Blog, Embroidery, Industry Tips

Embroidery Quick Tips


Here are some time and money saving tips for commercial embroidery we have collected! If you run out of water-soluble topping, try dry-cleaning bags. Hoop them just like any other topping and clean the same as alwayspulling off as much topping as you can. Now run a hot iron over the design, and the remaining pieces of the bag will disappear…

Embroidery Quick Tip

Embroidery Quick Tip by Northwest Custom Apparel


If you run out of water-soluble topping, try dry-cleaning bags. Hoop them just like any other topping and clean the same as alwayspulling off as much topping as you can. Now run a hot iron over the design, and the remaining pieces of the bag will disappear. If you have one, a teflon-coated iron will work best, but a regular iron will do.To help take topping off of garments after stitching, go over the design with a soft-bristled toothbrush. This helps pull the topping from small places.


After stitching a garment, just spray away the hoop mark with Magic Sizing, a product that can be found in your local grocery store, before packing it away. Magic Sizing does not leave watermarks like steaming does. Best of all, it makes everything smell wonderful and you can pack the garments immediately after spraying them, while they are still damp.


Raise up your embroidery machine on 4×4″ blocks. You will be amazed at the effect it will have on your back. Place a good floor mat in front of the machine for walking and standing. Remember, mats wear out, so replace them every three or four years to get the best results.


Always use proper lighting. Clip-on lights added to a machine can help reduce downtime when threading and changing needles. Also, the proper lights will aid in matching and distinguishing colors. Different lighting makes colors look different, so when matching colors, check the lighting in several rooms to make sure you have the color you want.

If you have problems threading a needle when stitching dark-colored garments, try placing a piece of white backing or paper under the needle. It makes the needle easier to see. Also, if you are one of those people who wet the thread before threading the needle, try wetting the thread first, then cutting it. All the little fibers will be cut clean at the end. If you cut and then wet the thread, it pulls the fibers to a point as you pull the thread out of your mouth, making it harder to get through the needle.

Changing needles can be a cumbersome job. Getting the eye of the needle in just the right place is also sometimes difficult. It is easier to insert the needle like always, then place the point of another needle in the eye of the one you inserted. Then turn the needle and see exactly where the eye lines up. When you get it in the proper place, all you have to do is push up a little and tighten.

To rid garments of the itch caused by the ends of metallic thread on the back of the design, use an iron-on backing. Cut a piece of backing a little smaller than the design and press it to the back of the design. This hides the ends and leaves the back smooth and comfortable. It also eliminates the worry over clipping thread too short and tie-off knots coming undone.


Don’t use a needle or screwdriver to clean bobbin cases. Try using a business card or a thin piece of plastic. The needle is too large and will spring the case. After several uses, you will never get tension again. Punch a hole in the card or plastic strip and hang it on the embroidery machine with a suction cup and hook. Now you have them handy all the time. When a corner gets worn, cut it off and turn to another corner. Keep cutting the corners until you need a new strip.


Plastic shoeboxes make great storage containers for spools of thread. One box will hold lots of small spools, and you can see through the box for the colors inside. It also protects them from dust and dirt. If you hang cones of thread on the wall, try putting them in plastic sandwich bags. Make a small hole at the top, and pull the thread through it. Tuck the open end under the cone. This keeps the thread clean and acts as a thread “sock” or net. You don’t have to use tape to hold the loose ends, just let a small tail of the thread hang from the top. Keep the thread you frequently use in the hard to reach places on the back of your machine. This leaves the easier places in the front and sides free to change out thread.


Designate jobs for everyone in the work place. For example, ask one operator to take charge of the thread. This means he will make sure you never run out of white thread and that all cones are put in their proper places at the end of the day. Another operator can check on the backings and toppings and see that all the rolls of backing are cut into the proper pieces when needed. All operators should be in charge of cleaning their own work area and putting out their own trash. When everyone works together, it takes less time and one person isn’t left to do all the dirty work. Above all, you will find a clean environment creates better work.

Keep a notebook beside your machine to document your workday. You never know when you may need to look something up in a hurry. At the top of the page, put the date. Then make columns for customer names, what you did (shirts, hats, jackets, etc.), how many total pieces and the design stitched on them. Yes, it takes a little time, but will save lots of time when customers want to know something about their last order in a hurry. On another page in your notebook, write down all of the information about oiling your machine, including the dates it was last done. This way you know when it needs to be done again.

Try placing work orders, the design disk and other things pertaining to an order in a sheet protector or large envelope with the order. The sheet protectors and envelopes are reusable. Keep them with the order until it is ready to ship. At that time (the end of the day), all disks can be put away and paperwork filed in the proper place. Keep a large desk-size calendar on the wall next to the phone. Use it to write notes and phone numbers on while talking. I tape a list of frequently called numbers on my calendar’s cardboard backing. Just lift the pages and the numbers are close by all the time.

In the final analysis, if you think something takes too long to do, then it probably does. Stop and think about what you are doing during each step in the process. Can anything be done differently? Can some steps be combined? Does the thread really need to be on that wall? If you moved it closer, how many steps could be saved every day? Are scissors, bobbins, needles and other items at your operator’s fingertips? If they have to walk away from the machine to find them, time is lost-and time is money


About Erik Mickelson

Erik Mickelson is the author of Northwest Custom Apparel's blogs. Erik has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 1996 after graduating from Washington State University and is the founder of the Apparel Graphic Academy. Trained by the custom graphic apparel industry's best, Mark Venit, Erik brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Embroidery Adventure blog. As they say, 'Experience is the best teacher.' We are proud to have Erik as part of our team!

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