Common Problems with Digital Embroidery Stitch Files

The following 4 reasons are the most common reasons for Embroidery and stitch files being removed from the Zazzle site. Please review the information below so that you can review your file and make the appropriate changes.

  1. Underlays - The fill area sewn does not have a correctly composed underlay, or it has none at all. Good underlays are the basis for successful design, especially on knit fabrics, such as pique knit used in polo shirts. Usually, professional digitizers use a criss-cross method of establishing a quilted effect on the garment first. This first layer tacks down and compresses the fabric. The final layer loops over the underlay so that it does not sink into the garment. Without proper underlays, stitches will gap, distort when sewing, misalign with other colors, and sink into the garment.
  2. Overcompression - This happens when a digitized file intended for a larger area is shrunk down for a smaller sewn area. Many digitized file formats do not resize with compensations, so the result is an image that is too dense to be sewn. The final sew breaks needles, feels bullet-proof, and is warped. Suppose, for example, that a person found the perfect image designed for a jacket back in a DST format, and that image has 100,000 stitches. If they shrink it down for a left chest, then the entire 100,000 stitches would compress to that size. Their stitch lengths would also shorten. In the end, the garment would sustain too many stitches and disintegrate (tear or rip, especially at the edges of the design). The opposite effect happens when a small image is expanded to accommodate a larger area. In this case, there would not be enough stitches or density to cover the area, so the design would be gapped.
  3. Pull Compensation Errors - Digitizing is not the same as graphic design. An image may look fine on screen and not sew properly. Take the case of a simple fill with an outline (a square or circle). The fill would sew first, and then the outline would sew around it. However, as the fill sews in the garment, the sewn threads will tighten, and this will cause the garment to draw up, or condense. In embroidery, this is called "pull". Pull occurs most in the direction of sew, so in the case of a circle sewn with a horizontal stitch, the distance from left to right would be less than the distance from top to bottom when a final product is completed. To achieve a perfect circle, therefore, the designer would need to design an ellipse. To achieve a square, the designer would need to create a rectangle with the longest distance in the direction of the sew. After sewing the fill, the outline would then be sewn, but since the garment has changed during the fill, the outline would need to be designed in such a way to account for this change. Most professional digitizers will create files that appear to be misaligned on screen, but in fact these files sew correctly when run on commercial embroidery machines. This misalignment and distortion to achieve a perfect end result is called "pull compensation". When a final product is sewn and gaps and misalignments occur, then the design failed to account for the fabric distortion.
  4. Wrong Stitch Type - Not all stitches can be used to achieve the results we would want in our logo. There are basically three types: complex fills, column (satin) stitches, and manual stitches. Of these, the most common error by digitizers is using a column stitch on logo items that are too small. Column stitches are created using a loop stitch from one side of the column to the other. There is a minimal distance that must be maintained in columns for the stitch to succeed. This varies depending on fabric (twills are different from piques, for example), but the result is the same: if a stitch is too short, the column will sink into the fabric and cut the garment. The use of threads to produce a logo has a limitation on size. Some small details simply cannot be achieved successfully with threads. Logos may need to be adjusted in size or re-evaluated on the level of detail possible.

Additional issues include:

    • Inadequate underlays - Underlays are not sufficient enough to adequately prepare the garment for stitching. This is especially noticeable on complex fills, where sufficient underlay is not present and the fill has no layer to rest on, causing some gapping and distortion issues.
    • Lack of pull compensation - Especially when outlines or multiple colors are crossing one another, in some cases there is no sufficient compensation built into the designs for the final sew. We are seeing some misalignments 1/8-1/4" off on small sews. When using a complex fill that is outlined, the complex fill is not designed to compensate for the true stitched position of the final outline, causing gapping in the sewn image between the outline and the fill, or misalignments.
    • Column fill gapping - We have found that underlays on standard columns work best when an edge stitch is used at around 30pts 70-75% column width, followed by a zig zag of around 20pts 85%, then a density in the final sewn column of 3pts, 1-2 lines overlap, and a pull compensation according to the size of the column. Using anything greater than 3pts produces gaps in the sew. The same can be said of complex fills.
    • Low density on complex fills - What we have found to work on complex fills is 3pts on density, with underlay #1 at 45 degrees, 1pt border, 15pt density. Underlay #2 is the same pt/border/density, but is at 90 degrees. We have found that prime number stitch lengths work best, so in the case of a standard fill, we have seen good results around 57pts on the standard stitch and 31 pts in the underlays. The use of a prime number means that we are less likely to produce a moiré pattern in the stitch. If we use anything greater than 3pts in density, we get gapping. Anything less produces objects too dense to sew without numerous frays or thread breaks.
  • Small Columns/text - On columns that are very small and narrow in width(such as small text or text with narrow columns less than 1/8"), we find that no underlay is fine, when we use a 3pt density and 1-2 lines of overlap. We also find that the pull compensation should be around 107%-130%, depending on the design characteristics.