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  • A few words about the rules of creating monograms for machine embroidery

    Original text by Marina Belova 
    Monograms are stylized initials of somebody’s name, surname or patronym. A monogram is a personal logo of sorts. Known since the 4th century BCE, monograms have a very long history.

    Embroidering a monogram is an excellent and popular way of creating a personalized gift. You can embroider on anything, including bath and kitchen towels, clothes, bed linen, handkerchiefs, pillows, lambrequins, bags and toys. These are just a few of the things that can be given as gifts.
    A thought struck me just now that there are common traditions one must stick to in order to avoid making a blunder. It turned out, there exists a monogram creation and usage etiquette. According to it, you need to know for whom the monogram is intended and to separate a person from a couple, a man from a woman, a kid from the betrothed. This knowledge will define the typography. In every case, there are nuances. Everybody knows, for instance, that monograms are always read from left to right and from top to bottom.
    A traditional way of creating monograms
    Choosing a font
    According to the tradition, all the letters in a monogram are capital and should be of the same type.
    Square letters are for men, slant handwritten letters – for women and married couples, and calligraphic script is for women only. You can read more on the topic in my article about Fonts. Types of monograms.
    The outer look
    In a woman’s monogram the first initial is a name, a small letter. The second is a surname. This is the biggest letter in the monogram. And the third initial is a patronym, again, a small letter. In a man’s monogram, the order is the same, but all the letters are equal in size. It is possible to omit the patronym in a monogram. If that’s the case, you first write the name, then the surname, the initials being equal in size.
    As a rule, a child’s monogram consists of only 1 letter.

    In a monogram for a married couple, the first, small, initial belongs to the wife. A big initial denoting a surname follows, then comes the husband’s initial – again, small. The levels at which the letters are placed, may be different.

    If a couple has double surname, these 2 initials are made big and positioned in the center. For household use, you might employ just one letter in a monogram – a surname.
    Naturally, there exist simple monograms, consisting of separate letters, and also of linked ones.

    Monograms usage
    If a monogram contains several letters, it is intended for official use. One letter is for unofficial cases.
    A modern way of creating monograms
    It’s XXI century now, many things have been changed and simplified, so now we have an opportunity of using any style we like, even the most bizarre. Yes, the way you like, not the conventional way.
    Choosing a font
    There is a great variety of fonts that can be used in monograms. Traditional types with serifs are still popular, but there are also the ones without; fancy fonts with excessive decoration in the form of flowers, leaves, berries in a so called “French style” are very common. And of course, one cannot forget to mention the convoluted calligraphic script, which is widely used to this very day. Men’s and women’s preferences in the character style have changed as well. Nowadays women prefer simple elegant fonts. One multicharacter monogram may contain fonts of different styles, in order to reflect the personality of its owner.
    The outer look
    Many women’s monograms of today consist of just 1 letter (denoting either a name or a surname), and men’s still have 3.

    If all 3 of the letters are of equal size, their sequence is changed: first comes the name, then the patronym, and the surname is the last.
    Personal monograms of 2 letters (name and surname initials) are possible. Both 2-letter (two names) and 4-letter (two names, two surnames) monograms can be used for the betrothed. The sequence of letters is not fundamental as it used to be. But those in the know advise following the tradition when creating monograms for bed linen, decorations and silverware. Monograms are often fit into a geometrical figure: a circle, an oval, a diamond, etc.


    Garlands of flowers, crests, crowns and wreaths of various kinds may be used as well.

    Apart from the initials, an entire name is often embroidered today – one should keep this in mind.
    The collection of ancient monograms, now in public domain, can be found on the Web and used as a starting point for your own creative effort. The only thing you’ll need to do is to follow the rules above.
    There is a huge variety of the already existing monogram templates. They can be incorporated into the average embroidery software.
    Some editors are even tooled for the creation of monograms only. Here you can find free monograms from the (Stitch Era Universal). You can see similar ones in any other editor, only chances are that there will be more of them there than coming from a free source.

    Well, they’re not the sharpest tools in the shed, but these monograms are better than nothing if you need to create a present.
    Read here how the embroidery designs, monograms included, are usually positioned on an item.
    So, if you cannot draw or don’t like what you see in the free circulation, you can turn to a professional that creates various monograms to order. And if you need something simple to embroider it on an item, you can use a very handy application that has a built-in set of various fonts, vignettes, monograms, emblems and crowns.

    Where the embroidery thread can go wrong

    Original text by: Marina Belova 
    With ever increasing frequency I now become aware of the fact that there are no insignificant things in machine embroidery. Just overlook this or miss that, and hello, an inexplicable trouble, which you don't quite know how to handle. In support of this conjecture is a very interesting blog post by Embroidery Professor about the ways in which the thread should come off the spool/cone, which I found recently. 
    One would think, what's the fuss about how one should position a spool, horizontally or vertically? But it is not so simple. It turns out that one should not change the way the thread comes off the spool/cone based on wind. It will lead to the twisting of the thread, which may cause several problems, especially on high speeds: 
    Frequent thread breakage.  'Bird nesting' on the wrong side of the embroidery.  There are 2 ways of thread winding. As I don't know the right terms for them, I'll call them in my own way and show how they look like on the photos: 
    Straight winding. 
    Cross winding. 
    One of the easiest ways of avoiding the aforementioned problems is to position the spools so that the thread will not twist when unwinding. As for the ways of achieving that, everybody should find their own, according to their situation and possibilities. But you should do the following: 
    In case of a straight wound spool, the thread should come off across its central axis, like on the photo below: 

    As for the cross wound spool, it should come off along the central axis: 

    That's all there is to it. 

    Why test every machine embroidery design

    Original text by: Marina Belova 
    Why should every new or modified embroidery design be tested? And what's more, tested on the same fabric out of which the item will be made? To avoid mistakes, at least partly, and save yourself a disappointment of embroidering a design that looks splendid on screen and getting a result far from what you have expected on the fabric. 
    When I was working for my current employer's competitors, they did not have a habit of embroidering a full-blown test design before it went into production. Such were the rules in that place. I think it was done so for costs reasons only. Practically all the designs were large-size ones, so trying to embroider them all would take a lot of time and effort. 
    That's why we made a clean copy right away, using the fabric the client had brought. Of course, you had to stand there and keep a watch over the embroidery process so that to stop the machine on time in case there was some mistake in the file. And if it did, to run to the computer to make changes and load the modified design into the machine afterward. To rip off the elements you didn't need right in the hoop and then try to land this particular part of the design in the right place. 
    Imagine how many mistakes, glitches and bugs were there? You could not detect them all when still under development. Besides, some mistakes cannot be corrected after the embroidery is completed. But it's quite an experience! 
    So. What reasons do we have for testing the designs on the machine? 
    We should see: 
    How the design will be embroidered on that kind of fabric  How the design will be embroidered with this type of thread and of this particular brand  How the design will be embroidered with this stabilizer  How the design will be embroidered with these needles  How to adjust the thread tension for this design and this type of thread  Whether the design was digitized correctly:  Is it dense enough  Whether the understitching was done correctly  Whether there is enough compensation  Without this 'integrity test' it is impossible to create a good machine embroidery design. 
    One more poignant question related to the testing of the designs: Who should conduct the tests: a creator of the design or a user? I have a strong opinion that the tests should be conducted by the creators themselves. And not by anyone else. Because otherwise no one will give the creator a good feedback once the tests are completed. 
    Therefore, the embroidery design will not be of a high quality. The creator gains experience not so much from using the software and digitizing designs, as from standing in front of an embroidery machine and keeping an eye on the embroidery process. Only in that way can he or she understand the causal connection between what was done on the computer and the resulting embroidery.
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