About Those Dreaded Jump Stitches!
I often see posts on Facebook where users are raking various digitizers over the coals because of "too many jump stitches." In some instances, the complaints are well deserved but that's not always the case!
Novice digitizers and poorly digitized designs frequently have too many unnecessary jumps due to poor planning. However, just because there are jumps or even a lot of them, doesn't mean it's a poorly digitized design.
What Exactly is a Jump?
First of all let's look at what a jump stitch is. A "jump" is any connector stitch that jumps from one object over to another area for sewing.
Some jumps aren't any longer than a normal stitch length and may either be covered by other stitches or barely visible. These short jumps aren't likely to trigger the automatic trimmers on machines that have them.
In the screen capture below, the gray connector lines are jumps. The first one travels from the "home" position (center of the hoop) at the beginning of the design to the start of the first stitch. I don't really count that one because on most machines, the machine just moves to the start point and starts stitching.
On one of my older machines, it will actually sink the needle in center and then travel. And it will do that on every color change, sinking the needle at the end of the previous color and then traveling to where the real start of the next color begins.
If your machine does that too, just remember to hit the +1 stitch button to advance one stitch at the beginning and when changing colors and that won't happen. (Shown below: Love to Sew, 2 color version.)
Tip: Many times sewing the DST version of the design (well, at least mine, since that's the "master" stitch file format) won't do that extra stitch drop.
Another way to think about this is to imagine your design as one continuous thread from start to finish. If all the parts are connected, then the only time you or your machine needs to trim a thread is at the end of a color or the end of design.
I make it a game to see if I can eliminate jumps or keep them to a bare minimum but it isn't always possible depending on the artwork.
To put this into perspective for a newbie, imagine a coloring book image of a ladybug. If you want to color the spots black, you'd color a spot, then lift your crayon and move to the next spot. Lifting your crayon is the equivalent of a jump stitch in embroidery.
The ladybug below is an applique and the spots are on top of the fabric so yes, there will be trims between those dots.
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Viewing Jumps in Software
The screen shots in this post are all taken from my digitizing software, which can display the connectors, whether they are a jump within a color or a connection from one color to the next, which in most cases, won't be a jump when sewn.
Your software may not show these connections, especially if it displays embroidery in "3D" or rendered to look like an embroidery and/or it recognizes trim commands so it may be difficult to determine whether there are jumps. Try turning off 3D to see if the connection lines are displayed.
I usually list the number of trims in a design with the color sequence information, but this doesn't tell you where they are. Since there's such variation in software, I won't go there in this post.
Another good thing to do with a new design is to run it through a sewing simulator in your software. This will give you a good idea of how the design is sequenced and you can often see if a design is worth sewing at all on the machine. Embrilliance Essentials has a great sewing simulator built right in!
How to Minimize Jumps
With embroidery, we can often do some sneaking around in the design. For example, if that same ladybug is composed of fills and satins, then we can digitize the dots earlier in the design and sneak under the surrounding fill with a running stitch to connect those dots—which is exactly what I've done in this little ladybug from He Loves Me.
By keeping the stitches on the shorter side, the machine tensions will naturally pull those stitches into the fabric more tightly and if we make sure they aren't running parallel to the top stitching, in most cases they'll never show at all.
This ladybug is quite small—less than 2" wide—and trying to trim the dots on top of the wings would be difficult. The jumps would be quite short and difficult to trim without accidentally cutting the stitches below.
To Travel or Not
Traveling like this may not always work depending on how those objects are visually layered. If the dots need to be on top because the are the foremost element in the composition, then jumps will be required.
In the daisies below, the smaller bottom daisies need to sew behind the green while the rest of the blue daisies sew on top. Yes, I could have traveled under the green to connect the yellow daisies centers, visually they appear to sit on top of the petals so I chose to add them last.
Now imagine some delicate daisies. If the stems are running stitches, we can stitch any attached leaves that are the same color without jumping but the flower centers will require a jump between each one.
The petals on each stem could likely be sewn without jumps but to get to the next flower will necessitate a jump. However, the if the flowers are larger and the stems are satin stitches, we can often travel under the stem and avoid jumps and trims.
On designs like the recently released Vintage Easter Bunnies, the original art was done as what's known as "color line" or "multi-colored redwork."
Here we have the worst possible case for avoiding trims—lots of disconnected color blocks, often very tiny, and only composed of run stitches. This means virtually no possibility of hiding travel stitches plus areas of very few stitches that need tie-offs at the beginning and end of each segment.
You can see what I mean by just looking at the first color in "Delivering Eggs"—there are 13 trims in just this one color! (See the rest of the design further down in this post.)
There are multiple problems with these small areas:
- The thread is more likely to pull out of the needle or not pick up the bobbin thread after trimming and moving to a new section and the entire segment could sew with no thread laid down.
- Tie-offs on run stitches aren't easily hidden and can mar the beauty of your design with tiny blobs.
- The back of your embroidery will look really bad from all the thread tails.
- Tie offs add stitches! More jumps means more stitches due to additional lock stitches at the beginning and ending of each object.
- More stitches + more trims mean more machine time.
A Word About Thread Tails
While we're on that subject, it's important to understand that thread tails are security! Don't trim them flush with your fabric on the back because your stitches will start to ravel!
If you're trimming connections between letters, only trim the front, not the back. The back will help keep the stitches in. Also, a tiny dot of seam sealant can add a big peace of mind!
How to Significantly Reduce Jumps and Trims
In addition to careful planning and some artwork adjustments there are other ways to reduce jumps & trims. The same design done monochromatically, if thoughtfully digitized, may have very few trims, possibly none, only needing them to get to any disconnected object in the design.
For example in the two designs shown below, the monochromatic version in the small size has 13,845 stitches and 10 trims.
The colored one has 14 colors, 16,076 stitches and—get ready for this—245 trims!
I'm not sure if that's a personal best or worst but I'm pretty sure it's the most number of trims I've ever put in a design!
Fortunately I have a machine that trims but even so, for the machine to slow down, trim, move, and start back up takes time, about 7 seconds in my case.
That's 1645 more seconds than the single color version not to mention the extra time required for moving to a new needle for the next color. That's almost an extra half hour in just trimming! Not very production friendly.
You May Still Need to Trim Manually!
Even if your machine has trimmers—my Baby Lock Ellisimo does—it may not recognize the really short ones, which I found out when stitching some of these blocks on that machine.
My 12-needle SWF will trim on command or if the stitch length exceeds a certain value. Apparently home machines don't recognize a programmed trim command.
So if you find yourself having to trim jump threads, I highly recommend doing it between color changes or stopping the machine and trimming if you see that one will get sewn over.
On the photo below, you can see the short connectors between the fold lines on Mama Bunny's apron. It's possible that they may not show at all when the apron outline sews but that will depend on the color of the outline and if any fabric distortion occurs between these segments and the rest of the outline.
So the question is, do you feel lucky?
Interestingly, the single color version is the more complex of the two because it took more planning not to work myself into a corner where I had to jump to get out. It's composed of 1215 individual stitch objects, whereas the multicolor version only has 878. For you non-digitizers, a "segment" can be only one color or stitch type.
The stitch counts on both designs are still relatively high for these 5 x7 " designs even though they aren't filled in because the stitches are close to the minimum length to maintain the intricate details in the original artwork.
The best way to understand this is to try tracing the bunny design below without lifting your pencil and by only back tracking—tracing back over a previously drawn line only when absolutely necessary.
Any time you have to stop your single line and do an in and out, that in and out is another segment because it is a double run or double line. Complex line art designs like these bunnies aren't as quick and easy as you might think!
If you'd like to learn more digitizing line art style designs, check out this blog post: The Truth About Redwork Designs.
Compare this portion of the design, which is from the beginning of the design up to the first trim/jump with the tiny section of the first color from the other version shown earlier in this post:
How to Trim
If you find you do need to trim, I like to use tweezers to hold the thread and apply some tension. Clip the thread with thread snips—make sure they're sharp!—right next to the fabric and the tail should be sucked back into the fabric.
Once again, trim the front, not the back unless the connectors on the back are long enough to snag or catch. In that case, trim the back threads leaving approximately 1/4" remaining for security.
What If You Convert a Multi-Color Design into a Single Color One?
Unfortunately, if you have a multicolor embroidery design and just change it to single color, you won't get the benefit of reduced trims because that act alone won't resequence the design for optimum efficiency. The design must be redigitized from scratch.
When you see designs that have been done both ways, they are not just a quick-click-conversion; they are really two separate designs!
On the Vintage Miniature Sewing Machines Quilt, I used the multi-colored version. A single color version is also available and if you run each version while paying attention to the sequencing, you'll notice they run very differently.
Can You Edit Out Jumps?
Another question I see frequently in the Facebook groups is "how do I edit out a jump?" Well, I think you can see from this post that you have two options:
- Add a trim command (which really doesn't get rid of the jump)
- Somehow edit the design so the connection is hidden by travel stitches under other areas
So yes, it may be possible but it may be so time-consuming that it's just easier to trim the darn thing with scissors. Of course, if you're sewing the design in production many, many times, then the time spent editing may be well worth it.
Is it a Good Design or a Bad One?
Before you blame the digitizer on a bad design, look at it and think how you could do it better. There are nearly always other ways to digitize a design and the more complex it is, the more ways there are to do it.
Even if I were to digitize these bunnies or sewing machines again, they'd be different. And truly, some days you're just "smarter" than other days.
Example of a Bad Design
The design shown below was a random freebie download of the internet from a site that puts up a new free download every day. The 3D rendered design looked perfect. It's a single color design and all the pieces are connected so there's no reason to have any jumps.
I'm always a little skeptical when I only see 3D software rendered samples for the design instead of scanned sewout.
I have to admit, it would save a ton of time scanning and cleaning up images to remove the background fabric as I routinely do but you have to wonder, did they sew it out? I do often use rendered versions on redwork designs just because it makes them easier to see but seldom for other designs.
Here's what it looked like when I opened it in Embrilliance:
Was this manually digitized or one of those auto-digitized, click-to-sew things? If this is what they give away for free samples, what do their paid for designs look like?
Free designs should give you a taste of the quality of the other designs available. They may not be the most complex or intricate, but they should be representative of the designer's skill.
Digitizing is a Balancing Act!
Digitizing is all about balancing trade offs. Will it look good? Will it sew well? Is it efficient? Can I minimize color changes and jumps or trims? What was the original artwork like and how much freedom do I have to change it?
A digitizer needs to consider a lot of factors when creating a smooth running efficient design and it really starts with the artwork. Sometimes you can adapt the artwork for more efficient sewing.
I did that with Vintage Easter Bunnies by creating the monochromatic one. While changing the artwork in this manner was a snap, it took me longer to digitize than the colored version.However, it will save me a lot of time when sewing it multiple times.
The downside is that it's not as colorful. So the trade off here is more a more efficient, smooth sewing design versus a more colorful version. Is it worth it? That depends on what your goal is for sewing it. In either case, you have a choice of one or the other.
Instead of an "Adult" Coloring Book…
I really intended to use these vintage bunny designs for multimedia by coloring in the areas within the stitched lines either with colored pencils, inks or some other media.
The monochromatic bunnies might offer more versatility for my color scheme since I'm not having to work with colors already present in the design. I'd probably stitch the bunnies in a gray rather than black in that case.
Delivering Eggs - Monochromatic (5.8 x 8-in) $4.00
Delivering Eggs (5.8 x 8-in) $4.00
Ladybug (1.8 x .9-in) $2.50
Love to Sew (single) color $4.00
About the Author
Lindee Goodall is a veteran master digitizer who's won awards for her beautiful designs, been a guest on numerous PBS sewing shows, written articles for a variety of home and industry related magazines, and is a Craftsy instructor.
Lindee G Embroidery is her second company, following Cactus Punch, which was founded in 1994.