Digitizing for Knits

Get to know the substrate.


The construction is of interlocking yarns literally machine-knitted to form a seemingly solid surface, but when magnified, its vulnerability is obvious. There are different types of knit fabric, but most often used for sportswear is jersey, which is weft-knitted, also referred to as plain or single-knit, with very little lengthwise stretch and different degrees of crosswise stretch. Consider this stretch factor when you’re about to set down stitches that will push or pull at the interlocking loops.

Plan your stitch types and angles, along with the sewing path, when you’re mapping the artwork. Satin stitch columns appear best when sewn horizontally, as they won’t pull at or fall into the wale. Fill-stitch angles are best at acute and obtuse angles as they cross over the wale and course without falling into or stressing either wale or course. Naturally, you can’t follow this train of thought as a strict rule, as it would be difficult to complete most designs, but there are tricks to ensure quality.

Build a strong foundation for flexible coverage.


Digitize to sew from the center out whenever possible. If your largest element is at the center, such as a round filled background of a corporate logo, begin at the center point, setting down a layer of run stitches of an average length, about 3mm. Travel up and down in a zigzag to the right, and then work back to the center and continue to the left; then complete a run stitch around the perimeter near the inside edge. After you’ve stopped at the top, travel downward again in a zigzag path to the bottom and back to the center; and finally, continue to the top. Complete this base foundation with a zigzag stitch to the inside of the outer border, which will help stabilize the shape and offer coverage for any sparse areas at the edge of the fill section.

Compensate for excessive push and pull.


The stitches are going to pull inward more than usual, which also causes them to push out at the open ends, so punch the satin stitch columns wider than the elements of your artwork or set the automatic compensation at about 15% to 20% for pull. If the columns are narrow, they’ll push out more at the open ends, so punch for compensation by stopping short of the end of the column.

The extended sides of fill sections will pull inward to meet up where you want them to sew. If a line stitch is added for an outline, you should follow the actual border of the artwork, and if after a sew-out you find a gap or the edges of fill exceed where they should, adjust the fill section when editing because line stitches always sew where you have punched them.

Correct stabilizers help tame stretch to produce a clean registration of elements. You’ll find a variety of opinions from different embroiderers about the type of stabilizer that works best for them, and those opinions are often determined by the number of garments that will be sewn. If it’s a low-volume order, some will choose to use an adhesive stabilizer along with a sheet of 2-oz. tearaway for great results. But if it’s a high-volume order, handling the adhesive type of stabilizer becomes tedious and time consuming, in which case, one sheet of cutaway may work well. My preference is a flexible, no-show, poly-mesh cutaway that keeps the embroidery comfortable to the skin, yet sturdy enough to do the job. If the design is stitch intensive, two layers of the mesh, along with a sheet of lightweight tearaway can improve results, and a topping of soluble stabilizer will hold small elements in place above the knit.