July '20

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8 4 G R A P H I C S P R O J U L Y 2 0 2 0 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M I t's in the nature of thread that em- broidery gains its unique and luxu- rious finish. The play of light across the facet-like surfaces of stitched objects, the shine and shadow that makes embroidery so dimensional, is a direct consequence of the sheen and tex- ture of classic embroidery threads. Even so, creative decorators looking to entice reluctant customers and increase their margins crave something unique, reaching beyond the 40-weight shiny rayons and polyesters for something that stands apart. We intuitively know that novelty grabs at- tention, and educators from every part of the embroidery industry dole out the technical details about how to digitize and embroider with specialty threads of all description, but we less frequently discuss how these difficult but delightful threads can help us add mar- ketable value to our offerings, improve our efficiency, and impact our bottom line. SETTING THE STANDARD When discussing specialty threads, it makes sense to define the standard from which these threads deviate. For machine embroi- dery, the most common types of threads are 40-weight, solid-color, high-sheen rayon and polyester. As technically proficient or artistic as a design might be, standard thread renderings can look mass-produced. Throughout my career, the selection of non-standard threads has expanded expo- nentially. Whether having a different fiber content or construction, sheen, coloration, or thickness, the contrast with our usual thread is what makes this thread special. APPEAL AND EMOTION With most commercial embroidery thread being of a similar thickness, coloration, and surface quality, threads straying from that norm catch the eye. Seeing as even the most mundane uniform logo still serves the func- tion of promoting or identifying the wearer with a brand, commercial embroidery al- most always intends to garner attention and convey a message. Any promotional product is poorly ex- ecuted if it can't bring attention to the brand or message that it's meant to convey; embroidery is no different. The novelty of specialty threads helps designs break away from standard outcomes without necessar- ily requiring a redesign of the original image or brand assets. Consumers make purchases emotionally; this makes specialty threads more powerful. The qualities of these threads can alter or bolster the feeling a decoration attempts to evoke. They offer a chance to change the initial impression associated with an image rendered in traditional thread. Furry, thicker threads evoke warmth and the "flaws" we associate with hand embroi- dery. If we want a design to seem home- spun, folksy, or traditional, these threads deliver. The shine of metallics and pearlescent threads conjure associations with rare, ex- pensive metals and stones, or the durability and shine of real metallic objects. When we want a design to look expensive, precious, or to present a surface that looks slick, me- tallics deliver. The flat sheen of a matte finish thread gives an unmatched evenness in solid fields Thread Count A DISCUSSION ON THE BENEFITS OF SPECIALTY THREAD B Y E R I C H C A M P B E L L With this simple griffon icon as a test case, you can see that thread choice can make a difference in the outcome, even with similar colors. The familiar look of the standard polyes- ter 40-weight thread at center is flanked by the flatter, smoother tones of the matte finish thread at left and by a sparkling metallic on the right. (Image courtesy Celeste Schwartz)

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