Friday, July 15, 2016

Achieving a Hand-Embroidered Look on a Commercial Machine, Or, How to Give the Impression You Spent Days on a Single Design

     Call me old fashioned, but when it comes to a special effect, that effect does not have to shine, sparkle, glow, beep or move in any way. In fact, for me, a special effect can be as simple as creating a hand-embroidered look on a commercial embroidery machine. In the July issue of Printwear magazine, on page 54 (, there is an article that describes and illustrates using many of Madeira’s thicker weight threads in order to achieve a hand embroidered look. One of the illustrations is of a design with three flowers, loopy petals, and you’d swear some doting grandma hand stitched it onto their darling’s overalls. The thread used is a heavy 12 weight wool blend thread that sews like a dream and looks like a million – hand stitches!

     Remember that the process of creating a hand embroidered look by machine begins at the digitizing stage. If you don’t do your own, make sure you mention the fact to your digitizer that you are going to use a 12 weight thread. Another thread that gives a very family-friendly look is a cotton blend called BurmilanaCo, which was used to create an angel fish that is just swimming with personality. For a more sophisticated application, there are floral designs and borders that can be sewn onto curtains, bed or table linens for a look that will impress even the {most exacting} pickiest family member.

     Now for the faint of heart, you are going to have to change your needle! These thicker, 12 weight threads require a larger eye #100/16 needle in order to perform properly. The stitches you choose should be based on their resemblance to hand stitches: satin, running, cross-hatching. A chain stitch, as illustrated in the Printwear article by the snowboard badge, is also a very good choice. Without looking at the neat appearance of the reverse side of these designs, I defy any expert to tell whether a very accomplished home seamstress – or a racing machine that can hit 1500 SPM – produced these designs. And as an added benefit, you’ll use far fewer stitches than with #40 weight thread.
So click on over to and see what I’m writing about. Master the use of thicker threads, and consider them one more arrow in your creative quiver of ideas.

Friday, July 1, 2016

How to Treat Your Major Customers

How to Treat Your Major Customers

All companies have major customers – they are the life blood of your business. Major customers represent 20% or less of the customer base, but about 80% of your revenue (*see below). Some companies haven’t formally identified these treasured customers and that’s a mistake, since the health of all businesses depends on them.

Major customers have a higher retention rate; they are more loyal, less price sensitive, and buy more products, more often. Once you know who they are, how should your marketing strategy deal with them? One school of thought says, “Market to them like mad. Get them to buy more.” That might work, but, in most cases, it is probably a mistake. Big mistake! The better option is to work to retain them.

How did these customers become major customers, anyway? They reached that point as a result of your getting most or all of their decorating spending. They are “maxed out” on your embroidery and/or screenprinting. A good example of what we mean is when a large bank found that they couldn’t profitably market to their major customers. Those depositors maintaining high savings balances would shift to CDs or other savings instruments, but the overall amount of their balances wouldn’t change. An analysis showed that five percent of their customers provided 80% of their profits. Getting these five percent to put more savings in their bank would have been useless; they already had it. So what should you do with major customers?  Work very hard to retain them.

Think up, invent and provide them with special services that you couldn’t afford to provide to all your other customers.

  • Airlines provide first class travel upgrades and bonus miles to their frequent business flyers.
  •  Some companies create a “Diamond Club” or “Platinum Posse” and send their major customers a suitably framed membership award (I like this idea -- very affordable!).
  • Banks provide them with a personal banker (Chase Bank's “Private Client”).
  •  UPS and FedEx park trucks at their loading docks.
  •   Nieman Marcus provides special gifts and benefits.
  •   Some companies send discontinued items free to major customers as a “thank you for your business.”

Whatever you can do, let them know that they are very important to you, and show it by special services and gifts. So if you haven’t developed a special program for your major customers, get busy. It may be the single most important customer relationship program in your company.

*The Pareto Principle (commonly known as the 80/20 rule) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Management consultant Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto (instead of naming it for me, and I was so close!). It’s a common rule of thumb in business. For example:

    80% of a company's profits come from 20% of its customers

    80% of a company's complaints come from 20% of its customers

    80% of a company's sales come from 20% of its products

    80% of a company's sales are made by 20% of its sales staff

Hence, many businesses have easy access to dramatic improvements in profitability by focusing on the most effective areas and eliminating, ignoring, automating, delegating or retraining the rest, as appropriate.

The bottom line is, take care to maintain your major customers and work to move some of the 80 percenters up into the 20 percent realm.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Think Light!

What are slippery, hard to pin down, and everybody wants them?

If you answered Customers, you are only part right. I was thinking of performance wear fabrics. You know, the slippery, stretchy, skinny fabrics that are used in the ubiquitous sports apparel you see everywhere from the grocery store to the golf course to gymnasiums across the U.S. and beyond. The growth of this category of apparel has outpaced every other in terms of retail growth.

And so, on Wednesday, June 22, at 2:30 EST (11:30 PCT.), Madeira USA will offer the industry a free webinar that will review the best way to approach this embroidery challenge in order to produce winning results. From thread choices to digitizing decisions, to best backing, to finished product, the hour-long webinar will cover all aspects of embroidering on performance wear. Madeira product spokesperson Nancy Mini will be joined by master digitizer and embroidery artist Rich Medcraft, who operates StitchWise Embroidery Design in Eagle Point, Oregon.

According to my colleague, Nancy Mini,   “How to get the best results on a fabric that seems to fight back is a prevalent question these days. We decided to collect many of the questions we hear from customers in our Customer Sales & Support department, and address them in a single webinar. We feel that by sharing the ‘best practice’ embroidery techniques that we advise our customers to try, with the industry at large, should help many who are struggling. The very concept of performance wear should not instill fear! (Nobody likes a fraidy-cat!)  Cotton pique golf shirts that embroiderers have embellished for years are one example, followed by stretchy running gear, light weight warm up jackets, yoga and exercise outfits, and slippery tank tops.”

As with all webinars that are offered by Madeira USA, questions are taken during the presentation, and all questions are answered and sent out to registrants so that everyone has a chance to have a solution to their embroidery challenge. Remember, if a customer wanting you to embroider on performance wear has not yet entered your establishment, they will soon. Be ready! Attend this informative webinar.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Unsure of Which Backing to Use?

There is a webinar coming up on May 25 that is a must-see!

If you struggle sometimes (don't we all?) with choosing which backing is correct for a particular design project, you are in for a real treat. A treat that will not only be fun to attend, but you'll come out of it even more knowledgeable than you were going in to it. Madeira USA's E-Zee Backing & Topping division is hosting a webinar, Your Backing Choice Can Make or Break Your Next Embroidery Project: Backing Basics. It's a long title, but there is a lot of material to cover.

It will take place on Wednesday, May 25, at 2:30 pm EST (11:30 am PT). What makes it so special, beyond a topic that can be as confusing as the Long Island Expressway on a summer's afternoon, are the two ladies who will be sharing their wealth of knowledge with you. Nancy Mini, a product specialist from the E-Zee Backing & Topping side, and Joyce Jagger, an industry guru who has amassed a following of embroiderers who call upon her skills to see how she thinks they might improve their business.

Nancy Mini shares her thoughts:
“We are constantly updating our own sales and support staff with internal trainings,so it makes perfect sense to make certain that our customers also know what’s out there. We often get calls from customers asking what went wrong with their embroidery, and so many times it turns out to be the backing.” Included in what you will learn are:
  • What backings there are from which to choose
  • Which products are new to the market
  • What effect the wrong choice of backing has on finished embroidery
  • How to avoid common errors.
 This is the link to register:

Friday, February 5, 2016

Some Thoughts on Frosted Matt

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with many embroiderers at the ISS in Long Beach, California. Not a bad assignment in January! I've had a presence at this large show for a very long time, and this year I realized something that I thought was noteworthy.

8 years ago, Madeira introduced the first true matte finish embroidery thread to the industry at this show. I welcomed many show attendees to our booth with the question, "Do you have any need for a matte finish thread?" Well, you'd think I asked them if they had any need for ill-fitting shoes: No!...What? ... Why would I want that?! And why are you spelling it Frosted Matt? Where’s the “e”?

Seven/ eight years later, embroiderers have either a) matured; b) become more open-minded, c) grown to realize the benefits of this high definition, color-fast, subtle, high end thread, d) all of the above!

I'm guessing that embroiderers are clever folk who keep up with trends, when they are not setting them. And they saw Frosted Matt, Madeira's matte finish embroidery thread, as a problem solver.

This year, hearing the same question, the answers I received from visitors were not so negative, but instead, “I haven't heard of it”, “tell me more”, “what is it used for”? And, “May I have a sample”?

Frosted Matt should come to mind for these applications:
     · Tone on tone
     · Extreme exposure to sunlight
     · Vivid color
     · Small lettering and fine detail
     · Fluorescent colors
     · Shading

So keep an open mind, ask for a sample, and see how this problem solver can add to the list of possibilities you offer your clients. I personally guarantee some oooooooh's and ahhhhhhhhhh's.