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July 9, 2010

What is embroidery digitizing?

Embroidery digitizing is the process of turning a drawing, photo, logo or art work file on your computer into a file that your embroidery machine will understand and sew out the competed art. The process can take as many as 10 steps (depending on how many times you go back to the drawing board) and not all of them are easy ones.I will list 5 of the major ones so you can see what you might encounter should you want to take the plunge and digitize your own designs.
  • Find out if your computer can "talk" to your embroidery machine. You must have a way of getting your completed embroidery files from your computer to your machine. Depending on your embroidery machine it could be via a USB cable, flash drive or an old fashion digital card. Some machines require an interface like the old Brother embroidery machines did with the PED-Basic Software just for Downloading Embroidery Designs, but the new Brother SE400 Computerized Embroidery and Sewing Machine does not. It communicates via USB with your computer directly. That is a step in the right direction for $400 embroidery machines (the Brother SE400 sells for under $400).
  • Next you need to have full mastery over graphics programs that manipulate drawings, add wording and change colors. Often digitizing programs have that program built right into the process like this professional embroidery program that Corel has. That's right Corel has an embroidery program. They are the same people that do Draw, Paint and all those other graphics programs so they know graphics. If you don't know jack about graphics programs then you can download lots of free trials just to get you started. In fact here is a link to the free CorelDRAW trial download from the Corel website.
  • After you know how to scan in, design and manipulate your graphic design in your computer then you need to actually digitize it. Yep, it took those steps above just to get this far. Now the high end digitizing embroidery programs will make it almost a one step deal with just loading your graphic into your embroidery program (just make sure your embroidery program accepts the type of file you plan on using, some are very picky) and spitting out an embroidery design. You want to stay away from programs like Instant Stitch because all they do is convert photos and drawings into cross stitch patterns so you can print out a cross stitch pattern to work from (cross stitch by hand that is). The high end programs will cost $1500 and up but they are designed for professionals who will make that money back in no time at all. Of course there are plenty of programs that will convert photos into embroidery such as the Singer Photo Stitch, Image Auto Digitizing Software For the CE-100 and CE-200
A word of warning - some graphics programs will have the word embroidery listed on them as a type of effect for the drawing. They are NOT embroidery digitizing programs, but merely have an effect that makes drawings and photos look like they were embroidered.
  • If you opted to buy a non-automatic embroidery digitizing software (usually priced under $500) you will have to hand digitize the entire pattern. What you will have to do is learn to trace really well. Remember I told you that you would need to know how to do graphics, well that is where this comes into play. The lower end digitizing programs like Embird, Embroidery Magic (I have that one) and others require you to load your graphic art and then trace it in the embroidery program. You will then need to add each section of stitches, define what type of stitches they are (satin, fill or ?) and the direction they will run. Then you will define the color. Next you must learn all about how a stitch out occurs and the order it will be done. You will need to define when you make color changes in your sew out and even define if the thread will be cut by the machine or a jump stitch will occur (you will hand remove that jump stitch after the item is sewn). You can see that manipulation of the stitches and how the pattern is to be sewn will take some time to figure out. Here is a list of some Free digitizing software downloads just so you can try them out. I have used many of them and some of them are junk while others require you to have a degree in computer science just to read the owner manual.
  • Lastly you will need to load your embroidery file into your embroidery machine and sew it out. It is often at this time you will find out what you see on the computer screen is not what you see on your fabric. It is all about learning your software and manipulating stitches.
It takes patience to learn how to digitize embroidery patterns. It is not for everyone. If you wish to read more in-depth about embroidery digitizing then here are a few books to get you pointed in the right direction. I would much rather see people read and learn about it than spend lots of money in a software program that they find they didn't really need or can't understand.

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