February '19

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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5 4 P R I N T W E A R F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 9 O ne fateful day, I ended my shift as a young embroidery operator by asking the innocent question, "What's that computer under the dust cover?" That was the last day before I was given control of the seemingly huge machines that dominated my work and the first day I started to become a digitizer. I happily found myself reexamining those early days as I've recently been answering more questions from newly-minted em- broiderers and decorators. To my surprise, many of those starting in the industry, add- ing embroidery to an existing shop, or look- ing to add digitizing have never been intro- duced to the way that digitizing software actually works, let alone the steps entailed in taking a design from art to the file that commands the machine. By explaining the way digitizing software functions, dispelling common misconceptions about automa- tion, explaining the file types the software produces, and briefly describing the way digitizers go about their work, this article aims to provide those who've never had the chance to digitize a primer in the tools and methodologies it takes to interpret art into stitches. WHAT DOES DIGITIZING SOFTWARE DO? Digitizing software, at its core, allows one to create the file that instructs an em- broidery machine where and when to place stitches and execute machine functions to form a design. Though this was historically executed one stitch at a time, any modern digitizing software allows for the creation of shapes in an object-based method like that used by vector graphics software, with the notable addition of embroidery-specific parameters applied on a shape-by-shape basis to fill each shape with stitches. Digitizing soft- ware provides the tools not only to draw but to assign and visualize stitch types, stitch length, stitch angle, density, entry and exit points for each shape, and underlay, as well as more nuanced qualities that govern the look of a block of stitches and the behavior of the routines that fill shapes with them. These software suites will almost always include ad- vanced tools beyond those needed simply to draw shapes, assign stitches, and control machine commands such as organization, enve- lope distortion, template creation, shape manipulation, specialty stitch types, and embroidery-specific drawing tools. Ad- ditional specialty tools may be added for controlling machine attachments, multime- Software to Stitches THE BASICS OF DIGITIZING E R I C H C A M P B E L L Whereas you could make a more stable version of this Habitica without registra- tion issues or show-through, the only way to get the fig- ural work done is through manual drawing. (All im- ages courtesy the author) Below: This rendition of the gryphon icon was created manually, with shapes I de- fined to fill the silhouette.

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