Reprint from 2010 —  This question remains the one of the top three questions I receive about embroidery digitizing and is worth of a reprint of this article.

One of the most frequent questions I receive from customers is “can my embroidery design be resized?” Unfortunately that is not a YES or NO question and I could quite literally write an entire book on the subject. However, in a nutshell the simple answer is most embroidery designs can be scaled about 15 to 20% without sacrificing quality. However, that is not always the case and the balance of this blog discusses the factors that contribute to scaling designs to this or larger degrees.

I want to avoid a highly technical discussion on this topic but to understand the limitations of scaling designs you must be aware of how changing the size of a design will effect a type of stitching in a design. To illustrate my points I am going to use somewhat exaggerated examples. However, please note, many times we are asked to scale designs from very small to extremely large (or vice versa) so while my examples might seem extreme I am presented with real world similar requests on a daily basis.

Different stitch types by their nature will not scale beyond a certain point for both practical and mechanical reasons. Let’s start with the humble column stitch, also known as a satin, stiel and even zig zag stitching. On modern commercial embroidery equipment the widest this type of stitch can be is typically 12 millimeters (mm) or roughly a half inch. Beyond this a machine with convert to jump stitches and might even fire your auto trim mechanisms. From a practical standpoint stitches this wide will easily snag, come unraveled and provide for extremely undesirable results.

On the other end of this scale an embroidery machine can only move (jog) efficiently about one mm at time. Because of this the accepted minimum width for a column stitch is one mm. If your design already has columns that are right at the 1mm threshold reducing your design by even a small amount can have negative effects. Reducing it a lot (more than 15%) can ruin the design.

As a result of these physical facts the type of stitching used to build a design must be reprogrammed if a design is going to be resized beyond the capability of the original stitch types. Where it gets complicated is the case by case nature of the question. Some designs will allow for dramatic size increase or reduction, as much as 100% or more. It is not unreasonable to ask your digitizer if a designs can be easily (inexpensively) scaled but you should understand if they tell you no they most likely are not simply trying to take advantage of a billing opportunity, There are often times very good reasons a design might require reprogramming in order to deliver the type of quality you deserve.

Below is an example of a design that will Scale UP far better than it will scale down. The reasons for this can be seen in the detail of the design. The fine lines created with column stitching are already below minimum standards as are the walk stitches. Reducing this design will restrict an embroidery machine from forming quality stitches and a design that is supposed to look distressed will begin to look sloppy instead of intentional.

Steve Freeman

Leave a Reply