Do Multiple Sizes Provide Extra Value?
I thought I'd write about this because recently I've gotten some emails that "including multiple sizes is just a way of making it look there are more designs in the collection."
Really? There seems to be some misconception here. The idea that a stitch file can be resized by any amount and get a perfect result every time as intended by the digitizer is just total fantasy.
Generally, when a professional digitizer resizes designs, stitch attributes and object types are optimized for that new size. A resizing program just can't do that the same way. Lets take a look…
First Some Definitions
If you are new to embroidery, you may not be familiar with the terms "stitch file" and "object file" (or "source file").
A stitch file is what you get when you purchase designs: .PES, .DST, .EXP, .VP3, etc. This is what your machine sews. A stitch file only knows the coordinates of a needle penetration and maybe a few other things like stops and color changes. It doesn't know stitch type (satin, fill, run…).
An object file is what is created by the digitizing program. Each "object" has its own stitch attributes—length, density, etc.
Some "objects" are easily discernible even in a stitch file: satins, fills, different colors, etc. can all be easily distinguished from other areas. Others are not so identifiable. For example, in the following design, there are 525 objects!
An object is an individual element to which a stitch type has been applied. A segment with a double run and a length of 1.5mm is different from a double run and a length of 1.75mm.
The advantage of an object file is that each object not only has an "identity," it remembers it. If you resize the entire design or just a portion, it maintains those same attributes and reapplies them to the modified part.
Another important point: a stitch file cannot be converted back to it's original object format.
Many programs will "objectify" a stitch file to manipulate it but it will never be the same as the original source file.
Most Bernina owners are under the illusion they can only work with an .ART file, which is the native source file format for their digitizing software. A design digitized in another program and converted to .ART is not a "true" object file, it is only a stitch file that has been converted using the Artista software. And, a Bernina doesn't sew an .ART format anyway.
The .CND Myth
Back in the early to mid-1990s when I was first getting into embroidery and digitizing, "THE" format to get was a .CND. I was told that unless I could create this format, I would never make it as a digitizer. (I chose to ignore this dire prediction.)
The myth around this magical format was that because it was an object file, it could be resized and embroiderers had more flexibility.
Actually, that part was true—to a degree. The myth came in because many embroiderers thought they could pay for a left chest size design (all design prices were based on stitch counts back then) and when they received it, they could enlarge it to a jacket back without paying more and still get the same quality result.
Personally, I think it was an industry ploy to promote one particular brand of software.
Today we have many more programs and each program has its own proprietary format. So although an object file might sound ideal, keep in mind you can only open it in a program that can read it, which is most often the digitizing program that created it.
And even then, you have to pretty much be proficient in that software as a digitizer to make good use of the design. A tall order, if you ask me! From my experience, being proficient in one program doesn't mean you can make sense out of another!
What's Involved in Resizing Designs
I often provide multiple sizes on redwork designs. A detailed redwork design scaled for a 4x4" sewing field often has to have areas of shorter-than-normal stitches. It may even need to have some details removed or redrawn to work at such a small size.
When I resize that design for a 5x7" sewing field (approximately 130% the size of the smaller hoop), I optimize the stitch lengths and details for that size but not always proportionately.
In other words, the stitches are not all 30% longer.
I have a preferred stitch length for redwork and when enlarging designs, I generally maintain that length where it was in the original size or make it slightly longer on really large versions. On segments with a shorter stitch length, I lengthen it. This doesn't happen "automagically." I have to find and change those segments and make sure they still work at my preferred setting.
Similarly, when resizing appliqué designs, I have a width I like for the cover stitch. Resizing a design alters those widths, which requires recreating those objects. Shrinking an appliqué may make the satin cover too narrow to adequately cover the fabric.
Enlarging may make satin stitches that are too long and more prominent in the design than I want. Optimizing a resized appliqué can mean replacing/redrawing every object involved in the the appliqué areas. These are things that just can't be done with a resizing program.
Some designs require modifying stitch types after resizing. When sizing up, runs might need to become satins and satins may become fills. Typically this is not "all runs become satins"—it is only selective ones. Stitch densities, stitch length, and compensation may need to be modified. Modifications of this type often require redrawing of various objects in the design.
Of course, resized designs still have to be resewn. And each design in the collection must be converted and recolored to match embroiderers' expectations. Color sequence information has to be written. All this adds extra time to a collection—it's not just a 10 second action of resizing a design specific percentage!
So while it may take less time to add a resized version than creating the design from scratch, the point is a reputable digitizer does more than just hit the resize button!
More Optimized Designs For You
As a digitizer, I can provide optimal results by working with the original source design. I know what stitch types and attributes I applied and which are most likely to need modifying. Also, some designs just work best at a larger size (5x7 or larger) and making them work well in smaller sewing field requires some fine tuning that a resizing program just can't anticipate.
When designs are resized as a true object file, the stitches conform to the artwork. Imagine that you have a spiral. If the spiral is very tight, the stitches can't (or shouldn't be, any!) made short enough to create a perfectly smooth curve.
If the design is enlarged, then more stitches can be placed on the curve and it will smooth out. With a stitch file, there is no curve to follow so the enlarged design won't be as smooth. Will it be noticeable? Who knows? It really depends on the design and how picky you are.
Resized designs provide you, the embroiderer, with better options. If you need a size that isn't included, simply select the included version that will require the least scaling to get the best results.
I don't have to provide these extra sizes. Most embroiderers have resizing programs that provide adequate results. But don't you want the best results you can get?
A Relook at the Redwork Design
Now that you understand about objects versus stitch files, let's look again at the design shown previously, which has 525 objects. Why so many? When digitizing, each element in the original artwork must be traced and have a specific stitch effect applied.
Think about tracing this design with a pencil. How many lines will you draw?
Each little ruler mark on the tape measure is an line/object, each stripe on the pin cushion, etc. You'll actually have more objects than lines though. For example, you digitize a line out to the head of the pin (one object), create the pin head (second object), and then retrace the shaft of the pin back down (third object).
Any time a new stitch effect needs to be placed, there will be a new object. Each one must be drawn and an effect applied. The total stitch count on this design is just about 4300 stitches, it's approximately 95mm wide, and it's only one color, all of which can lead you to believe it took only mere minutes to digitize and a couple of swipes with the mouse.
Stitch count has no relationship to design complexity; number of objects does. Stitch count does relate to sewing time whereas object count doesn't. A digitizer still has to test sew and stitch counts do matter!
Another interesting point that isn't apparent in this design is the number of different stitch types used because it appears to be mostly "just" a continuous run.
If you were to look at the object file, you'd see a total of 8 unique stitch effects used in this design composed of single runs, double runs, and bean stitches of various lengths to optimize the appearance and efficiency of the design at this smaller size. The larger version has the same 3 types but fewer variations in stitch length because the shorter stitches aren't required for tiny details.
Redwork designs can be a fun challenge to digitize simply due to their pathing. It's like working one of those complex maze puzzles with minimal back-tracking and no lifting your pencil for any connected parts. Where do you start? where do you go next?
There's another related post here: The Truth About Redwork Designs
What About Resizing Programs?
Most resizing programs on the market today are pretty remarkable! Many can maintain density, stitch type, and custom stitch patterns. Stitch lengths are preserved in fills and usually runs. Some programs can even convert a long satin into a fill pattern.
When I first started digitizing in the mid-90s, these feats were not possible with a stitch file. Reliable resizing back then could only be done with an object file, thus the popularity of the .CND file.
Occasionally some stitches can be misinterpreted by the stitch processor when resizing. For example, several side-by-side back-and-forth manually placed stitches might be interpreted as a satin column instead of a cross-stitch or eyelashes.
Even if you were zoomed in looking at the stitch file yourself, if the stitches were evenly placed, you could only guess whether it was a short satin column or manually placed detail stitches. Only by looking at the overall image of the design might you be able to tell what the digitizer's intention actually was.
In the object file, those manually placed stitches only change size; their density won't change and the number of stitches used in the manual area won't change. ("Manual stitches" in this case means hand-placing each stitch point with single needle tool, not "manually" applying an effect to an object versus using some sort of special magic wand or other auto-digitizing tool.) As a digitizer, I would need to adjust those manual areas by moving stitch points or replacing the stitches completely.
Just think, if I'm making specialized adjustments when I enlarge a design by only 30% based on what I know about the stitches used and the effect I'm after, how would any resizing program be able to know what those changes might need to be and make them correctly? Programs are only looking at the stitches. They see the placement of the "trees" but they don't identify it as a "forest."
Still, I'm amazed at how well some resizing programs do work. I have resized some designs just to "prove" it will be a total disaster only to have the program prove me wrong! (If you're wondering which program, it's Embrilliance Essentials. You can even download a demo version to trial before buying. Every embroiderer should have a good utility program!)
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Don't Count on A Resizing Program!
Some siitch patterns, notably bean stitches ("triple stitches:) aren't handled well by many resizing programs. My guess is that they look too much like a satin stitch witht the back and forth pattern.
Compare this close up on one of the designs from Love to Sew. The "clean" one is the original design and the second one was resized only 2% and notice how the stitches are now wonky in some areas.
Sometimes it doesn't matter that you've resized a design by a large amount, it's any resizing that will cause the design to be recalculated.
To avoid recalculation, many programs offer a way to resize without triggering the stitch processor. This will either stretch out the stitches or compress them with no change in stitch counts.
Learn to Think Like a Digitizer!
If you've never digitized before, it's hard to appreciate what goes into creating an artistic, efficient, production-friendly design that optimizes color changes while maintaining perfect registration, keeps jumps and trims to a minimum, and has visual and textural appeal through a creative and tastefully varied use of stitch effects.
Many people are still under the illusion that we have some program that will "convert" a graphic image into an embroidery file. Sorry, it's not just a matter of changing a file extension from "jpg" to "dst." How could that simple process create the desired stitch effects, stitch angles, stitch types, and sewing order that is only the result of careful and thoughtful planning?
My professional level software I use for digitizing has no "magic wand" for auto-digitizing. Furthermore, before you even digitize anything, you need to have some good artwork. No digitizing program can "turn" bad artwork into good embroidery.
Personally, I love digitizing. I've spent many years learning it and perfecting it. Every time I sit down to do a new design, I expect to learn a new "trick." Digitizing is not only my passion, it is what I do for a living.
Learning to digitize also made me a better embroiderer because I understood what made designs tick. And guess what—you too can become a better embroiderer and skip the whole digitizing part if you want to! You can discover what it took me years to learn the hard way in my e-book, Anatomy of a Design: How to Think Like a Digitizer and Become a Better Embroiderer. You can even take a peak inside by downloading a free chapter:
The more you know about predictably producing quality results with your embroidery machine, the more fun it is!
Download this Design for Free!
In 2013, each of the ten 4x4 size designs in this redwork collection, Love to Sew, will be featured as a free download starting with the first design in February. Each design will remain free for only one month, after which it will return to its original price.
If you're a newsletter subscriber, you will automatically be notified of the new freebie via the newsletter. The design shown here will be available in June.
Of course, if you miss any month, the design will be available in the shop for purchase. Want a larger size? Those will also be available in the shop.
If you're not a newsletter subscriber, you can sign up via the form in the upper right hand corner of this page. Once you confirm, you'll receive a coupon code for different free collection that you can download and immediately begin sewing!
A Word About Specials, Sale Prices & Coupons
Please pay attention to post dates and any specials listed in posts. Special pricing is for a limited time and may be repeated at some point.
Specials, sales, and freebies are always announced in the newsletter. Signup to get notifications of specials, new items, and freebies.
Additionally, shop wide coupons may be available to apply to any regularly priced items.
Coupons generally only apply to regularly priced items, not items already marked down. If your coupon doesn't work, this may be why.
Where to Find…
- Embrilliance software is often available in our shop as a physical product that will be shipped (U.S. only) or as digital download from Embrilliance
- Anatomy of Design is an e-book designed for embroiderers who want to understand what's going with designs and therefore make better choices when selecting designs, fabric, stabilizers, and threads
- Other general supplies can be found on the Resources page
- Love to Sew Redwork designs
- The Truth About Redwork Designs
- Why Do Designs Cost So Much?
- Are You Using the Wrong Embroidery Format?
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.