If you’re a contract digitizer, you may deal with many different customers in different embroidery sectors. With such a broad range of clients, do you ever feel like you’re always under a microscope and never know whether your reward for a design will be praised or criticized?

stitch saving

You might as well be psychic as you have to constantly adjust yourself to the type of customer you’re currently doing the job for. Some want quality, rich in appearance, and on the higher end of the density scale, while others are only price conscious because that’s how they operate their business. Then you can get either end of the scale getting overly cutthroat because many companies may be bidding for the same job.

The best way to keep a happy customer is to get to know their specific needs. This can get confusing when your customer base grows into the hundreds, so start documenting or categorizing your customers right at the beginning. I’ll leave it to your discretion as to what names you wish to give them. 

At the beginning stages of getting to know your customer, let them know that “special requests” must be addressed when the order is placed. If they do not identify the “special request,” then be sure to charge them for any edits that need to be done after the fact; time is money, after all! “Special request” can fall into many categories; terrycloth, polar fleece, foam embroidery, leather, and the list goes on.

How To Lower Embroidery Design Stitch Count With Digitizing

There are many ways to cut down the stitch count of a design depending on the customer’s flexibility of graphic options, stitch types, densities, application, and how much they are willing to bend to achieve their objective. 

We have all had that customer who gives you a design that, if you digitize it properly, would have 10,000 stitches. However, they are insistent that it only has 5,000 stitches. You see, that’s all they’ve budgeted for, but they still want top-notch quality! Sound familiar? In that situation, I’ll tell the customer, “Let me digitize it properly so you know how it should look, then I’ll give you a second file processed by the software at your desired stitch count. When your customer says it looks like crap, use the first file I sent you.” The point is we need to be realistic!

If you take away too many stitches, it will inevitably affect the appearance of your design. Here are a few suggestions that can help keep the stitch count down in those awkward situations.

Reduce Embroidery Design Stitch Count By Edit Digitizing

Our first option is to play with underlay and running stitches’ stitch lengths and values. You can then adjust the density values of column stitches and densities and stitch lengths of fill areas. The trick is to play with values enough to make a difference in the stitch count without dramatically affecting the visual integrity of the design. 

Interested in learning more about underlay, density, and other terms that sound like gibberish? These terms are very important for knowing how to digitize properly. Luckily, we’re here to help! Let us help teach you the theory, which is a key piece of embroidery education to create your own stunning designs! Click here to learn more about our Digitizers Dream Course and see why this course stands above the rest!

Here is a before and after example of how this can affect the stitch count without drastically affecting the design’s run ability and visual appeal.

Michigan State Patch 1

This original file has 23773 stitches.

Michigan State Patch 2

This edited file has 19966 stitches, a savings of 3807 stitches

If you are a contract embroiderer with 200 pieces to embroider, it equates to over 781400 stitches of saved running time. Well worth spending 15 minutes editing and a couple of sew-outs! 

You can further reduce the stitch counts in some situations by converting some of your fill-stitched objects into satin stitches. Sometimes this can be a little misleading because if the stitch length of the column is too long, the machine’s speed will automatically slow down, and you won’t really save much time at the production level.

Reduce Embroidery Design Stitch Count By Editing Artwork

Secondly, you can work on altering the customer’s artwork somewhat to try and meet the desired stitch count. However, these changes usually affect the quality of what one might consider good embroidery. 

Some of these changes might include not putting borders around fill areas, using walking stitches instead of column borders around objects, and simplifying or deleting details of the customers’ art. These changes don’t usually go over as well, so get any changes approved and in writing. The above is one of those you get what you pay for.

Reduce Embroidery Design Stitch Count By Adding Applique

This suggestion directly involves production more than it does the digitizer. Usually, you get an immediate cold response when you’re on the floor and bring up the word appliqué. And rightly so, the traditional appliqué process has a lot of cutting out, lining up, and excessive downtime on the machine.

Being lucky enough to have run production and be a digitizer at the same time, I was able to play around with using unorthodox appliqué methods when I felt I could get away with it. 

What we did was pretty simple; we would use certain materials (colored plastics, tear-away pelons) as a base on which we would digitize and stitch a very loose fill. 

Embroidered Hat 1

The trick is to run your underlay stitches for the area first and then program a stop.

Embroidered Hat 4

Lay down your material with little regard to placement, and then stitch the loose-fill area.

Embroidered Hat 5

Immediately after stitching the fill area, program a run stitch with a slightly closer length value to help perforate the edge

Embroidered Hat 6

Program a stop after the run stitch and tear the material off

Embroidered Hat 7

before embroidering the column edge around the fill.

Embroidered Hat 8

In some instances, you can even wait until the cap comes off the machine and tear the pelon off at the finishing stages. This is the original design at a stitch count of 7812

Embroidered Hat 9

This edited file has 6531 stitches with a savings of 1281 stitches with little or no visual effect.

This isn’t a difficult process and can be executed quickly at the production level. There are a few criteria in determining whether the job in question is a good candidate for this technique; is there a large enough filled area to make it worthwhile? Does the quantity of the order merit the specific programming, and are the goods being embroidered friendly for the type of application given the appliqué materials being used?

We used this technique often on goods that you wouldn’t be washed after every use, such as jackets and caps. If you spend the time and source the appropriate materials, it can also be successful with your washable items. It’s just a matter of taking the time to experiment.

Reduce Embroidery Design Stitch Count Using Hatch Auto Fabric Assist Tool

The best way to lower stitch counts with designs while digitizing is to make sure you save and edit the native format of the design. The native format within each software program will save the original nodes and properties used when creating the embroidery file, and it is “object-based,” not just converted stitches. 

This is important because if you have both the original file and access to the program it was digitized in, you can adjust all the properties within the file. These will include densities, pull compensations, and the underlay used… all of which should be changed for specific items and fabric types.

Within the Hatch digitizing platform, I can digitize an entire design using a specified fabric type. Then, with a couple of clicks using the “Auto Fabric Assist” tool, I’m able to change all the properties, which lowers the stitch count.

Want to try a free 30-day trial of Hatch embroidery software? Click here to use Hatch like you own it. See for yourself how easy-to-use this software really is!

Hatch Auto Fabric Terry
Hatch Auto Fabric Silk
Hatch Auto Fabric Leather

In the examples above, I was able to take a design that was digitized for Terry Towelling and change it to Silk and then Leather, change the stitch count from 47,301 to 36,384, and then all the way down to 33,058 stitches. In the screen capture, you can visually see hardly any difference between them, but the numbers don’t lie; reducing a design by over 14,000 stitches is a big deal.

Watch our video below as John discusses how to create production-friendly embroidery designs within your Hatch software.

Conclusion: Lower Your Embroidery Stitch Count With These Techniques

If you need to reduce your design stitch count, be sure to use one of our suggestions below to ensure your embroidery design is still of great quality!

  • Edit your digitizing by adjusting underlay, density, and other essential theories
  • Edit the artwork (such as removing borders, and using simpler stitches)
  • Add applique and use a very loose fill
  • Use Hatch auto fabric assist tool

Let us know which technique you’ve tried; happy stitching!   

P.S. Don’t forget to check out our Digitizers Dream Course by clicking here to learn the fundamental embroidery knowledge to create the perfect design at any time.