Machine Embroidery Terminology And Tips You Will Need To Understand

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Machine embroidery looks like a very simple process that can be more fun than anything else. This is partially true.

First of all, if you are thinking on simple and copy-paste (meaning you will embroider the patterns available in your embroidery machine) it is simple and it is almost hand free process. But, if you want to create a unique pie coif design, then this process is a mixture of the match, software, and art.

Machine Embroidery

It isn’t difficult to see that embroidery is commonly considered as an art and it is difficult to make it stand out from the crowd. Anyway, if you are a beginner or you are having issues understanding how this process flows, you will need to get back to the basics.

We have listed the main terminology you need to understand right now. We will also give you several tips that will assist you in your new adventure.

Machine embroidery terminology

The terminology you need to understand before you start your first project.

1. Hoop

The hoop is simply referred to as a set of rings that are used to hold fabric during the embroidery process. Ordinary ones are made of two pieces which will go inside one another. Most machines these days have automatic hoops which will hold the fabric against the bed of the machine. They are paired with a stabilizer which makes the process easier and more accurate.

2. Pantograph

Pantograph is used to attach the hoop to the embroidery machine. Then, you can move it against X and Y Axes. Keep in mind that on embroidery machine, only the machine and the Pantograph can be moved, not the needle itself.

See also: The Best Embroidery Machine – Our Top Picks

This means that in order to get the desired design you need to move the Pantograph which moves the attached hoop and the fabric.

3. Stabilizer

Stabilizer or backing and added to below the fabric in order to make stitching more accurate and to assist you in making more accurate and more complex designs. It is available in many, different forms and it must cover the entire area beneath the hoop.

4. Digitizing

If you want to create a new design you will have to understand the digitizing process. It involves creating a vector-based picture of the desired design which will lead the machine into sewing precisely defined stitches onto fabric. You can do this automatically, by altering an existing design or you can start from scratch. Once added to the machine, it will complete the rest of the process all by itself.

5. Tension

Tension refers to the thread tension or the friction it will generate while passing through the machine. You can adjust the tension in order to get different designs. You can even adjust the lower tension so you don’t see the lower stitches on the end project.

6. Density

Density refers to the distance between the rows of stitching or stitches. It is expressed in stitches per inch or SPI. More makes the stitching thicker and more blend in while lower values make it loose. The standard stitching setting is 0.1mm.

7. Bobbin

If you are an absolute beginner, you may find this term unclear. All you need to know is that a bobbin refers to the spool of thread which is located on the machine itself, usually beneath the workpiece. You can wind it manually or purchase a new one.

8. Straight stitch

As the name suggests, a straight stitch is a linear piece of stitching that is done on the fabric. It is used to create outlines, shades or add small elements to the piece of fabric. In most cases, this is a simple zigzag stitch.

9. Compensation

While embroidery all the stitches are pulled to the center of the design which makes the outer edges shorted or thinner than on the digital patterns. In order to make the same design as you designed, the machine uses compensation or commonly known as Pull Distortion.

It simply means that the machine will add stitches where needed to make the design same as the one you designed.

10. Stock designs

Stock designs are the ones you have implemented into your machine as soon as you purchase it. Some refer to them as factory designs and they are developed by the teams of professionals working at the machine factory.

You can use them to create your first projects and you can experience all kinds of them. The number depends on the machine, class and the price. Try to remember that these designs are mostly used by people who don’t digitize.

11. Topping

Material which is used to prevent the texture from messing with the embroidery process.

12. Push Distortion

Push Distortion occurs when the design is embroidered side by side. The end result may be wider edges. It is fixed by removing the stitches from the column in order to make it the same as the one on the original design.

13. Pathing

Pathing explains the process of embroidery so it becomes efficient. You can think of it as on proper embroider which is based on carefully selected directions of the embroidery machine.

14. Jump stitch

When your machine embroiders and then it skips a piece of fabric and reach it again is known as jump stitch. In other words, you won’t have stitching on one part of the fabric. This jump stitch must be removed after you are done with the entire process.

15. Tatami Stitch

Tatami Stitch or fill stitch is used to fill larger areas of your design with stitches. It can be optimized so it covers the desired area perfectly as you like and to create elevations in the design. You can make countless adjustments and you can make modifications in order to get the desired effect.

16. Cut-away Stabilizer

Thick and strong stabilizer material that must be cut away after embroidery.

17. Underlay

Underlay is always used before the topstitching in order to make the fabric suitable for this form of stitching. It is a mandatory piece of knowledge for all who have high expectations when it comes to embroidery plans.

18. Tear-away Stabilizer

Stabilizer which will be torn away after the embroidery.

19. Lock stitch

A lock stitch is used at the beginning and at the end of each design. It is common in 1mm of space and it is used to keep the design in place, so it doesn’t move or unwind at some point.

20. WSS

It stands for Water-Soluble Stabilizer and it must be removed after the process completely.

21. Stitch out

It refers to making a sample of your design on fabric. You will want to see how it will look before you start an actual process. It is mandatory when you switch to new material or use new floss.

Machine Embroidery: Tips you need to check out

Sewing Machine EmbroideryThere are some machine embroidery tips you will not want to miss.

1. Take your time and relax

Your tension won’t help you with machine embroidery. As such you need to relax and you take your time to discover all the potentials and all the possibilities of the embroidery process.

2. Always learn

Embroidery is a complicated process but once you get the base of foundation you will see that it isn’t something impossible. Always learn and add knowledge to your base. Soon you will become professional and you will understand that all of this is actually fun.

3. Your first project must be small

If you start with a big project, you will see that it is very complicated and you will lose all hope. That’s why to start small and test your knowledge as often as possible. Your first project should be something that will give you motivation, not take it away.

4. Organize yourself

Before you start, organize everything around you. Keep in mind that you don’t need a separate room for embroidery, just make the most out of available space. It will be handy afterward.

5. Document everything

In order to become a true professional, you should start documenting the entire process. Always take notes of which fabric, machine, floss and additional elements you used and how effective they were. Which results you got and how they performed.

6. Each stitch must be tested

Stitches are different and they depend on the manufacturer, machine and several other parameters. Test each one before you start using it.

7. Don’t waste money on unnecessary items

In order to start embroidery, you will need a machine, a pair of scissors, floss, fabric, and hoop. Add stabilizer and you are completely ready. The point here is not to invest money into something you will never use.

Get the items you actually need and the ones you will actually use. It is advised to start embroidery before you start shopping for new items.


Machine embroidery is the same as any other skill you want to have. It may be complicated at first but with the terminology we covered and the tips we gave you, it is much easier. Don’t forget that you need to understand all of that before starting and you will succeed. It is easier than it sounds and you will soon become a real professional.