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 CapsPretty 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?
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Antonio Massey

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Antonio Massey recently joined NWCA in June of 2022. His role on the Production Team has greatly improved our processes and productivity. Antonio is always willing to lift heavy boxes or help his co-workers during busy times. In his free time, he enjoys playing with his dog and mastering video games.


Alicia Wada

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Alicia Wada is passionate about helping her co-workers at Northwest Custom Apparel in any way that she can. She works in our Shipping and Logistics department. Alicia, who goes by Ali, has a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics. She lived in Japan for ten years and recently brought her family to America in 2019. She is interested in learning crafts and textile art from around the world.


Erik Mickelson


Erik Mickelson’s position as Manager is more than a job, it’s a passion. It’s always fun and exciting because he enjoys marketing, computers, and coming up with innovative ideas to help NWCA grow. He majored in accounting and finance at Washington State University, graduating in 1996, and returned to school to obtain his Master of Business from WGU, graduating in 2016. Erik continually strives to advance his education through podcasts, audiobooks, and industry tradeshows. He is married to a remarkable and caring wife named Wendy, a Registered Nurse, with whom he shares his many hobbies and a love for the outdoors.



Ruth Nhoung

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Ruth Nhoung is our Production Manager and Northwest Custom Apparel is lucky to have her. Thanks to her vast knowledge of machine embroidery and dedication to creating a comfortable and supportive work environment, the production plant runs smoothly and customers are pleased with our work. She is a loving mother and grandmother and enjoys spending quality time with her siblings. She says, “I love everything about Northwest Custom Apparel: the people, the atmosphere, the work, and the customers. I love what I do and I embrace all of NWCA’s core values”.


Steve Deland

Art Director

Steve Deland has been our amazing Artist since 2017. He loves working at Northwest Custom Apparel because he appreciates the goal-oriented, progressive-thinking management style. He is most passionate about his art, which includes scroll saw woodwork, and his five grandchildren.



Taylar Hanson


Taylar Hanson is a highly acclaimed Saleswoman at Northwest Custom Apparel. She has a BA in Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles from Washington State University. “Go Cougs!” The best part of Taylar’s job is getting to work with longtime customers who trust us to do the best work and take care of their needs. She is passionate about appreciating nature, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.


Nika Lao


Nika Lao is very knowledgeable in how the business is ran because she began as an Embroidery Machine Operator and has worked hard to become the excellent and personable saleswoman she is today. She enjoys the stress-free environment and the many chances to connect with her co-workers over potlucks, BBQs, and bowling parties. Nika is a proud sister of two highly successful brothers and can boast mastering three languages herself: Khmer, Thai, and English. She is an avid camper, enjoys going to farmer markets, and loves cooking.


Bradley Wright


Bradley Wright has been a vital team member of NWCA since 2017. As our accountant and knower-of-all-things, Bradley is proud to work closely with his wonderful colleagues. He studied at the University of Washington. These days he dedicates his free time to his new house.


Dominic Nguyen

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Dominic Nguyen recently joined our Direct-To-Garment department. He says he loves the family work environment at Northwest Custom Apparel. In his free time, Dom likes to listen to music, hangout with friends, and play video games. He comes from a very big family which can be very chaotic at times, but is always exciting.


Sothea Tann

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Sothea Tann recently joined the Production Team in 2022. She finds Northwest Custom Apparel to be a good working environment with helpful and friendly staff. In her free time, Sothea spends quality time with her family and, overall, focuses on a peaceful and happy lifestyle.


Brian Beardsley

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Brian Beardsley has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 2018. He is our DTG Supervisor. Brian loves that he gets to work with high-tech machines in a fun atmosphere. He has a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. He said, “I always wanted to create visually interesting assets in a variety of mediums”. In his free time, he enjoys building and painting models, playing video games, designing, and playing his guitar.


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Kanha Chhorn

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Kanha Chhorn has been an Embroidery Operator with Northwest Custom Apparel since 2018. She is delightful and always makes everyone smile and laugh. Kanha takes on additional tasks that allow us to exceed our customers’ expectations. In her free time, she can be found at her local temple or spending quality time with her family and friends.


Savy Som

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SorphornSorm has been a Machine Operator since 2011. One of her four sisters works here as well. Her other relatives are in Cambodia. In her free time, Sorphorn studies English, listens to music, and enjoys exercising.


Jim Mickelson


Jim Mickelson, after a successful career with a major oil company, founded Northwest Embroidery in 1977. This was the first commercial embroidery in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, Jim has become the guru of embroidery never refusing to answer a question or offer advice to his fellow embroiders. Jim and his wife Leeanna raised four wonderful children who went on to successful business careers.