We all know machine embroidery thread has changed over the years. When Ensign Emblem started in 1974, there range of choices wasn’t as large as it is now. Over the years, Ensign has probably embroidered with almost every thread still on the market today, as well as some that no longer are sold. The company has embroidered with cotton thread, nylon thread, polyester thread, rayon thread and struggled, like every other embroidery company out there, with color fastness issues, thread break issues, and thread related production issues. The search for a thread that worked better for the company’s purposes was a constant thing.
Iris machine embroidery thread actually came to our notice because we were looking for a new merrow floss supplier. For those who don’t know, merrow floss is the thread used to create the borders on our emblems and, for our purposes it needs to be strong, washfast, and colorfast. It also needs to be able to withstand high heat and not sublimate. The merrow floss we were using when Hilos Iris came to our attention was not meeting our needs, and the available options of which we were aware were either ones we’d already tried or not appealing. A new source opened up new options and, after working with Hilos Iris, got us a merrow floss that met our requirements. Once we had the merrow floss in place, it was a short jump to someone saying “Have you tried our machine embroidery thread?” and Iris UltraBrite Polyester and Smooth ‘N Silky Rayon entered our lives.
Ensign Emblem and Hilos Iris worked together for about six months to create a machine embroidery thread that met Ensign’s needs. The thread had to be strong, durable, washfast and colorfast, able to withstand high heat so the color wouldn’t sublimate and available at a price point that was reasonable. We also needed a standard set of available colors as well as the ability to have specialty colors dyed and stocked. Hilos Iris already had a color card for their polyester thread with 300 colors, and they had a state of the art dye house which made creating custom colors possible. In October of 2007, Ensign Emblem’s President, Gayle Zreliak, recorded her memories of her visit to the Hilos Iris facility on the EnMart blog. After working together and after that visit, it became apparent the two companies had a great deal in common. Like Ensign Emblem, Hilos Iris was family owned. Both companies had been successful for a number of years. Each company had a commitment to quality. As Hilos and Ensign worked together to create a better machine embroidery thread, a partnership was formed. Since Hilos Iris, based in Mexico, had been looking for a way to break into the U.S. Market, it wasn’t much of a step for discussions about how Ensign could be part of that goal.