Navigating Embroidery Challenges

As we bid farewell to the first quarter of 2014, it’s hard to believe how eventful these past months have been. I had the privilege of embarking on journeys to both Long Beach, California for the ISS Trade Show, and Birmingham, England for the United Kingdom’s rendition of ISS at NEC Hall. Following the Birmingham exposition, I was fortunate enough to indulge in two days of exploration in London – a city that I wholeheartedly recommend adding to your bucket list due to its undeniable charm.

In this installment, I’d like to delve into the aspects of embroidery that prove to be less than optimal. At IDigitizing, we’re consistently presented with design orders that, unfortunately, don’t translate well into embroidery. This isn’t due to a lack of willingness on our part; quite the contrary. However, certain designs simply aren’t compatible with the medium of embroidery. These tend to fall into five primary categories, which I’ll outline below.

Too Much Lettering in Too Small a Place

A recurring scenario involves logos densely packed with lettering that clients request to be fitted into spaces as tiny as 2.5 inches. Educating our customers about what works and what doesn’t is a crucial aspect of our role at idigitizing. While extreme examples exist, the challenge is ever-present. Lettering proves particularly intricate, as even a single stitch awry can distort an entire letter. While specific materials might handle small lettering better than others, as a rule of thumb, 4mm is the smallest size we can feasibly program for Arial (sans serif) fonts. Going smaller than this risks the formation of subpar stitches or the filling of letterholes, leading to an unsightly appearance.

small letters in embroidery digitizing


Embroidery is fundamentally a solid medium; the seamless blending of threads, as demonstrated below, isn’t a feasible endeavor. Can we mimic the effect? Yes, but the reception of the final product is inherently subjective and hinges on the end user’s expectations. It’s important to note that such effects aim to replicate “reflectivity.” In the realm of embroidery, threads inherently shine and refract light, making this effect somewhat natural without additional manipulation.

Embroidery digitizing design

Transparent Effects

The opacity of thread poses a challenge when it comes to replicating layered or translucent effects, such as the example below. Achieving such intricacies in embroidery proves virtually impossible, rendering images like this a formidable challenge. Objects positioned behind “windows” also present a complex hurdle.

Distressed effect

Designs akin to the one below, such as BIORUST, don’t translate effectively in embroidery. The limited resolution of needle and thread prevents the faithful reproduction of this distressed appearance, unfortunately.

distressed effect in embroidery

Logo’s on hats

Generally, the upper limit for a hat design’s height is 2.25 inches. Although some machines might stretch this to 2.5 inches, pushing the boundaries of hat embroidery can lead to difficulties, including product damage and machine malfunctions. While designs like the one illustrated are undeniably stunning, they pose challenges for cap embroidery due to the dense arrangement of small lettering in confined spaces. At idigitizing, we frequently encounter designs of this nature for hat embroidery, putting us in the unenviable position of being the “bearer of bad news” when we have to decline such requests. Our refusal isn’t grounded in a lack of willingness; rather, it’s driven by the desire to ensure that the final product maintains the highest quality.

hat embroidery design

In light of these challenges, the question emerges: “How can we find solutions?” In the case of the design pictured, the solution involves omitting the outer ring and the small lettering. Many innovative companies boast multiple versions of their logos. They’ve traversed this path, learning why certain designs don’t translate well onto caps. To be a consummate professional, it’s invaluable to comprehend the limitations of the medium and present clients with alternative options. Explaining why a design won’t work and outlining the benefits of simplification can foster productive discussions. Consider advocating for the placement of the full logo on items like jackets or polo shirts, while reserving the simplified version for hats. This approach yields a superior product, heightens customer satisfaction, and amplifies your potential for increased sales. On the other hand, doggedly insisting on fitting the entire logo onto a hat risks subpar quality and potentially damages a significant number of hats.

In the realm of commercial embroidery, the only absolute I’ve encountered is the absence of absolutes. While simulating blends is feasible, and with ample space, designs like the ABC logo (pictured above) can closely mirror their artistic origins. Some machines offer “panel programs” for embroidering sizable designs onto hat panels. These sewn panels are then sent to vendors who transform them into finished hats. The key takeaway is this: if you encounter designs like those illustrated, it’s wise to seek advice before committing. Addressing potential production issues proactively places you in a more advantageous position compared to providing explanations post-production.

If you’re seeking insights into commercial embroidery or embroidery digitizing, feel free to reach out via email at I’m more than happy to provide direct responses or consider your question for a future blog topic.