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Embroidery digitizing terminology


In the embroidery industry you will be asked to embroider onto a wide range of fabrics, understanding the different fabric characteristics will help you understand how to compensate for them, In this blog we will introduce you to some fabric types, information that can help you embroider on them.


Distortion Distortion happens when the garment doesn't have enough compensation of the right type of backing. The image to the right is distorting as its moving around and has no underlay or compensation allowing it to sink into the garment instead of siting on the top.


Elasticity This term is used to describe how much stretch a fabric has, distortion, shrinkage, and uneven sew outs. In the image under distortion this could be caused by the elastic nature of the fabric Its critical that the design have the appropriate amount of backing, underlay and pull comp.

Nap Nap is often used when working with towels or terry cloth items. Typically you will want to use topping when sewing on garments like this as you run the risk of the nap or the loops catching a presser foot.

Pull This term is how much things pull apart, normally we would adjust this by adding more pull compensation to the machine embroidery design but the fabric can also pull the fabric if not secured or if the wrong type of backing, or wrong type of underlay is used.

Push Happens when it gathers up the material and starts moving it in the direction of the pattern, with out the proper hooping and underlay this can pucker parts of the design or push the fabric so the design has moved out of the intended location.

Pull this occurs when stitching on most designs they shrink toward the center very noticeable on text, its a must that you add some kind of compensation to adjust for this.

Sinking This is seen on fabrics like fleece, or velour or velvet where the fabric is thick the embroidery can sink into.



Recipes and guidelines

Before I get started their is no magic chart that will take the guess work out of compensating for the different fabrics, as the fabric varies on how the garment is made, quality of the garment and blend types, thus making it difficult for (1) recipe to work for all the variations of garments.

In short , when you digitizing and compensating for the fabric your doing a balancing act of conditioning the fabric to support the stitches you are putting on. Lets take a look at this stitch out as we change the backing..


Now almost every design you need to add underlay, backing , pull compensation and sometimes topping. Lets take a look at the effects of underlay on a stitch out knowing the effects and affects of underlay will help you choose which is best for your machine embroidery design.


With no underlay the a distorts, with 1 layer of underlay its still distorting, 2 round of underlay looks decent, and three rounds of underlay and the underlay is sticking out causing distortion.

When choosing the compensation and underlay its best to gauge the stretch or the elasticity of the fabric. Here is a chart that can help you understand the different fabrics.


Push and Pull

This is often hard to explain, but you will encounter both push and pull on machine embroidery designs.

Push is the affect of putting embroidery stitches down that over powers the fabric and support, thus when your stitching a fill it can distort the shape, often types a circle will come out round unless its compensated for the push effect , please note push and pull go hand in hand, often you can correct the push by adjusting the pull ..

RULE for Push and Pull

The embroidery design will pull towards the center with the direction of the stitches, and the push will be in opposite direction of the stitches when filling an area. This will often distort fills and or shapes when stitching, Compensation is key to avoiding any problems with the push or pull.


There are two many fabric types to make a chart for them all however your embroidery digitizing software has some built in recipes which have been tested as a baseline or starting point to set up a design with compensation. You may need to add compensation to the design in addition to the recipe.

Special condition

When working with a few fabrics you will need to deal with special circumstances.

Fleece With Micro Fleece, or Fleece products you may need to build up your design, this fabric will often appear that the design is sinking into the fabric, I recommend cutaway on the back, solvy and underlay to prevent the design from looking like it sank. In addition you can heat press it after the embroidery to bring it back.

Nylon This type of fabric , Nylon, Satin and similar fine materials you will want to get a no-stretch backing preferably a no show backing cutaway to structure the backing. These fabrics tend to pucker. I would also watch how dense the corners are on designs with satin stitches as they will pucker in these places.

Leather It is very important to take care in embroidering on leather, never embroider on used garments the leather will not be able to adsorb the stitches as often its too thin. When embroidering on leather, I recommend a fusible backing, or adhesive spray on cutaway backing and apply it to the leather itself. this will help support the design. When ever possible try to avoid large fills on leather as tears are possible recommend applique method of adhering designs to leather.

Towels Most towels are easy to sew on, I recommend that you use solvy on top and tearaway on the back of the fabric. In addition I recommend zig zag underlay to hold the nap down while the stitches are going on, I would also increase the density to 75 spi to avoid any of the strands sticking up through.

Jersey When embroidering a jersey polo you will likely find that the whole design sags a bit on the jersey. I recommend that you use sports no show , light cutaway to support the fabric. If you tearaway the design will distort and regular cutaway will show through the shirt.

Odd items Often you will encounter odd shape items that are hard to hoop, like backpacks, hockey bags, and even some overalls that are difficult to hoop. There are a few different options for hooping these materials. Magnetic hoops will hoop these items with out the stress of them popping the hoop off during the embroidering process, another options it the hoop tech clamping systems.

Backing Application

Cut-away Backing

  • Loose knit fabrics
  • Fine knit fabrics
  • Golf jerseys
  • Knit golf shirts
  • Lightweight woven silks
  • Wool / acrylic sweaters
  • Bathing suits / Lycra / spandex
  • Thin leather & suede
  • Vinyl

Tear-away Backing

  • Towels
  • Hats
  • Cotton / polyester
  • Corduroy
  • Sheets
  • Nylon satin jackets
  • Thick Leather & suede

Water Soluble Stabilizer

  • Freestanding Lace
  • Transparent Fabrics
  • Towels and Bath robes
  • Delicate fabrics
  • Badges and Patches

Fusible backing

  • Patches
  • Velvet
  • Hard to hoop items

Cut away Pre-cut sheets

  • Caps and hats
  • hoop tech frames
  • Fast Frames
  • Convenience

Specialty Applications

  • Canvas , do not require backing
  • Carpets, do not require backing
  • Heavy Denim, do not require backing its optional
  • Spandex, recommend cutaway with spray adhesive
  • Satin , recommend cutaway with spray adhesive
  • Organza, recommend cutaway with spray adhesive


Author: Frank Prokator


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