Computerised embroidery or digital embroidery is a way to decorate fabric with a thread using a computer controlled embroidery machine. The embroidery machine holds the piece of the fabric and moves the needle in accordance with a programmed pattern. Start offering this type of embroidery as a service to companies, sports clubs or anyone else who needs to have embroidery done.
Computerised embroidery is most popularly used in South Africa in the promotional industry (logos, company branding etc). When I worked at a screen-printing company there were things that we would send to an embroidery company instead of printing because the process was more suited for the material. This included golf shirts, caps (due to the shape it’s easier to do embroidery on than to print), winter jackets and beanies. But embroidery is suited to a wide variety of garments including t-shits, tracksuits and even scarves.
Types of machines
You get home machines and commercial machines (see end of page for links to different models). The basic home machine will usually have one needle meaning you can only do one item at a time, but is the cheapest to buy and takes up the least space as it is around the same size as a traditional sewing machine. Home machines will also have a smaller embroidery area – the largest size the machine can embroider in one shot (if you are interested in purchasing a machine, find out the embroidery area and see whether or not it will fit your needs). Commercial machines have more needles, so they can do more garments, cost more money and are larger machines.
Starting out you can use a home machine, go to this site: http://www.beyondtalk.net/home-embroidery-machines/. Check the model names, review, features etc. you can also check out YouTube for video reviews, speed etc. That will give you a primer of what’s available in the consumer computerized embroidery machine market.
Now you take that knowledge, model numbers and you do local searches, if you looking for new, check for agents, if second hand is ok check out bidorbuy, Gumtree, olx. Also check out local auctions for both consumer and industrial machines. A lot of smaller companies use consumer machines if they don’t do a lot of embroidery work. As soon as you have enough volume, use the income from that volume to buy a larger machine to work faster and make more money.
How it works
A client provides you with artwork, that is then digitised and then sent to the machine to embroider the design. So you would charge a digitising fee and a fee for each design being digitised as well as a fee for every unit being embroidered. While most places charge a fixed fee, for digitising this can sometimes be a painstaking job as some clients literally provide their artwork on a piece of paper instead of a high resolution file or vector image to convert it into the file that the machine accepts. And this means that you will need some image editing skills or hire someone or send such clients away (difficult to do if they have a big order). The cost per item usually depends on the size or the amount of stitches.
As stated before the majority of embroidery work in South Africa is promotional related, there is also a personalisation market such as school tracksuits or sports club tracksuits. Embroidery is also used in the fashion industry but that is not a large walk in market as the CMT (cut, make & trim) factories that manufacture garments often have their own embroidery machines.
Choosing An Embroidery Machine: 12 Must-Have Tips
2017’s Top Home Embroidery Machines Reviewed (good for starting out)
15 Best Commercial Embroidery Machines on the Market (for growing your business)
Image credits: U Design It