account the following:

  • What do you need to live – this means what do you need for food, shelter, clothing, transportation,  various insurances like auto and health.  How much do you want to have in the bank to cover emergencies? In other words,  what sort of wage do you need to pay yourself in order to live with at least a basic level of comfort and security?
  • What do you need to keep your business running – What’s the cost of your rent or mortgage? What about electricity and heat?  What will you need to pay for business insurance? How much is marketing and sales going to cost you? If you have employees,  they show up here too,  including things like their health insurance. Basically,  what do you need to make your business go?
  • What supplies do you need and how much – How often do you order supplies? What percentage do you keep on hand for unexpected orders and overage or mistakes?  How far out is your production calendar booked,  and what supplies in what amounts are you forecasted to need? Do you have terms?  Do you charge orders to a credit card?  When do your bills come due?

Once you’ve done your calculations break the number down in whatever way you like.   You could come up with a monthly figure,  a weekly figure,  a daily figure or an hourly figure.  What you’re looking for is some number and some period that can be a benchmark for how much your business needs to bring in.

Now that you have a number,  the next thing to do is divide that number by all the products you offer.   Obviously,  different products will have different price points,  and some products will account for more of your revenue than others.   The goal is to put a tentative price on each product you offer,  based on the percentage each product will contribute to the total revenue you need to make.

Once each product has a tentative price,  the next thing to do is the research.  This is where you get online,  talk to friendly competitors,  ask people in Facebook groups or on forums,  and generally gather as much information as you can on pricing in the product categories you’ll be offering.  Obviously, this research should be tailored to your market.   If you have a brick and mortar store and you’ll be selling in one city,  concentrate on pricing there.   If you’ll be selling only online,  look at who your competitors are in that space.   It isn’t enough to gather numbers,  those numbers have to be specific to the products you want to sell and the markets you’ll be selling in.   Be sure to compare apples to apples.

The goal of the research is to gather data on at what prices people in the same sort of business as you are selling the same or similar products.  Again,  it’s necessary to make sure the information you’re gathering is covering the same market and the same products as what you’ll be offering.  It’s no good doing price research on Maserati when you’re actually selling a Pinto.  Be as accurate as possible,  as this research will play a big part in setting the final price you charge.

This is part one of our series on setting pricing.  In part two,  we’ll discuss what happens after the data gathering process.

Trendy Thursday: How to Keep Up With Trends

If you’re running a business,  you’re busy,  that’s a given.  There are probably a lot of hats on your head and trying to add one more may seem impossible,  but it’s necessary.   Anyone doing garment decoration or really decoration of anything,  be it mugsblankets or patches,  needs to be aware of what’s trendy.  After all,  you don’t want to be offering items decorated with camels when everyone has decided their new love is llamas.

Luckily,  keeping up with the latest trends doesn’t have to be difficult or particularly time consuming.   Here are a few ways to keep on trend without spending a ton of time.

Use Social Media –  Follow your competitors.  Follow the feeds for the companies that make or sell equipment and supplies for your decoration discipline.  If you create garments or hats,  follow fashion blogs or sites that cover trends in the items you decorate.  Social media can be a great tool for collecting a lot of useful information in one place.

Talk to People – If you have employees,  particularly if they’re in a variety of age groups,  talk to them about what they like/notice/have seen people wearing. If you have kids, or know people who have kids,  talk to the kids about what’s hot in their world right now. Definitely talk to your customers,  as they can be your best source of industry or interest specific trend information.  Create a e-mail box or a billboard where people can post interesting articles and information they’ve found.

Go to Trade Shows – Yes,  a trade show can be a significant investment in time and money,  but it’s also a place where you can kill a variety of birds with one stone.   You can view the newest equipment.   You can visit multiple suppliers and see what new supplies are available.   Seeing what new things are being offered gives you some advance notice of what upcoming trends might be.  Trade shows are also a great place to learn,  with seminars that teach a variety of decoration techniques.  Trade shows offer a number of ways to gather information on trends in one place with one visit, so they’re well worth the time and effort.

Subscribe to Magazines – Whether they’re trade journals or something more general interest,  magazines can be a great tool for staying current on trends.   Many trade journals can be received in digital format and some are free to those who work in the industry.   Subscription prices for digital formats of general interest magazines are also available.   As a bonus,  many magazines will have electronic newsletter subscriptions available.  In these newsletters they spotlight articles they think are important,  which may also be a way to spot emerging trends.

Go Shopping – Maybe your shopping trip is to an actual store,  or maybe you shop online,  but spend a little time each week visiting stores to see what they’re offering.  This is particularly relevant for garment decorators,  but it really has benefit for any kind of decorator.   Doing a little shopping (and it can be of the window variety, where you don’t spend money) helps you stay current on what’s on the way in and what’s on the way out.

The main thing to remember is just to keep your eyes and ears open.   Anything could be the piece of information you need to clue you in to the next big trend.  Stay alert and stay interested, and your business well be poised to ride the next big wave when it arrives.

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.

Marketing Monday: 4 Lessons From a Month of Blog Posts

Back at the beginning of July,  I issued a challenge to myself.  I wanted to see if regular updates on our blogs,  Threaducate and SubliStuff,  made a difference in our readership.   So I decided to write a blog post for one or the other of the blogs each of the five days of our work week,  for the entire month of July.  The goal was to see if this made a difference in the attention people paid to the blogs,  in the readership of older posts,  and simply to see if I could fit daily blogging into a schedule that always seemed to be packed with things to do.   I won’t lie,  the goal I’d set for myself was challenging,  but I learned a lot as I worked to meet it.   Here are some of the most important things I learned.

Ideas come from everywhere – One of my main worries was coming up with ideas for a new post every day.   Some days,  that was tough.  Gradually,  though,  I learned that a post idea can come from anywhere – someone I follow on social media,  a discussion with a co-worker,  looking back through older posts,  something I read,  something I watched,  something a competitor said.  Anything could be fodder for a post,  I just had to figure out how to frame it to make it applicable to the subjects of our blogs.

I had time,  if I made time – Anyone who has any part in managing or running a company knows that there are always more things to do than there are hours in which to do them.    The things that get done most often are the things you consider priorities.  Prior to the month of blog posts,  blogging had slipped on the priority list,  since there were always other demands on my time.  In July,  I made blogging a priority and rearranged some other things on my schedule to make it happen.  Sometimes that meant I wrote a paragraph a day until I got a post done.  Sometimes it meant I wrote several posts when I had a spare few hours.  I won’t say it was always easy,  because it wasn’t,  but the time was there,  if I made blogging a priority.

There are no old subjects,  only old posts – I’ve been writing about machine embroidery since 2007,  and about sublimation since 2010.  That’s a lot of informative posts with helpful tips and thoughts that are now several years old.  Looking back through the blogs allowed me to reprise subjects that were still relevant,  but had last been touched on in a post several years ago.   It’s a good reminder that old content can often be repurposed and reintroduced to an audience that may not have seen it before.

Not every post will be a home run, and that’s o.k. – A lot of us,  I think,  get focused on making things perfect,  and so we tinker and tweak and do everything but actually put the content out there and let people see it.  We got so focused on what we don’t like about something,  we forget to notice all the stuff that’s really good.  Yes,  I have certain standards for my work.   Yes,  I always want it to be the best it can be.  Yes,  sometimes my best isn’t as good as I’d like it to be and yes,  that’s o.k.   Sometimes the important thing is putting your work out there,  despite what you see as glaring mistakes, or clear imperfections.  The likelihood is that what you see as huge, blaring problems most people won’t even notice,  and that they’ll still benefit from interacting with your work.

In the end, my blogging experiment did seem to have an impact.  We had increased readership,  both of current posts and old posts.   We had new subscribers to the blogs.  Writing every day reminded me that writing is what I do, and I needed to do it more often.   While I don’t expect to,  or really want to continue writing a post a day,  I will be blogging more frequently.  I hope you’ll be reading when I do.

Marketing Monday: Gaining Attention on Social Media

Attention.   We like it most of the time.  Standing in front of a cheering crowd,  spending time with a significant other,  having someone comment on something you created,  all those things feel nice and usually make us happy.   The times we don’t like attention are the times when we feel like we’ve done something stupid.  Tripping over nothing and falling on our faces.  Tweeting at 2 a.m. after a few too many drinks and saying something you would never say at noon when you were alert and sober.

When you run a business,  attention is key,  if people don’t know who you are and what you have to offer,  they won’t be inspired to pay you money,  which means your business may not be in business for long.   The question is,  how do you gain that attention,  in a positive way,  and how do you keep people’s eyes on your feeds once they know you exist?  We have some thoughts.

First,  as always,  you need to know who it is you want attention from, and where those people are online.   Essentially,  you need to find your audience,  both in terms of the actual people you hope to make connections with,  and the places on the Internet those sorts of people go.   Keep in mind that no business has a customer base of everyone,  even though some might seem like they do.  Narrowing your focus and really understanding your customer base will help you be in the right place at the right time talking to the right people.

Second, once you know to who and where you’ll be talking,  you need to figure out what you’ll be talking about.   Create a content plan,  which doesn’t have to be detailed,  but does have to contain the highlights of the message you want to get across.   Sometimes this plan will be as simple as a bunch of bullet points,  other times it can go for pages and have detailed strategy notes.  The main thing is that you have some sort of list of topics to cover.

Third,  let customers behind the curtain so they can get to know a little bit about you.   Numerous studies show that people are more likely to buy from business they trust.   Giving your potential customers glimpses into the daily life of the business,  and sharing funny or sweet things that happen allows them to get a better picture of who you, and by extension your business,  are.

Finally,  and most important,  create good content.  If your feed is a litany of “buy my stuff, buy my stuff”,  people will get bored and turn their attention elsewhere.  Part of developing a content plan is figuring out what your ideal customers will want to hear and see from the businesses where they spend money.   Make sure your content is interesting,  both visually and in what it says.  Share content that helps your potential customers understand your products and how they can use them to make their lives better.  Offer meaningful and useful information,  not just memes or sales messages.

The main thing to remember is this:  if you consistently,  day in and day out, even when it seems like no one is listening,  create content that is worthy of attention,  you will be noticed.  The only way to gain the kind of attention you want and to hold that attention is be there day after day,  providing useful and interesting information and insight.

Trendy Thursday – 5 Fashion Trends We Really Wish Would Disappear

Fashion,  a few people don’t care about it at all,  some people are absolute slaves to it,  and most are probably somewhere in the middle.   They want to be fashionable,  but aren’t dedicating huge portions of their lives to this quest.  Fashion is fun,  but it can also be a problem for decorators,  particularly when they’re asked to decorate something that’s trendy,  but not easy to embellish.  I’m sure you all have your own lists of fashion trends you’d be happy to never see again,  but today I thought it would be fun to share ours.

Trend 1:  Performance Wear – Yes,  you’re an athlete.  Yes,  you’ve worked hard to get your body in shape and this type of clothing shows that off.   Yes,  performance wear can have moisture wicking capabilities and other traits that make it great for wearing when you’re exerting yourself.  What performance wear doesn’t have is the qualities that make it easy to decorate.  It’s stretchy and hard to hoop which makes embroidery difficult.   It’s thin and often made of polyester or a poly blend,  which can make it unsuitable for screen printing and and decoration techniques involving heat.  Performance wear is pretty much a combo platter of decoration difficulty.

Trend 2: Excessively Distressed Denim – We’ve probably all seen the photos of the pair of jeans for sale that were primarily seams and nothing else,  which is an extreme case.  Still, excessively distressed denim pretty much showcases what decoration was designed to cover up,  which is holes in the garment.   Holes worn into a pair of jeans through wear and time is one thing.   Holes that are pre-made before the garment is even bought or worn is quite another.

Trend 3:  Rompers – Guys may not even know what these are,  since the last time they probably wore one was when they were infants.  Women,  however,  may be quite familiar with the romper,  which is basically a jumpsuit where the legs stop at shorts level.   They’re most likely not that hard to decorate,  honestly,  they’re just not really a good look for any grown-up person to wear,  and that’s why they made the list.  (Note:  Apparently there are rompers for men – which is just wrong on so many levels.  This trend definitely needs to die!)

Trend 4:  Logos On Everything – Yes, putting logos on shirts or jackets or bags can be the life blood of a decoration business,  and having one logo on something isn’t committing a fashion faux pas.   It’s when there are multiple logos everywhere, on every piece of clothing or accessory,  that it becomes too much.  Mixing logos isn’t the greatest fashion homerun either.   Logos are like spices,  a little adds some interest.  Too much,  and you’re turning red and reaching desperately for something to cleanse your palate.

Trend 5:  Cold Shoulder Tops – Another trend that guys may not be as familiar with but something that seems to be showing up everywhere from formalwear to t-shirts.   Basically,  a cold shoulder top is one that has cutouts that leave the shoulder bare.   This style interferes with monogram or logo placement and just isn’t really a look that works for most people.

So,  those are the fashion trends we’d like to see ended,  but I’m sure there are many that we left off the list.  What’s your biggest fashion pet peeve as a decorator?  Leave a comment and let us know what fashion trend you really dislike.

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.

Featured Friday – Information, Inspiration, Instruction

Since it is Friday,  it seemed like it would be fun to do another Featured Friday post.   One thing I do want to mention,  before I spotlight other people’s work,  is the fact that we’ve been posting a blog post a day, every day during the work week,  here at Threaducate or at our sister blog, SubliStuff. We’ve worked to create a lot of great content,  and it’s definitely worth your time to go read.

That said,  on to what I think are the posts you should be reading this week.

First up,  although they’re on the Threaducate blog,  these posts,  Finding the Right Machine for You, Part 1 and Part 2 were written by Katie Wubben of Trouble Me Knot Embroidery.  Katie runs a screen print shop,  an embroidery shop,  lectures at the DAX Shows and sells Melco embroidery machines.  She knows her stuff and these posts show that.  She’s definitely a great guide if you’re looking to purchase a machine.

Second in the batting order is a post from Creative Machine Embroidery Magazine,  about how to use metallic embroidery thread.  I’m honestly not sure I agree with all their tips, and some I’ve never heard before (put thread in the freezer before embroidering) but I think there’s enough here that could be useful to include it in this round-up.   Also,  keep in mind that the quality of the metallic thread can matter greatly.   The Iris Metallic Thread that EnMart carries has been known to turn metallic thread haters into people who sew with metallic thread regularly.  It’s just that good!

Third in the rotation is a post from Marshall Atkinson of Atkinson Consulting called “Accountability is Binary“.  Honestly,  I’d love this post just for the name,  but what it says is marvelous too.  The post basically leads you through setting up procedures for your shop and how to get the best out of any department.  As the title implies,  there is a correct way and a wrong way to do things.  This post tells you how to set up procedures that will help your people do the correct thing.

Fourth at bat is a post I think I might have shared in a previous round-up,  but it’s such a useful post I want to share it again.   This post from Erich Campbell deals with embroidery on substrates that have a texture,  towels,  fleece, that sort of thing.  There is an art to doing embroidery on these types of substrates well,  and Erich’s tips will help you master that art.  If you want to go for the graduate course in taming textures,  you can also read Part 2 of this series.

Finally,  a post about ways,  9 ways specifically,  to promote your website.  Since almost every company has a website these days,  this is useful information.  Not sure I agree with all of their tips,  but they not only provide the tip,  they provide action items to help you implement the tip.   Definitely a good read for those who are looking to bring more visitors to their website.

Finding the Right Machine for You – Part 2

Note:  From time to time we like to feature guest posts from people who really know their stuff.   This post is written by Katie Wubben from Trouble Me Knot Embroidery.  Many of you may know Katie from her fabulous seminars at the DAX Shows.  Katie also sells Melco embroidery machines,  and offers training on those machines, so she knows her stuff.  You should definitely contact her if you are looking to purchase an embroidery machine. 

Part 2 of this series deals with the features a machine may offer, and how to decide what you need. 

Every embroidery machine will stitch.  There are many factors that you need to analyze to determine which capabilities you require and which ones you can let go of in light of budget.   Ask what the top running speed of the machine is, then follow that by asking what speed you can expect to fun on average and on caps.  Just because a machine is capable of 1,000 stitches per minute does not mean you can get away with that speed all the time.   If the sales person does not give a variation of speed for certain items (or at least mention one item that requires a lower production speed) they likely are not being realistic.

Next,  you need to identify what the sew area is on the machine and what hoop styles can be used with it.   I personally feel magnetic hoops are the cream of the crop and are a must in any shop stitching on blankets,  jackets or other thick items.  They are also faster and easier to use than traditional hoops you need to set tension on.   Think about what type of fabrics and items you’ll be stitching.  A quilt show will want a larger sew area than a production business hoping to run thousands of left chest polos.   If ever you want to stitch on a jacket or blanket,  you’ll want a fairly large sew area to do so with ease.

How many thread colors can the machine hold at one time?  It doesn’t seem like you’d need many,  but does any mind having more than they need?  To help determine what you will need, take a look at some of the designs you hope to stitch for the market you’ll be serving.  Nature and wildlife designs have an incredible amount of colors to achieve shading.  By identifying your market and looking at designs,  you can easily get an idea of how many colors are involved.

Also keep in mind that just because a machine doesn’t have enough spaces doesn’t mean you can’t sew the design.  You can take the time to rethread during a design; but then you’re simply selling out your sanity unless you have far more time than I do.  If you plan to only stitch left chest logos all day long in the corporate world,  maybe you don’t need a machine with as many needles as the lab at the local hospital.  The ease with which you can change these colors out is an important thing to consider as well.  Some machines require a space behind them to get to while others have you climbing on a ladder to reach them.  Look at the thread path as well.  If the threads are not protected,  they may be more likely to become tangled and cause thread breaks.

Know how the design will be communicated with the machine.  Some machines require you to save the finished file on a flash drive and physically put that in the machine while others will communicate with  a free standing computer connected by a cable.  Keep in mind, every time you need to make a size adjustment or anything of that nature you will likely need to go back to your design software and then save it again to transfer it back to the machine.  Some machines have a stitch count limit per design as their memory cannot handle very high stitch counts.  To work around this,  you would save part of the design as one file and another part as the other.   This would take additional time and that comes additional stress as well.

Another question to ask is if the machine has a computer attached to it or if it will be connected by a cable.   There are pros and cons either way.  Having a computer on a machine comes with the risk of something going wrong with the screen or the hardware in the computer and a technician being required to fix it.  That comes with cost and down time.  Knowing what type of computer requirements are needed from a computer will help you make a good purchase so that the machine runs without glitches.  You will likely need a free standing computer either way to run your design software.

Keep in mind that knowing what type of software comes with the purchase is another critical factor.  Decide what you need, then make sure your purchase includes those things.  Even if you don’t want to do all of your own digitizing,  you may want to be capable of altering the density,  pull compensation and underlay values to stitch the same design very well on multiple garments.  Also understand that auto digitizing features may be o.k. in some cases,  but manual digitizing will, almost always,  yield better, more professional results.

Last, but not least,  make sure you understand the special features and capabilities each machine has to offer.  The ability to trace the design is helpful for placement.  Being able to adjust a pressure foot may yield better results on various fabric thicknesses.  A rounded needle plate will stitch on caps easier than a flat needle plate.   I love being able to advance my design to any point within the design,  which is a feature I would not have received with a used machine,  as it was only added recently.

In the end,  the important thing is to identify your situation.   What type of products do you plan to stitch?  What type of order quantities can you expect?   What type of designs will you use?   How much time to have to invest in learning the machine?  Once you’ve answered those questions,  the goal is a decision that leaves you pleased with the outcome rather than filled with regret.

Finding the Right Machine for You – Part 1

Note:  From time to time we like to feature guest posts from people who really know their stuff.   This post is written by Katie Wubben from Trouble Me Knot Embroidery.  Many of you may know Katie from her fabulous seminars at the DAX Shows.  Katie also sells Melco embroidery machines,  and offers training on those machines, so she knows her stuff. You should definitely contact her if you are looking to purchase an embroidery machine. 

Part 1 of this series deals with the intangibles,  price, training etc,  that need to be considered when buying a machine. 

It’s a challenging concept to navigate when deciding, when, what and how you will start or add embroidery to your business.  Let me share some tips and tricks to make sure you get the right machine to fit your needs, style, budget and business.

Money Talks…

We all want to shop by price.   But that’s is not the first place to start the process.  The old saying “you get what you pay for” comes with some truth in most cases.  If you don’t get what you need and have limitations that don’t fit your business,  you’ll find yourself quickly wanting to upgrade.  This would require adding a machine or going through the process of selling the first one to get a second.  Then you have the learning curve of both machines rather than one straight from the gate.

Training…

Whether you’ve been in the embroidery business for decades or are just entering,  knowing if and what training is included with the purchase of your machine is critical.  Will you be on your own to figure things out,  or will you have to travel somewhere to get the training you need not only to run the machines smoothly,  but also to maintain the machine?  Some brands come with on-site training where the trainer comes to you and sets up your machines and trains you on your turf.  Will you need to hire a technician annually to go through the machine or will you have the tools and resources to self-maintain the machine? Beyond the machine, will you learn hooping techniques along with when to use what supplies?

Tech Support/Technicians…

Things will go wrong with any brand of machine.  It’s a mechanical device that has lots of moving parts with a human in control.   Things will happen.  When they do,  having someone that you can understand walk you through the diagnosis along with fixing it is an amazing service!  Be sure you now if tech support will come at an additional cost along with where the tech support is based.  I personally enjoy USA based tech support.   Knowing where technicians are located and what the cost to you will be should need to hire one is a critical piece of knowledge.  Maintaining your embroidery machine is just as important as changing the oil on your vehicle.   I like being able to do this myself,  but some would rather hire it done no matter the cost.   Just think about your situation and make a decision you’re comfortable with.

New vs. Used Machine..

Buying a used machine has advantages,  but be aware of what to look for and consider before making a purchase.   Ask what the stitch count is on the machine and how often it has been maintained.   I personally the best time to buy a used machine is when you have one you’re happy with and you need to add a second.  This allows you to have the background and training to run it well to know it should sound and look like.   This can be handy to avoid taking on a machine that you would otherwise not recognize the issues with.  You also will likely not receive training or tech support with a used machine not to mention the latest and greatest software on the market.   When that’s the case,  one can usually purchase these services at an additional cost.   Sometimes a seller will promise training with a used machine.  In that situation,  I recommend making a partial payment up front, and then pay the machine off once the training has been fulfilled.  Be sure to compare the price of the used machine to the new one you would purchase along with its capabilities.

On Wednesday,  in Part 2 of this series,  we’ll talk about the features an embroidery machine offers and how to decide what you need.