Embroidery Terminology Explained

At Headwear Direct, we understand that the embroidery terminology can be overwhelming. Between stitch counts, 3D embroidery, flat embroidery, 6,000 stitch, 12,000 stitch, it’s a lot… So what does it all mean?

Don’t get a stitch over trying to understand it all, we have everything you have wanted to know about stitch counts but never knew who to ask.

Stitch count refers to how many stitches are made in one inch. An embroidery stitch count gets affected by the size and thickness of a design. It is also a determining factor of the price – the higher the stitch count the higher the cost. The average stitch count on a design is between 4,000 to 6,000 stitches, anything higher will cause the price to increase substantially.

The stitch count can also give you a clue as to the density of the design which is the measurement of how tightly the threads are crammed together. The denser the design, the sturdier the fabric will need to be in order to support the stitches.

The size of the design can increase the stitch count, however not all equally sized designs will have an equal stitch count as shown in the images above. This is due to some designs incorporating more open areas, more thinly sized lettering or more intricate graphics than others. If you were to imagine two equally sized boxes; 1 box is hollow with just a border, this is going to have fewer stitches than the 2nd box which is completely filled in with no open spaces. At the same time, a hollow box with a thin border is going to have fewer stitches than a hollow box with a thick border.

The 2 most common stitch types used on embroidery machines at Headwear Direct are:

Satin Stitch
A stitch that tracks back and forth over a small area and is most commonly used with text. It provides a “shiny” look that is perfect for most designs. When threads are long and unbroken, they are able to maintain that “shiny” look. 1 linear inch of satin stitch is approximately a 150 stitch count.

Fill Stitch
A series of parallel running stitches commonly used to cover large areas. It requires more thread, takes longer to sew and is mainly used to fill patterns. Fill stitches aren’t “shiny,” but high-end machines allow you to make curved lines with these stitches, providing the appearance of volume and adding to your embroidery versatility. 1 square inch of fill stitch is approximately 1,200 stitch count.

As mentioned in the 10 Different Ways To Brand Your Headwear blog, there are 2 different types of embroidery which will affect your stitch count and they are as follows:

Flat Embroidery
Entails stitching your logo or design, onto the headwear. With a high-thread count being used, you’re left with a smooth and detailed finish, as well as a vast number of colour variations. This allows for most logos, or designs to easily be translated onto various different surfaces.

3D Embroidery 
Uses a variation of stitching technique as mentioned above, however, to create the 3D effect, a piece of foam is positioned under the top stitch, to raise the embroidered design.The result is a premium finish, with a smoother and precise finish, while adding an extra “pop” to your design.

To get an estimate of what the stitch count could be for your next design, use this Dynamic Stitch Count Calculator. Much like branding, you have so much variety when it comes to stitch counts, the end decision is up to you – so have fun deciding!