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  • If unable to access emailed designs: Check your email options or preferences, and make sure that the settings allow you to save or open attachments. In Windows Mail, on the Tools menu, select Options, then in the dialog box that opens, select the Security tab, and make sure there is NO checkmark next to "Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus." We update our virus protection daily to protect our own network and that of our clients. Anyone using the internet, email, P2P or file-sharing software like Limewire should maintain current virus protection.

  • Can my design be enlarged/reduced or otherwise edited? The Wilcom EMB masterfile that we provide with every order is fully editable with Wilcom software - for this reason we always recommend that you keep a copy of this file as a backup, even if you don't have software that can open it. You may need a slightly edited version of the design later that can be produced more quickly and economically from this file than by starting from scratch. Stitch format files like EXP, DST, and many home machine formats are very difficult to edit quickly and effectively. If resized, they keep the same number of stitches as the original sized file. The stitches are spread out over more area when enlarged leading to light stitch densities and fabric show through. When reduced in size, the design will become too dense, leading to bulletproof embroidery, holes in the garment, birdnesting and thread breaks. Problems can also arise with stitch lengths becoming too long or short to sew well, and underlay stitching not being appropriate for the new size.

  • When is stabilizer needed? Any time that the fabric is not completely stable on it's own. The fabric needs to stay perfectly still inside the hoop - if it has any stretch or can be distorted by the stitch density disturbing the weave of the fabric as the embroidery is sewn, then the completed design will not look as good as it should. For light knits (like golf, polo, and t-shirts), I prefer a layer of polymesh backing, lightly misted with embroidery spray adhesive and smoothly stuck to the fabric as it lays naturally, then hooped so that the backing/fabric combination is taut in the hoop (should sound like a drum when flicked), and the hoop needs to be done up tightly enough that if it were much tighter you could not do it up. That way the fabric cannot become slack in the hoop during stitching, and will not accidentally pull apart if you're stitching something heavy, like jackets. The advantage of polymesh is that it is very supple and sheer, so it doesn't show through the shirt on light knits like regular cutaway does, and doesn't make the embroidery so stiff. Some embroiderers also iron on some light fusible knit on the back side of the embroidery to make it softer against the skin, particularly common with kids clothing, but is one of those high-quality details that can make your work stand apart from the crowd! Knits should always have cutaway stabilizer while woven fabrics can use tearaways as long as it's sturdy enough when combined to support the embroidery, and tearing the excess away won't damage the fabric.

  • How should I adjust thread tensions? Your machine manual or training should cover this, but in general, first make sure that everything along the thread path is clean and lint free - especially tension discs and springs. Then make sure the machine is threaded correctly, and sew a test pattern. The ideal test pattern contains satin stitches at every angle, and of varying widths - I usually use a letter "o" where the satin width changes around the letter. If you're setting tensions on a multi color machine, make a file with multiple "o"s on separate color changes and use one per color. Once you've sewn them, look at the back. The back of the stitches should be visible in thirds - 1/3 on each side of the top thread, and 1/3 in the middle of bobbin thread. On very narrow satins (1.5mm wide or less), having very little or no bobbin showing up on the back works well. If you need more bobbin showing, increase the tension on the top thread by turning its tension knob clockwise (on most machines). If you have too much bobbin thread showing on the back, decrease the top thread tension by turning its tension knob counterclockwise (again, on most machines). Start with a 1/2 turn, and run another sewout. By playing with this, you can get a feel for how sensitive the tension knobs are on your machine.

  • Why is there bobbin thread showing up on the top side of the embroidery? Check that the bobbin case does not have lint under the tension spring - running the corner of a business card under the spring works well. You also need to be sure that the bobbin thread is in the bobbin case correctly and is running under the tension spring properly. If that is all correct and clean, and you still have bobbin showing up on top, your top tension is too tight. Check that the thread is coming off the spool smoothly without resistance, and is travelling through its thread path properly, and that its thread path is clean. If that is all good, and the bobbin is still showing up on top of the embroidery, reduce your top thread tension as per the tip above about adjusting thread tensions.

  • Why is it so difficult to set thread tensions? Some machines are easier than others, and it gets easier with practice, but there are also a few other things to consider. If you're stitching on something very thin, even with stabilizer, try adding one layer of a lofty tearaway to the back of the stabilized fabric - it makes the "sandwich" a little thicker and makes each stitch use a little more thread, triggering the tensioning mechanisms a little more causing them to work more effectively. It also reduces thread breaks because each stitch using a little more thread leads to less wear on each section of thread - it doesn't need to pass back and forth through the fabric so many times before it is used for a stitch.

Becoming Stitches, 2010, PO Box 8, Margaret, MB, Canada, R0K 1J0