Modern Embroidery: Learning and Setting Up

Erik John Mickelson

Embroidery in NW Custom ApparelModern Embroidery Process

The modern process is seemingly simple, accomplished using a sophisticated sewing machine that sews designs onto fabric. The image or design to be embroidered is “digitized,” creating a digital file by which a computerized embroidery machine “reads” the programming instructions that tell the needles where to sew stitches to create a visual design with thread. Machines range in capacity from a single embroidery “head” that can embroider only one garment at a time to multi-head equipment that can sew from two to 12 garments at a time. Machines are equipped to sew several colors in a production run at finished sizes that range from a few square inches to a few square feet. The bigger the machine, the greater the number of heads, the greater the thread capacity, and the faster an order will be completed — and the more a machine will cost in initial outlay.

Embroidery Machine

Embroidery Machine

Learning Embroidery Process

The embroidery process can seem easy, though it has a learning curve. The machinery’s basics are learned with a few days of instruction and practice. But understanding the realm where graphic design. machinery, computer programming, and thread and needles come together entail learning that comes best from “the doing.” Frank Gawronski, the embroidery industry’s top industrial engineering and production management consultant, ”Think of it as learning to play the piano. You learn the basics from your teacher and can play a few rudimentary tunes in a few days. But appearing at Carnegie Hall isn’t in the cards for beginners.” The finer points and nuances of executing professional quality embroidery must be experienced in a way that formal instruction won’t accomplish. And as Gawronski notes, “Some people can become astute embroiderers in a few months, while some folks who’ve been doing embroidery for years still produce rather mediocre workmanship. As with screen printing,  on-site training and video training programs in embroidery are widely available throughout North America and are affordable.

Start-up Costs for Embroidery Operations

distressed logo

Start-up costs for a single-head embroidery operation will run between $ 10,000 and $20,000 for basic commercial machinery, start-up supplies and hardware, and three days of training. Add $10,000 to $15,000 for a two-head machine and considerably more (another $20.000 to $50,000) for high-output equipment with six to twelve heads. 24-head machines are available in a particular order but have small design fields.