Buyers guide to embroidery

embroidered hatSewing designs into cloth using colored thread dates back over 2,500 years, and it is still popular today. Putting your logo on apparel is one of the best things you can do to promote your organization.

Using embroidered clothing for promotion is called physical advertising. Attractive designs on quality apparel promotes your brand wherever it gets worn, often for years into the future. This is true whether you are giving an item away as a promotion, providing team uniforms or reselling at retail.

Below are two videos showing a visual explanation of the process.

Embroidery involves high speed, computerized machines that sew your design. It is possible to use ten or more colors to create amazing effects. First, your logo is converted into  digitized format using special software that creates a path for each thread to follow. (Sorry about the voice-over on this video – but you get the idea.)

There is generally a one-time charge to digitize your logo, and it is always best to provide your logo in an eps format (created in illustrator or photoshop).  The cost is based on the number of stitches required (generally charged on a per-thousand stitch basis). This file can be used repeatedly on different items as long as the output size is within 10% (larger or smaller) of the original. Adding or changing copy requires a new file.

Every time the needle punches the cloth and then moves to the next position, it is called a “stitch.” A logo sewn above a shirt pocket or on the front of a hat might have nearly 3,000 stitches, while a large logo on the back of a team jacket may have 20,000 or more. It is generally advisable to ask for a sewn out version of your logo on fabric before proceeding with production to ensure that the thread colors and stitching design meet your approval. There is no practical way to “unembroider” any fabric – your only solution is to create a new design or patch big enough to hide the original embroidery by sewing on top of it.

Embroidery is appropriate for the following:

–  small production runs or personalization
–  using the identical logo on various items
–  multiple colors in the logo
–  higher quality perceived value desired
–  textured surfaces (i.e., fleece)

Production limitations of embroidery

–  small type (less than 14pt.) or fine line designs do not reproduce well
–  large designs with many thousands of stitches become costly
–  limitation of thread colors means not all Pantone® Matching System colors are available
–  some lightweight fabrics (i.e., nylon) bunch up and pucker when embroidered

If you are new to purchasing embroidered products, make sure you work with someone who has experience and understands not only the process, but is also willing to ask you about your expectations and will offer constructive input to assist you with products, placement and size. Call us with questions.

Helpful Resources


Convert Pantone colors to available thread colors

Estimate how many stitches are in your logo

With over 30 years of working inside and outside printing, promotional and marketing companies, Jamie Bradley helps clients source and produce great marketing materials. He writes these occasional blogs to share ideas on how to create better and more effective products.