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A Guide to Choosing an Embroidery Vendor

If you are planning to have your company’s logo embroidered on articles like shirts, hats, jackets, or accessories, this is not a choice you should make lightly. Your logo represents your brand and it is important to have it represented the right way. Embroidery isn’t like screen printing, and your choice of an embroidery provider will have a definite impact on the quality of the embroidered apparel that you get. An embroidery purchase is an unusual purchase, and you may not even have a vendor in mind – your usual vendor may not offer the service, so it can be difficult to know which vendor to choose. Since embroidery is done with a machine, it can be easy to fool yourself into thinking that all embroidery vendors are the same, but this is absolutely false!

Ask yourself this: are all clothing manufacturers the same? Of course not. Just as there are different levels of quality in clothing, there are different levels of quality for embroidery, and unfortunately, a lot of vendors provide cheaper lower quality embroidery results. Just as with clothing, it costs a bit more to get high-quality embroidery work. Why is there so much variation in quality of embroidery work? Here are just a few of the reasons.

The first thing to consider is the quality of the embroidery machine.  Lower quality machines, and machines which aren’t properly maintained will produce sloppy embroidery results.  The second major factor is the skill of the team that works on your project.  The process of digitizing existing artwork for embroidery is definitely a unique skill set, and even the process of producing the embroidery itself is not an automated process.  Every step of the embroidery process is a painstaking process involving informed decisions about stitch count, stitch density, and pull compensation.  Lower quality shops will tend to ‘set it and forget it’ and turn out shoddy, sloppy work for low prices and a ‘you get what you pay for’ method of operation.  Vendors who do embroidery right may charge more, but the extra talent, skill, and attention to detail will make it worth it.

Another factor that will affect the quality of your embroidery is the number of stitches in a logo. In general, a corporate logo will take somewhere between 6,000-8,000 stitches. Stitches take time, and at 8,000 stitches per logo, a shop can produce about 5 embroidered items each hour. At a more economical 6,000 stitches, however, a shop can produce 7 pieces every hour, at the expense of quality – but the added production is the reason that some shops charge less, to churn out higher volumes of lower quality work.

Thread and backing are two more major factors in embroidery quality, especially after a piece has been washed once or twice. The backing used will have a major impact on the quality and longevity of your embroidery, because it is this backing which adds stability to your embroidery work. Lower quality shops will skimp on backing, and use cheap, soft white cotton – and when it’s washed, sometimes this cotton backing can shrink, and it will take your logo with it. Thread choice, as well, has differing levels of quality and durability, and as the backing, you won’t know the thread quality for sure until your item has been through the wash a few times. A good shop will carefully choose a thread which is appropriate for the logo, or for the component of the design it is used for (for instance, a finer thread for delicate lettering, and coarser for wide fills.) Lower quality shops will take a one-size-fits-all approach to the thread, and your logo could end up not looking as sharp as it could.

So, how can you be sure that you are getting your embroidery from a high-quality shop? Pricing is the most common indicator – a shop whose prices beat everyone else has to make up for that difference by increasing productivity, and that means cutting corners – there is simply no way around it. A great way to decide is to order an embroidery sample of your own logo. Pay attention to the design itself, its clarity, and to the backing used. If your logo is on dark fabric, darker backing should be used. Get samples from a few places so that you’re not just comparing prices, you’re comparing quality. By using these methods, and by speaking directly to the embroidery provider to determine the methods and procedures they use and get a feel for the skill levels of their staff and the attention to detail they give to every project. Your brand’s logo is very important to you and your customers, so make sure you get all the details right.

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