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Understanding Fabric Types & Threads For Custom Embroidery

Posted by Sharprint Associated Press on November 18, 2019 11:00:00 AM CST

embridery fabric thread types

Before we get into various fabric types for embroidery, there is a term you should be familiar with - backing. Backing is a specialized piece of fabric used as a foundation for stabilizing embroidery stitches. Fabric, by nature, is very flexible. Backing has a stiffness and gives the stitches something stable to hold on to.

There are various types of backing for different fabrics and purposes. You don’t need to worry about selecting the proper backing. The embroidery experts will do that for you. Backing comes in white for light garments and black for dark garments to reduce visibility. In most cases, the backing is undetectable.

Just about any fabric can be embroidered. Your sales rep, digitizer, and embroidery machine operator are key in making sure the art is prepped and garment is sewn for the best result on whichever fabric you choose. Sturdy fabrics like twill and canvas tend to produce the best embroidery. Examples of apparel and accessories that are twill or canvas are work shirts, oxfords, caps, and bags or totes of all kinds. Many caps and bags are sturdy enough that the use of backing is not even necessary.

The fabrics least suited for embroidery are thin or flimsy fabrics like silk, rayon, or super fine t-shirts. Holes from the sewing needle are likely to show on these very fine fabrics. Backing can be visibly noticeable on these garments, especially if they are white or light in color.

There are two main thread types used for embroidery. They are rayon and polyester. Each type of thread has it’s advantages and is selected based on the logo or design and type of fabric to be sewn. 

  1. Rayon thread is shiny and smooth. It has a soft finish and is best for more delicate or high end clothing including corporate apparel, polos, and garments intended for retail sale.
  2. Polyester thread is the more of a utilitarian thread and is used more often in uniforms for sports teams or industrial industries. It has a more matte appearance and is durable and strong. Polyester thread is also known for it’s ability to withstand bleaching, detergent, and hot water.

Most designers and graphic artists refer to Pantone colors when assigning specific colors in logos and art files. However, not all Pantone colors are available in threads. Chances are there is a thread color that will make a close match to the Pantone color that has been called out.

Thread manufacturers provide thread books that have a quick reference chart for Pantone conversion if you have specific Pantones selected. You can always consult with your sales rep to select the closest match from the thread colors that are available. There are even specialty thread options you may not know about, such as metallic, rainbow, color-changing, reflective, neon, and glow-in-the-dark.


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