A Guide to Buying Logo’d Apparel

Most companies don’t think twice about investing in custom apparel or accessories with their logo embroidered on it.  It is a great way for them to promote their company brand and it offers them an effective promotional tool to help them acquire new customers. However, custom embroidery is much more of an art than a science and requires more skill and experience than meets the eye. So, before setting out to buy decorated apparel, it is important to understand the basic elements that go in to creating high quality embroidery. 

The Designer

The most important part of any embroidery job begins with the designer (or digitizer) whose job it is to take your logo or design and convert it into a series of stitches that will be stitched on a garment. There are software programs that make this job easier, but nothing can reproduce the talent of a good designer. 

Thread

There are two types of threads that are commonly used for embroidered designs, Polyester and Rayon.  Rayon produces the best looking embroidered designs, but breaks easily during stitching and although more durable, Polyester does not always produce great looking designs on all types of fabrics. So, most people choose Rayon over Polyester thread because it looks well on all fabric types. 

Thread Color

Choosing the right thread color, specifically how the colors in your design look with the color of the garment, is an important element of high quality embroidery design.  The less contrast between the embroidery color and the  garment color is best since this tends to hide imperfections in the stitching. 

Fill Stitch

The filled in areas of the embroidered design are made up of tiny stitches arranged in a pattern.  An experienced embroidery designer will make sure to optimize the fill stitch so that your design will look great on a variety of fabrics and insure that there are not too many or too few stitches which will pull on the fabric and create small gaps or let the fabric show through the design. 

Backing materials

Backing materials provide support and structure to an embroidered design and are critical to a long lasting design.  There are two types of backing "Tearaway" and "Cutaway" and both are removed after the design is stitched.  A quality embroidery job should have a backing that is appropriate for the fabric that is being embroidered. "Tearaway” backing is typically used with woven fabrics such as dress shirts and is torn off which makes it quicker to remove. “Cutaway” backing is used on knit fabrics and is cut off which takes more time to remove. Unfortunately because of the time factor and ease of use some less reputable embroidery companies use only "Tearaway” backing or worse no backing at all despite the type of fabric!  

Topping

Some fabrics such as fleece have a rough texture with "loose" fibers.  Sometimes these fibers can get caught in between the stitches of the embroidered design and look unsightly.  To prevent this, a transparent sheet of “topping” material is placed over the design area.  The design is then stitched through the topping, fabric, and backing material.  When the design is complete, the topping material is removed by wetting it with water.  Topping is not always needed and depends on the type of fabric being stitched.  

Choosing Apparel

The choice of brand, color, or style of the apparel is completely up to the consumer. However since you are investing in the cost of the embroidery it makes sense to choose the best quality apparel as possible so that your design will last longer and look better. It is a good idea when ordering a large number of garments to request a sample of the garment that you will be buying so that you can judge the quality of it for yourself. A reputable embroidery shop will arrange for a sample to be shipped to you but you need to be sure to ship the garment back when you are finished or you may end up being charged for it. 

Stock Designs

Stock designs are designs that are ready-to-use and are the best way to save money because they require very little in the way of setup. They stitch very well on a large range of fabric types and most embroidery companies will have a catalog of stock designs from which to choose. Designs vary in size and most can be made 10% larger or smaller as needed.  

Embroidery Locations

The location of the embroidery design on the garment varies by the type or style.  Embroidery charges are based on the number of locations as well as the number of stitches required. When it comes time to place your order, it is best to speak with the company you are ordering from to discuss all of the options for possible locations and if it is appropriate for the type of apparel you chose. 

Most importantly don’t be afraid to ask questions and consider other factors including the reliability of the vendor, their reputation as well as the number of years the company has been customizing apparel. You will find that most reputable embroiderers take pride in their workmanship and so want you to be happy with your investment in your image. 

Lisa Doyle is the Director of Marketing for Corporate Casuals, a small custom embroidered and printed apparel company that was founded in Concord, MA in 1999, and has subsequently grown to employ over 30 people by serving the needs of small businesses and organizations across the country.