January 17, 2012 AT 12:49 pm

Inside an embroidered badge

[Note from Adafruit: Darren is part of AMBRO Manufacturing, NJ-USA where Adafruit and AMBRO work together on badges, stickers, printing and more. They machines they use are even solar powered! We are going to have more of our partners, suppliers, resellers and manufacturers post on Adafruit in 2012! -Ladyada & PT]

Some people might be curious about how embroidered badges are made.  There is a lot that goes into it, but it all starts with a great design.  Using a digital image (.JPG, .EPS, .AI etc …) a thread artist starts the badge making process by using special digitizing software to trace the artwork.

You might think that sounds easy, after all, how hard is tracing?  Well, not that hard, but the true artistry comes into play with things like: Stitch Direction, Thread Densities, Pull Compensation and a lot of other buzz words that thread artists use to describe the “digitizing process” (taking a digital image to a thread image).

Thread, unlike ink, has a tangible thickness and density that needs to be considered in any badge project.   There are properties that thread has that digital art doesn’t.  For example, thread takes up space and bends, twists, kinks, breaks, pulls and frays.  All of these things need to be considered in every design.

You can’t always translate everything that you see in a digital image to an embroidered badge.  In order to get the desired effect, the thread artist has to trick the eye into thinking that it sees a 3D object.  Different thread directions and stitch types can create different effects, giving the illusion of depth and texture.

I could write a book on this subject, but the important thing to remember is that the outcome of any embroidered badge project isn’t just about the equipment that you use to sew the badge, it’s about the original art work and how good the thread artist is at translating that art into a badge.

This video shows a simulated sew out of the OSH Hardware Badge.  The video is based on the actual .DST file that was created for this badge, and it steps through each stitch (time edited for post) of the design from start to finish.


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  1. Fun to see the technical details that go into any product, electronic or not. As always … it’s the little details that matter!

  2. This makes me wonder if we’ll see a badge from you guys that has conductive thread in it. Maybe an LED badge, or an electronic textiles badge.

  3. @aaron – you’ll see just that very soon.

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