“Embroidery was the love of writing your dreams with a needle, with a pearl, with anything that could enchant and bring tenderly to life a décor, an ambience, a souvenir.”
— François Lesage (French embroidery specialist)

François Lesage was a traditional, French embroiderer that, pretty much until his death in 2011, worked with major fashion brands such as Chanel, Balenciaga and Christian Dior. Which goes to show you that the art of custom embroidery is pretty much still alive, industrialisation may have made it cheaper and faster but it is still going strong.

Embroidery has been around for thousands of years, some of its earlier forms date back to the Warring States period in Ancient China (5th Century BC). Since then, the technique has evolved considerably. What was once reserved for the embellishment of royal dresses became the hobby of craft enthusiasts and eventually walked into the realm of computers.

One of the reasons why this technique has been popular for so long is because of its versatility. Embroidery can be extremely complex and expensive (like the robe of the Pope) or simple and affordable (like the logo of a company on a custom polo shirt).

Nowadays due to its smooth and professional finish, embroidery is one of the favourite methods for reproducing logos on all kinds of items. On top of that, it is very durable and washes well, making it great for smart corporate clothing.


modern embroidery - pink dress
Pink Dress with embroidery detail – Crafts Museum, New Delhi


How does embroidery work nowadays?

When you order embroidered clothing the stitching will be done by a machine, but don’t be confused, this is not an ordinary Singer.

These are large-scale machines made especially for the clothing manufacturing industry, designed to meet deadlines and embellish large amounts of garments in a short amount of time. Basically, industrial sewing machines work in the same way as personal ones do with the only difference being that everything is bigger:

Industrial sewing machines:

  • Work faster
  • Consume more energy
  • Are noisy
  • Have a more powerful motor
  • Require more space

Computerised embroidery machines vary in complexity, some may have just one needle while others may have several that can work on multiple garments at the same time.

If you want to know why embroidered polo shirts make such great uniforms, check out our article ‘Embroidered polo shirts: Why they make the best school uniforms

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Regardless of complexity, they all function in the same way:

  • The design is digitised using specialised software
  • The design is saved in ‘stitches’ so the machine can read it
  • The machine reads the file
  • The machine ‘learns’ how to embroider the design
  • The garment or fabric is framed on the machine
  • The machine starts to embroider

Once the artwork is digitalised the machine is then set up with the correct coloured threads, the area of the garment to be embroidered is backed with a piece of material (usually white), to stabilise the embroidering and then the machine starts doing its work at great speed. Depending on how advanced the machine is, it will need more or less human input like for example, manually changing the threads.


modern embroidery, lacoste
Lacoste Fall/Winter 2010 Fashion Show


How is embroidery estimated?

The cost is based on the number of stitches the machine has to make, the number of colour threads used and the volume required. On top of that, the process of digitising and setting up the artwork is also likely to be charged as a setup cost.

When to use embroidery
The technique is usually used for fairly small logos and designs on clothing. It isn’t cost effective for larger artworks. Also, the design has to be readable so it must be of a reasonable size.

Embroidery is best used for simple logos with clear images that don’t require many colours, which makes it perfect for a professional workwear. This also looks well on school badges, name labels, rugby shirts and polo shirts for business. Items like towels, dressing gowns, bags and pet items are also a good choice. When selecting embroidery, consider the final product.

Special embroidery services use large machines that can embroider several items of clothing at the same time, which is cost-effective, while a smaller clothing enterprise will be able to manufacture less at one time and therefore slightly more expensive.

Ever wondered why polo shirts are the garment of choice for embroidery? Then, check out the article ‘Why is the material of a polo shirt so important?

Embroidery is commonly used for:

  • Sports Teams
  • Workwear – Uniforms
  • New Fashion Brand
  • Merchandise

What do you think of embroidery? Please let us know in the comments below or reach to us through any of our social media networks. In the meantime, keep reading the Printsome Blog.

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Harald is one of the founders of the Printsome-Insights blog! Previously, Senior Content Writer, with over five years experience writing about garment printing, he's now been whisked away into entertaining other audiences with his fabulous words. For over seven years he has been proofreading, blogging, copywriting newsletters/landing pages/social media + editing. Whilst also bringing Printsome brand to life with voice and soul. He is also well-versed in enforcing content styles and content strategies for B2B businesses.

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