Sometimes, less really can be more. Dominic Bunce of digitiser David Sharp investigates the power of negative spacing

In a world where you can offer pretty much anything your customer may want, it can be tempting to take their logo and reproduce it exactly as it is regardless of the number of stitches and colours required.

Sometimes, however, a simplified version can give the final product high impact and offer a unique, subtle difference that saves not only time but also money in manufacturing. By using negative spacing, you can save on stitches whilst still providing a high-quality finish. (Bear in mind, though, that this minimalist take on artwork is not always to everyone’s taste.)

This Harry Potter design is a great example because you can stitch the black colour detailing and text or, alternatively, leave it open for the garment to show through. This works exceptionally well on larger designs, but it isn’t always possible on small designs. The column width spacing should be large enough to show clearly without damaging the garment. Too small a space and you risk splitting the material and tearing it during manufacturing.

A good area to focus on in this design is the ‘H’ in the middle. In the fully stitched example the ‘H’ is embroidered in normal satin stitches on top of a solid yellow block of stitches. In the one-colour design the ‘H’ is negative space and, crucially, it’s finished off with a border to make it look deliberate rather than unfinished.

Getting your densities accurate on metallic thread is important during the digitising process: typically we work with 0.38mm stitch spacing on tatami fills, and 0.35mm on satin stitches, but this will vary depending on the size of your design and the garments it is being applied to. Also, when digitising for metallic thread it’s very important to delete any small stitches in the design that may cause thread break. We usually delete small stitches under 0.5mm.

We stitched these with Madeira CR Metallic Thread, with Classic 40 used for the black details. This metallic thread stitches beautifully – historically, metallic thread was always a little hit and miss during production, with regular thread breaks/indiscretions in stitches. Due to its smooth nature it passes through the machine seamlessly, while offering the traditional metallic look but with a softer finish to the touch.

This 260mm by 222mm design took 115 minutes to run when using just the metallic and negative space, and 210 minutes when opting for two colours, i.e. metallic and black. The one-colour design comprised 66,938 stitches and 19 trims, while there were 128,861 stitches and 38 trims in the two-colour design.