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The Glossary of Embroidery Terms
Applique - 1) Decoration or trimming cut from one piece of fabric and stitched to another to add dimension and texture. If applique occupies a significant amount of the design, the stitch count is lower.
Backing - Woven or nonwoven material used underneath the item or fabric being embroidered to provide support and stability. Can be hooped with the item or placed between the machine throat plate and the hooped garment. Available in various weights and in two basic types: Cutaway and tearaway.
Bean Stitch - Three stitches placed back and forth between two points. Often used for outlining because it eliminates the need for repeatedly digitizing a single-ply running stitch outline.
Bobbin - Spool or reel that holds the bobbin thread, which helps form stitches on the underside of the fabric.
Buckram - Coarse, woven fabric, stiffened with glue, used to stabilize fabric for stitching. Commonly used in caps to hold the front panel erect.
Chain Stitch - Stitch that resembles a chain link, formed with one thread fed from the bottom side of the fabric. Done on a manual or computerized machine with a hook that functions like a needle.
Chenille - Form of embroidery in which a loop (moss) stitch is formed on the top side of the fabric. Uses heavy yarns of wool, cotton or acrylic. Created by a chain stitch machine that has been adjusted to form this stitch type. Also known as loop piling.
Column Stitch - Formed by closely placed zigzag stitches. Often used to form borders. Also known as steil stitch. See Satin Stitch.
Complex Fill - Refers to a digitizing capability that allows areas to be designated as voids at the same time the design's edges, or perimeter points, are defined. The design can thus be digitized as one fill area, instead of being broken down into multiple sections.
Condensed Format - Method of digitizing in which a design is saved in a skeletal form. A proportionate number of stitches may later be placed between defined points after a scale has been designated. With a machine that can read condensed format, the scale, density and stitch lengths in a design may be changed. See Expanded Format.
Digitize - Modern term for punching, reflecting the computerized method of converting artwork into a series of commands to be read by an embroidery machine's computer. See Punching.
Emblem - Embroidered design with a finished edge, commonly an insignia of identification, usually worn on outer clothing. Historically, an emblem carried a motto or verse or suggested a moral lesson. Also known as a crest or patch.
Embroidery - Decorative stitching on fabric.
Fill Stitch - Series of running stitches commonly used to cover large areas. Different fill patterns can be created by altering the angle, length and repeat sequence of the stitches. Also known as a geflect stitch.
Finishing - Processes performed after embroidery is complete. Includes trimming loose threads, cutting or tearing away excess backing, removing topping, cleaning any stains, pressing or steaming to remove wrinkles or hoop marks and packaging for sale or shipment.
Frame - Holding device for insertion of goods under an embroidery head for the application of embroidery. May employ a number of means for maintaining stability during the embroidery process, including clamps, vacuum devices, magnets or springs. See Hoop.
Geflect Stitch - See Fill Stitch.
Hook - Holds the bobbin case in the machine and plays a vital role in stitch formation. Making two complete rotations for each stitch, its point meets a loop of top thread at a precisely-timed moment and distance (gap) to form a stitch.
Hoop - Device made from wood, plastic or steel with which fabric is gripped tightly between an inner ring and an outer ring and attached to the machine's pantograph. Machine hoops are designed to push the fabric to the bottom of the inner ring and hold it against the machine bed for embroidering.
Hooping Device - Device that aids in hooping garments or items for embroidery. Especially helpful for hooping multi-layered items and for uniformly hooping multiple items.
Lettering - Embroidery using letters or words.
Lock Stitch - 1) Commonly referred to as a lock-down or tack-down stitch, a lock stitch is formed by three or four consecutive stitches of at least a 10-point movement. It should be used at the end of all columns, fills and at the end of any element in your design where jump stitches will follow, such as color changes or the end of a design. May be stitched in a triangle, star or in a straight line. 2) Lock stitch is also the name of the type of stitch formed by the hook and needle of home sewing machines, as well as computerized embroidery machines.
Logo - Name, symbol or trademark of a company or organization.
Looping - Loops on the embroidery surface generally caused by poor top tension or tension problems. Typically occurs when polyester top thread has been improperly tensioned.
Machine Language - Common formats include Barudan, Brother, Fortron, Happy, Marco, Meistergram, Melco, Pfaff, Stellar, Tajima, Toyota, Ultramatic and ZSK. Most digitizing systems can save designs in these languages so the computer disk can be read by the embroidery machine.
Marking - Marking of goods to serve as an aid in positioning the frame and referencing the needle start points.
Monogram - Embroidered design composed of one or more letters, usually the initials in a name.
Needle - Small, slender piece of steel with a hole for thread and a point for stitching fabric. A machine needle differs from a handwork needle; the machine needle's eye is found at its pointed end. Machine embroidery needles come with sharp points for piercing heavy, tightly woven fabrics; ball points, which glide between the fibers of knits; and a variety of specialty points, such as wedge points, which are used for leather.
Puckering - Result of the fabric being gathered by the stitches. Many possible causes include incorrect density, loose hooping, lack of backing, incorrect tension or dull needle.
Pull Compensation - A degree of distortion built into a design by the digitizer to compensate for pull on the fabric caused by the embroidery stitches.
Punching - Conversion of artwork into a series of commands to be read by an embroidery machine's computer. Derived from an early method of machine embroidery in which part of the machine, the automat, reads paper tapes or Jacquards punched with holes representing stitches, pantograph movements and other commands. While still capable of producing paper tape, many computerized digitizing systems now store this information on disk formats.
Registration - Correct registration is achieved when all stitches and design elements line up correctly.
Running Stitch - Consists of one stitch between two points. Used for outlining and fine detail. Also known as a walk stitch.
SPI - Stitches per inch; system for measuring density or the amount of satin stitches in an inch of embroidery.
SPM - Stitches per minute; system for measuring the running speed of an embroidery machine.
Satin Stitch - Formed by closely arranged zigzag stitches. Can be laid down at any angle and with varying stitch lengths. Adapted from the blatt stitch used in schiffli embroidery. See Blatt Stitch.
Scaling - Ability within one design program to enlarge or reduce a design. In expanded format, most scaling is limited to 10 percent to 20 percent because the stitch count remains constant despite final design size. In condensed or outline formats, on the other hand, scale changes may be more dramatic because stitch count and density may be varied.
Short Stitch - A digitizing technique that places shorter stitches in curves and corners to avoid an unnecessary bulky build-up of stitches.
Specialty Fill - Born of recent technology, a fill stitch capability that produces a fill with a "relief" or motif design within the fill-stitch area.
Tackle Twill - Letters or numbers cut from polyester or rayon twill fabric that are commonly used for athletic teams and organizations. Tackle twill appliques attached to a garment have an adhesive backing that tacks them in place; the edges of the appliques are then zigzag stitched.
Tension - Tautness of thread when forming stitches. Top thread tension, as well as bobbin thread tension, needs to be set. Proper thread tension is achieved when about one-third of the thread showing on the underside of the fabric on a column stitch is bobbin thread.
Thread - Fine cord of natural or synthetic material made from two or more filaments twisted together and used for stitching. Machine embroidery threads come in rayon, which has a high sheen; cotton, which has a duller finish than rayon but is available in very fine deniers; polyester, which is strong and colorfast; metallics, which have a high luster and are composed of a synthetic core wrapped in metal foil; and acrylic, which is purported to have rayon's sheen.
Trimming - Operation in the finishing process that involves trimming the reverse and top sides of the embroidery, including jump stitches and backing.
Underlay Stitch - Stitches laid down before other design elements to help stabilize stretchy fabrics like ribbed shirts and to tack down high wales or naps on fabrics so the design's details don't get lost. May also be used to create such effects as crowned, flat or raised areas in the embroidery, depending on how they are laid down.
The Glossary Of Embroidery Machine Terms
Arm Machine - Multihead embroidery machine driven by a single main shaft. Each sewing head is attached to the shaft, usually by gears. Sewing heads resemble industrial sewing machines in the "arm" that the needle case is attached to.
Automatic Color Change - The ability of a multi-needle commercial embroidery machine to follow a command to change to another specified needle.
Bobbin Case - Small, round metal device for holding the bobbin. Used to tension the bobbin thread. Inserted in the hook for sewing.
Cap Frames - Specialized embroidery frames (hoops) designed to hold finished caps for embroidering. Available in a variety of styles for various machines, with two basic styles being to sew the finished cap flattened out (for use on a flat machine) or sewing the finished cap (for use on a tubular machine) in its natural curve.
Check Spring - assists in upper thread tensioning and is used to detect upper thread breaks in many embroidery machine models.
Embroidery Point - Unit of measurement in embroidery, in which 10 points equals 1mm.
Flat Embroidery - Embroidery (usually on cut panels or patches) that is framed in hoops exclusively on the top of the embroidery machine's hook assembly.
Jump Stitch - Movement of the frame without stitching but with take-up lever and hook movement.
Needle Bar - Holds the needle in the machine; moves in an up and down motion.
Offset - The ability to move the pantograph out of the design with a specific movement and then return to the original point. Used for placing appliques.
Presser Foot - Metal device that touches the goods being embroidered while the needle is in the goods. The main function of the presser foot is to hold the material being embroidered until the hook point catches the thread loop formed by the needle rise.
Pre-Tensioner - Thread tension assemblies that are before the main tension assembly in the thread path. The function of the pre-tensioner is to apply a light amount of tension in order to make the main tensioner work. See Tensioner.
Tape Reader - A device attached to an embroidery machine that enables the machine to read embroidery designs from 8-channel paper computer tapes.
Tensioner - Device used to adjust the tautness of thread when forming stitches.
Thread Clippers - Small cutting utensil with a spring action that is operated by the thumb in a hole on the top blade and the fingers cupped around the bottom blade. Useful for quick thread cutting, but unsuitable for detailed trimming or removal of backing.
Trimmers - Devices built into an embroidery machine to automatically trim or cut remaining thread when the design jumps from one area to another or performs a color change.
Tubular Embroidery - Embroidery produced on an embroidery machine which allows tubular fabric or pre-assembled garments to be placed around the hook assembly. Allows sewing of the front of a garment without sewing through the front and back of it.