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Embellishments: The Plastic-Film Method

Learn the pros and cons of the new patch-making technique 

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The first time I saw the plastic-film method, I wrongly assumed the embroiderer was using a thick, clear water-soluble film instead of the fibrous stabilizer that I prefer to execute my usual patch-making method. But, soon thereafter, I noted both a professional system from a major thread provider utilizing a similar method, just as Buzzard’s Bay Embroidery, a shop headed up by the inventive Tom Farr, posted samples of his work using what turned out to be clear vinyl. What’s more, Tom had torture-tested his badges for wash and wear and was successfully churning out badges of all description.

I have a strong tendency to prefer the tested methods that use industry-specific materials, but seeing Tom’s work gave me the boost to grab some vinyl. According to several embroiderers I subsequently chatted with about their experiments, this method could reduce problems reported with the use of water-soluble backing.

I would advocate testing designs to bring down densities to the minimum needed for coverage. This would help mitigate the distortion expected when one drives thousands of stitches through a piece of plastic. Likewise, testing for distortion will help with ideal edge placement. On the standard vinyl tests, extra pull compensation/more border overlap was required to get a truly uniform edge, while the commercial vinyl needed extra reduction in the opposite direction to avoid the fill background from peeking out of the border.

Pros:

  • No need to use support material, avoiding manual labor or the need for a plotter/cutter or laser to create blanks
  • Using thread to create the patch background eliminates the need for specialty color base materials for solid-colored patches
  • Clear material means that the small amount of material showing at the edges is not obtrusive to the look of the patch
  • No washing or wetting = no waiting for patches to dry, ensuring a quicker path between stitching and delivery.
  • (Commercial System Only) The ability to easily attach patches to garments allows for light garments to take large logos or create garments for customers who find direct contact with the reverse side of stitched logos to be uncomfortable.

Cons:

  • High stitch counts = long run times. Cut materials take an extra step, but significantly reduce time spent on the embroidery machines
  • Distortion and problems on the machine can cause complete failure. During an early testing run, a problem in the bobbin case caused a small knot to form below the work surface. This caught on the needle plate, prematurely ripping away the emblem at 75 percent completion for a total loss
  • Thinner patches. If you want a thicker, more substantial emblem, the thread-only method will require additional application of support materials

Alexandria Bruce

Alexandria Bruce is the Digital Content Editor for Printwear magazine covering news in the apparel and textile industries. 

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