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.