Is there a way to stitch a large format design onto a wall hanging?
August 15, 2019 11:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm making cloth banners and would like to stitch them using a digital template of some sort with a sewing machine. Does that kind of technology exist or do I need to free hand it?

I have bigger designs than the small embroidery things I normally see sewn - hoping to stitch a pumpkin about 6' square. Does that kind of tech exist or will I need to freehand it?
posted by arnicae to Grab Bag (6 answers total)
Longarm sewing machines (big enough to stitch quilts) exist and for sure some of them are digitally controlled. If you were in the Boston area I'd encourage you to connect with the folks at Fiber Arts Boston. Might not be a bad idea to reach out to them to get more detailed answers and to see if you can network for more local resources if you need them.
posted by Sublimity at 11:36 AM on August 15, 2019

Just to confirm, you want to embroider a 6-foot square pumpkin? I ask because whether you do it by machine or by hand, it will take an enormous amount of thread to make a 6-foot design visible and attractive from banner-viewing distances. It's like trying to use a ballpoint pen to draw on a billboard.

Longarm machines can work big enough, but there's a limit to how thick a thread they can take. You'll also have to pick a base material that can support that much thread and/or use some sort of stabilizer. Think about how stiff machine embroidered t-shirts are, a solid six-foot design would hang like a piece of cardboard. If your design is a line drawing, that would be a lot more feasible, but I would still consider other techniques like applique, or couching heavier yarns (which could maybe be semi-automated). There are some interesting things out there for print-on-demand and weave-on-demand textiles too.
posted by yeahlikethat at 12:33 PM on August 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

I’d use a hot glue gun to appliqué a 6foot pumpkin.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:49 PM on August 15, 2019

The old-school alternative somewhere between freehanding and a digital template is to hang up the fabric, project the design on it with a projector, trace that design onto the fabric and then work from the tracing. (I'm old-school enough to have done it on an overhead projector...)
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 1:07 PM on August 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

When I worked at a flag manufacturer, we would applique banners. The various colors of fabric to be appliqued would be layered on top of the base fabric, then the design would be zig-zagged around the outline and then the various layers of fabric would be cut away, revealing the desired color. As yeahlikethat says, embroidery at that scale will use up GOBS of thread.
posted by sarajane at 1:12 PM on August 15, 2019

If you are near southern New Hampshire I'd be happy to connect you with the woman that does the longarm stitching on all of mom's (many many many) quilts.
posted by bendy at 7:57 PM on August 15, 2019

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