Embird Embroidery Software
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What is Embroidery Digitizing?

Stitch Files - Embroidery Designs

Computerized embroidery machines use special input files that instruct them how to sew out the embroidery on a fabric. These input files are digital stitch files, called embroidery designs . Stitch file is basically a list of stitch positions, colors and trims. Process of creating of such a stitch file is called embroidery digitizing . Designs may be created from a photo, artwork, lettering or just from imagination.

Digitizing Application

Of course, a software application is required to do machine embroidery digitizing. Such application does most of the labour to produce all individual stitches. User's work is to define objects and let program to fill them with chosen stitch styles. While the end product of digitizing is always of the same kind - the stitch file, the digitizing process itself and its resources may vary. There are various digitizing applications that allow specific kind of embroidery digitizing.

Vector object filled with stitches

Left: outline of object made with few nodes and curves. Right: stitches generated to fill the object

Drawing of Objects - Manual or Automatic Vectorization

When digitizing a design, you may draw individual stitches if you wish, but most often you draw outlines of objects that are filled with stitches by program, or auto-trace objects from raster pictures with magic wand tool and use automatic digitizing. Drawing or tracing the outlines of objects is called vectorization . If you have a ready-made vector file from other source, a graphic program for example, you can convert it into embroidery design with use of automatic digitizing and skip the manual vectorization.

Compilation to Stitches

Composing embroidery design from objects has an intermediate product - a source file that contains vector outlines of objects which are later filled with stitches and saved into appropriate stich file format for respective embroidery machine. In Embird we call this process compilation . Intermediate source file is not a final product, but it should be kept for eventual future editing of the design. Vector files are scalable, which means that compilation of design from vector file adjusts stitch count and layout to fit chosen size dimensions of design.

Layers of digitized design

From raster image through vectorized outlines to stitches. Source file stores them in layers stacked one upon another.

Embird provides several digitizing applications:

  1. Digitizing Tools for digitizing logos and fancy designs. Input (optional) is photo or artwork
  2. Sfumato Stitch for photo-like designs, portraits, landscapes, etc. Input (required) is photo
  3. Cross Stitch for cross stitch designs. Input (optional) is photo or artwork
  4. Embird Basic provides additional options for digitizing fills and outlines of empty areas around design
  5. Font Engine converts computer TrueType and OpenType fonts into emroidery lettering. It also converts other graphic vector files like SVG files into embroidery designs

Digitizing Tools and Sfumato Stitch share the same application called Studio.

Basic Concept - Vector Objects

While basic Embird program works mostly with stitch files , Studio uses vector objects for easier creation of design. Therefore, Studio uses other tools than the basic Embird program. Stitch files are the end product of embroidery software, because stitch files are used by embroidery machines as a list of commands to produce embroidery. Stitch files contain coordinates of each stitch and some color and trim commands. However, creation of design with stitch-by-stitch method would be very tedious and time consuming process.

Fortunately, most objects in design can be filled with more or less uniform type of stitches. It is sufficient to draw vector outlines of the object and fill it with stitches in a similar way as you fill object with color in a graphic program. Tools available in Studio are very similar to those used in vector graphic programs.

Embird Studio - digitized vector objects (left), vector object filled with stitches (right)

Vector outline drawn with few control points (left) filled with stitches (right).

There is a big difference between embroidery design and vector graphic, however. This difference is that order of objects and their overlapping is much more important in embroidery than in graphics. Moreover, objects in embroidery design should be connected one to another so that there is as low number of trims as possible.

Vector files created in Studio are kind of "source files". When compiled and send to basic Embird, they produce stitch files ready for saving in appropriate file format compatible with your embroidery machine.

Vector objects can be easily resized, because stitches are re-generated automatically to conform to the new size.

Vector Design

Designs (patterns) are digitized in Studio as outline (vector) objects with stitches layout based on the object type and parameters . The finished design is compiled and put into Embird Editor for final adjustment and save in appropriate embroidery format. Compilation involves generation of stitches for all vector objects, including those that were not filled with stitches by user.

Animation of design composed from vector objects

General Rules

To make embroidery design that looks good and sews out smoothly, follow these general rules:

Specific Rules

There are also some rules specific for the Embird Studio:

Basic Tutorials (recommended order)

To get started, please read the tutorials included in this help file. They are accessible from the left panel of this window. Tutorials are sorted in a recommended order of reading. Also, this help file contains other chapters like description of a main menu items and object parameters. Please refer to the index at the left side of this window for a specific topic.

Understanding the stitch files and vector files

Embird works with embroidery designs stored in two types of files: 1. stitch files, which can be loaded to embroidery machine but they are hard to edit and scale, 2. outline files, which are easy to edit and scale but they cannot be loaded directly into embroidery machine.

Difference between stitch and outline files can be compared to difference between raster (pixel) pictures, which cannot be enlarged very much because of decreasing quality, and vector graphic, which can be easily resized and edited.

Outline files are used to create and edit design. Then these outline files are converted (compiled) into stitch files for use with embroidery machine. There are many stitch file formats (with various file extensions) supported by Embird, because many embroidery machines use their own, native stitch file format. Basic Embird works mostly with the stitch files. Outline files are created and edited mostly in Embird Studio. These files have *.eof extension.

1. Stitch files contain list of individual stitches and optional commands like trims and color changes. These files are actual input data for all embroidery machines. However, designs in such format are hard to edit and resize, because only individual stitches are available and there is no information about what objects they form. If such design is displayed on a screen, the human brain easily identifies the parts of design like outlines, fills, etc. However, it is not so easy to identify these objects automatically with use of software program. Therefore, many editing functions and resizing may not work with 100% reliability on stitch files. Although the stitch file is the end product of embroidery software, designs are not created directly in this format.

2. Outline files are easy to edit and resize, because design in this format contains outlines of all objects with information for the software program how to generate stitches for each object. Design in this format does not necessarily contain stitches. The most important part are the outlines and parameters for filling the objects with stitches.

Understanding the thread flow

Embroidery designs should be created so that number of thread trims is minimal. To achieve this when working with vector objects, user must keep 3 basic rules on her/his mind:

  1. Create objects in proper order (to allow their connection).
  2. Add connections between objects whenever possible (where they are hidden under other objects or where they do not spoil the look of design).
  3. Define start and end points of objects properly (to allow continuous flow of the thread).
Controlling the Thread Flow with Connections

There are 2 objects in above example. The first one (left) is column. The second one (right) is plain fill object. They are connected by connection, which is in fact an object too, and must be inserted between the column and the fill.

Column has start point A. Each column ends on the opposite side, which is point B, in this case. To avoid thread trim, connection was added from point B to C - the start point of the fill. End point of the plain fill can be defined anywhere on the fill boundary, even in hole (if the fill has any). It is point D, in this case.

When stitches are generated for above objects, thread fills continuously all objects. It starts in point 1. Then it fills whole column with zig-zags and ends in point 2. Then it fills connection with series of running stitches (3) until it reaches point 4, which is start point of the plain fill objects. To cover complete area of the object, the thread must start filling in point 6, in this case. Therefore, connection (5) is automatically generated from point 4 to 6. After filling the whole object, thread stops in the end point 7.

Controlling the Thread Flow with Connections

Running and jump stitches

Running stitches are 'normal' stitches embroidered by machine. They form continuous series of stitches, usually 0.5 mm ~ 5 mm long. Some objects in design are separate and machine must move needle to a new position. To define such move (without stitching), the jump 'stitch' is used.

The jump can be regarded as a very long and loose stitch. Although it is just move of the needle, we call it 'stitch', because needle penetrates the fabric at the end of previous running stitch, i.e. at beginning of the jump, and at beginning of the next running stitch, i.e. at the end of the jump. From this point of view, the jump is the same stitch like the 'normal' stitches, but usually much longer. This fact is used for embroidering very broad satin stitches (see below).

Longest stitch

Most embroidery machines have 12.7 mm limit for longest possible running stitch. Some machines have even shorter limit ~ 12.1 mm. It is possible to use satin stitches longer than this limit. Such stitches Embird codes as series of short starting running stitch and single or multiple jump stitches. Please note that such stitches look queer on the screen, because of the jump stitches in the middle (displayed with dashed line). However, stitches on the actual sew-out are all right.

Embroidered design with long satin stitches (longer than 8~10 mm) may be easily damaged by washing because of the loose stitches. We recommend to use pattern (texture), which splits long stitches into shorter ones.

Longest Stitches in Machine Embroidery

Arrow (1) marks the normal running stitch, i.e. running stitch shorter than limit.

Longer stitches are automatically divided into short running stitch (green arrow (3)) and series of jump stitches (red arrow (2)). When embroidered on a fabric, all stitches look the same. There are no needle points in the series of jump stitches.

Smallest needle step

Smallest Step in Machine Embroidery

The shortest possible move of needle on most embroidery machines is 0.1 mm in both axes. Stitches in stitch files are coded with use of 0.1 mm grid. Therefore, if you open stitch file in Embird Editor and zoom-in the stitches sufficiently, you will discover very small steps on edges which seemed to be smooth at a small zoom. These little steps are caused by 0.1 mm grid.

Stitch density

The stitch density in Embird is defined as distance between needle points in above mentioned 0.1 mm grid. Density 4.0 means four steps of 0.1 mm, i.e. 0.4 mm. The commonly used density of satin and fill stitches is approximately 3.0 - 4.0, according to weight of thread used for actual embroidering. 0.1 mm step cannot be further divided into smaller steps. Therefore, density 3.5 does not mean that distance of all needle point pairs is 0.35 mm. It means that some pairs have 0.3 mm distance and some pairs have 0.4 mm distance. The average distance is 0.35 mm.

Stitch Density in Machine Embroidery

Studio uses the same density definition as basic Embird, but the 0.1 mm grid affects only exported stitch files. Outline file format allows to put stitches anywhere, not just to 0.1 mm grid. However, when you compile outline file into stitch file in Embird Editor, above mentioned effects appear. It is not an error. This is the way how it is supposed to work.

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