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    Low density design on knitwear is possible

    Original text by: Marina Belova 
    I prefer a density of 0.45 mm, which is splendid for knitwear with a right kind of understitching. It doesn't always work, I must say, but it usually does. I have previously written that you should lower the stitch density when embroidering on knitwear, but during the last few months I used to be firmly convinced that the high-quality machine embroidery on knitwear (ordinary t-shirts, quilt) was possible only on the condition of having high density about 0,3 mm with an understitching. Such a high density conceals a lot of digitizing imperfections, which is very convenient, but it increases the number of stitches. Which is what you sometimes want to avoid. 
    I was browsing through a selection of clippings from the Printwear magazines, and came across several interesting photos depicting a very good-looking embroidery on knitwear. The reason these photos seemed so interesting to me was because the making of the design was approached in a very original and creative way — low stitch density both in satin columns and fills, a large number of stitches, simple appliqués with ragged edges and trapunto imitation to add volume. But then, on consideration, it is not all that special, because all of this has been known for a long time, though I, for some reason, did not use it: 

    The photo was taken from the Printwear magazine, July 2013 

    The photo was taken from the Printwear magazine, July 2013 
    As it usually turns out, you need to look at the other's works from time to time. 
    So I, too, decided to give it a try and to see the advantages and disadvantages of saving a great number of stitches, having remembered that
    I've previously seen simple designs for knitwear in Urban Threads more than once. All their showcase photos were more that decent. 
    I must say that the use of low density did not disappoint me, even on pique.
     
    Everything is smooth, no warp and bulge whatsoever. And how few stitches are there! 
    Sometimes you really should depart from the rules and try something new. It helps to have a fresh approach. 

    Interchangeability of the threads in machine embroidery: Uncovering the myth

    Original text by: Marina Belova
    Now that I've come close to creating cutwork and lace, I encountered a serious problem: how does one choose the right type of thread for such projects? Should I select the threads according to the design or, on the contrary, to select the design according to the particular threads?
    I've noticed before that threads identical in composition, but of different brands lie down in different ways, and the embroidery has a different look. The embroidery will look completely different if you just change a spool. On the weekend I embroidered a cutwork design using the Chinese cotton thread #30. And after the test run the bridges seemed rather untidy.

    And the reason was not only the embroidery sequence I'd created. I set a very low density; as for the bridges, I made them a bit too thick, but it was not critical. It was how the threads performed, the way they lay down on the fabric or a water soluble stabilizer, that was the matter. It didn't dawn on me until I had remembered that I had once embroidered a simple design with different types of threads and that the result had vividly demonstrated me the contrast between their quality. Chinese cotton thread on the left and German on the right:

    So I decided to make a comparison for my own benefit, to learn how different types of threads I owned performed with different stitch parameters — the threads that could be potentially used for cutwork and FSL.
    Here are the threads I picked out for the test:

    I'll name them for you.
    The upper row from left to right:
    WonderFil Chinese cotton thread #30 Gunold German cotton thread #30 Fufu's Taiwanese polyester #40 WonderFil Chinese rayon #40 The lower row from left to right:
    Amann German polyester #40 Gunold German rayon #40 Rheingold German metallic thread #40 Nitex Chinese metallic thread #40 I made a very simple embroidery sequence for all of them (the density for cotton threads was 20% lower than that for the ordinary ones):

    I embroidered different colors in the same order as the spools on the photo above. And of course what I got was an embroidery of varying quality; the difference was especially noticeable before I washed away the water soluble film and cleaned the fabric:

    Here is the fabric already washed and dried:

    As you can see on that photo:
    2 of the cotton threads gave different performances not only in bridges, but in satin columns around the openings. German threads made thicker bridges and very smooth columns. One might think that the density for this type of thread can be lowered even more. As for the Chinese threads, they were a disappointment in all cases: they didn't lie down smooth, and they made uneven bridges.
    Metallic threads seem to have given the similar performances.
    Taiwanese and German polyester threads were different, too — the German one made slightly thinner and looser bridges with less luster, which was good, because I don't like my cutwork to gleam.
    Chinese rayon thread gave an atrocious performance — it broke all the time, especially on bridges, though the end result looks better than the one embroidered with German rayon thread. German rayon thread made loose and ugly bridges.
    So in the end it all amounts to this: no matter however much the manufacturers overpraise the quality of their goods, the crucial point will always be the look of the embroidery and the usability. And you'll always have to set the design parameters according to the thread you have. To my own personal regret.
    Maybe the bobbin thread is a partly responsible for that as well? Perhaps, someone could suggest the other influences on the quality of the embroidery in our case?

    Smocking: Embroidering with threads that gather the fabric

    Original text by: Marina Belova 
    Once I was thumbing through a Madeira catalog and saw the thread with an interesting effect — it shortens by 30% when steamed and gather the fabric around it. This thread is called Smocking. Manufacturers write that it can be used for machine embroidery. 

    I became interested in the result and bought a spool. It turned out to be a rather costly affair – 210 RUR for 200 m of thread! A bit too much a price for such a small length. 
    First I decided to read what's written in the brochure that was also in the box. It turned out that there was no difficulty in using this type of thread — all you had to do was to embroider, then steam it from a distance, and everything would be ready. No specific instruments, no extra stabilizers and needles, only the standard ones. Thin fabrics are the best, which is not surprising. The designs are the simplest, like the redwork. 
    I've read the instructions and something urged me to read the English variant, too. I revealed that the Russian translation omitted the most important thing — that it was the bobbin thread. It was stated in the end of the first line — 'special bobbin thread'. This means that I can use whatever thread I like for the right side of the fabric, which is by no means unimportant. And I was going to embroider the front side with it: 

    Like that. Trust, but check you must, as they say. 
    So I created a very simple quilt design of a flower and hooped a plain coarse calico: 

    And began embroidering: 

    The design was embroidered correctly: 

    Then I took it out and turned it wrong side up for steaming. Here it is still flat: 

    Now I steam it from the distance without pressing: 

    Threads begin to diminish in length, to shrink and to gather the fabric. This is what I got in the end: 

    The front: 

    The effect promised by the manufacturer was achieved. Even if you try to stretch the fabric to get it back to what it was, the result will be unsatisfactory. 
    There is only one thing I cannot grasp: where it could be used? Does anyone know? 

    In-the-Hoop: One-size-fits-all dust jacket for a diary

    Original text by: Marina Belova 
    Today I made a one-size-fits-all dust jacket for my daughter's school diary with a raccoon digitized from her own drawing. This is the front side: 

    This is the original drawing: 

    Maybe they are not very much alike, but my kid was happy with the result. 
    The back side: 

    The inside front cover: 

    The two-page thread: 

    The idea of creating a multifunctional elastic band, which could be used both as a fastener and a bookmark, I got from the Japanese embroidery magazines — extremely clever it is. As for the rest, the making process is almost the same as sewing and embroidering a passport dust jacket. 
    You'll need next to nothing: to buy the cheapest diary (I bought the one for 16 RUR), create an embroidery sequence, take 3 pieces of fabric (for front and back sides + a jacket flap) and 2 pieces of an ordinary elastic band. 
    So I created an embroidery sequence: 

    In order to do this I had to put the frame instead of the hoop into the machine, because the embroidery is almost 50 cm wide. Then I hooped a piece of fabric with 2 layers of the underlay and embroidered the main part of the design, together with a guide stitch with marks in the places where the flap and the elastic would be: 

    You cannot see the guide stitch very well on the photo, but it is there: 

    Now I put the flap on the left side, which is a square piece of the fabric, creased in the middle. I align the center of the flap with the marks and put the 2 elastic bands on the right. I stick all of this to the fabric with a painter's tape: 

    Put a large piece of fabric on top of it the wrong side up to create the inside front cover: 

    Now I only have to sew it all together, leaving a small opening, through which I'll turn the item the right way round. This is what the embroidery machine does successfully. The seam is clearly seen only on the wrong side: 


    Then I cut the item out perimeter-wise and trim off the corners. I don't remove the stabilizer — it will help the jacket to maintain its shape:
     
    Turn the item the right way round: 

    Press it with an iron and sew up the opening. The item is now ready. 
    When securing the elastic band with a tape, I decided for some reason that I should stretch it a bit so it could maintain proper tension all the time and hold down the pages. The elastic bands nowadays are very slack. But after the jacket was completed, I understood that I should have bought a thick elastic band, which would not have distorted and pulled the jacket so much. When I'll be making a dust jacket for a sketchbook, I'll do so. 

    In-the-Hoop: Credit card case

    Original text by: Marina Belova
    Today I embroidered and sewn a protective case for my social card. You can put your urban-transport pass or some business cards in it, too. A very multifunctional thing I've created. Why didn't I do it earlier?

    All this can be very easily done, especially taking into account that I used felt, the edges of which don't require edging, and that no satin stitches are needed — the main part of the design is an ornament of the right side of the holder.
    I created a very simple embroidery sequence picturing some bacteria:

    As usual, I hooped a stabilizer and proceeded with my embroidery:

    First, I do the marking:

    I take a piece of felt, spray it with a temporary spray adhesive and hoop the whole thing:

    Embroider the design:

    Then I run the guide stitch where I need to make a round cut in order to make the taking the things out of the case easier (the right side of the rectangular):

    Then I take off the hoop, turn it the wrong side up and stick a piece of felt onto the back side of the case.

    I set the hoop into the machine and sew all the pieces together around three sides, except the side where the rounding is. Then all you have left is to take it off the machine, cut perimeter-wise, leaving some fabric around the stitching. Having made a cut I noticed that I forgot to change the bobbin thread and embroidered the design with an ordinary white one:

    I solved the problem by using a textile marker pen, but it was possible to leave it as it was:

    When the embroidery was completed, I thought that all of that could be done in a much more easy way, and, what is the most important thing, without the stabilizer, which, I must say, cannot be removed now, and is quite visible because of its white color.

    I should have hooped a piece of felt without a stabilizer and embroider in just the same way. If you do not have a complex design with contours, the object shifting will not be that visible, and there will be no stabilizer at all. In that way the item will look neat.
     

    In-the-Hoop: Decorating a candlestick for Halloween

    Original text by: Marina Belova
    For a long time I've dreamed of making an embroidered cover for a glass candlestick. And I got to do this at last. I chose Halloween as my theme, because I had some interesting ideas. And this is how I materialized them in a standard appliqué with ragged edges:

    In order to create this you will need the following materials:
    A glass. Something like that:
     
    A candle. A piece of nontransparent fabric of any kind (felt, faux leather). A piece of transparent fabric — organza or net (but the sequence for that will be more complex, because in order for the embroidery to look good an understitching will be needed). The embroidery sequence for a thing like this is not complex: a pumpkin in the center of the transparent fabric + an appliqué cut out of the nontransparent fabric:

    The outer size of the trapezoid is based on the perimeters of top and bottom circles and also the height of the glass.
    The embroidery process itself is very simple.
    I hoop 2 layers of organza:

    Embroider the whole pumpkin:

    Stick the organza to the faux leather with a temporary spray adhesive:

    Embroider the openwork, and do the satin columns, along which the appliqué will be cut out:

    Take everything off the machine, cut the fabric around the outer edges. And I also cut the faux leather along the perimeter of a pumpkin so as not to touch organza:

    I perforate it and lace it up on the glass:

    Then all I have left is to put a candle into it and light it. This is how it looks in the light:

    I could use a thread of the color matching the one of the organza on the wrong side, but, because this item is not reusable, I decided against it.

    Thread breakage: who's responsible?

    Original text by: Marina Belova. The image is the courtesy of www.images-magazine.com.
    Who likes when a thread breaks when embroidering? Nobody does. That's because filling the gaps takes a lot of time and the end result looks bad. In one of my blog posts I told how to create a design in order to minimize the thread breakage, and I also wrote that there can be many reasons for it: the design, the materials, the adjustment and the technical state of your machine.
    Let's find out who is responsible when the design is correct.
    First, we should learn if the thread itself is the reason for the thread breakage. How do we do it? We can replace the bobbin and check how this will affect the performance. This will eliminate poor quality threads. My experience shows that poor quality threads increase the production time by at least 50%. Also, I've never encountered threads worse that those of Gamma and WonderFil.
    If that didn't help, you should explore the place where the thread breaks. It may not look the same: it may appear clean cut, like it was done by scissors, or it may look scruffy.
    If the thread is clean cut, it means that the needle is not inserted properly, all the way. It does down too deeply and breaks the thread. The scruffy end shows that the needle is too thick or too thin for this thread or that the shuttle is not adjusted. But the burrs in the throat plate opening or the presser foot also may be the reason.
    You should examine how the thread is feeding off the bobbin when embroidering. Whether it does not twist or go into loops. The metallic thread is somewhat notorious for it, and also the bobbins of a household winding, which have a small diameter. If it is the reason, you should cover the bobbin with a net.
    It often happens that the old and dry threads slip down the bobbin and get stuck at the very bottom, pulling the thread and becoming the main reason for the thread breakage. If the thread is of a poor quality or very old, it should be replaced. If that is possible, of course.
    You should also check the bobbin. How it is wound, whether it is correctly inserted into bobbin case.
    Then we check the needle — whether it is sharp enough, does it have burrs and nicks, which may be the reason for the twisting of the thread. Check if the needle is not bent and that is has been placed exactly in the center over the throat plate. Whether is has been inserted correctly (all the way and in the proper position)? Or maybe the needle is too thin for this type of thread?
    Sometimes the thread thickness and the size of the needle are not right for the design of that density. For example, the thread number 40 is best for the design, but you use number 30 and a thicker needle.
    If the design has many layers, you should use sharp needles with teflon coating, a bit thicker than the ones that usually go with this type of thread, in order to prevent the thread breakage.
    The next step is to check if the threading has been done properly and whether the tension was adjusted. And also to check whether the thread path is free from lint and dust. Whether the machine was oiled. Whether the embroidery speed is too high. And whether the shuttle has been adjusted properly (there should be the gap between the flat side of the needle and the point of a hook). If the gap is too small, it may snap the thread. And if it's too big, it may be the reason for the machine skipping stitches.
    Another reason for the thread breakage may be a coarse and densely woven fabric, because the thread frays when going through it. A wrongly chosen stiff and dense stabilizer may cause the same problem.
    If the item you are embroidering has been hooped incorrectly, i.e. not stretched tightly in the hoop or the frame, there will be fabric flagging, which, too, often is the cause for the thread breakage.

    3D embroidery design again

    Original text by: Marina Belova 
    One of these days Lubov Tabunidze puzzled me with her conclusions on the subject of different ways of making of 3D machine embroidery by using
    From what I've read on the topic in the open sources, I've learned that there seem to be at least 3 different methods of making 3D embroidery design, depending on your preferences. I mean the amount of understitching: 
    The one I described, where there was a large amount of it (edges + zig-zag stitch).  Along the edges only.  And without any understitching at all.  In one source I found a clear explanation on why the second method is the best — because the understitching flattens the 3D Foam and the upper layer of stitches, which is very thick, is not as smooth as you would want it to be. 
    Of course, I'd like to try all of these methods myself, to see with my own eyes, if there is the difference. I embroidered a monogram using a large amount of understitching (on the right) and with minimum amount of it along the edges (on the left): 

    I swept aside the method without understitching for I had found it futile. 
    In the process of embroidering a monogram with minimum understitching: 

    And this is a monogram with a lot of understitching:

    Here is the end result of the embroidery design:

    It turned out that a monogram with zig-zag understitching is more flat than the one done with common stitch. Satin columns don't look smooth on zig-zag understitching, the thread begins to twist, and that is very conspicuous and very ugly. 
    As for the 3D Puff perforation, these two techniques are the same — in either case you should make a finish and remove the Puff leftovers.
    This given the fact that there is quite a task to find a 3D Puff of the same color as the thread: I've only seen white and black on the market. 
    Such are my observations on the technique nowadays. 

    Metallic thread on 3D Puff

    Original text by: Marina Belova  
    Not very long ago I've noticed a pretty-looking design embroidered on 3D Puff with a metallic thread. And I thought I could do it, too – there is seemingly no difference between embroidery threads, right? After all, in standard embroidery cases the difference is minimal.
    Nothing of the kind. See, how ugly the result is:

    At the beginning the embroidery runs smooth, then there are stitches missing, then everything is smooth again. And the reason for these gaps is not that the stitches in different embroidery segments lie in opposing directions and there aren't much overlaps — each of the contours equals one segment, and therefore, all of them are unidirectional. I don't understand what is the problem: the brand or the thread itself? 
    Do I need to change my needle (system, needlepoint, thickness etc.)? Or do I need to change stitch parameters (density, carcass)? Or, perhaps, I should change the filler (3D Puff)? Those who have embroidered on
    , help me, please! 
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