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Actual Advice: Best Backing for Towels and More

25th June 2015

Actual Advice: Best Backing for Towels and More

Advice-2One of the things we do often here at EnMart is answer questions.    The questions cover a variety of topics,   from what sort of product to use for a particular job,   to what we use or recommend,   to questions about running a business or using social media.    In the course of a day,   an awful lot of questions can be asked and answered,  but the answers only benefit the one person who asked,  and that didn’t seem quite fair.   To address that problem I’ve created another sporadic series that will appear semi-regularly on the EmbroideryTalk blog called “Actual Advice”.   In this series,  we will detail an actual question or questions asked by a customer  and than share the answer here so everyone can benefit from reading it.

We’ll be covering two questions today.

The first is about what backing to use on towels and fleece blankets.   The customer in question had been using tearaway,  but was finding it tough to weed out all the stabilizer, and didn’t really like the finished appearance after the backing had been torn away.    She was looking for another option and had thought maybe a washaway would do the trick.  She was looking at Badgemaster,  which was,  as they say,  in the right church,  but in the wrong pew.   Badgemaster would dissolve in water,  but really isn’t designed to be a stabilizer with fabric.    What was needed was a cutaway washaway like our Q-102.     EnMart’s Q-102 stabilizes the design,  and then the excess backing can be dissolved with water,  leaving a smooth surface.   It is ideal for towels or blankets or anywhere that might allow the back of the embroidery to be visible.

The second question has to do with color matching of thread.   We do have a conversion engine on our website where we have conversions from several popular thread brands to Iris,   which is useful,   but we tend to recommend another way if you want a true color match.    The best way to color match a thread,  in our opinion is to compare actual color to actual color.    In other words,  get a swatch of the two colors you want to compare,  and put them side by side in natural light.    This will give you the truest representation of the colors and the match in question.   Trying to match an actual color against a color on a computer monitor or a printed sample won’t work well because monitors and printers can skew colors.    Your best best is always to match actual to actual.    If you do need actual Iris UltraBrite Polyester color swatches,  you can always get a thread chart for use when converting colors.

So,  that’s our actual advice for today.   If you have a question you’d like us to answer,  please leave it in the comments,   or ask us on our Facebook page or Twitter feed.

posted in About EnMart, Embroidery Questions | 1 Comment

23rd June 2015

How Do I: Choose a Backing

8The type of backing used on an embroidered piece can have a big impact on the quality of the finished item,   but knowing which backing to use and when to use it can be difficult.   Add to that fact the problem of beginning embroiderers who may not even be aware there is more than one type of cutaway or tearaway available,  or even that cutaway and tearaway exist,  and the confusion only deepens.   Choosing a backing can be confusing and intimidating,   but it can also make a real difference in the speed, ease and quality of your embroidery,  so it is important.    Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a backing.

Backing comes in different typesCutaway and tearaway are the two main types of backing,   and are basically what their names imply they would be.   Cutaway stabilizers must be cut with scissors.   Tearaway stabilizers are designed to allow for any excess to be torn away after the embroidery is finished.   There are also a variety of specialty backings and toppings which also fit under the wider categories of cutaway or tearaway,  but have unique uses.   Poly mesh,  adhesive backing  and water soluble would be in this category.

Backing comes in different weights – Lighter weight backings are generally best for light weight fabrics.    Heavier weight tearaways can be very useful when embroidering caps.    Generally,  backing weight ranges from 1 oz to 3+ ounces.    Backing weight is determined by weighing a square yard of the backing in question.   Heavier weight backings,  3 ounces for instance,  will generally be sturdier and stiffer.   Lighter weight backings,  a 1.5 ounce perhaps,  will be more flexible,  may be softer,   and generally are more sheer.    To learn more about backing weight and why it matters you can read this post I wrote in 2010.

Backing comes in different colors – We’re not talking a wide variety of colors here,  backing is generally available in white,  black and beige.     Even a small variety of colors does matter however,  particularly when there is some possibility of the backing being visible through the garment.

Specialty backing can make a huge difference – Specialty backings were all designed to meet a need in the machine embroidery marketplace.   Poly mesh backing was designed for use with lightweight and sheer fabrics.     Adhesive backing is perfect for use with hard to hoop items,  allowing embroidery on patches and socks and things that would be too small to hoop on their own.    Water soluble topping allows the embroidering of names and monograms on towels and fleece,  keeping the lettering from sinking into the material.    For many jobs,  using a simple cutaway or tearaway will serve you well,  but specialty backings are always a good thing to have in your arsenal.

That’s a quick overview of how to choose a backing.    To learn more,  you can also read these additional posts I’ve written on the subject.

Backing Basics:  Types of Backing

Backing Basics:  Specialty Backing

posted in Backing/Stabilizers, Embroidery Questions, Machine Embroidery Tips | 1 Comment

28th November 2011

Handmade vs. Professionally Made?

Recently we had an interesting discussion on the EnMart Facebook page about whether or not gifts professional embroiderers or sublimators or direct to garment printers made were considered handmade gifts.    There are several movements encouraging handmade instead of store bought gifts,  and others which encourage recycled or upcycled gifts,  but it’s hard to know where to draw the line.   If you embroider for a living and you monogram a scarf as a Christmas gift,  is that gift considered handmade?  It wouldn’t necessarily, I don’t think, be considered handmade if a customer purchased it from you,  so where, exactly, is the line drawn?  Also,  does it really matter?

First of all, we need to examine the meaning of the word handmade, which means exactly what it says, made by hand.  If we go strictly by that definition, then nothing made on a machine is handmade, and so really there is no discussion.   If we switch from handmade to homemade,  we have a little more wiggle room.  Homemade is defined as made or prepared at home, locally, by the maker’s own efforts.   If we go by that definition,  then anything made by a professional embroider or printer could be said to be homemade,  as it was made by that person’s own efforts, if not in their home.

Second,  we need to consider how we think about embroidery and sublimation and direct to garment printing.  These are essentially creative endeavors.  Designs are created.   Something attractive and useful is created from a blank canvas of some kind.   Whether that creation is done on an embroidery machine,  with a printer and heat press or by someone in a chair with a needle and thread,  the end result is something that can be both useful and beautiful, a work of art if you will.   If we return to our examination of definitions for a moment,  art is defined as (1) the creation of works of beauty or other special significance and (2) the exercise of human skill.   Using those definitions,  the things that embroiders and printers create can be considered art.

In the end,  it probably doesn’t matter what it’s called or where the gift is purchased or where or who it’s made,  the meaning and intent behind the gift is what really matters.    Whether you embroidery or print professionally or as a hobby,  you’re still spending time and effort creating something special for someone else.   That’s what makes a gift special and personal and, to me,  that’s the issue,  not where the gift was made.

So, that’s my take on the subject.  What do you think?

posted in Embroidery Questions | 2 Comments

19th January 2011

3 Embroidery Myths Busted

I’ve recently become quite obsessed with the show Mythbusters.   I’ve never considered myself much of a science geek,  but I love how the show tests things and finds the truth, and the science,  behind myths we’ve probably all heard a million times.  While I would never consider myself a Mythbuster,  since that seems to come with a desire to blow things up as often as possible,  I figured, in honor of the show,  I could bust a few embroidery myths here on this blog.

Myth #1:  Cheap supplies save you money – I know it can seem counter intuitive,  but buying inexpensive goods is not always the best way to save money.    Cheap thread can have more breaks,  which causes more downtime for your machine and a longer production schedule.  Cheap backing may be lumpy or paper thin, and you need to use more sheets to stabilize your fabric.  If buying less expensive or lesser quality goods causes you to use more,  or slows down your production,  you’re not really saving much at all.

Myth #2:  You should stick with the brand that comes with your machine – We hear this a lot from people who are just starting out.  When you ask them why they use the brands they use,  they say “well, that’s what came with my machine”  and simply take as a given that what came with their machine is the best option out there.   Quality and value may be one reason that samples are included with a new machine,  but it’s not the only one.   Samples may be included because the machine supplier sells that brand.   You might receive samples with a new machine because a supply manufacturer and a machine manufacturer worked out a deal.   The best way to know what works best for you and your machine is to try a lot of different brands.  Manufacturers don’t always know best.

Myth #3:  Rayon thread will always have a better sheen than poly thread – This myth stood the test of time,  until trilobal polyester threads were created.  Trilobal polyester filaments are triangular in shape, and reflect the light differently than regular polyester filaments.   This difference in light reflection creates a polyester machine embroidery thread that has a far brighter shine than ordinary embroidery thread.    If you want a durability of polyester thread,  combined with the shine of rayon thread,   use a trilobal polyester thread, like Iris thread,  for your embroidery.

I’m sure there are a lot of embroidery myths out there,  and I’m thinking this might be a fun series to run every once in a while.  If you have any embroidery myths you’d like us to bust,   or to confirm,   leave them here in the comments on this blog,  or contact us and let us know what myth you think needs testing.

posted in Embroidery Questions | 3 Comments

5th January 2011

Why Do You Use The Supplies You Use?

One of the biggest obstacles for any company is getting customers to try their product.  This is especially true if the product is something that is new to the marketplace.   People tend to get settled into routines or comfort zones.  What they use works,  and they know its quirks and they’re confident of the outcome they’ll get if they use a particular backing or thread or bobbin.  Trying something new ups the risk factor a little,  and risk isn’t always a good thing, particularly when you’re in business.  It’s better to say with the tried and true.  Except, of course,  when it isn’t.

When we ask people who aren’t currently EnMart customers why they use the product they use,  the answers generally fall into one of three categories:

  1. It’s what came with my machine and I figured the manufacturer knew best
  2. I’ve always used this thread/size of backing/type of bobbin and I know it works
  3. I’ve got my machines and color charts set for these particular items and changing would be too difficult

All of these answers are valid,  but none of them are really a barrier to trying something new.

Answer #1 is based on a sort of faulty assumption.  Companies form strategic partnerships for a lot of reasons.  One of those reasons may be that the manufacturing company does really feel that the products made by the other company in the alliance are really the best.   Sometimes the supplies come with the machine because of a cross promotional deal or because they supplying company pays to have the manufacturer include the supplies with the machine.   There may be many different reasons why certain supplies arrive with a particular machine,  so don’t assume that, just because one thing arrives paired with the other,  you can never use anything else if you want optimum performance from your machine.

Answer #2 is a very common answer, and I understand why it’s one we hear from a lot of embroidery business owners.  Business is about balancing risk.   If you know that something works well,  why change a winning formula?  One the surface it seems very logical,  but when you look deeper, you can see there are lots of reasons to change a winning formula.  Maybe something new will be more economical.  Maybe it will perform better than what is currently being used.  Maybe the new product will have a wider selection or better durability or other features that your customers will like.  Sticking with the tried and true is safe and easy,  but safe and easy isn’t always the way to grow your business.  Sometimes you have to try something new.

Answer #3 probably reflects the attitude of anyone who has gone through color matching.  It isn’t easy and it isn’t fun.   Our goal at EnMart is to make the process as painless as possible.   We have our online conversion engine to help you convert the colors you usually use to Iris thread colors.   Our customer service staff and account executives will help with color matching as well.    Changing from one type of thread or backing or bobbins doesn’t have to be difficult.  Just let us know what you currently use, and we’ll create a list for you with all the EnMart equivalents.

Changing suppliers doesn’t have to be hard or stressful,  and it can have a lot of advantages.  If you would like to know how EnMart can help make changing suppliers easy,  give us a call, and we’ll explain.

posted in Embroidery Questions | Comments Off

26th August 2010

What Do You Want to Know?

When I started this blog, almost three years ago,  my main goal was to make it a place where machine embroiderers could find tips and hints and help on running their business and creating their products while also learning about the quality supplies that EnMart sells.  Since the blog began,  I’ve covered a wide variety of topics.  I’m lucky in that I have a large pool of experts from which to learn and this blog gives me a place to share what I learn with the rest of you.  It’s an embarrassment of riches sometimes, and that can make it hard to decide what to write about next.  For that reason,  I wanted to list some of the topics I could cover,  and ask you all to let me know which subject areas would interest you most.   If I find that a couple of topics are getting the most interest,  I’ll make those a priority.

Topic Area 1:  Backing – I can cover anything from types of backing,  to what backing is best for what sew-out or material,  to how to use backing effectively, to how backing is made.  I have access to a backing expert and he is happy to supply me with information.  I just need to know what questions you would like me to ask.

Topic Area 2:  Thread –  In the thread category we can discuss how thread is made, what is the best use for each type of thread,  the difference between polyester and rayon machine embroidery thread,  what redying of thread means and why it’s not a good thing,  how the raw materials impact the quality of the thread and many more thread related topics.

Topic Area 3:  Dealing with Common Embroidery Problems – What should you do to help reduce thread breaks (besides using Iris thread)?  How does bobbin tension impact the quality of your sew-out?   What should a standard machine maintenance schedule be?  How can you DIY when it comes to basic embroidery machine repairs?

Topic Area 4: Patches – How do you embroider a blank patch?  When are sublimated patches a good option?  How do you choose between heat seal and sew on backing?  How do you determine what size and shape is right for your design?

Topic Area 5:  Heat presses – How to choose the heat press that is right for you.   What is the difference between a swingaway and a clamshell press and what situations are right for each type? Troubleshooting common heat press problems.

The list of topics is endless,  and I’m sure I could keep going for  several more topic areas,  but that’s really not the goal of this post.  What I really want to know is what you want to know.   I can write about almost anything,  but there’s no reason to write about topics that the readers of this blog don’t find interesting or helpful.  I’m hoping those of you that read will chime in with your suggestions for posts.  As always, my goal is to make this both a useful and interesting blog, and feedback from all of you will help me reach that goal.

posted in Embroidery Questions | 1 Comment

7th October 2009

What’s The Answer Wednesday

questionsOne of the things I write about often is the fact that EnMart is staffed with and partners with a wide variety of industry experts.  I work with people who have over 35 years of embroidery experience, and who have built embroidery companies from the ground up.   EnMart employs the man who was instrumental in bringing inkjet sublimation to industrial laundries.  We also partner with people who are experts in sublimation, embroidery backing and machine embroidery thread.   There is a wealth of experience on which I can call when I write blog posts,  and I’m grateful to have it, but it does also cause a bit of a problem.  While there is a lot I could discuss,  it is sometimes difficult to know what would be of the most use to those who read this blog and buy from EnMart.

That is where this post comes in.

I’m going to start a new feature on this blog called What’s The Answer Wednesday.   Every Wednesday, I’ll answer questions that have been asked of us over the past week.    The answers we give will, of course, depend on the questions we’re asked, but the subjects we cover could include, but not be limited to, thread problems, machine embroidery tips, machine maintenance, backing solutions, sublimation tips, and product questions.

If you have a question, you can leave it here in the comment section of the blog.  If you comment on a post other than this one, please note that your question is for What’s the Answer Wednesday.  If you follow EnMart on Twitter you can also DM me a question.    You can also contact EnMart on our Facebook page and ask a question.  Our Facebook page may also be one of the places where What’s the Answer Wednesday could be archived, so you may want to become a fan of EnMart.

posted in Embroidery Questions | 2 Comments

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