Denim is a twill weave and runs diagonally and any diagonal weave is difficult to control, whether you are attempting construction sewing or machine embroidery. Twills are designed to give the wearer ultimate wearing comfort by the natural “give" it has. That's why we all love our chinos & jeans! However, this comfort quality presents a real problem for machine embroidery enthusiasts.
It is essential to keep fabric “blocked" while cutting, assembling, and stitching either regular seaming or machine embroidery. From cutting out pattern pieces to hooping denim for embroidery, you will experience a challenge of keeping the fabric “blocked" squarely. If you're a quilter, you know exactly what blocking is. If you're not a quilter it simply means keeping the grain of the weave, in both cross & straight directions, straight or square.
Denim is difficult to block because of the diagonal weave and, generally, denim is a heavier weight than most other fabrics are. I recently stitched an ankle length, heavy, denim duster coat using a very large design down the front edge of the coat opening, near the hemline. This meant I had to keep the design running straight in 2 directions at once. The outcome could have been quite unsightly if I hadn't taken extra precautions to make sure the design was placed squarely and that the stabilizing was adequate to prevent the puckers and warping that result from the pull of a machine embroidery design while it is stitching.
Since I had chosen a rather dense assortment of designs to combine for a scene, I knew that I had a difficult, but not impossible, task. First I had to determine what would keep the twill from becoming distorted during the stitching. Second, I knew it would be next to impossible to hoop the coat - the denim was as heavy as any work jeans I've seen.
I immediately knew that I wouldn't be able to hoop the coat, therefore it was a matter of first stabilizing the denim then finding a way to create a method of hooping a backing that would hold up under a high stitch count design and remove easily when the stitching was completed. Given the factors I couldn't change - the weight of the fabric & the heaviness of the group of designs - I wanted to use a “formula" of layers which wouldn't create a stiff effect when all was done. The front edge of a coat does flip open - this could be considered a lethal weapon if one is not careful!
~ DESIGN PLACEMENT ~
The first problem to overcome - can you imagine the bulk of all this fabric when attaching the hoop to the machine! Since the bulk of the fabric must be to the left of the machine so as not to constrict the movement of the embroidery “arm" and hoop, the design had to stitched upside down! To accomplish this you simply flip the design/s first vertically then horizontally.
Using a printed image of the design and the plastic grid for the hoop, I decided exactly where I wanted to place the design. (Always stand about 3 feet away from the garment to make sure the design is where you want it! It's usually best to try it on & look in the mirror. ) Since this was for my daughter I had to wing it!
~ PREPARING THE FABRIC OR GARMENT ~
I laundered the coat to shrink it to prevent any warping or puckering which would have happened after it was laundered the first time. Next I steam pressed the front of the jacket to its original flat state by applying Magic Sizing and heavy steam. Now the key here is the word press - not iron! If you iron (move the iron in any direction while bearing down) denim will be stretched and distorted.
After allowing the coat to dry completely after this process, and making sure of the design placement previously decided, I then applied the fusible medium tear away backing to the back side, using a dry iron set at the polyester setting, making sure that the backing straight grain was running with the coat cross grain. Again - press the backing not iron it. To avoid an armor look, I chose the soft tear away backing as the second layer which was placed straight grain to straight grain. A light spraying of 505 temporary adhesive was applied to keep it from shifting.
~ STABILIZING ~
My choice for the “hooping" backing was wonder solv - a water soluble, fabric-like stabilizer, which will support any number of stitches. I hooped a piece in my Brother jumbo hoop, which has a 5 X 12 inch stitch area. I then sprayed the wonder solv with a heavy coat of 505 spray.
I set the jumbo hoop on my Hoop Mate to insure that I could get the front edge of the coat straight with the curved edge of the hoop. Then, making sure that the hem edge was kept straight as well, I pressed the entire backed portion of the coat to the hooped wonder solv. I placed the plastic grid template over the “hooped" fabric to double-check the placement Whew - the worst part of the project was accomplished!
~ FINALLY! READY TO STITCH ~
After locking the hoop to the embroidery arm, I placed a sheet of web solvy on top to prevent the stitches from sinking into the denim. The first thing I stitched was the basting outlines in all three areas of the jumbo hoop. It takes a bit of time, but is well worth the effort. This secures the fabric/garment to the hooped backing helping to insure the least amount of movement during the actual design stitching.
I proceeded by stitching the top design first, then the bottom design and finally the center design. By moving around the hoop in this fashion you are preventing excessive pull in any one area, which can cause distortion of the fabric and unsightly puckering.
~ FINAL RESULTS ~
I'm happy to report that the entire scene was straight/square with the front and hemline edge of the coat, there were no puckers, no warping and no “off " outlines! The coat was no stiffer after the designs were applied than it was originally. My daughter now proudly wears a lighthouse to ocean-floor scene on the lower edge of this spring / fall weight coat!
Terry Carter is the webmaster and author of embroidery articles at embroidery designs by Thread Artist . He has an article about embroidery software for digitizing and lettering fonts at embroidery software . There is a free embroidery digitizing Tutorial at this web address - embroidery by Thread Artists . You can email Terry at this address - ThreadArtist@qx.net