One of the most common customized items in the pet market is the humble collar. As simple as it seems to stitch a name into a strap of material, collars can pose unique difficulties for the unwary embroiderer. Following are some tips to get you underway with cleaner stitching on collars, leashes, and harnesses.
1. Hoop securely. Collars are narrow, generally have some stretch, and by their nature can’t be hooped securely on all sides in a conventional embroidery hoop. This means that getting a collar solidly framed up isn’t as straightforward as apparel. Collars are prone to flagging and shifting, and can be somewhat hard to align. If you only intend to do the odd collar on occasion, and your hoop will accommodate the thickness of the collars in question, you can hoop with a standard tearaway backing or with a light adhesive backing, making sure to keep the collar precisely horizontal. If you intend to embroider collars or other straps regularly, it may be worthwhile to purchase a dedicated collar clamp made for your machine. These clamps securely hold collars and webbing and offer simplified templates or are edged for alignment.
2. Choose wisely. Not all collars embroider with equal ease. If you are providing blanks yourself, you have the option to take the thickness and texture of the webbing into account when choosing your collars. You’ll find that many inexpensive collars are excessively rigid, ribbed, and coarse-grained. This is likely to cause needle deflection, increase flagging, and decrease the quality of your topstitching. Look for collars with a smoother texture or those that have applied smoother materials on their surfaces for cleaner edge quality.
3. Use the right supplies. Particularly on the heavier webbing, materials can make a big difference. Sharp needles help to avoid deflection; larger needles can create a larger path for thread and help to reduce bunching and snagging; and in some cases, lubricating the needles with a clear non-staining silicone spray can help to ease the passage of the needle through difficult materials. Some decorators, frustrated with the difficulties of tough webbing, have opted to fashion their collars from embroidery-friendly materials; if you do so, make sure to use pet-safe buckles and hardware that allow the collars to break away when snagged.
4. Mind the grain. If you are stuck with a heavily textured collar, you’ll likely notice that they have a very coarse horizontal grain. This means that any stitch that runs parallel to that grain is likely to fall in between the fibers of the collar as it is stitched. Make sure to use a structural underlay that supports the top stitching. An edge-walk or contour paired with a zig-zag or double zig-zag underlay will create a scaffold of stitches that run at angles opposing the grain, thus holding up the top stitching and helping to provide adequate coverage. Bold, block fonts are a great choice for personalizing coarse collars, but smoother textured webbing may be able to tolerate a wider range of decoration options. Just make sure that whatever the material is, they are well-suited to the required size and the texture of the substrate; fine lines and detail are a non-starter on some of the coarsest materials.