Sharon Lee brings its mastery of 3D embroidery to our new masthead and shows you how it’s done

Last year, we visited Sharon Lee’s new showroom and modernised premises for a tour of the company’s operations*. During the visit, Pete Williams, the company’s embroidery manager, demonstrated the 3D embroidery techniques that he has been developing and perfecting to meet the growing demand for this type of headwear embellishment. The process was impressive; the end results even more so.

Fast-forward a year to the introduction of the new Images masthead. Having finally seen the logo realised in print on the April issue cover, we were eager to see it transferred (or embroidered to be precise) onto a ‘real-life’ garment. With the May issue hosting our annual headwear feature, the obvious decision was to create an Images branded cap. The equally obvious decision was to return to Sharon Lee and ask Pete and his team to do the honours.

The CAD visual

A phone call to marketing manager, Steve Clarke and the wheels were put in motion. Before we sent the artwork file, he explained that there are a number of key design elements that need to be taken into account before a logo can be turned into a 3D embroidery:

  • Keep it thick Thick lettering or shapes from 3mm to 12.7mm will allow for a clean crisp finish. Any less and the foam will be lost in the final design.
  • Spacing Good spacing between the lettering/shapes is essential – 3mm or more will allow for the design to stand out without any bleed.
  • Smooth Rounded off or smooth endpoints allow for a cleaner finish and reduce the risk of excess foam creeping out from behind the logo.
  • Keep it simple Steer clear of complex designs by keeping small design elements as flat embroidery, and sticking to larger, bolder elements in 3D. Also, removing any unnecessary loops and curls in the logo will allow for a better finish.
  • Gaps Where there are parts of the logo with gaps – such as in the letters ‘a’, ‘g’ and ‘e’ in the Images logo – the choice of font/ design is crucial. If the gap is too small the stitching will pull into the gap, losing the definition of the design. Making sure there is a clear gap of 3mm+ will in most cases overcome the issue.

“Even when you consider all these points, not all logos will work in 3D, but by speaking to one of our sales team we can advise on changes or options available to you,” Steve adds.

Fortunately, our new logo passed muster. Steve talked us through the options and quizzed us on what we wanted (“A modern cap; cyan thread on a black crown; the rest is up to you!”) and in no time at all he had emailed over a CAD visual.

The cap Steve chose for us is the new Sharon Lee C6720 Polyester Weave Tactile 6 Panel Cap with Velcro Adjuster. It has a velvet-like feel to the fabric and benefits from being lightweight and showerproof, making it a perfect choice for all manner of outdoor activities.

Framing the cap

Placing the foam

Outline stitching

Embroidering the 3D design

The Tajima screen set-up

Removing the cap from the machine

Removing the foam

Weeding the foam

The final product

Digitising decisions

With the visual approved, it was onto the digitising. “With most flat embroidered logos, the satin stitches are very short and in some instances end up being link stitches where the design becomes very detailed. If this type of disc was used to create a 3D variation of the logo, the foam would end up falling apart. So a 3D logo needs to be created slightly differently and the satin stitches used are much longer – in some cases up to 12.7mm width,” Steve explains.

With the digitising complete it was over to Pete and his team in the embroidery department, who lost no time in framing up the cap and positioning it on the machine. Now, it was time to add the most important element in the whole process – the foam!

Over the past few years, Sharon Lee has developed and tested many new methods and materials to perfect the 3D embroidery process, including manufacturing its own foam. “Most foams are around 2-3mm thick,” Pete comments, “but we’ve produced a slightly thicker variation at 4mm, which gives an even more raised finish.”

With the foam placed over the cap, a single running stitch was placed over the design to hold the foam in place before the main design was embroidered. “The larger satin stitches created in the design mean that the needle enters the cap through the foam on one side of the logo and then across to the other side of the logo. This means that once the run has finished you end up with a perforated foam panel that you can then remove from the cap, leaving the embroidered design and the foam that’s under the stitches securely in place,” Pete explains.

For the Images cap design he chose to use Maderia Classic 1297 thread. “We’ve trialled a number of different types of thread, with Madeira threads being the final choice for all our in-house embroidery. We use pretty much the entire Madeira range, including metallic, fire retardant, glow-in-the-dark and even some of the mix twist threads,” he comments.

With the design stitched out, the final task was to weed out any remaining foam, such as that inside the letters ‘a’, ‘g’ and ‘e’. Well, actually, that’s not quite accurate. There is one additional stage that Sharon Lee uses to give its caps the very best finish possible, but it’s something that they are keeping a close kept secret.

“We have a few tricks when it comes to the way the machines are set up,” says Steve, “but these are things we are literally keeping under our hats, as it’s these small tweaks and processes that set our 3D embroidery apart from the others!”

For further details about 3D embroidery contact the Sharon Lee sales team.