Why should you test an embroidery design? Isn’t that the job of the digitizer? I’m convinced there are two types of embroiderers—those who test and those who wish they did!

The Digitizer’s Job?

Yes, it is the job of the digitizer to test the design before making it available for others. When a design is custom digitized, the embroidery is specifically created to work on the target item. The color and type of fabric is carefully considered as well as the type of item it is—say a flat garment versus a finished cap.

Stock designs are digitized for a mythical “average” fabric. According to one major stock design company, this is poplin with two layers of cutaway. I don’t know about you, but I don’t often embroider on poplin and I don’t want two layers of cutaway behind it!

Typically, a stock design is targeted for medium weave fabric of neutral color with no pattern or texture. Additionally, the fabric is hooped on grain between the rings of the hoop with the appropriate stabilizer. I imagine average fabric to be something similar to kettle cloth—not too tightly woven nor too loosely, a medium weight fabric with some body to it.

Why Test?

Chances are, even if you are sewing the design with no modifications (resizing is the most common modification), you are sewing under different conditions. Who really embroiderers on “average” fabric? You are using a different fabric; machine; different thread colors, brand, or type; needles; bobbin; stabilizer, etc. Even if they are the same as what the digitizer used, machine tensions may be different and even environmental conditions can affect the outcome.

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I test a design even if its one I digitized and have already tested in the past. I want to make sure it transferred to the machine properly, that my machine tensions are correct, that I like the thread colors when combined with this particular fabric, that my stabilizer offers the necessary support without contributing unnecessary bulk or stiffness to my project.

Over the years, I’ve had numerous embroiderers, teachers, and dealers say, “Oh I never test your designs. I know they always sew out perfectly.” And secretly, I cringe and I just have this image from a Dirty Harry movie, you know that one where Harry is asking “Do you feel lucky, punk? Well do ya?”

Track Your Results

I’m a bigger believer in preparation than luck and for me, that includes testing! When I first started embroidering, I was pretty particular about tracking my results. By paying attention to the results and recording them, overtime, I learned how to predictably produce excellent results most of the time. I say “most of the time” because we don’t have total control over every single factor in the process. Even under the best circumstances, the machine can still eat your fabric, the power can go off, and other unpreventable things can “just happen.”