What is Good Embroidery?

What Is Good Embroidery?

 How do you tell the good embroidery from the bad?  Here are a few guidelines and visual clues.

New Patch Caps
Patch Caps by Northwest Custom Apparel

Pretty is as pretty does.

 Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

There are a lot of old adages about beauty and perfection, but when you apply it to the business of supplying embroidery for ad specialty clients, there’s only one phrase that means anything: Quality is what the customer says it is.  And as the ad specialty distributor in this sales equation, you need to be able to spot good embroidery from bad so you can deliver what you client has ordered.  So, what is good embroidery?

Whether you’re examining a digitizer’s samples sewn on felt, or looking at an actual production run on the garments, here are some guidelines about what you should—and shouldn’t—see in good embroidery


  • Look for crisp, clean edges on the letters, regardless of lettering type.
  • Are the letters all the same height and width?
  • Are the columns that form the letters a uniform width? Check the “hole” letters, such as B, P, O and D to make sure the holes haven’t closed up.  These letters also have a tendency to “cut” tiny holes in garments if their stitching is too dense or if thread tensions are too tight.
  • If lettering is outlined in a contrasting color, is the registration clean, with no overlapping or gaps?
  • If it’s block lettering, are the corners “true,” with 90-degree angles at the intersections in such letters as T, F, and E? Is there a build-up of thread in the corners of the letter, or does the whole letter lie smoothly on the fabric?
  • If it’s script lettering, is it readable, with well-formed ascenders and descenders?
  • If the lettering is unusually small—one-quarter inch or smaller—is it readable and well-formed?
  • If there’s punctuation in the phrase, is it readable?
  • Are there skipped stitches? Are there white “flecks,” or bits of bobbin thread that have come to the surface because of improper tension?
  • Does the top thread have small irregular loops, a problem that sometimes occurs with improperly tensioned polyester thread?
  • Is the lettering placed straight on the garment or item?

Fill Stitching

  • Is the fill surface free of loops in the top thread or flecks of bobbin thread?
  • Are there any skipped or missed stitches?
  • If additional stitching is placed on top of the fill-stitched area, are the details crisp and clear?
  • Is the registration clean?
  • In large areas of fill, is there depth and texture where necessary, or just big flat areas of color?

Satin or Column Stitching

  • Are edges of the columns smooth and solid?
  • Are there skipped or missed stitches?


  • Are all edges of the applique fully covered by column stitching?Monograms
  • Does the fabric lay flat against the garment or is it puckered or distorted?
  • Do “fringes” protrude from the outside edge of the column stitching around the applique?

General Aesthetics

  • Do stitch direction and stitch length vary, adding interest to the design?
  • Is the embroidery “bullet-proof,” meaning that the stitching is too dense or backed too heavily and thus, stiff to the touch?
  • Has all topping been removed from the front of the embroidery?
  • Has the backing been either neatly trimmed or removed completely? (The need for complete removal will vary depending on the type of backing used and the intended use of the garment.)
  • Are there visible hoop marks—or worse yet, hoop burns—on the garments?
  • Is the embroidery’s density too light, allowing the fabric to show through?
  • Look for smooth edges on all design elements.
  • Check to make sure the embroidery is free of loose thread ends. Likewise, make sure the ends have not been trimmed so closely that the embroidery starts to unravel.
  • Is there visible looping or bird nesting on the embroidery’s underneath side?
  • Is there any puckering or distortion in the fabric around the edges of the design?
  • If viewing embroidery on a garment, is it correctly placed and stitched straight?
  • If stitching has been placed on a napped or spongy fabric, such as corduroy or fleece, does it sink into the fabric or sit nicely on the fabric’s surface so all details are clear?
  • If stitching is on a fine knit, has the edge of the design “cut” into the knit, indicating the embroidery has been stitch with too high a density or the wrong needle?

Fundraising and School Online Stores

Best practice story for anyone trying to get school fundraisers going…

Took a little bit of a risky order for an entire school district in Seattle and created 15 school fundraisers that ran for the last two weeks. Each school used a 2 color unique print on three basic items (t-shirt, dryfit, hoodie). We offered a universal polo, jacket, sweats, and shorts that were available on each store. Each store had a pickup time and location that was provided by the district. We created custom checkout fields to take down students name and grade.

After we built the 15 stores, we created a landing page on our website where the school district pointed all their families to that had a link to each individual store (see photo). We set very strong expectations with the school district. They had to sell a minimum of 24 items per design, and would have to buy enough to hit those totals if a sale didn’t go well. We charged them an extra 2$ per item to Bag & Tag each customer’s order in a poly mailer from Uline (newly discovered profit enter). There would be no changes to orders or refunds once we processed them.

The district was more than thrilled with us because we were solution oriented and made everyone’s life easier. We took all the hassle out of collecting sizes, money, and distribution. They even decided to add a few dollars per item to fundraise.

We wanted to make sure this was marketed well so the school shared with me their mailing list and I created some basic emails that went out to parents via mailchimp.

The results were amazing. We sold a few thousand pieces and the districts made quite a bit of money along the way.

What I’m getting at here is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. They are probably an administrator in a school district and have much better things to do than figure out apparel. We took all the stress out of their position and handled the rest.

If you are scared of Amazon or any other threats in the industry, recognize that our digital economy is pushing the industry to be more convenience based. Think 2 day Amazon shipping, Starbucks, uber etc.

We have made strides to adapt our business to be more convenience based and it has paid off immensely! Price was never an issue here because everyone was winning. It ended up being an extremely profitable job!

I’d love to hear how this has worked for anyone, or any best practices.

Fife High School Makes the Playoffs

The staff at NW Custom Apparel congratulates the Fife High School Football team for making it into the 2017 playoffs. To celebrate their victory we are offering a limited edition t-shirt and hoodie. Both are direct to garment printed with the fife logo on front and a 12 on back with real looking texture of a football.


fife high school playoffs 2017

Corporate Webstores and Fundraising

Milton Police Fundraiser

Hero of Twisp Fundraising Shirt
T-Shirt Stack Heroes of Twisp

How to Create A Successful Online Fundraising Program

With limited funding and tight budgets, many schools, organizations and nonprofits are desperate for innovative and simple ways to raise money. Selling customized, printed goods in an effort to fundraise isn’t new and novel; however, selling these same customized goods in an online, fundraiser-store format is innovative and has a very profitable and exciting future.


What's in It For Me? Understanding the Benefits

  • No Cost, no liability: No inventory or commitments.
  • Fast: An online fundraiser can be created and launched in minutes. The online store can be shared rapidly via email blasts and social media promotion
  • No Inventory: The client doesn’t have to stock, distribute and worry about dated or unsold merchandise. 
  • Physical Products: So many fundraising campaigns seek money and contributions with nothing tangible in return for the donor. With printed goods as the fundraising vehicle, the donor receives a tangible item for their contribution, thusly increasing the likelihood of soliciting more contributions. 

NW Custom Apparel to distribute North Face

North Face is coming to NW Custom Apparel.

After months or even years Northwest Custom Apparel is proud to announce that they are being given the privilege to sell the North Face line of apparel. The items offered will not be from the North Face retail line but special jackets made for the decorator industry. The objective is to allow decorators (Northwest Customer Apparel) the opportunity to share this line with their existing customers.

The standard line of distribution has always been from manufacturer (North Face) to retailers or on line sales outlets. The decorated apparel has grown so rapidly in the past 10 years that more and more manufacturers must take advantage of this distribution channel.

Buying Habits

Buying habits are changing from the two most popular streams of distribution on line sales and direct sales to end users and retail. The decorated apparel industry is quickly becoming a distribution channel behind retail and internet. Promotional product distributors are becoming a force in the distribution of decorated apparel. (logo wear)

Companies are selective when displaying their brand

Companies are more selective when a decision has to be made on where to display their logo. Putting a logo on a no name garment just isn’t in the cards any more. Companies want to be recognized for quality.

Partner with a known brand

Companies partnering with a recognized brand will give them a quality look. This is one of the reasons that North Face is partnering with decorators to allow them to get deeper penetration into the apparel market.

Companies realize that associating their name with a popular apparel brand (Nike, Eddie Bauer, Cutter & Buck, Ogio, Under Armor) will let people know that quality begets quality.

Northwest Custom will be proud to fly the North Face Brand. This is why Northwest Custom Apparel is proud to fly the North Face brand and offer it to our client base. We welcome North Fact to our company.


Digital to garment printing is superior to screen printing

Digital to Garment is superior

Digital to Garment printing is superior to screen printing on apparel. This is a bold statement but it is true. Have you ever been in a screen printing shop and seen the dirt and filth. Now fast forward and visit a DTG shop. No mess or filth anywhere

Review of the facts

Let’s review a few facts about screen printing vs digital to garment printing.

Set up

Set up. The set up for DTG is as simple as point, click and print. Screen printing entails a separate screen for each color in the design. A 6 color print would take six separate screens for each color plus the white under base. This process will take at least 2 hours. DTG is scan design into computer and transfer to printer. Total set up less than 15 minutes.


Once the screens are used it is clean up time. This is another hour of labor. There is no clean up with DTG. Very efficient.

Environmentally friendly

DTG uses inks which are water based and environmentally friendly. They meet all the requirements of the consumer protection laws. Screen printing uses plastisol inks which do contain carcinogenic materials. These materials have been know to cause cancer if breathed in for any period of time. Water based inks produce a soft hand and smooth finish. Women lover apparel printed using the DTG method with water based ink. There is no stiffness in the fabric as water based ink is absorbed by the fabric and not painted on.
Re orders are a big problem with screen printing. For example a customer wants a 6 piece fill in order which has six colors. The time to do this is at least 2 hours. If you do it with the DTG method it takes about 6 minutes. Again no mess to cleanup.


Doing samples with DTG is far superior to screen printing. Can you imagine the problems when you are trying to introduce a new line of decorated apparel. With DTG is goes from the artists drawing board direct to the garment. Slam dunk. A sample run with DTG can be done in a day. A sample run using screen printing can take days or more.
These are a few arguments supporting DTG printing. There are more which will be in future blogs.

Tee shirt printing all colors in design are free


Preferred way to print tee shirts

Direct to garment printing is starting to become the preferred way to print tees. The demand is increasing because the quality is better than traditional screen-printing.

Traditional screen printing is slow, messy and the inks contain carcinogenic materials that possibly could be harmful to your health.

A few things to think about when considering digital print vs screen printing are:

  • Work flow is computer driven. All we need is good art in an EPS or 300 dpi format and we are ready to go. This makes for unreal deliver schedules.
  • Screen is eliminated and so are screen charges. Can you imagine paying $100.00 set up for a five color screen print? This makes small orders very costly
  • .
  • One time set up charges for Digital are generally less than $40.00 dollars and there are no charges for repeat orders. You can even order a single piece for the customer who forgot to order the correct size.
  • All digital printed garments will have what is referred to as a soft hand. Screen printed inks are very heavy and create a garment whose hand is actually hard. This results in a garment which is uncomfortable for ladies to wear. It rubs their chest the wrong way.
  • Water based inks are environmentally safe. They clean up with mild soap and water. No inspections or reporting required.
  • The new consumer safety act has offered up some rules (which are very difficult to enforce) for screen printed apparel being sold to children under 12 years of age. Water base ink will pass all government standards and regulations.

Fast set up

  • Fast set up with good art means one day delivery for rush orders. Try this on for size with a screen print order. We like to offer in by 10AM we’ll deliver by 5PM. The only company is the Northwest who can offer this is Northwest Custom Apparel.


Water Bottle Stays Cold for 4.5 Hours

Testing the Everest Thermo Water Bottle

Our vendor sent us a new copper insulated water bottle for us to test. They claim it can keep drinks cold for 12 hours and hot beverages up to 24 hours. I was very skeptical at this claim, so I decided to test this for myself.


Filled bottle with my favorite cold drink

I tested this bottle with Propel, which is my favorite cold drink to keep me hydrated during the hot summers. I filled the water bottle up at 7:30 am this morning. The water was straight out of the fridge at an approximate temperature of 38 degrees.

How I tested the bottle

Today was a warm day for Seattle, so I decided to put the bottle on the dashboard of my Ford F150. I knew that it would be roasting inside my truck by noon time. I let the bottle sit and cook for 4.5 hours.

4.5 Hours Winner!

I went back to my truck at noon and opened the door to my hot truck and felt the blast of 95 degree heat. The water bottle was warm to the touch after baking on the dashboard. I thought for sure the water would be at least lukewarm. I cracked the top and took a sip and I couldn’t tell the difference in temperature from this morning. This wattle bottle is a proven winner. Icy Cold!

Where to purchase one

You can purchase this water bottle custom printed with your company’s logo on the side. This particular bottle has a 1 color print, which stands out on the black background. They are available at Northwest Custom Apparel in Milton, WA.  Give them a jingle and they will help you out. 800-851-3671

Style# VM3000 Everest