Monday, August 27, 2007

Digitizing a rainbow

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my attempts to digitize a lionfish design for my brother. While I was working on that project, my SIL contacted me to ask if I could embroider t-shirts for the daycare center where she works. I don't have too much experience embroidering on t-shirts yet, but this would be a good opportunity to gain some practice. And, after achieving a moderate success at creating the lionfish design, I was eager to try another digitizing project.

The t-shirts are intended for the kids to wear when they go on field trips, so they wanted their logo of a rainbow stitched on the front of each shirt, and the name of the daycare, CANE, stitched in large red letters on the back. I didn't think I'd have a problem stitching big red letters, but I wasn't exactly sure how I would create the rainbow, so I asked them to send me an image of the logo for digitizing. This is what they emailed me:

(click on an image to enlarge)

Isn't that cute? I searched a few of the "commercial" embroidery sites to see if I could find something similar -- why reinvent something if it already exists, right? I didn't find anything that matched well enough, but I did get to look at quite a few rainbow designs which gave me a few ideas on how to organize and digitize the sections of the rainbow.

I started out with the express design wizard in my 4D Professional software, using the Design Creator module. I didn't fare very well in my first attempts. I tried various combinations of preferences for the image and the stitch output, but I kept getting blobs of not very nice stitches. There were just too many colors in the image -- too many variations of each color, the blues and greens were too similar, the reds and oranges overlapped the yellows . . . while this makes for a very interesting, artistic print design, it's not very good for creating a simple embroidery.

The only thing to do was to clean up the image and get the number of unique colors down to 7 or 8 colors. I abandoned the wizard, and started editing the image, using tools within the Picture tab of the 4D Design Creator. This took a bit of time and attention to detail, as there were lots of tiny pixels to color in (and I kept getting interrupted by a very insistent Westie). Eventually I was able to create an image that was usable:

At that point, I should have tried to use the express design wizard again, but it just didn't occur to me at the time. (I only thought about that after attending the presentation by Kothy Hafersat at my local Viking Sewing Gallery last week -- more on that in the next post!) Instead, I started with the sun's rays and began digitizing section by section. The sun's rays are curved satin columns. I used the quickstitch fill to create the sun, then quickstitch satin areas for each color of the rainbow. The eyes and nose were created using a machine font for candlewicking. I did several sample stitch-outs and tweaked the design a little each time until I was happy with it. I really wanted to preserve the hand painted, child-like drawing quality of the original design. It's not an exact replica, but I think the result is pretty close:

Logo close-up:

Once I had a satisfactory design, I needed to stitch up a sample t-shirt and prepare a cost estimate. I stitched on a Jerzees 50/50 blend youth small t-shirt (one I could find easily at the local Michael's Arts & Crafts store). I used Floriani fusible no-show mesh in white to stabilize the t-shirt which I hooped with a light-weight tear-away stabilizer. I tried a few combinations of stabilizer on my test swatches and this combination seemed to work best. I think I might try adding a wash-away topping next time. I also ran the t-shirt through the washer and dryer once to be sure the stitches would hold up, at least for a little while. Here's what the completed shirt looked like:

Front of t-shirt:

Back of t-shirt:

I sent the sample out last week and am waiting to hear whether or not I'm "hired". We'll see . . .

Oh, and I did go back and try running the cleaned-up image through the express design wizard and it did actually create a decent embroidery design. It would have needed some additional editing, but it would have worked, had I remembered to try it.

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