Glossary of Terms

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– The use of fabric cut outs sewn onto other apparel or textiles to be used as decoration. Appliques enhance a design or pattern and also reduce the amount of embroidery stitching needed to complete the design. Most appliques are attached over a placement and tack-down stitch outline, then finished with a column (satin) or decorative stitch around the edges.

Arc Fill Stitch – A special stitch fill which allows for running stitches to fill in an area that follows special parameters resembling an arc.

Arm Style Machine – Embroidery machine driven by a single main shaft. With a multi-head machine, each sewing head is attached to the shaft, usually by gears. Sewing heads resemble industrial sewing machines in the “arm” that the needle case is attached to.

Automatic Color Change – The ability of a multi-needle embroidery machine to follow a command to change to another specified needle without interference

Automatic Trimmers – The ability of the embroidery machine to cut the thread on a specific needle. The top thread and bobbin thread is cut under the needle plate by a knife. Most multi-head embroidery machines are equipped with this technology.

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Backing– A support material attached to the back of the fabric being embroidered. It adds strength and stability, reduces the push and pull of fabric and increases registration. It is usually hooped and sewn along with the fabric. It is available in different types such as tear-away and cut-away and available in different weights.

Backlash Spring – A breaking system used in a bobbin case to stop over rotation or continued spinning of bobbin.

Bean Stitch – A style of stitching used commonly as an outline. This straight-line stitch gives a unique appearance because of its three-stitch technique – one stitch forward, one stitch back, then two stitches forward. This process is repeated on the line.

Bird Nest – The buildup of thread, under the garment and around or under the needle plate, resembling a bird’s nest. It usually occurs with improper tension or improper threading. Bird nests cause fabric tears and improper registration if not corrected.

Bobbin – The spool holding the bobbin thread that forms the locking stitch on the underside of the fabric. This spool is usually placed underneath the needle plate.

Bobbin Case – The device that holds the bobbin

Border – Stitches that follow the outside and/or inside edges of a stitched area. Running, Bean, and Column Stitches are the most common border types. Border is also referred to as Outline.

Border Sash Frame – Used on the table top at its highest setting, it’s purpose is to clamp in one continuous piece of material in which to run multiples of a design such as patches.

Boring – A special device attached to an embroidery machine which punctures the fabric, creating a void and then filling the rough edges with stitching (usually with column stitching).

Bridge Style Machine – Embroidery machine with two shafts, one for the hook assembly and one for the needle assembly. Sewing heads are suspended from a beam allowing for larger sewing fields than an arm machine. Bridge machines are accessible from both the back and the front of the machine through the “bridge.”

Buckram – Most commonly used to support the front panel of caps. Buckram is a woven, net-like fabric treated with stiffening glue used to support and stabilize fabrics.

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Cap Frame– A specialized embroidery frame (hoop) designed to hold finished caps (hats) for embroidering. Available in a variety of styles for various machines, with two basic styles being to sew the finished cap flattened out (for use on a flat machine) or sewing the finished cap (for use on a tubular machine) in its natural curve.

Chain Stitch – A stitch that has a chain-like appearance that is triangular formed in three movements.

Check Spring – This assists in upper thread tension and is used to detect upper thread breaks in many embroidery machine models.

Chenille – This type of chain-stitch embroidery is produced when a large loop of yarn is formed on the top side of the material. Chenille is most commonly seen on letter jackets or cheerleader sweaters in high schools and colleges. Chenille stitching is produced by a special machine that allows for the yarn to be pulled and looped.

Column Stitch – A zigzag stitch which forms a column (also see Satin Stitch).

Compensation (Also Known as Pull Compensation) – Compensation determines how far beyond the actual outline of the section the stitches are extended. Compensation values help make up for the fact that stitches sink into the fabric when sewn and the machine’s tendency to push and pull the fabric while stitching.

Complex Fill – This technique is the ability of the computer to fill an irregular shape at the same time with fill stitches and leave negative areas open.

Condensed Format – A method of digitizing where the information read and stored by the embroidery machine is recorded in condensed form. It gives the embroidery machine the ability to expand the design later and automatically change stitch count, stitch format, and stitch density in equal proportion. Condensed format means a proportionate number of stitches are placed between the points.

Control Panel – The on-board computer for the embroidery machine – usually where you import embroidery designs. This control panel can perform multiple functions such as storing a design in the computer, sending the design to the embroidery machine, modifying the design in the embroidery machine, etc.

Cross Stitch – A special stitch fill type where two lines cross over one another resembling an X.

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Design File– The native digitizing file format that allows for unlimited editing. This design file is able to see definite shapes and lines, which allows for unlimited changes.

Digitize – The art of creating a stitch design from a piece of artwork. By using particular commands, parameters are set in the design – such as indicating the machine when to move the pantograph and when to drop the needle. The finished design is written to machine language format and embroidered on a garment or textile.

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Editing– The computer process of correcting or changing a programmed design by means of a computer.

Emblem – Most commonly an embroidered design produced to be sewn or ironed onto a garment (see Patch).

Embossing – A special stitch effect where a main area’s stitching appears to have shapes, areas, lines, letters, etc. set within the area. Embossing gives dimension to an area without having to add extra areas. The embossed areas are included in the main area’s stitching.

Embroidery – Creating decorative art by stitching with thread on various materials.

Expanded Format – A method of digitizing where the information read and stored by the embroidery machine is in an expanded format. Designs stored in expanded format are totally complete, with every stitch predetermined. The ability to vary the size of these formatted designs is reduced because of the inability to vary the stitch count along with the size, causing distortion.

Export – A digitized embroidery pattern is written to a specific machine language format (a stitch file format).

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Facing – (Also known as Topping) A special material that lays on top of the fabric being embroidered. Most commonly used on fabrics where the nap (terry cloth) or wale (corduroy) will separate the stitches of embroidery. Most commonly produced in a water-soluble material or a heat-sensitive material that will partially disintegrate.

Feathered Edge – A special stitch effect that allows stitching to appear jagged along the edge of the fill.  A feathered edge is usually used when trying to emulate the look of fur, grass, etc. or when trying to give dimension in a design.

Fill Stitch – A series of stitches (running lines) tightly placed together to fill an entire area. The lines are broken at different intervals and at certain angles to provide densities from tight to loose.

Flagging – The excessive movement of fabric being embroidered. This up-and-down movement of material is caused by loose hooping and results in poor registration and embroidery. Flagging can cause the bobbin thread to show on top or the needle to bend or break.

Flat Embroidery – Embroidery (usually on cut panels or patches) that is framed in hoops exclusively on the top of the embroidery machine’s hook assembly.

Fluid Contour Fill – The Fluid Contour effect creates a series of running stitches that follow the edges of the area, creating an open type of fill. Use contour stitches to give more visual dimension and shape to an area.

Frame – the device used by the embroidery machine to hold the hoop or fabric steady.

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Hook– The part of the hook assembly surrounding the bobbin that at the precise moment of rotation will fit into the loop of thread being formed. After two rotations it will form a locking stitch.

Hoop – A device made of plastic, wood, or metal used to firmly support and hold the span of fabric being embroidered. Hoops come in various shapes and sizes for different garments.

Hooping Device – A specifically designed board used to hold one hoop in a certain place so the garment being sandwiched between the two hoops will be prepared for sewing more consistently, quickly, and effectively.

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Import– A stitch file is read into the embroidery software or the embroidery machine control panel.

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Jump Stitch– A needle movement from one place to the other without needle penetration. Movements of the pantograph to connect one area to another without a thread trim.

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Lettering– Refers to embroidery of letters. Usually keyboard letters that are programmed into the digitizing software or control panel of the embroidery machine, which enables the machine to embroider any letters stored in its memory.

Lock Stitch – (Also known as a Tie Stitch) A series of closely placed stitches forming a small knot that resists unraveling – most common as a star or straight stitch.

Logo – Refers to a design rather than letters being embroidered.

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Machine Language- The formats different machine manufacturers use in the embroidery industry. Designs are exported to a native machine language. The machine language codes the embroidery design for the “X”, “Y”, and “Z” coordinates.

Manual Digitizing – The art of redrawing artwork or a pattern with various digitizing tools that allow you to set the different stitch parameters of the embroidery.

Marking – The use of small marks on garments in order to align the embroidery for proper placement and centering.

Monogram – Usually refers to one, two, or three sewn initials of an individual’s name sometimes used with a decorative border.

Motif Stitch – A motif stitch resembles a decorative sewing machine stitch. It fills in the area, but leaves much of the background fabric showing through, resulting in an open fill.

Memory – The amount of stitches and/or number of designs the embroidery machine can hold in the Control Panel.

Merrow – An overlock-type stitch used to seal the edges of an emblem or patch. Merrow refers to the manufacturer of a particular machine especially designed for covering the edge of emblems with this bordering stitch. Merrowed edges prevent unraveling of fabric.

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Needle– Small, slender piece of steel with a hole for thread and a point for stitching fabric. A machine needle differs from a handwork needle; the machine needle's eye is found at its pointed end.  The needle’s shaft is the long narrow area that extends from the eye to the rounded end which attaches into the needle bar.

Needle Size – The size of the diameter of the shaft or blade.

Needle Bar – The part of the embroidery machine where the needle attaches. This bar drives the up-and-down motion of the needle and can be adjusted properly to set the height of the needle. Also known as the needle rack.

Needle Plate – The metal plate located above the hook assembly of an embroidery machine. This plate has a hole in the center through which the needle travels to reach the hook and form a stitch. Also known as the throat plate.

Needle Up – A reference to a movement of the needle. Similar to jump stitch whereby the pantograph moves without needle penetration. With needle up, however, the thread take-up levers have also been inactivated.

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Origin– The starting position of the design to be embroidered.

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Pantograph– The frame of the embroidery machine where fabrics, hoops, and other items to be embroidered are placed. This frame has horizontal movements in both the “X” and “Y” axis and moves the fabric under the needle as it sews.

Paper Tape – An eight-channel paper reel with holes punched in a binary code that controls the “X” and “Y” movements of the embroidery machine. Designs are stored on these tapes once they have been “punched” or “digitized.”

Patch – A piece of fabric on which embroidery is sewn. This fabric may be merrowed and treated with a special backing for heat-seal or pressure-sensitive attachment.

Placement Stitch – Stitching used as placement guides for embroidery appliques.

Presser Foot – Metal Device that touches the goods being embroidered while the needle is in the goods. The main function of the presser foot is to hold the material being embroidered until the hook point catches the thread loop formed by the needle rise.

Puckering – Refers to the gathering of fabric during sewing. Usually an undesirable effect caused by poor hoping, too much density, improper backings, or incorrect tension settings. It may also be caused by improper digitizing for that particular fabric.

Push – Refers to the pushing out of threads beyond the line of programming. This action is caused by the crowding together of threads required to cover the fabric being embroidered. Push results at the open end of a satin stitch or a fill area.

Pull – Refers to the pulling in or shortening action of stitches. This action causes the embroidery to fall short of the actual point of programming. Pull causes the needle penetrating the edge of satin stitches and fills to tighten and pull in.

Punching – Refers to the process of programming designs from artwork to formats of either computer disks or paper tapes. This process refers to the classic method of paper tapes being “punched” with holes forming a controlling format for embroidery machines. Computer techniques are more accurately called digitizing, as the computer also controls even the paper tapes being punched.

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Radial Stitch– The radial stitch effect uses rows of stitching that emerge from a center point and continue to the edge of the area. You can use either satin or fill stitches with the radial effect.

Registration – Refers to the details and parts of designs lining up with each other. Outlines meeting the edge of an area and not overlapping or gapping.

Running Stitch – A series of single stitches forming a line.  A Double Running stitch is a series of stitches forming a line and then coming back and running stitches over that same line.  A Triple Running Stitch refers to a Bean Stitch.

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SPMStitches Per Minute. A unit of measure used to determine the sewing speed of the embroidery equipment.

Satin Stitch – A zigzag sewing action. A satin stitch is formed by a series of multi-direction stitches in a zigzag action forming a column. Most often seen in lettering.

Scaling – The action of changing the size of the programmed design.

Short Stitch – A method or computer action for placing stitches short of the point in order to turn a corner without a buildup of stitches. Also known as Stitch Shortening.

Shuttle – The metal case holding the spool of bobbin thread.  Also know as the bobbin casing.

Spiral Fill – The spiral effect creates a series of running stitches that spiral around an area. You can use spiral stitches to create interesting dimensional effects.

Stamped Pattern Fill – A special stitch effect, in which a pattern is carved into the background stitch. Other names for this effect are "pattern fill" and "program split fill".

Step Length – The distance between two needle penetrations – usually referred to when using a running stitch, underlay stitch, or fill stitch.

Stitch Density – The spacing between each row of stitching. More spacing means looser stitching whereas less spacing is tighter stitching.

Stitch File – The machine language file that dictates the machine when to move the pantograph and when to drop the needle. Only limited editing can be done to a stitch file.

Stitch Processing – The computer process of changing the size of expanded designs in order to add or eliminate stitches.

Stock Designs – Designs programmed expressly for the purpose of public use. These non-custom or generic designs are sold to embroiderers as a design for general purposes.

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Tack Down Stitch– This is a straight line stitch used as a guide for cutting appliques or emblems. It is used for outlining an area only and not for any other visible purposes. For applique, the tack down stitch attaches the fabric cut out to the garment or textile with a running stitch.

Tackle Twill – A twill material with a heat-seal backing. This material is generally used on letters or numbers that are cut and then sewn with a zigzag action to shirts, jackets, etc.

Tension – Commonly refers to the resistance placed on the top thread. However, it is actually the combined resistance of the top and bobbin thread being equal and properly set.

Thread Break Sensor – Detection system used to stop machine when a thread break occurs.

Timing – Refers to the proper settings of the action between the hook and the needle.

Topping – Products manufactured for the express purpose of aiding embroidery paced on fabrics with nap or wale. These products help to cover or lay down the nap so the embroidery will not separate.

Trimming – The action of cutting ends of threads, removing backings, etc. from the final embroidered product.

Tubular Embroidery – Embroidery produced on an embroidery machine which allows tubular fabric or pre-assembled garments to be placed around the hook assembly. Allows sewing the front of a garment without sewing through the front and back of it.

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Underlay– The stitching laid down before the actual embroidered design. It is usually a running stitch that will attach the backing to the fabric being embroidered. Also, a support or stabilizing stitch that helps keep the design in proper placement and registration. Other reasons for underlay are to prevent bleeding of colors, puckering of fabrics, etc.