The Digitizing Cycle and Real Quality – John Wright


The Author of this post is one of Wilcom’s Authorized Trainers, John Wright. He heads up the team at – a fantastic resource for those who wish to get the most from their Wilcom embroidery digitizing software or are interested in researching the software before purchasing.

I have visited many embroiderers over the past 12 years and the trend to use contract digitizers rather than
digitizing “in house” has been growing progressively over that time.

Many of us will remember how difficult it was to find a digitizer only twenty years ago and how we had to wait patiently for the double density disk to arrive by snail mail. Some of our more senior fraternity may even remember waiting for a paper tape. Digitizers were demigods in the industry who charged the earth and in my memory, worked mysteriously through the night to achieve magical results.

As software became more affordable and available, many of us welcomed the opportunity to take control of our own designs to guarantee delivery and quality of the product we produced. Everyone became a digitizer!

So, are we going full cycle and returning to the era of contract digitizing?
It appears so but for different reasons and at what cost to our business and the future?

A few things have changed since those early days in the industry.
Today, designs are produced for a fraction of the cost they used to be, then delivered while we sleep via email.
They can even be deposited in The Cloud –  out there in the ether – for us to download at our leisure!
These changes are:

  • The internet
  • Much improved and cheaper software
  • Pirates

I would estimate more than 50% of embroiderers now use outside contract digitizers. Many of these digitizers seem to have little or no embroidery knowledge with regard to pathing, excessive stitches and thread trims or understand how different fabrics react to the same design. Many use pirated software. Sure, they can produce good looking designs but are they real quality? Do you know?

During my calls on embroidery businesses around the country, I still detect a strong interest in understanding the software but often see the eager learner’s eyes glaze over when things get a bit technical. The old brain box thinks, “I don’t have time for this. I can get a cheap job done by someone else.” A difficult argument to counter –  until you look a little closer.

I’ve not met any embroiderers who do not claim they are proud of the quality of their work. Many proudly state that it is the reason why they are popular in their particular community. I’ve met plenty of embroiderers who reckon the embroidery from the bloke down the road is terrible. The truth is, although there is some shocking embroidery out there, the majority is of good quality to the casual observer.

Let’s think about quality and what it involves.

  • Is it a beautifully presented piece of embroidery that looks great when it leaves your shop? I think there is more to it than that!
  • Did the design stitch out on the machine in good time without excessive thread trims or stops and breakages?
  • What about after the first wash? Is your embroidery soft and supple so that it becomes part of the garment?
  • Will it unravel after being worn? Will the thread pull when caught on a pen or when brushing against something?

None of these faults can be identified with a cursory look at the design on the screen or even after the garment has been embroidered. Unless you have some idea of your software and how to identify potential problems, you can’t edit them. It is impossible to guarantee the quality of your embroidery if it’s simply emailed to you and then stitched out in production.

I’ve heard it all: “I have the best digitizer in the world, I don’t have time….. yada yada…”

Remember – you get what you pay for.

As downward pressure on price increases, eventually quality will suffer. If you don’t know what to look for in your designs, the quality of your embroidery will deteriorate. There is no question about this and it is evident in many designs I see.

So, is the cycle continuing? Will we see more “in house” digitising?
It’s hard to say but in my estimation, if we don’t, then quality will deteriorate.
The underpaid, untrained person using pirated software does not really care about the quality of your product.

What is the answer? Just make some time to know your business and make sure either you or
your staff understand the true meaning of quality. Spend some time on training and learn how to understand
the designs in your software. A few minutes in the design area will potentially save hours at the embroidery machine.
You will have a good finished product and a happy customer.

You do not need to be a digitizer but you do need to be able to edit a design and make the necessary changes required for different applications.


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