Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Machine embroidery - An Infinity Gauntlet for Ben

I haven’t seen the movie - but apparently the villain Thanos  in the new Avengers movie ‘Avengers - Infinity War Marvel Legends’ wears this gauntlet which has, of course, super powers. When I offered to make Ben a tee shirt with a logo on the pocket, like Jack’s, he declined and said he’d like an image of Thanos. When that wasn’t possible (= it was far too difficult for me; I explained that I needed a pattern), he asked for the Infinity Gauntlet, or just a Jewel. The little sweetie! Of course, I had to do it.

I'm a beginner at this, building up to trying embroidery on clothing so I certainly didn’t want to try to make my own image!

I did a search for machine embroidery designs for the gauntlet and found one which I purchased.
My second  practice example. I couldn't see how to download photo and I didn't want to infringe copyright!
While I’m recuperating from my fracture, and not formally dressmaking, I thought I could stitch out a sample on tee shirt fabric. I used an old tee shirt and used stabiliser behind the fabric as required, putting these in a 4x4 hoop. It looked okay and appropriately taut, but I did wonder if the fabric was too tired. It just didn’t seem to have any resilience or elasticity - is that the term? It didn’t spring back the way it should.

For those of you who don't do machine embroidery, a quick resume. You can make your own images and digitise them for embroidery. Then you have complete control over the whole process. To do this you need embroidery software and some idea how to use it. I’ve been trying using Craftsy classes. I did manage a monogram for Jack.

Or you can buy/download the instructions for your embroidered design in the correct ‘language’ for your embroidery machine. Different brands use different languages. A bit like Android and IOS. You don't need to have software for this but if you want to change anything other than colours you do.

Some software programs are more versatile than others and can understand multiple languages.

For those of you who do machine embroidery, please excuse my wrong terminology.

My instructions were downloaded in PES which is the ‘language’ my Brother embroidery machine uses. I do have specialist software and so I can alter various components on my computer. I can get a stitch preview and a realistic preview of the finished design. Most usefully, there is a stitch simulator which lets you see your design being stitched out on screen. I can easily change the colour or the order of stitching. On  a commercial pattern other changes are more complex and I haven't tried  any as yet.

These instructions are transferred by USB stick to my embroidery machine. The embroidery machine is computerised. The needle then knows where to go. I don't direct it. It's all automatic except for changing thread colours. This design had 10 colour changes.

When I started stitching, I could see pretty quickly that this wasn’t going to work. However I decided to complete the design. The fabric was puckering and the main body of the gauntlet had pulled away from the outline - quite a lot in places. The outline isn't supposed to leave these gaps of course. The outline actually stitched over the two little fingers. This result wasn’t acceptable and I wasn’t completely sure how to sort it.
Major gap down left side of gauntlet. The next layer of stitching is in the correct place.
The blue tee shirt fabric is extremely puckered

I ended up with a stiff and completely inflexible stitched fist design with big gaps particularly around the small fingers. The problem appeared to get worse as the embroidery progressed.

There are gaps elsewhere too.

I thought there could be problems with:
  • The fabric - perhaps this was just too thin and too stretchy and perhaps partly stretched out for this design. As an alternative to making a tee shirt pocket, I had also bought a black hoodie and the design could be stitched directly onto that.
  • The design  could have been digitised wrongly. I’ve never bought from the company concerned. I didn’t think it was this though as there is a live action stitch preview on my computer and this ‘stitched‘ out okay
  • Or the stitch density was far too great. This seemed very likely. Some areas were being stitched over and over again
  • The stabiliser - wrong type, inadequate etc
  • My hooping technique could be bad - if you stretch the fabric too much this can be a problem. The fabric needs to be held firmly with some tautness but not too much.
  • I didn’t think there was a problem with my thread, my needle, my machine, or my threading of the machine.

I was going to try to reduce the density of the stitching and change the fabric as these seemed the most likely issues to me. I asked on IG and PR and it was suggested that I try to stitch out on regular fabric to see if it was the digitisation process which had problems. There were various other suggestions. The most useful (though I was grateful for them all) was from Lisa on IG who suggested signing up for the Little Acorns group. I did this. I introduced myself and had excellent suggestions for the problem even before I had formally asked any questions. I had still intended to go down the route suggested on PR, that is stitch out on cotton to check that the digitisation was okay, which I would know if the design stitched out okay. The Little Acorns suggested that this route was not sensible as the fabric was so different from what I actually wanted to use. I heeded their advice.

In the course of reading their many responses, I received a recommendation for a UK supplier of suitable stabilisers. I had been unable to find any of the recommended kind or of the soft fabric that is put next to the skin - for example if you have an embroidery on a child’s baby-gro. I’ve ordered a starter pack and a couple of extra that I need. An excellent and helpful group

I now decided to stitch the design again in a larger size onto old sweatshirt fabric. Again as a practice.

I first looked up in the instruction book to find out how to reduce stitch density on a commercial pattern. Well actually how to reduce the stitch density on any pattern! The method I used involved enlarging the design but keeping the number of stitches the same as before to reduce the density (I could've increased the stitches with the size to keep the density the same). I’m not sure if I could reduce the size again but this time also reduce the number of stitches, so that I would end up with an image the size of the original but with fewer stitches. This is the only workaround I could find. I think this size, while too big for a child’s tee shirt pocket, has enough presence to work on a hoodie. Anyway, an Infinity Gauntlet shouldn’t be small, should it?

I looked out all of the stabilisers I had and did the best I could,  following the received suggestions to use cut-a-way stabiliser rather than tear away and to use polymesh stabiliser (which I didn’t have). I stabilised the fabric in the hoop.  I had to use a bigger hoop than before, a 5x7 rather than a 4x4 as the design was substantially bigger. Then I started stitching.

Night and Day! I could see quickly that there weren't the same problems this time. The outlines were in the correct places. The fingers and the outline were correctly aligned. I did notice that by the end the fabric looked looser in the hoop. I couldn't adjust that as the position of the fabric would change and the registration would be wrong. Basically the machine must know exactly where the needle is in relation to the fabric at all times. Otherwise you get the kind of problem I had earlier - an outline in the wrong place for the filling.

I  also used an additional frame of stitches to keep the fabric stable.
This image shows the raised effect of some of the stitiching

I simply cut round the sweatshirt fabric and removed the stitching around the image.
The image is much flatter because of the type of light today
I’m very happy with the result.

With the  hoop being bigger than the original, I’m not sure how I’ll get it inside the small hoodie and get the design angled in the right way (I know I can rotate the design instructions if I need to) and stabilise it and hoop it properly. I will need to stitch the design directly onto the hoodie rather than apply as an applique.  There must be a way. That’s not for today though!

I had already taken some photos, but they are poor quality, so I decided to try to take some more today, when it’s light and I can take without flash or artificial light and show the two sizes together. The jewels in the two samples are not the same colour. Between you and me, I have ordered a gauntlet for Ben to wear and I'll match the colours I use to what's on that, which I assume are what is seen on screen - the colours from the embroidery company match the first.

The two together. The embroidery on the right has the same number of stitches as the one on the left
While I was completing my typing, my post arrived with the stabiliser samples I had purchased. I found that the polymesh that came is pretty much identical to one of the stabilisers I had and used, but which was not labelled polymesh. I must check the small print on the packet.


  1. well done anne, the second one looks really good

    1. Thanks, Susan. I was going to contact you for your opinion.

  2. Gosh that sounds complicated! Well done, it looks really good :-)

    1. Thanks, Margaret. It's not that complicated. As long as I get the stabiliser and hooping correct, the rest is computerised. I just haven't quite mastered the stabilising and hooping yet!

  3. You have done a wonderful job - a very ambitous project for a beginner. I can imagine your grandson's delight when he sees this!

    1. Thank you. I think Ben will love it. I'm trying to work out how to get the embroidery onto the hoodie. David suggested unpicking a side seam which seemed a good idea - except there are no side seams!! I have to go through from the neck above or the band below. Hmm. I'll seek advice!


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